December 2008 Issue 99
I’ve always liked the look of the number 99 much better than 100, though I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s the two curved digits standing side by side. I remember at junior school, painting a crazy 9 on one half of a sheet of black paper and then folding it to make a 99. For some reason this memory has stuck with me over the years, I wonder why? X is another good letter that can be played around with in its symmetrical folding away, and of course it leads me on to the time of year. Yes, I’m afraid it’s Xmas once again, and this year actually promises to be a little bit different from the usual crimbo, because I’ll be without Jack. You may not believe where he’s going… China! With Sheila and her family. It’s the furthest he’s ever been and I think he’s pretty excited about it. I’ll miss him, as the house always seems so empty and quiet without him (and his drums!) But I’m determined not to get too miserable over Christmas and so have invited Nick, our actor friend from London, up here to stay, so hopefully the seasonal festivities won’t be too difficult to bear…
Jack wants to bring back pressies for everyone from China, though I don’t know how realistic this is. Anyway, I think he’d get into a spot of bother at customs with my Chinese request. Some time ago, Sheila told me that some Chinese Ziggies had been designed to be propelled by the means of a bar that goes across the front, so that you push the bar in a cycling motion with your hands. This seems much more sensible than the British design, where my hands are always getting mashed in doorways or tight corners. I think the Chinese design would allow for much more speed too, simply because it’s easier to propel. I need to test these theories… I’ve always wanted to try out a Chinese Ziggy, and perhaps one day I’ll get my heart’s desire.
THE ZIGGY COLLECTION IN MANCHESTER
Still on the subject of Ziggy, but this one in Manchester, with the Manchester ataxia group, which has recently been formed. Both Andy and I have been involved with the group and when it was suggested I should write a piece about myself and my writing, I took them up on it. So several weeks ago, Andy read out ‘All By Myself’ in which I took the opportunity to promote The Ziggy Collection, which I feel has been sadly overlooked for some reason. Andy has been working on final adjustments, getting it all right for the computer, and now the complete package looks both beautiful and professional… just about paperback book size. Andy and I were both delighted at the enthusiastic reception and we sold quite a few copies. So successful was our Ziggy talk that we intend to take it round the area to other Ziggy groups.
THE WRITER ON WHEELS
I feel like I’m treading an extremely fine line between being pigeonholed as a writer in Ziggy and simply using Ziggy as a means to an end. The ‘end’ being recognition as a writer. It makes me slightly nervous to get such an enthusiastic response from other Ziggy people, though it’s only natural they should sympathise with what I’m writing about. It’s been great to have people show an interest at last with my other novels, The Space Between and with RAW MEAT. I don’t want to take this talk to other Ziggy groups exclusively – So you can imagine my delight when my suggestion of taking the Ziggy talk to the Manchester Writers group was welcomed enthusiastically! I felt it was very important to keep pushing my writing to the forefront, as it should always be there and Ziggy in the background, where he belongs, while I can’t possibly and have no intention of ignoring Ziggy, he must always keep in his place. Somebody asked me recently what my feelings were towards Ziggy and I answered, “Absolutely nothing… he’s just a lump of metal, that’s all.” But maybe he’s a useful way of getting recognised…
Time for a complete change of subject, I think. I’ve recently been reading this old novel by Peter Ackroyd, which I was finding mildly interesting but certainly not riveting – which is quite surprising, as Mr Ackroyd’s writing usually absorbs me completely. Like most of his stuff, this novel concerns time; near the ancient settlement that is being excavated there is a strange burial mound, in which a wonderful secret inner chamber has been discovered. I keep getting the strangest feelings of déjà vu as I read; perhaps I have read this before!! It all sounds so familiar – but maybe that’s just the familiarity of the spine-tingling sensations I get when reading Ackroyd’s stuff. There’s a lovely moment when the main character, Mark, first ventures into the inner-chamber and finds two stone figures there – the whole atmosphere of ancient dust is wonderful – Mark brushes against one of the figures and apologises for disturbing the peace and silence of the tomb. Although I don’t think of this as one of Ackroyd’s best novels, it’s certainly worth a read, if only to get the excitement of an ancient culture still being present today.
PAGES FROM A DIARY IN GREECE
Another book which I was given for my birthday but haven’t got round to reading until last week was this account of his impressions of Greece by the one and only Ricketts. In fact this cloth bound 1930’s edition looked very much more exiting than it actually was… I’m sorry to say that this book wasn’t half as impressive as the gold writing on the front! Ricketts went to Greece in 1911 with Shannon, but he makes no mention of his partner at all which I found really frustrating because I want to know all about his private life - which not surprisingly, he didn’t choose to reveal. Actually, I should be pleased about this because it leaves the way open for me to fill in myself. None the less I hoped Pages from a Diary would give me just a few insights… but no. In fact I was much more impressed when I heard about another book by Ricketts… which I was rather intrigued to read as soon as I found out about it.
EXPENSIVE- AND CRAZY
For some reason, towards the end of his life Ricketts decided to write this work of fiction Beyond the Threshold, which as he explains, is a combination of real and imaginary conversations between such eminent people as angels, Schopenhauer, Wilde and Plato. It’s hardly surprising to me that Ricketts used a French pseudonym as many of the conversations have naughty undertones basically being about sex, particularly male homosexual sex! But I wonder why Ricketts tried to hide his identity when it was pretty obvious that he had a hand in it, as he openly declared himself to be the illustrator of the book. I had to go all the way to Leeds University library to look at the book, which I wasn’t allowed to remove - Ricketts only printed one hundred and fifty copies so it’s pretty rare, and as the book cost £750 on the internet, it’s a little beyond my means! Probably it was partly because it’s so rare that I found this book so absorbing - it’s just such a crazy concoction of things, all beautifully illustrated and bound. Almost worth paying the price!
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN
Recently Andy and I went to see one of my favourite 80’s bands in Liverpool, Echo and the Bunnymen. It was the first gig that we’ve ever been to together - and Andy actually enjoyed it! He was particularly enthusiastic about a version they did of walk on the wild side by Lou Reed (Andy’s favourite musician) even though the Liverpool Arena was pretty big I was surprised when Andy told me that they had an entire orchestra on stage with them… it must have been a very small chamber orchestra, or else just really squishy! The band did a lot of their old stuff where they used a combination of strings and electric guitar etc.
I think I mentioned that Jack has been busy over the past few weeks rehearsing for his show Street Dreams, which is being put on by the Community Arts North West project in Manchester. We went to see this production last night which was a combination of music, acting and dance… it was very impressive seeing as the teenagers had written and performed everything themselves! Jack told me that he was on stage all the way through, and the band could be seen through the thin cloth screen, which they sat behind. Street Dreams seemed to be a concoction of different points of view from all the different minority groups - even including a girl in Ziggy, which was interesting! The best thing was that they weren’t trying to make an issue out of any particular thing - but just showing all the different sides together which was inspiring!
RED AND GOLDThese colours must be really hip this Christmas, well at least on my Advent calendar which took a lot of searching for! I wanted a good old-fashioned Advent calendar… not one of these modern tacky ones with chocolate behind every door. Ruth actually discovered a beautiful Christmas tree one, which was really aesthetic with the tree in different shades of red and decorated with gold bobbles. So far every picture is a beautiful, red, gold or black! Maybe it’s an Anarchist Advent calendar, if there is such a thing. With that, I’ll say Happy Christmas and see you next year.
After having such a long break from The Space Between I was a little worried about getting back to it… I thought I might have forgotten the details of where I was up to! But no… it all came back to me as soon as I started writing. None the less it was a great relief to get back to the novel; I didn’t want to put it off too long for fear that I would loose the initial drive altogether!! But I’ve had enough of writing little bitty short stories and stuff… it was unthinkable that I could leave The Space Between unfinished. I’ve been thinking about the third novel during time off, and I’ve decided to concentrate on Scots Antarctic adventures and I’m just not quite sure about actually getting the manuscript to the South Pole!!, Could be tricky…
But to concentrate for the moment on The Space Between is quite enough I think I’ve known ever since I began the end of the novel that I needed to spend some more time on Freddy’s and Jack’s relationship because this is going to be essential in order to make a real impact with what’s to come. That all makes it sound pretty intriguing, which might be a good thing. You’ll probably appreciate that more when it’s finished. Anyway, I don’t feel that I’ve developed the boy’s closeness and their dependence on each other particularly Jack’s dependence on Freddy. Ruth compared their relationship to that between brothers, so Jack would look up to Freddy for protection as one would with an older brother. The way things have worked so far, I thought I could tie in Jacks desire to return to Spitalfield rather nicely. I wanted to get across the simplicity and directness of how Jack looked at the situation; he can see no problems about what his Mum thinks or anything like that. On the other hand Freddy has all the confidence of five more years than Jack, and Jack stands and watches admirably as he makes instant decisions and stands back. There were the same old problems as well, with me not really knowing how two Edwardian teenagers would act or speak to each other... particularly two young boys. I’m sure that the world they grew up in was incredibly different to nowadays, so that I can’t very well rely on my own experience with my Jack. For a start the novel boys would have been much more aware of money and getting jobs, as this was absolutely essential in order to survive. Yet on the other hand Jack is an artist and Jack dreams of what he wants to follow. I didn’t want to loose this because I think it’s quite an essential part of his nature – he goes right against all Freddy’s hopes for success, which are much more practical and within reach. Despite the differences between the boys I wanted to bring out the closeness of their relationship without making it obviously homosexual at this point… but still it could obviously become so. I thought Jack could look after Freddy as an older brother, one he never had. More Raw Materials in the next issue of Raw Meat..
The Space Between.
copyright (c) Nicola Batty 2008
The story so far…
The year is now 1902; Wilde has died in Paris, and his manuscript has disappeared along with him. Back in London, Gustav has lost the manuscript in his possession, meanwhile in Spitalfield; Jack has gone to visit Freddy in Spitalfield on his seventeenth birthday.
The following is an extract from Nicola's work-in-progress-trilogy.
I’m still expecting you in a year or two… when you’re old enough to get a job.” He grinned at the younger boy as he said this, rubbing his shoulder affectionately – but Jack pulled away, almost stamping his foot in frustration.
“ But I don’t want to keep on waiting!, why cant I get a job now? I want to come back to Spitalfield right now… I’m old enough to get a job. Georges said I was when I saw him last year… he said I could come with him on the ship to America.” Jacks face was turned to Freddy his eyes fixed on his friends; his eyes pleading with him.
Freddy gazed at Jack for a long moment, sighing; eventually he laid the drawing down on the arm of the sofa and sat down carefully. “ It’s not as easy as that I’m afraid, Jack.” He was pulling at a thread of cotton from the elbow of his shirt as he spoke, measuring each word by the movement of his hand. “ Do you remember I was talking to your ma at Christmas when I saw you? She was saying that she wanted you to stay at school for another year, and I don’t want to upset her. If she wants you to stay in Kensington then that’s how it’s got to be. Don’t worry - it’s not long!”
Jack turned away, tears springing to his eyes.
“But why? Why must I stay at that stupid school when I’m quite able to become a sailor with Georges now? I don’t like that school… I don’t like Kensington, I just want to come back, come back here and live with you. I want to come back.”
Freddy gazed at Jack thoughtfully for a long time. Finally he got to his feet once again and hugged Jack tightly. The complete movement of the embrace seemed to overwhelm both the boys for a second and take their breaths away. When the moment had passed, Freddy stood back and didn’t look at Jack, but only cleared his throat very softly.
“ I’m very sorry, Jack… I can see how frustrating it must be for you. But I think you should be patient. What exactly did Georges say to you last time, anyway? Did he come round to Kensington to see you?”
Jack nodded, still thinking about the closeness of their embrace. The memory of it seemed to calm him.
“ Last time Georges came to see me he told me he’d speak to the Captain of the ship and see if he could take me with him. That was last year… I haven’t seen him since then.”
The good-natured expression of the elder boy broke easily into a triumphant grin, and he reached out toward Jack and took his hand.
“ Well then, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Lets go round to Angel Alley and see Georges now… we can ask him what he thinks. Come on lets go!” Another extract from The Space Between will appear in RM#100
Welcome to Andy's bit...
I just read Nic's editorial, where she said I'd never been to a concert with her before last weeks Echo and the Bunnymen gig in Liverpool, What about Misty's at the Manchester Academy and that other gig we went to at the Night & Day Cafe in the Nothern Quarter? And didn't we go to a few concerts at Womad a couple of years ago and that Peter Gabriel do? What about the thingy at the MEN Arena in Manchester and that fantastic Vivaldi concerto at The Royal Northern College of Music... need I go on?
Well it's nearly Christmas and I did say that I was going to finish tiling the kitchen floor and re-plaster Nicola's sitting room and decorate and carpet it etc, etc. But, as ever, things come up to prevent me from getting stuck into the building work. I mean it when I promise her that I'll do it but every time something happens. Anyway, I checked the calendar a few minutes ago and I have about six clear days... so maybe, fingers crossed, I might just...
One of the things I love to do is to create things out of nothing. I write a few poems out of the top of my head, type them up onto the computer, print them out in 'landscape' staple the pages together and you've got a little chap style booklet. Take them down the pub, read a couple of poems and sell the copies for beer money - simple! So recently, when I've been preparing some of Nicola's work for publication, proof reading, reformatting, printing covers, guillotining paper etc. I was in my element - I can see a little publishing empire on the horizon, don't wake me up.
MORE FROM URBAN SCRAWL ANDY IN RM#100!!!
We wish all our readers a very
And a brilliant New Year!
We'll see you all again for the
Nic, Andy and Jack.