March 2011 Issue 126
For once I’m not going to begin this issue by complaining about the weather… in fact it’s been beautiful these past few days - if a little on the cold side! In fact such weather always makes me think of the film from the nineties, Titanic - in my head I can still see Rose and Jack standing on the deck looking out over the sea, which was absolutely freezing with plenty of iceberg’s. I still think it still needs to get a good deal warmer before anyone can safely say spring is here… still, at least it looks a bit more promising. Talking of warm weather makes me think of our brief spell in the sunshine in Tenerife, which I wrote about and stuck the piece on to the last issue which is something I’ve never done before, so I think that quite a few of you may have missed it. If so you might like to look back… I don’t think I’ll repeat adding bits on to Raw Meat in future as it breaks up the natural flow of writing it, which I usually do all at once. Also I think readers might get a bit lost… so I’m not into it even though Andy is!
TOUCHING THE SKULL
So I’ll tell you now about something which happened a few weeks ago - while it’s still quite fresh in my memory. I was only slightly anxious about going to see my favourite Shakespeare play Hamlet, as I’m pretty familiar with it having seen and read it in the past. Unfortunately I had forgotten how long the play is and so I still managed to get pretty lost with it, because I couldn’t remember exactly where we were up to! I was confused also by the sound of sword fighting, despite having touched a gun on the “touching tour” beforehand and being told that the play was a modern version. Although I didn’t find the touching tour that much help it did give me a real sense of the play… the only real sense I could get! I touched Ophelia’s coffin and also her cuddly toy which she used in her mad scene, and Yorick’s skull… but the best thing about the tour was when the actors came on the stage to warm up before the show - and Hamlet himself actually said hello to me. Even though I wouldn’t say the touching tour was a great help to me, I do wish that they’d attach them onto every play as a matter of course, and so involve people who can’t see with the theatre more closely.
TOUCHING THE ELEPHANTS
Although I was going to make my application for the Jerry Farr travel award for a Ziggy safari this year, so far things don’t look totally hopeful as far as safaris go - basically they are too expensive, way beyond the five thousand pounds limit. It’s a shame , as I was quite into the sound of these safaris which cater also for people with sight problems - and include things like elephant interaction and touching the cheetahs which sound amazing! As this award is open to all applicants who have Ataxia, I’ve asked my friend Sue for any more ideas… I feel a bit stuck as to what to do now, I’m wondering whether to completely forget the idea of touching safaris and go instead for a straight holiday in the Bahamas, or whether to try for another idea I came across when making my application last year… this one was for a Ziggy jungle trip in Brazil, staying in a hotel in the middle of the jungle which sounded pretty freaky. Although I’d much rather camp in the jungle, maybe that’s pushing it a bit…
CATCHING THE LIGHT
You may not believe this, but at last the long awaited completion of my fairytale based on the life of Oscar Wilde! A few days ago my dad actually finished his wonderful cover illustration, after having to make a few last minute alterations… he has put such a lot of time and effort into it, because I think he understands that I want this little book to look like a work of art. I feel confidant that Oscar would greatly approve of both the story and it’s presentation… there’s a fair bit of imagination thrown in to the story so that it involves characters from Oscar’s story Dorian Gray, as well as giants, elves, imps and characters made of glass and Andy assures me that we’re now ready to take your orders… so please leave them in the comments box after this issue. We’re going to put the old anarchist method of printing to order into practice, so for just £3.95 plus postage you’ll receive this charming little book… suitable for both children and adults.
At the moment I’m using Andy as my helper as Ruth’s away in Austria doing a spot of skiing – which sounds great fun. I’m actually pretty envious as skiing is one of the things that I never did while I still could in the days of my youth. Though nowadays it must be possible to rig up some way of attaching skis onto Ziggy’s wheels, but this would be pretty dangerous without my sight… perhaps some guide-husky’s could be used to pull Ziggy along through the snow? This idea greatly appeals to me as it sounds rather like the troika I went on while in Transylvania many years ago. Ruth will be skiing, but some of her friends are doing snowboarding, which sounds even more fun as I’m sure Ziggy could easily be strapped onto a giant snowboard. I love the idea of speed – there’s absolutely no reason why people in Ziggy shouldn’t be able to experience such exciting things… it only takes a bit of imagination to make such things possible.
I’m looking forward to Ruth’s return next week, when we can get back to reading The Inkheart Trilogy, which I’m really into. My favourite character so far is the enigmatic Dustfinger, with his scarred face and little horned creature he carries around with him in a rucksack. He intrigues me ‘cos he seems to be a pretty untrustworthy and shady chap, and yet I really like him! It’s that edge of surrealism about Dustfinger that appeals to me I think – he juggles, and does fire eating, and rides a moped along with other bizarre tricks… I can’t believe that he’s going to turn out to be a real baddie… or at least I hope not.
This following excerpt is taken from a conversation between Harriet and Jack at the Freedom Press in Whitechapel; Jack has just been telling Harriet about his dream (which you remember from the last issue I hope). I felt it was important for reasons that will become clear later in the novel that I should spend some time with Harriet, elaborating particularly on her closeness to Jack. Despite rewriting this excerpt I’m still not satisfied with it – I’ve always avoided writing about such moments of heightened emotion because they always make me feel so uncomfortable when I read them afterwards. It’s so difficult to write this sort of conversation and make it sound natural… I just can’t believe that a young boy would say these things to his mother… particularly not in 1906. As I said this is my second attempt so I’m not going to try it again… I’m just asking for some feedback from readers, absolutely anything you can suggest for improvement will be more than welcome.
Andy has said a couple of times that much of The Space Between is made up of conversations between various people, so I was thinking that maybe I’d missed my true forte… perhaps, like Oscar himself, I should be writing for the stage. Well I suppose I have really with Skin… a sign of the times maybe, the TV script taking the place of the stage. I do like writing conversations between people, but I also find the static quality of them being set in one place pretty limiting… having said that I’m thinking of that bit in Doctor Faustus where Mephistopheles and Doctor F are flying from Rome to somewhere in Germany I think… that’s definitely not static and it was written centuries before television so that goes to show how powerful the imagination is.
Anyway, back to The Space Between; I think I’ve already mentioned some of my future plans for the novel. I’m approaching the end now so I have to sort out which characters I need to devote some time to in the light of what’s going to happen. That all sounds very intriguing, especially because the climax which I had been working towards ever since the conception of the novel didn’t work out, so I’ve had to hastily change things quite dramatically. Originally I was going to end the novel with the sinking of The Titanic, and Jack’s drowning with it but this didn’t work out in terms of the timescale because the story was moving so slowly through the years! Most readers will remember the film The Titanic from 1997 which impressed me greatly… particularly perhaps because it was the last film I was able to watch all the way through fairly successfully! Involving this film in my novel would be much along the same lines as combining fiction and history which you know by now I’m obsessed with doing. I must admit to being slightly relieved by this change of plan as I was rather dreading having to kill off one of my characters that I’ve grown so fond of. It would have to be a particularly tragic loss because Jack would have been so young so I abandoned this Titanic plan quite readily but I had to replace it with something else to work towards with a suitably dramatic climax – so what would it be? Enough said for now.
THE SPACE BETWEEN
Copyright Nicola Batty © 2011
“Everything has changed, and now not only is pa angry with me, but Georges is too.”
Harriet’s frown deepened.
“Is Georges angry? But why?” She shook her head sharply in disbelief. “That sounds very unlike Georges – are you sure Jack?”
Jack was silent for several moments. He stared intently into the smouldering coals as if trying to remember back.
“Yes, I think he is – he certainly seemed to be at the time. He told me I should go home and mind my own business, and leave things to him… things I didn’t understand anything about, but I couldn’t, how could I do that? I couldn’t leave it with him – he had absolutely no right to it.”
Jack’s gaze switched suddenly to Harriet as the memory of his anger bubbled just below the surface.
“He had no right to touch those pages – never mind to show them to his wife! I wanted it back, I told her to give it back – ”
“Jack, what are you talking about? Calm down, why are you so angry?”
“Oh, it’s just that he had no right, Ma!” Jack cried desperately, giving a helpless shrug. “None at all. I told him to give it back, but he said it wasn’t mine anyway – ”
“But what, Jack? What?”
“Oh, the story… whatever it was! I can remember Georges taking it out from the box before throwing it in the Thames, and he put it in his pocket carefully. He took it with him all the way to America, and even then I was so angry when I saw him that evening, showing it to his wife, just like he’d found it! She took it with her greedy hands and said it was by Oscar Wilde and would be worth a bit of money and that he should give it to her, but I said no, give it back right now!” Raising his fist to his face, Jack rubbed away the tears in his eyes. “I was so angry to see them there together, talking about the manuscript and making plans for both of them… when they were both thieves. Especially him. He had no right to anything, not when he’s already made promises to you. How could he say all that and then just forget you and everything over here, treat it like it didn’t exist?”
Harriet got to her feet very slowly, still keeping her eyes firmly downcast. She reached out towards Jack reassuringly, trying to soothe him.
“But how could he do that?” continued Jack, “How could he stand there and make promises to her, tell her he was going to stay with her, how could he do that?”
“Don’t, Jack…oh, don’t say that.” She raised her eyes to Jack’s desperately, pleading with him not to go any further. Even though she knew there was something to his words, to hear the obvious truth of the matter was too much for her to bear. Raising her hands to her face, she turned away, her voice muffled by her fingers, as she added, “I don’t want to hear any more.”
Jack touched her tentatively on the arm.
“I… I’m sorry, Ma… I’m really sorry. I didn’t want…” Seeming to realise the uselessness of any further words between them, Jack gave a great shrug of his shoulders as he turned away. He took a few wondering steps away from Harriet, as if realising that their brief moment of intimacy had ended. Going over to the table, he played with an old broken clock that was standing uselessly upon it, the hands standing stubbornly still at three o’clock, refusing to move, to make any attempt to change the situation. Harriet could feel the boy’s sadness, could feel the frustration and anger… even though this had all become crushed by the passage of time and the distance between Georges and Jack. Harriet gave a start as Jack replaced the clock on the table with a sharp sound. “And that’s why I don’t ever want to go to sea again,” he said shortly, raising his eyes to look directly at Harriet. Even though his emotions seemed to have drained away now, Harriet felt even more unsettled by the dryness of his words than she had before. “I don’t want to see him again, not ever.”
She watched him move away slowly, as if reluctant to leave the situation completely, at the same time accepting that there was nothing more to be said or done, absolutely nothing more.
MORE FROM THE SPACE BETWEEN IN APRIL.
Welcome to Andy's bit...
Bratwurst in Berlin...
Frankfurters from Bockenheim
Just in time for Bigos in Gdynia
Hamburger Johnny? Says St Pauli Jane Doe
Rollmops and Danepak
Slamming Tequila to try to forget
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