Life

If it’s not reading, writing or films,
it’s the rest of my life

A road leading to gates to with trees on the right and houses on the left.

Changing

I’m six months into a new job. My father’s house is for sale. My son is living in Australia. My daughter is gearing up for GCSEs next year. My wife and I are looking at each other and thinking, this is the time we’ve been waiting for, and yet neither of us have clear plans.

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Cover of The Complex

The Complex

Michael Walters

My debut novel, The Complex, available direct from Salt Publishing, from Amazon in the UK, and of course BOOKSHOPS.

Darling buds

Four days off work! My plan was to not have a plan and trust I would do what I needed to do. It’s day two and I’m excited because things are changing — my glute tendons are healing (YES), my meditation habit has bedded in (now I miss it when I can’t do it), I’ve...

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Impatience

Making art means making a mess. It means tidying up, organising, and discovering something in doing it. There are unexpected emotions. There are doubts and dead ends. There are technical problems.

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A bronze sculpture of a stern-faced woman placing her hand on the shoulder of a child clutching a loaf of bread.

Losing myself

I finally sorted the two big bags of books I brought back from Dad’s last weekend. He loved Stephen King, and he bought lots of King’s books as first edition UK hardbacks. I don’t currently have shelf space for this many books.

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Piles of books on my father's sofa.

Back to the path

I spent the weekend before my father’s funeral sorting through his books. He had them on shelves in different rooms, but they were also tucked in drawers, stacked at the bottom of wardrobes and piled behind old televisions.

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Dad

My father died

Dad died last week. He was eighty-eight. Looking back, it was a miracle we got him home from hospital for one final Christmas. He had a long life, he was loved, and he left peacefully.

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The corner of a brown brick old cinema and a painted white brick wall with an interesting mix of guttering and vines.

Nostalgia

I’m in Wales at short notice because Dad’s been admitted into hospital. The co-morbidities have gathered and decided to strike. He’s in bad shape. Around visiting times I’m looking for peaceful, distracting activities.

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Christmas tree lit up in a window with closed white slatted blinds behind.

Reflections

Somehow the year has tightened all the bolts on my rickety life, and I’m hitting the Christmas holidays in a good place.

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Keep the ghosts happy

I was celebrating a new job, looking forward to an unexpected week’s holiday, when my father fell at home, so I’m spending that week in Wales.

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autumnal tree

Brief bliss

I was caught in a work storm for a few months over the summer. Things settled enough for me to take a small risk, which paid off, which means I can finally tack for calmer waters.

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An abundance of apples on an apple tree with a greenhouse behind.

Worth and work

I’ve been reading more this month. I decided to read a novel for thirty minutes uninterrupted at least once every day. I had to dig around to find the motivation to do that because I’d fallen out of love with reading (again).

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Three distant dark figures on the lawn of a bright garden.

Duality

I’m deep into my summer break, which has not gone to plan. We’ve cancelled our holiday to care for a sick parent. Ironically, I’m feeling better than I have in a while. Life can be both.

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Blue skies

Open roads and blue skies

I’ve arrived at an approach to posting online that I’ve been resisting for years, but has become inevitable with the slow death of Twitter: one place for my stuff, that I control.

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Moody shot of empty tree-lined street

Go gently

I hit an emotional wall a couple of weeks ago. Looking back, it’s been coming for months, but when you’re in a storm for long enough it begins to feel normal.

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Angles, curves and spin

he year barrels on and tomorrow we hit July. It’s the halfway point. The summer solstice has passed and the hottest months are ahead. Time doesn’t take a break, even when I ask politely. Dad gave me some of his old golf clubs. He took me to the Steelworks golf club when I was twelve and taught me to play, but then when I was fourteen I chose tennis over golf, and I haven’t played since. I still play golf video games though, because I’ve always loved the curve of a ball through a landscape.

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Exterior of an Everyman cinema

Everyman

Heat. During the final chase, I could feel the rumble of planes in my stomach, and my wife now has the hots for nineties Pacino. He’s a very sloppy kisser on a big screen.

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Attractive building in Swansea

Walking with ghosts

An elegantly dressed woman is with me and a man on a balcony in a nightclub. The man is very drunk. She whispers to him that they should go on somewhere else.

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Puzzles

At the start of the day a deployment of code went awry and at the end I was a go-between over my still-hospitalised father’s boxer shorts. Life can be ridiculous. On Monday I went to see John Wick 4 and ate a terrible hot dog. The person serving sprinkled it with dried (!), crunchy onions. Then yesterday I watched the first half of Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte. The two films serve different parts of me. Michelangelo Antonioni — I am Michael, my uncle was an Anthony who is now with the angels.

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Matrix

Walked to Southside for a coffee. Why? I’m thinking of Gwen Bell, then Neo/Keanu. I deliberately left my notebook at home. I need some time without a pen in my hand. Re-balancing... something. Gwen, Neo and Keanu are seekers of different kinds. I told myself yesterday to put the writing weight down. There is too much else going on to add the pressure of writing a novel. Life before art. Life is an art, yes, but you get my drift. I’m chaining myself to a rock when I need to be swimming.

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Hospitals

My father is in hospital again. Both his legs are swollen, which is fairly common with heart failure, which we’ve known about for a few years, but one of his arms has also swelled up, and he’s out of breath doing the slightest things. The practice GPs thought it was better to treat him at home, but the lymphoedema nurse was adamant it was something else. My moderately stressful trip shoehorning Dad into a VW Polo for an assessment in an inaccessible part of one hospital became an eight-hour wait with the triage team in a bigger hospital.

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Content apocalypse

This is the tipping point. I’m fifty in two weeks. I’ve watched fifty percent of the 800 films I own, and even less of the books. The amount of time I have left is constricting, but the number of books and films I own keeps expanding. Something has to give. I need a new philosophy. What I consume (bleurgh) must feed (this is family trauma speaking) whatever I am creating. I envy those who have perhaps always done this. Collecting and list-making is the hoarder’s comfort.

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Grey waves on a sombre beach

Emotional weather

I’m staying with Dad for the weekend, and because he’s having some new health problems, it’s quite hard work. My mother was always the anxious one. Now it's me.

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Adieu, 2022

In time-honoured fashion, here are my favourite discoveries of 2022, in chronological order of publication or release. It’s been a year of three big creative adventures: getting a new job (first in fourteen years); a family holiday in France (first to Paris for a week, then to Morzine in the French Alps); setting up my Patreon (experimenting with a patrons-only podcast). There was very little fiction writing, but plenty of reflective writing.

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Love and breakages

I’m excited about 2023. There’s a lot I want to do next year. (This is the case every year.) I’ve just broken a wine glass. I’m at my father's house, and it feels auspicious, although I don’t know why. He has cheap glasses because we are his only wine-drinking visitors. He rarely drinks alcohol anymore, and when he does it’s either lager or a glass of whatever we are having. Anyway, the glass broke neatly at both the top and bottom of the stem, so there were three pieces of glass on the tiled floor.

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Website updates

I’ve made some tweaks to the styles and layout of this website. I’m thinking about the future.

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The most important thing to do is

It’s Halloween. My daughter had friends around for a spooky-themed tea, and now they’ve gone out to ask for treats. The door knocking has begun.

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Kardomah

When I visit my father, I always love to walk around Swansea and get an early morning coffee. We used to come as a family when I was growing up, so with my existing morning coffee and writing habit, it’s a double comfort.

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Trust your enthusiasms

After fourteen years in my day job, I am finally leaving. My new role is still coding, but instead of being in Higher Education I'm going to be a consultant with a subsidiary of a global corporation. The PRIVATE SECTOR.

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ChillerCon UK 2022

ChillerCon emerged from the ashes of the Covid-struck StokerCon 2020, miraculously held together by the heroic organisers who dealt with cancelled hotel rooms, refunds, and much else I’ll never know about.

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Kindness in retrospect

My internal critic says I’m being lazy, or disorganised, or just not up to the job, but kinder voices reassure me that there is a season for all things.

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An oblique strategy

I’m in Wales with my dad today, Good Friday, taking him for a Covid test before he has a cataract operation Monday. He’s been waiting six years to get both eyes treated

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The great adjustment

Between January 2018 and December 2021, I watched 569 films. I know this because I track the films I watch on Letterboxd. That’s a lot of films.

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Keeping the story alive

I’m looking at my work-in-progress, and it seems to be asking how we got here. It’s a patient and wise creature.

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Stop rushing

Time isn’t real. The future is an abstraction. So says Alan Watts. I do rush things to get to the end of them — not always, but often enough for it to be a thing I’ve noticed over and over again throughout my life.

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A seat in the sun

I’m sitting in the sun. August isn’t going to plan, but I’m doing the best I can with it.

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It’s Spring

This time of year is always strange. There is a drumbeat of family birthdays, including mine, and the pandemic has heightened the sense of time passing. My mother died at the end of February 2014, so this is seven years, unbelievably, since then.

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Jigsaws

My mother loved to do jigsaws. She would stay up late, after every one else had gone to bed, and do them on the dining table, which is also where she would do the book-keeping for whichever company she was working for at the time.

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Creativity 2.0(.21)

I wonder what next year will bring? I wonder how I can make my craft feel more fun? With those questions in mind, we enter a season of change.

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Lockdown, Part 2

This is a pep talk to myself as I go into another lockdown. It’s shit we have to do it, but we do, and better late than never. These are tough times and periods of lockdown are hard on the spirit.

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Reality Bites

Reality Bites is still surprisingly affecting. I had low expectations. I’m not sure why. There is something about your early twenties that is particularly painful and potent.

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Website as digital garden

I’m doing okay in my little lockdown bubble. We live in a relatively rural spot, we have a garden, and we are working remotely pretty successfully. The days are going really fast.

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Minimalism

I’m into minimalism this week. It’s been a useful concept as I try to solve some tricky problems.

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Blogging with Jekyll

I’ve updated this website, hopefully in ways that aren’t obvious to the reader, but that let me have more control (and fun) in the months ahead.

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I like being at home

Woke up late. My son is in Sydney for three weeks and when I walk past his bedroom the quiet inside makes me sad. I'm trying to be more mindful as I go about my low-key morning.

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Red cabbage

It was mid-afternoon. I ate some of the cabbage wrapped in a slice of bread. It felt like a treat. Red cabbage. Simple pleasures.

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Habits

My mind is circling the same wishes for the New Year that it circles every year, to do with health and writing. Each year I make some progress, never enough to make the desire for change to go away.

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Winter

Winter is when I want to retreat to my burrow. The garden becomes inhospitable, but often beautiful to look at from indoors. Simple things please me when it is cold outside.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of exercising your ability to pay attention: when you can focus on something, the critical thoughts quieten down. – Ruby Wax, Frazzled

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