October has been strange, with a two week break between jobs expanding to fill the entire month (basically, there was a problem with a third-party referencing system). A surprise month off sounds ideal, and it’s enabled me to spend some time on the house, catch up on a few projects and also to get myself a little better organised (which I’ll talk about at the end). Having said that, I’d rather have been working, particularly given the recent economic chaos.
Autumn has settled into the valley, and it looks beautiful with the trees changing colour. I can’t believe I’ve already been living here for three months – I still feel moved when I see the sunrise in the morning. Lou Ice came over from Sweden for a few days of hiking. We also had Plathfest, which Helen and Sophie visited for. Ilkley literature festival hosted a talk from John Higgs and it was good to catch up. I’m still exploring the valley, and last week went up to the trig point at High Brown Knoll with a borrowmydoggy friend, Lola the Labrador.
There was not as much walking as last month, when I was on the Coast-to-Coast trail. I still managed a total of 370,083 steps, which was an average of 11,938 a day. My highest total was 32,645, walking back from Haworth to Hebden Bridge with Lou. My weight has been stable, which is remarkable given a careless diet.
Despite not having worked all month, I’ve not submitted any new stories. I’ve written five new pieces for online and offline workshops which just need a quick review to be sent out. Six stories were resubmitted in the first half of the month, bringing my stats for the year to 47 submitted, 7 accepted, 32 rejected. Instead of submitting more writing, I’ve mostly been finishing off old blog posts, including one about a visit to Heptonstall that I particularly liked.
I did read a lot of books this month – 10 in total. The Anomaly was a literary airport novel, and felt a little like a TV show (an adaptation is in the works). There is No Anti-Memetics Division was one of the freshest pieces of horror I’ve read. Holly McNish’s poetry collection Slug was a lovely format, as it included the talk around the poems that you get in live performances that are usually dropped from books. John Higgs provided a combined history of the Beatles and Bond in Love and Let Die. Twyford Rising was a history of the M3 road protests, and an important glimpse of resistance in the 90s. Adrian Hon’s You’ve Been Played was a good, critical view of gamification. Swedish Cults by Anders Fagers has finally been translated to English and was an enjoyable read. Andrew Gimson’s recent Boris Johnson biography was an absolute car crash of a book.
I didn’t watch much TV, other than the web series about Kanye Quest 3030, where two Australian comedians finally solved the mystery. I tried The Midnight Club, but it had too much of a young adult vibe for my tastes. I caught several films. Crimes of the Future was well-acted and visually stunning, but the story didn’t grab me. Incantation was a creative found-footage movie, but the in-story filming sometimes felt contrived. 20,000 days on Earth, the Nick Cave documentary, was a re-watch with Lou, and proved almost unbearably sad given the tragedy that was lying in wait for Cave. Bullet Train was a fun cartoonish movie, very much post-Tarantino, but about 20 minutes longer than the concept could bear. Desert Coffee was a good Netflix documentary on Slab City. I also watched Haunters, which was a disturbing documentary about haunted house scares in the USA.
I’d been waiting to see Kevin Smith’s Tusk in the cinema. I figured there would be a big Brighton premier at the Duke of Yorks, but for whatever reason that never happened and I never got around to seeing it. Lou-Ice suggested watching and it was fun, despite some sloppy editing (the scenes from wife-beater Johnny Depp went on far too long). But, for all its ridiculous, over-the-top nature, the film was tragic, with Justin Long did a great job of portraying a man whose humanity was ripped away.
I continued playing The Last of Us Part 2, collecting all the main trophies. I finally completed Stray after a long break, then bought Red Dead Redemption 2. I’m finding that incredibly hard to get into, so ended up completing The Last of Us Part 1, which I’d also ignored for a long time. I love The Last of Us games for the atmosphere, ruinporn and world-building, but both Joel and Ellie are terrible people. I’d rather be playing positive games in that world, working towards better things.
The real world continues to be alarming. We had another flurry of posturing about nuclear weapons, which makes me anxious. Everyone seems reconciled to the idea that someone is going to use a nuclear weapon before long. Trident is not making me feel any safer, and maybe unilateral disarmament is a good thing. In the UK, we’ve had more political chaos, and a couple of power-cuts in the valley. As entertaining as I find the parliamentary side of the political situation, I am shocked at how poorly-managed the country is right now. It feels inevitable that something is going to go very wrong this winter.
Having five weeks off has been interesting. Having recently read Four thousand weeks, I was aware of the need to be selective about what how my time is spent. And that turned out to be true – five weeks is a long time, but I’ve not had enough time for large new projects, instead mostly progressing some old ones. I finally launched a basic site about the Pennine Way and started with Dan on Mycelic/Discordian Parish Magazine.
I’ve become much better organised over the past few weeks by following the advice in James Stanier’s book on management – keeping email and to-do list and calendar separate. It’s also made me feel healthier and distractible than I did beforehand. Even so, I’ve still achieved less than I would have expected, which makes me aware that I need to be selective about how I spend my time, particularly once I start work again. The non-work activity that is most important to me is writing stories, and I need to double-down on that. I’m thinking about trying to submit one new short story a week – that sort of arbitrary goal can be useful for developing something.If you want to follow what I'm up to, sign up to my mailing list