Hello there!

Here are some thoughts on varied topics, i hope some of them will be of interest and will prompt a response.

I’m going to be putting stuff out in paperback and Kindle, which you can find by searching /  for – ‘Max Bantleman’.

‘SoulDice’ is my first full-length novel and it’s out now.

Thanks for reading.

Featured post


(300 Word challenge – brief: romance.)

Jeremy looked down at the gravestone, the gentle rain bouncing from his brolly.

“Here lies Molly: daughter, mother, lover,” he read out-loud.

“I wonder who put ‘lover’ on there?” Mary said, sliding her arm in to Jeremy’s, taking shelter beneath the brolly.

Jeremy led them towards a Chestnut tree, “her husband perhaps?”

“Then why not add ‘wife’?”

They stood beneath the dripping tree, alone in the small soggy graveyard.

“Lover has a romantic ring to it,” Jeremy said.

Mary laughed, “and wife doesn’t?”

Jeremy smiled, “you know what I mean,” he said.

“Do you still think of us as lovers?” Mary asked.

“Trick question!” Jeremy exclaimed.

They huddled together as the rain got heavier, bouncing noisily from leaves overhead.

“I think we should make a dash for it, it’s not going to get any lighter,” Mary said, eying the grey sky.

Jeremy chuckled, “been a while since we dashed anywhere!”

They walked slowly along the path, uncaring of the rain, arm in arm, enjoying the tranquillity of the church and its grounds.

“What do you want on yours?” Mary asked.

“Who’s to say I’ll go first?” Jeremy said.

“You have to go first so I can be a broody old spinster surrounded by her thirty cats,” Mary said.

“Cats are evil,” Jeremy said.

“How about, ‘here lies Jeremy, cantankerous old git who hated cats’?”

Jeremy opened the wet wooden gate, “that’ll do nicely!”

“What if you go first, what shall I put on yours?” Jeremy asked as they walked from the church.

“I’ve thought about that…”

“I suspected you might have…”

“I want, ‘here lies Mary, she loved life and life loved her back.’”

Jeremy kissed Mary on the cheek, “you old romantic!”

Mary smiled, “one of us should be!”

“Whatever you say my lover,” Jeremy said.

All That Glitters

(300 Word challenge – brief: inanimate object starts talking.)

The Montblanc Meisterstuck LeGrand Gold-Coated Ballpoint Pen sat wedged between the tacky red leather cushions of the coffee shop bench-seat.

It wasn’t happy about it.

Pens of this distinction are rarely happy about anything. Being forgotten by their careless owner was a sure way to deepen their mood to the wrong side of ‘foul’.

Walter wandered over to his usual table, coffee-loaded tray in hands, knapsack over his shoulder. He sat down and got his writing stuff from his bag.

He’d been stuck on the middle-bit of his earth-shattering, best-seller for a few days now and was determined today would be the day he made his breakthrough.

Walter took a deep swig of his strong black coffee. Today was the day. He could feel it. Or was that just the caffeine?

As he put his cup down a glint of gold caught his eye.

The pen.

He looked around trying to see who had left it here. No sign of anyone.

Wow! A free pen! And a beauty at that!

Walter surreptitiously reached for the pen.

The Montblanc let out a short derisory snort of a laugh, ‘don’t even think about it peasant! You are not worthy to look upon me, never mind touch me with your grubby little fingers!’

Walter was taken aback, ‘I beg your pardon!?’

‘You won’t get it, you pathetic hack! Now move along and dribble out your sad little words somewhere else, you addle-minded sorry excuse for a writer!’

Walter did a double-take, looking around to see who was saying this.

Realising it was the pen, he let out a deep sigh.

The pen continued, ‘so just jog on and I wouldn’t even bother with that cliché-sodden excuse for a book if I were you.’

Walter frowned, packing his writing bag, ‘everyone’s a freakin’ critic!’


One of the writing prompts we are using at our writers’ group is ‘reflections’.

I like to think I spend the right amount of time reflecting on things.

It’s always good to look at what you’ve done, consider what you’d do differently, how it could be made better.

I don’t over-do it, but I do do it.

As part of the bigger picture, I often wonder what can be shared that can be classed as ‘wisdom’. What, if anything, have I learned through reflection that can be seen as the dreaded ‘wisdom’ by someone else.

What is ‘wisdom’?

Apart from one of those words that sounds nonsensical as soon as you say it a few times?

I think that question is one for another day.

Anyway, where was I… oh yes…


As I amble in to my Autumnal years, I can’t help feeling that I’ve figured something out, something big, something fundamental.

It’s taken me some time, but I get it now.

Money isn’t the root of all evil, greed is.


As in, ‘an inordinate or insatiable longing for unneeded excess, especially for excess of wealth, status, or power.’

There’s nothing wrong with ambition. Nothing wrong with money. It’s greed that’s the evil at work everywhere I look.

What causes greed? Is it that the excess is a form of validation for those suffering from it?

Can we do anything about it?

Well, surprisingly, yes we can!

We can stop looking up to people who are greedy. We can stop using them as role-models. We can make it clear that we are not impressed by their greed and what it ‘accomplishes’.

We can make those in power aware that we are not going to support the greedy excesses of corporations, people or any organisations.

We have some control.

I’m not talking about ambition, drive, dedication or the desire for money. I’m talking about greed.

We have to take back some control of how we view and treat the greedy. We have to make it clear that we believe there is such a thing as ‘enough’.

Greed is eating away at all cultures. Once it gets its claws in, it changes everything for the worse.

And of course, greed is really about control.


I’m sure we have all heard the saying, ‘anger is an energy.’

All emotions are.

With anger though the feeling of it being an energy is very immediate. Feeling it can cause us to do stuff, it energises us to action.

A lot of the time this action is not very well thought through. We just ‘do it’, driven by the anger, spur of the moment stuff. Thought comes later.

Being angry is a natural reaction to many things. The thing that angers us may move on, perhaps immediately or perhaps sometimes later, but we carry that anger with us and a quick way to diminish it, to escape from some if not all of it, is to pass it on.

We react angrily and we let some of it go.

Some people can be angry and not behave like this, they can absorb the anger, internalise it and then get it to evaporate through their deeper-nature. These people are scarce. I’m certainly not one of them.

Or rather I’m not most of the time.

As we get older we become more aware of the controls we have on our thoughts and behaviour.

We can take some control through that awareness. In my finer moments I can simply acknowledge things that make me feel angry or other negative emotions, and absorb them to be melted away in the subconscious and applied reasoning of my accumulated wisdom.

Smart eh!?

Sometimes. But not always. OK, it’s rare.

If there is an emotion that I want to spread in the world it certainly isn’t anger. To control my own thoughts and actions to reflect this is the goal. It’s not always the reality. And there are good ways to get angry, like reacting to a threat that can harm us or the ones we love.

Thinking about what energy I do want to be contagious, what I do want to spread in the world, is a tough one.

I’m not a woolly-minded hippy with visions of world-peace and love spreading from one simple act of kindness. But I do believe that every action that increases the happiness in the world also goes some way to reducing all negative emotions.

That’s actually pretty happyish, yeah, you got me there.

But none-the-less, that’s what I think and how I want to act.

At the end of any given year, thoughts turn to the coming year. We think about change. We reflect on the past. We have a focus on change and our part in it.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all understand each other a bit better? If we could show a desire to increase understanding of difference as a positive thing? Wouldn’t it be great if we could all show less anger?

We all know it would.

We all know it’s a challenge that will sometimes defeat us.

But we all also know that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

Be happy. Make others happy.

Future Past

Heraclitus said, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.”

Yeah, he was a smarty pants.

But once upon a time I found a river and got what he meant…


Future Past


Standing in the river,

Close my eyes in the sunshine,

Feel the water rushing by my legs,

Outstretched arms,

Head held back,

Sun on my face,

It all goes flashing by me,

Washing past me,

Washing the past from me.


Upstream coming at me,

Waters clear and cool,

Feel the waters coming down from the mountain,

Oblivious of me,

Nothing holds them back,

They rush on their way,

Sliding past me,

Washing away into the future,

Leaving me behind.


Downstream lost to me,

See it sparkling as it dances,

Watch the endless rippling surface,

Onwards towards the sea,

Feeling calm and rested,

Breathing easy,

Nothing stopping, moving on,

Leaving me standing still,

Feeling the river washing me clean.


Turn one way, past behind me,

Pushing past me,

Turn the other, look back and see,

The past coming at me,

Runs by and leaves me alone.

Stand still, feel it all, see it all,

Clear and cool,

Water washes me,

Leaves me free to feel it all again.

We Are Teachers

Most of us can think of a favourite Teacher we’ve had.

It might have been at school, at college or Uni. It might have been a mentor at work or a tutor on a course we’ve taken.

We liked them because they were knowledgeable, able to help us learn and were keen about getting us involved.

There were other reasons, maybe one, maybe many, but I suspect the core of why we liked them was that they engaged us and made us feel empowered.

They made us feel like we could do it, we could learn stuff, that it was a pleasure to learn, that we were being enriched.

We came away feeling empowered and enthused.

At the time we may not have thought about it like that. We probably just enjoyed it, felt that we were doing well and enjoyed that feeling.

There is a lot of stuff that goes to give someone credibility. And good teachers always have it.

It’s hard to analyse why they were successful in making us feel good about ourselves and what we were learning. We just felt it. When we look back on the experience, we feel it.

They engaged with us, made us feel empowered, made us feel their enthusiasm and commitment to sharing their knowledge.

Well here’s the thing… We are all teachers to someone.

Sometimes it’s a formal setting, or if not formal then at least a setting where there is an expectation, where we know we have a chance to help others learn.

Sometimes it sneaks up on us, we realise in the moment that we are teaching someone something. And sometimes it comes back to us in a flash of memory, we see what we did, realise that we were acting as a teacher.

Do we enjoy teaching things? Do we have the confidence to do it? The desire?

Can we acknowledge that sometimes we are asked to be a teacher and we need to step-up?

Credibility can only come from our honesty. We cannot decide we are credible for someone else, they decide that for themselves, so if they have decided it, don’t question and over-analyse – step one is done.

What we can do is make sure we are engaging with people who look to us as a teacher, that we think about what they need and want, what we can offer and give. We have to listen and engage.

We have to be enthusiastic.

Most importantly we have to empower people. We have to encourage them, allow them to grow for themselves with what they know and want to learn. We have to be positive, supporting and encouraging. We have to be.

So when there is an opportunity to be the teacher – embrace it!

Be prepared for it and embrace it.

The Pressure of Time

We all have limited time.

In so many ways and in one ultimate sense.

I read once that all art, all creativity, is a response to the understanding that we are all going to die.

If we were immortal, there would be no art, creativity would die.

The thinking behind it being that we would always have time to do it. There would always be more time. We could always put it off, do it tomorrow, or whenever.

Simplistic and perhaps total BS, but it does convey the idea that we all feel the pressure of time in some way and we all react to it differently.

We all live our lives as if we are going to live forever.

We all realise we are not.

We all have a desire to make the most of the time we have, in every sense.

We all do that in different ways.

Being creative to a deadline is fantastic.

The most important thing it teaches us is that things will have to be as good as they are when the deadline hits, then we have to let them be, let them go.

With no deadline, we are tempted to tinker, to make it better, to chase perfection rather than let something be as perfect as it can be when it’s time to let it go.

Can we ever be aware of the greater deadline?

Is this something that we can use to drive us in our creative endeavours?

Can we turn the pressure of time to our advantage?

Yes. Yes we can.

Our energy for each thing we create has a natural cut-off point. That point where we feel we are just tinkering, adding the whistles and bells to make it more than it was ever meant to be.

Most creativity uses a craft as well as artistic inspiration, and of course we want to use all our skill and experience to make sure we have something that is as good as it can be in the sense of the craft.

Artistically, we can realise the idea and then it’s done.

The challenge of the pressure of time often defeats me. And it’s usually because I don’t want something I’ve created to be perceived as anything less than the best it could be.

But the best it could be at the time is what I should be focusing on.

I’m rubbish at self-imposed deadlines.

I need to work on my awareness of the pressure of time.

With the things you create, how can you turn the pressure of time in to a positive thing?


I wrote this about the Black Dog.

Kind of tumbled out, bit angry but also hopeful.


I turned around and there it was,

Lurking in the shadows behind me,

Awaiting its chance to suck me dry,

This fucking useless parasite.


Only it never does,

It won’t kill the host.

That’s not how it works,

Won’t fulfil its need,

Take enough,

But never too much,

Reap and sow,

Plant the seed.


I turned my back and on it came,

From out of the darkness within me,

Been waiting for a chance to watch me die,

This fucking useless parasite.


Only I never do,

And it never can,

That’s not how it works,

Don’t feel the need,

Given enough,

At times too much,

Reaped what I sowed,

Planted the seed.


I turned a corner and found it there,

Waiting in ambush for me,

A chance for me to immortalise,

This fucking useless parasite.


Only I know it now,

It’s not what it seems,

That’s not how it works,

I don’t have a need,

Bled out too much,

Nothing to show,

No place for the seed,

To hide and grow.


I turned it over and watched it die,

Helpless in the open,

Destroyed by the light,

This fucking useless parasite.


Spiderman-head BalloonWhere I sit and type my ramblings looks out across a wide gravelly-drive area on to a nice bit of greenery, with trees and a view of the countryside.

A Spiderman-head kids’ helium balloon, partially deflated, is currently caught in a windy vortex which is blowing it round on the ground in a wide circle. It is dashing about in the company of some crinkly brown leaves.

It seems like it is doomed to remain here forever.

It has been whirling around for about an hour now and shows no signs of stopping.

On it goes, tumbling across gravel and grass, coming close then veering off only to come back round again.

Endless turmoil but no real change.

But wait, I thinks.

It wasn’t always here.

So something has changed.

And it won’t (of course) always be here – the wind will change. Eventually. And off it will go, to destinations anew.

My whimsical observations that it could be trapped here forever are a nonsense.

Thanks nature!

Change is like that. One minute it wasn’t here, then it was, then it seems it could be here forever, but of course it won’t be.

Change is like that.

Change is inevitable. Life is change. Stagnation is death.

We are programmed by evolution to accept change, to go with it, to adapt.

But not changing can create a wonderful comfort-zone.

But then… change… inevitable.

Thank you Spiderman-head balloon for reminding me of something I already knew, but, ironically, had momentarily forgotten as I sit here comfortably contemplating your nonsensical future.

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