I woke up this morning with a tune in my head – Steve Winwood’s ‘Somebody help me, yeah’. Must be fifty years old. It was dark. I was wet with sweat. In the last 3-4 days something new seems to have been happening, with a variety of new symptoms suddenly coming up. My hips are aching deeply with a new kind of arthritis. It gnaws at me. It aches deep in my bones. I lay there, stewing in my sweat. I needed a pee but I couldn’t move. The wind was rattling the barn doors.

With first light came the cawing of the hundreds of crows down in the woods below the farm. I love those crows – they assemble in the woods in autumn, gathering from all over West Penwith, to stay together through the winter. Samhain is their time. But this morning their crowing was eerie, echoing around in my psyche and reverberating against its walls.

The aching was invading me, spreading up my back, through my pelvis and down my legs. I don’t often feel self-pity nowadays, but this morning I did. Somebody help me. I wanted to ring up a magic doctor who would come to my aid and rescue me – but when I ring the doctors, all they do is question me, rattle notes down on the computer, and that’s it. Or perhaps they prescribe something I don’t really want, or they might arrange yet another scan in two weeks’ time. I want to be examined, looked at and touched – however wondrous and diagnostically revealing they might be, I don’t want yet another faceless scan.

OMG, I’ve got to get up. My bed’s wet. I’ve got to loosen my bones somehow but they won’t move. I’m stuck. Something inside me disintegrates. I’m desperate for a pee. I heave myself up and get down off my bed. My shirt is wet and cold – I struggle it off and it lies there, limp on the floor. I’m standing there naked, shivering.

Groping around for a new shirt, I pull one out and, wobbling in my heart, I struggle it on and stagger to the toilet. I can’t do this any more. That’s the feeling. Shooting pains go down my legs. I’m standing there peeing, and my heart collapses. Tears well up and I’m standing there, holding myself up, peeing and crying, feeling helpless like a little boy who’s lost in space and can’t find the way home. The tears roll down my face into my beard, my stomach quivers, my legs are working hard to hold me up. I’ve never experienced arthritis like this before – I’ve had arthritis only since last winter as my cancer chemotherapy drew toward its end.

I finish peeing and stand there, holding myself up. My crying is just crying, not about anything, just emotion, tears, weakness, lostness. I stagger back to bed but it’s wet – I can’t get back in. Just as well Penny’s coming later to clean my house – she changes the sheets, makes my bed and takes my dirties away to wash them, bless her. I stand there looking at the bed, my brains slowly computing that the relentless procedure of getting up is about to grind into action, whether I like it or not. Well, at least I’ll be able to move my bones around and loosen up this aching stiffness.

I’m standing there, mindless, helpless, and the sound of the crows is echoing around my psyche. Somebody help me, yeah. But I’m an old warrior: when they’re firing at you, don’t stand there – do something, anything. Do something to pull yourself out of this nightmare. Well, at least no one is actually shooting at me. I’m fixed to the spot, with my feelings erupting and leaking all over the place.

Suddenly I’m with that family of Kurdish Iranians who, a couple of days ago, were gulped up by the fierce waters of La Manche, the English Channel, as winter comes down – the family who sold everything to come to Britain to find a new life, who drowned and were taken into Neptune’s arms and away to heaven. Alhamdulillah, God bless you, you people: you wanted a better life and you got this.

A good friend had sent me a copy of The Afterlife of Billy Fingers – I finished it last night. It’s the story of a man who died, who communicated back to his sister to tell her what it was like on the other side. There’s a kind of sweet relief to it, to his after-death release, and part of me is there in that realm, leaving my pain behind, while another part of me is standing here shivering, aching, crying uncontrollably as the pain eats at me, reminding me so cogently that I’m still here on Earth, still here, witnessing the aching in the hollows of my bones, watching, crying, wobbling, witnessing, experiencing.

Palden, pull yourself together. Don’t just stand there bloody shivering! I get my jalabiya (an Arabic robe) and put it on. Uh, it’s the wrong way round. I’m struggling it round and eventually get my arms through the right holes. Put the kettle on – yes, the universal solution to everything. So very British. Put that kettle on, Palden.

My bones won’t move but I force myself. Fill that kettle, put it on. What next? Light the fire. I light the kindling and pile on two logs and there I am, on all fours, staring at the licking flames. It’s a good position though: my backbone clicks in four places – ah, relief. But the relief just unleashes another flood of helpless tears. Dripping tears, licking flames, crarking crows, lashing rain, Atlantic gusts, rattling doors, aching bones.

The kettle boils. Oh fuck, now it’s the next bit. Tip yesterday’s dregs out on the fern outside my door. A clutch of China Keemun goes into the pot. Water on top. Aah, I’ve achieved something! I’m crying less now. The words of the I Ching ring out: perseverance furthers – it furthers to have something to do. But I find myself just staring at the tea cosy hugging the teapot and a memory comes up.

I was at a checkpoint and there was a queue of Palestinians standing there, waiting to be let through. The Israeli soldiers, twentysomethings, were, I think, slightly enjoying the power they had over these poor sods, who were standing there just wanting to go home after work. The soldiers wave me forward. One looks at my passport. Yes, you can go. But hang on, what about them? They can wait, says he. Then I shall wait too. He looks at me: hm, an awkward fucking foreigner. I refuse to go through until they let the Palestinians through. I’m tired and want to go home too, after a long day in Jerusalem, but no.

They lock me in a room and I sit there for an hour. Later, a soldier comes in, stands there. I’m sitting there, looking at him. He’s American – probably an enthusiastic recent immigrant who has performed aliyah, return, fulfilling his own dreams of a new life. Suddenly he says, “You know what? We were talking yesterday and wondered how you English make tea”. “Excuse me?”. “Yeah, make tea – how do you English make tea?”.

Well, within twenty minutes I’d got them to assemble the bits and I showed them how we Brits make tea. This is what happens sometimes, in the bizarre movie of conflict. All the soldiers were in with me now and we were all drinking tea and chatting. “Okay, you can go now”, says the officer – he’s twenty years younger than me. “But what about them?”, I say, pointing to the Palestinians, still queueing. He looks at me, looks at them. I can see his mind, calculating.

A bit pissed off, he goes out, opens the turnstile and shouts at the Palestinians – “Go!“. They look surprised and start trooping through, wondering whether it’s a trick. By now there must have been two hundred of them. It took a while. They all troop off into no-man’s land, toward the gap in the further security wall, heading for home. “Okay?” say the officer, looking at me. “You’re a good man”, I say, “But you could have done it earlier”. “Get outta here”. “Enjoy the tea – pity I couldn’t bring you some of my Mum’s fruit cake.”

As I walk out I wonder whether a bullet might follow me, but no, I’m a privileged Brit and it would cause an incident, and this is apartheid and this is how it works. I walk alone through no man’s land, watched by young, bored soldiers imprisoned in their watchtower, all busily doing their military service and probably wishing they were in a nightclub in Tel Aviv.

I go through the gap and twenty or so Palestinians are there, waiting. I recognise a few of them. They take my bag, grab me and lift me up on the shoulders of two of them, jibbering together in Arabic and carrying me like a caliph to a waiting taxi. As we drive away, we all wave. The taxi driver takes me to a cafe in Bethlehem. “My father, my mother, my brothers, you have tea with us – you good man.”

Tea. It must be ready by now. Has much time passed? The stove is warming up. My eyes have dried. I go wash my hands and face, pour the tea and drop down, exhausted, in my seat. Somebody help me, yeah. It’s getting light. A bevvy of crows is now sitting, blown in the wind, on top of the farmhouse roof. My back is aching.

And so begins another day. ‘A bad day’. This is what you get sometimes, with cancer – bad days. But Lynne is coming tomorrow – this makes me cry again. She’s so good to me. The aching is easing now. I’m coming back. It’s a Thursday, I think.


Thank you, everyone, for your lovely comments. I’m sitting here the day after, drinking kombucha, the fogs of Penwith are drippily enveloping the farm, and I’m still alive and getting there. Penny, who comes every Thursday, gave me a revelation: it’s not arthritis but sciatica! Though I might have arthritis too. Goes to show, the trade-off we have medically: modern pharmaceutic drugs undoubtedly do save lives when it’s a dire emergency, which it was for me last year, but they also can charge their price in side-effects. If my cancer diagnosis in Nov 2019 had been one month later there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here now. But then, holistic treatments have problems: too many specialists and no complete all-round healthcare, and it can cost a bomb, so it benefits the relatively privileged only.

Anyway, from an awareness viewpoint, I had a revelation yesterday. I found I was able to be completely involved in the process but also the Watcher within was witnessing it simultaneously, and this was a great gift.

It’s bizarre saying this, but cancer has been a gift – though obviously it’s difficult too. But then, for the astrologers amongst you, I’m on a Neptune opposition Saturn, and this whole journey was triggered a year ago while Saturn-Pluto were doing a trine to my Saturn. So this is a lesson in turning Saturnine experiences into something good: Saturn is a Teacher you cannot run away from, and its beneficence lies in wringing us out, shoving us through the mangle and breaking our bones, metaphorically or literally.

The sciatica comes from the fact that bone marrow cancer eats your bones and, in my case, it caused some of the bottom vertebrae of my back to collapse – and now my sciatic nerve is getting squeezed. I’m going to visit John, my chiropractor in Hayle, and also discuss this with Liz, the haematologist at Treliske hospital.

I wrote this piece unpremeditatedly, while still in the process. As a writer I have five decades’ experience, but something more has emerged since cancer entered my life. I wasn’t actually seeking your sympathy – I sought simply to share a situation that is not uncommon, but many of those who experience it aren’t as articulate as I. I was aware I was channelling not only my own pain but that of many others out there in the world, many of suffering alone and uncared for.

While writing this, Lynne arrived for our customary fortnightly long weekend – it’s such a relief when she comes. While talking to her just now, I was saying that beyond all the treatments and therapies that can be done, the key issue in healing is happiness. I’m fundamentally happy, despite everything. There’s a key also in the word ‘suffer’, which means ‘allow’ – permission, acceptance, taking things on board.

But the great asset I draw on too – and I say this for folks younger than me who are trying their best to follow a path of change and spirit – is the fruits of fifty years of psychospiritual work, and reasonably good diet and lifestyle. In my case, I’ve nevertheless incurred cancer, but my immunity and my psyche are pretty robust as a result of my history and attitude, so I encourage you to keep on your path of growth, however you do it, because it does pay dividends. Keep it up, you good souls out there. But there’s always a twist to everything in life: my cancer is caused by toxicity, seemingly not by lifestyle issues – in my case radiation and electromagnetic exposure (phone, wifi and nuclear).

Bless you all. Thanks for being with. I’ll be offline for the weekend – and that’s part of my therapy too! Love, Paldywan Kenobi.

Plumbing the Void

Palden at Bodrifty ancient village, West Penwith

At times I give out the wrong impression. When I write my blog or talk to people, I’m usually in an up state, so people get an up impression. But at present I am up for only about 5-6 hours each day, then I start drooping. The rest of the time I’m fatigued, flumped in bed, watching the birds outside my window or floating in the ethers. I didn’t know what fatigue was like until I got it. It’s not just serious tiredness: it’s a helpless, leaden megaflop. Time slows down and disappears. Brains clog up, and lifting an arm or keeping up a conversation becomes an act of will. But when I flop, it’s bliss. I float into faraway realms that, forty years ago, I strove hard to enter.

Cancer is a strange gift. It focuses you and rearranges all your priorities. You have to work at being alive. You find out what’s important. Things that used to worry you just evaporate. You have to focus on being with the cancer and also with the side-effects of medication. You find out who your real friends are. Some people you just can’t deal with any more – like those whose opening gambit is the inevitable ‘How are you?’ (for the umpteenth time today) or, rushing in and asking ‘Anything I can do to help?’, without realising that I’ll remember what I needed just after they’ve rushed away again! (Advisory: just observe the person, and take thoughtful initiatives.)

Talking of side-effects, I had reservations when the doctors gave Dexamethasone to Donald Trump – Dex is rather like cocaine. It has its virtues – it reduced my cancer, helped my back and was strengthening in effect. But I also became insensitive, detached, mental, badly behaved, retaliatory and prone to misjudging situations. This was upsetting to Lynne, who saw my glazed eyes and was shocked at my evasive unreceptivity, but at least I didn’t have the keys to a nuclear arsenal or the power to affect too many people. Giving Dex to Trump is a security risk. He says he ‘feels great’ – but he won’t when he comes off Dex. He’ll sink into post-Dex despond – equally dangerous.

Palden at Bodrifty, wondering about the flask of tea

I had a phone consultation with the haematologist. My results are good, better than expected – after all, I’ve been drooping and struggling recently. But I won’t need to go back on chemo and steroids for a while. There’s no remission with bone marrow cancer: you have to live with it and manage it until you pop your clogs. I’ve been helped by positive attitude, inner openness, exercise, rest, the love and care of Lynne (who comes every other weekend), Tulki (my son), a clutch of other goodly souls and the prayers of many people and beings (bless you all). I have twelve pill bottles next to my desk – antioxidants, vits, CBD oil and allsorts. I’m guzzling blueberry powder, ginseng, oils, beansprouts, colloidal silver, cider vinegar… it goes on.

But I never thought I’d get bored. This is weird. Usually I’m thinking, creating, churning out stuff – one of those who has no time for TV or gaming. Writing a book has helped immensely, except it’s finished and I’m now unexcitedly dragging through amendments and finding a publisher – and my usual strategy of going travelling or on a lecture tour after finishing a book is a thing of the past. I’ve been in confinement for a year now and I’m drying up.

Even so, it’s wonderful here on the farm and it nourishes me. I can prop myself up in bed and watch the buzzards through the big windows. I live in The Lookout, and that’s precisely what you do here. Insights come up while doing so. Lying in bed one day, I was doing my usual psycho-trick of looking for the gift in my situation and suddenly realised that I was, in a way, channelling collective fatigue. People are worn out and fed up, deep down. The Covid crisis was triggered on a Jupiter-Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn in late January, and this has dug up much deeper stuff than we’re aware of even now.

Doubts, guilt, fear, anticipation, insecurity about the past and future, and everything, really – personal, social and national issues. Astrologically, the lurking fear of the Great Unknown is a symptom of Neptune, the main driver of Covid as a global experience. It gives us a deep collective sense of vulnerability because we can’t nail down solutions, control the virus, find the escape hatch and restore normality. Neptune in Pisces wants us to see, to reconsider reality and reconfigure our perspective and roadmaps.

Worn out and wan at Boscawen-un stone circle

A spiritual crisis is going on (they call it ‘mental health’). What is my life for? What are we here for? What are, or were, truth and reality? Such questions have been studiously avoided for generations. There’s a stored-up reservoir of dread down there: perhaps everything has been in vain, perhaps we got it all wrong, perhaps it’s all going wrong. To avoid facing this, society deflects into blame, rebellion, compliance, complaint, argument, depression and desperately grasping for solutions that aren’t actually there.

Or at least, we aren’t finding what we think ought to be the solution. A solution where we don’t have to really change – others should change instead, not me, not us. But reality has changed. We’re faced with our fear of the Great Yawning Precipice. Things aren’t going back to normal. The situation we’re in is providing solutions we need, but we see it as a problem. This is an acceleration. We’re moving into a time where the future is causing the present more than the past is.

Covid is the first of many crises, and secretly we know it and need to get used to it. Change will come through a growing avalanche of events and conjunctures that no one thought possible, against which we are undefended. Like Covid. Totally unexpected situations are the mechanism by which radical change is likely to happen.

Not long ago I posted a video on FB in which a bunch of smiling Palestinians were saying ‘World, we know you’re going through a hard time – we understand you, and welcome to the club!‘. Palestinians, despite everything, are a bizarrely happy people compared to us. They’re not at all happy with their circumstances but, inside, they’ve accepted something about life that we have not. They’re still there despite everything. Meanwhile, in richer, declining countries like Britain, we stand on the edge of a precipice, complaining, and we’re scared shitless, pretending to be alright.

The Palestinian secret is sumud: stay on the case, tough it out and never give up. That’s how they lose battles while stopping their oppressors from winning the war. By degrees they have less fear, guilt and shame than people in countries like Britain. Here, we wet our knickers over face-masks, lockdowns and freedoms but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Covid forces us to face a dilemma that was creeping up on us anyway. Society was permitting it – surveillance, regulation, compliance, slavery to the megamachine, fear of rocking the boat, taking risks, losing income. The dilemma is about control, a primary issue in coming decades.

We have a choice: to get through the future, we humans need solidarity and cooperation from ground level up, and anyone who doesn’t join is, in effect, sabotaging humanity (sounds terrible, but there’s truth in it); on the other hand, Covid and digital technology are being used to curtail social and political freedoms, ramping up the matrix of control from the top down. Rebellious exceptionalism undermines the first option, and the second option, though Orwellian, is undermined by competition at a high level between clashing ideas and a splintered oligarchy. The world is rudderless, stuck in a logjam which only an overwhelming flood of stirring events can shake out. Covid is a practice run.

Fatigued and far away

I find my confinement manageable yet difficult, though it’s also fruitful. Alone (mostly) in a wooden cabin in paradise, watching and feeling the world, listening more closely to things than to people, I’m grateful to be alive. In my fatigued dream-states I tune into people who have it worse than me, like a man I know in Gaza who has cancer, no medicine and is getting bombed. I sit with people like him in the innerworlds.

Back in early August I woke up one day with a feeling that ‘if I hadn’t had treatment, this is the day I would have died’. The baby swallows from the barn, fluttering around outside, made me smile – today is the beginning of the rest of my life.And for all of us, today is the beginning of a new world. It doesn’t look like that, but remember: the computer you’re looking at has its origins in a disaster called World War Two. My late aunt Hilary was in Alan Turing’s team and she was one of the world’s first ever computer operators. They thought they were fighting Hitler – well, yes, but they were inventing the computer too, and in the fullness of history, that’s bigger. We think we’re ‘fighting Covid’ – well, yes, but something else is happening underneath, though it might take seventy years to realise what it has become.

Everything is okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. So hang in there. We’re on a mission and it’s gonna take a while. We’re working on historic matters, a turn-around in the very nature of civilisation. Everyone has a bit-part to play. Everyone is right and nobody is wrong, because we’re all playing parts in an enormous chessgame that is bigger than any of us can see. All of us, together, will decide the future of the world, whatever anyone thinks about elites, controllers, billionaires, conspiracies, reptilians… or fathers.

If, like me, you’re not that far from passing away, do you plan to leave this world behind when you go, or will you come back to see this planetary change-process through to its conclusion? One day, when the world is rendered safe and sound, there’s going to be a big, global party and, having come this far, I want to be there. Then, I’ll be happy to leave the future to others and go my way, relieved. Job done.

May the light of spirit bless us and keep us, and cause its light to shine through us and guide our way home.

Love you all, Paldywan Kenobi.

Photos by Lynne Speight, astrologer, photographer and handholder extraordinaire