I wasn’t aware until a few days ago that Easter was coming. There I was, sailing along through a chemotherapy tunnel, carrying on through thick and thin, and suddenly I was reminded of the relentlessly-rolling machinery of human society out there, happening beyond the bounds of this farm and upcountry from here. Easter was coming – oh yes. Down’ere in furthest Cornwall, all the madness happens in one direction, and we call it ‘upcountry’ or, with a sarky twist of intonation and a subtle roll of the eyes, ‘England’. Which means different things to us than it means to Englanders.
But then, England has just arrived here for its holidays. They’re all down in Tesco, shopping after the frantic journey down the A30, getting ready to stow away in cottages and splatter themselves in plastic tents all over the ancient pastures of West Penwith. Fresh-painted ‘campsite’ signs are sitting at roadside field gates, attempting to capture business, the machinery of the Cornish tourist industry grinds again into action, and the scenic single-track north coast road past Zennor will get suitably blocked up with queues of SUVs and campervans. The Cornish have mixed feelings about all that, and those feelings are growing bigger. Times are changing.
But it’s lovely too, hosting people for a break-out. Yes, there’s that sickening consumption aspect of holidaymaking – the kind that kills lovely places by extending urban tentacles over the land to trash the very landscape people come here to enjoy. But there’s also that aspect where people genuinely seek healing and release, the joy of waking up in a birdsong-soaked field, of paddling in the waves or stretching auras on the high cliffs, with the isles of Scilly shimmering in the distance…
Back in the 1980s when I used to organise holistic camps, I tried hard to get black and Asian people to come and join us, but it just didn’t work. After all, why should these folks, most of whom come from a much better climate than ours, sit outside freezing their asses off in the rain, wind and dew, just because crazy pink-skinned Brits like to do it? But things change. Last year Lynne and I went to Porthcurno beach, crammed with people, and the majority were not ‘typical’ Brits at all – they were the new Brits, the second- and third-generation sprogs born of ‘rivers of blood’ immigrants, and Poles, French, Hong Kongers and Latinos, with no shortage of burkinis and saris, lapping it up and loving it, and I was so happy to be amongst them all. But then, I’ve always felt rather a stranger in my own country.
And this isn’t uniquely about Brits – it’s about humans and the way we create our collective realities, our nations, social tribes, cultures and identity-boundaries. Without sorting this out, we won’t progress with today’s big environmental, economic, political, immunological and military issues. The deeper aspect of international relations has been a core theme throughout my life, and I have a few things to say about this before I go.
When I was diagnosed with cancer and stared at death in late 2019, I became acutely aware of those things in my life that are unfinished but are still doable, in my newly disabled condition. What emerged were issues and possibilities I just hadn’t previously seen to be likely. One of those was to write a book about my understanding of prehistoric civilisation in the isles of Britain. So, when able, and whenever my brains were functioning sufficiently, I set about writing ‘Shining Land – megalithic civilisation and the ancient sites of West Penwith’. It’s now finished and seeking a publisher (no, I can’t self-publish it), but this is tricky because many publishers are cash-strapped and not in a risk-taking mood and, as usual for me, the book doesn’t sit neatly in a convenient marketing niche. Having myself worked two decades as an editor in book-publishing, and having myself rejected quite a number of good books for similar market-based reasons (we couldn’t publish anything and everything), this is rather ironic. What goes around comes around. But the book will come out somehow: it awaits a magic solution.
There’s another book or project starting to ferment, deep down – a re-work of my 2003 book about nations, cultures, beliefs and international relations. ‘Healing the Hurts of Nations – the human side of globalisation’ looked at the psycho-social and geopolitical issues that obstruct concerted planetary action to resolve its biggest global threats and challenges. Twenty years ago this was a little ahead of its time – and my spiritually-rooted approach was too far outside the box for many people, especially professionals and the commentariat. So I’m going to work over this subject again, either as a book or as a serialised online blog. Times come when ideas come into their time.
But first I must complete the prehistoric work – not far to go now. On chemotherapy, my constrained brain capacity cannot manage certain stretches of thinking. So I’ve been getting on with mind-numbing drudge – in this case, completing a detailed map of the ancient sites of Cornwall (there are thousands of them). I started it in 2015 and it’s nearly finished. Aaaah, relief. Then I can put it to bed and have done with it. Here’s the current version – and click on any site on the map to see what happens next.
The psycho-geopolitics project is fermenting underneath in the murky depths, taking shape at its own rate. I’m not really thinking it through, but the thoughts are brewing underneath and I can feel it. It involves an orientation and focusing of my thoughts and attention on the subject, and a ferreting out of pathways by which it best can be explored. These projects, these preoccupations, are like beings with a life of their own, and I sometimes there’s a discomfiting sense that I’m being used. There have even been times when I’ve been too busy with things like this to do things like earning an income! In another time of history I might have earned my income by doing it.
It sounds like I’m ready to return to work and ‘get normal’ again – re-join the humanoid rat-race. I do need somehow to supplement my modestly adequate income, but I’m not ready for that – I’d make a mess of it. I might sound clear and resolute but actually I’m useless at making decisions, figuring things out and sorting through details. It’ll take me a day to get over the effort of writing this blog! But I’m making progress, as long as I can work when my energy and brains are cranked up. That’s difficult to predict, so arrangements and appointments are not doable, and fitting into the coffee-driven swirl of needs, complexities and timetables of the wider world doesn’t work well.
Or perhaps I’m spending too much time talking to myself. It’s very quiet around here. People don’t visit because they don’t want to disturb me or kill me with a swarm of life-threatening viruses apparently swirling around them. But I’m on Dexamethasone and probably better protected from Covid symptoms than most people. So Lynne’s fortnightly visits are so welcome – and I’m sure that if she chronicled the things we jibber about, it would land up quite encyclopaedic. Both of us being astrologers, we have a multidimensional language to yatter with that’s unavailable to most people – it ought to be taught to teenagers at school. It’s the same when Penny comes along on Wednesdays to clean up – she comes with issues and questions and leaves with a stack of lightbulb moments, sufficient to last until next week. But she doesn’t speak astrologese, so we’re limited to English. And Karen, who comes along with my shopping on Thursdays, tells me tales of events down in Penzance or at Treliske hospital (she’s a cancer patient too). That’s my main human contact with the outside world! Otherwise, my main company is the birds – there are a few dunnets that I really like. The swallows haven’t arrived yet though.
Meanwhile, the chemo process is working, and I’ve stabilised after the crisis I had a few weeks ago – was it just a few eeeks ago? My results are good, and I just have to keep on going until I reach a safe level that will last me for another period of time. I’m on a ‘management’ programme of periodic adjustments that keep my levels right and stop my bones from hollowing out – that’s what happens with myeloma if it isn’t managed. The haematologist is suitably surprised at my results, though I told her this would be so – having been a wholefood vegetarian meditator for half a century and subject to slightly different rules. But the medical profession has a strange kind of racial profiling that assumes that, if you’re white and you speak English, then you should be measured against a yardstick of ‘normal’, based on the way the ‘normal’ population operates. But then, a doctor once said that in Britain I’m underweight, while in India I’d be normal. Aged hippies like me should be treated more like an ethnic group because our psyche, metabolism and anatomy have changed quite radically as a result of the life-choices we’ve made, and the passage of time.
But there we go – this is a strange world, and none of us is here by accident. All will come well in the end. Because the sun keeps rising every day, and the Atlantic rollers keep ripping at the rocks and the cliffs, and time wanders unceasingly through the labyrinths of the present moment, and it’s time to put the kettle on.
Stay on the case, and do the best you can with what you have and what you are. I’ll do my best at my end too.