Listening to Radio 4 this morning, there was a short interview with Wilko Johnson, former guitarist in the original Dr Feelgood line-up. They were an ok-ish pub rock band in the mid 70s. The fact they came from Canvey Island in Essex gave them a certain grittiness. But it was Wilko’s buzz-saw guitar and manic staring eyes that made them immediately likeable to the emerging Punk scene. It was telling to learn that he parted company then for reasons that would (today) be called “keeping it real” where the music was concerned.

Wilko has been diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic cancer. He’s been told it’s inoperable, and chemotherapy is the only option. If he does nothing, he has 10 months. If he does the chemo, he has 12. He declined the chemo.

That was the background. The interview clip was really about the strange euphoria he has experienced since being diagnosed. He talked about living in the present, not dwelling on the future or the past, and being hyper-aware of his surroundings.  That included “Every breath of wind on your cheek. Every brick in the road”. Cancer has made him feel more alive.

Apart from the fact that I respect Wilko as a musician, it was obvious that he is a thoroughly nice person. He said: “When I think about the life I’ve had and the things I’ve done, anyone who asked for more would just be greedy. I don’t wanna be greedy.” and “You can’t always be faced with imminent death, but it knocks some sense into your head”.

I lay there, spellbound.

When my little metal ball went down the Pinball machine that is Cancer, I hit better luck with the kickers and bumpers. I heard the words “It’s operable” on so many different occasions that it was like ‘free ball’ and ‘extra game’ all the way. I never had that sinking feeling when the ball slips down the alley past your flippers and you can do nothing about it.

Today I’m going to look at the things around me a little more intently. Thank you, Wilko. If you are “a feather for each wind that blows”, then I hope the wind now is like the one in The Tempest that carries “sweet airs that give delight and hurt not”.

Back in the night. (1975)