Letters From Quotidia Episode 126 Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine, Captain Carpenter

Letters From Quotidia Episode 126 Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon WIne, Captain Carpenter

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 126 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Reading obituaries: not something that young’uns do, as a rule. I can remember shaking my long-haired, and largely empty, head in puzzlement at my mother’s avid perusal of the death notices in The Irish News. “Joe, Joe!” she would exclaim to my father,  “did you hear that old Mrs Morley is gone? D’ye think we should go to the funeral. She’s being buried from Glenravel chapel at 11 on Wednesday next.” And they would weigh the options, including should they attend the wake- yes, if the bonds of kinship or friendship or some other form of obligation necessitated this. And, indeed on a couple of occasions I accompanied my mother to one of these gatherings which were very  common in the rural Ireland of my youth.

Common enough, too, in the Irish diaspora. In one of the breaks between the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns in Sydney we drove to a rural property where there were tents, refreshments, music and general catching up with people we hadn’t seen in ages. It was the belated wake for an old friend who had died in 2020 during lockdown with COVID regulations stipulating only family at the service. My wife has taken to reading the obits in The Sydney Morning Herald in recent times and earlier this year she called me into the kitchen: “Did you know that Kevin is dead?” This, a reference to another friend I had known for almost fifty years- although, we had lost contact for a while. Obituaries have been around for centuries and our newspapers of record will provide a full-page spread for those VIPs whose life has recommended itself for a wider audience than the few lines that most of us are likely to be accorded- although we’ll be past caring by then, won’t  we?

Which brings me to the song. It was written by Tom T Hall who died on 20 August 2021. This song was one I was working on for performance with Banter; however, general indolence on my part, and then, the virus meant that it never saw public performance. In this song, Tom T has memorialised one of the humble and forgotten folk and it stands as a testament to life with an understated and non-judgemental lyric. Anyone who was the subject of a song such as this would, I think, like it better than the platitudes that populate most obituaries. There are exceptions and my wife will read aloud quirky examples that people sometimes submit for publication. The three elements of Tom’s song can be found in three of my earlier posts: Old Dog in Episode 7, Children in Episode 20 and, for wine, the second song in Postcards, edition 29. Listen here to my take on Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine. [insert song]

FYI- I’m drinking an excellent Cabernet, once bound for China, until that imperious superpower decided that Australia needed to be punished for its temerity by speaking out about the mistreatment of the Uighers, the subjugation of Hong Kong and sundry other matters the Middle Kingdom reserves as China’s business alone! It’s an ill wind, eh? I’m enjoying a wine I couldn’t ordinarily afford- and all because of geopolitical shenanigans!

The only obstacle to China’s seemingly inexorable rise to global dominance is America. Notwithstanding the burgeoning might and influence of this populous powerhouse, I’m still part of those old liberals who barrack for Uncle Sam, although that cheer squad is somewhat diminished of late.

Which brings me to the second song for this podcast. I have long admired the vitality and diversity of American literature, particularly the poetry. I have, unashamedly, plundered this vast trove twice before in the Letters From Quotidia. First, in Sylvia, Episode 8, where I construct a song using snippets of her darkly brilliant verse; then, in The Emperor of Ice Cream, Episode 71, I fabricate a punk-driven fantasia with an elegant overlay of lines from Wallace Stevens.

Now I have, after the proper rituals and obesiences, summoned forth the shade of John Crowe Ransom in order to- Not really, Quotidians, as my source material, I’ve just purloined one of his very fine poems, which has an affinity with Cervantes’ hero, Don Quixote, and also a famous scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur confronts a black knight blocking his way. They fight and the King lops off the arm of the knight who refuses to yield, commenting  “‘Tis but a scratch!”  

This scene is cut from the same cloth as Ransom’s poem, Captain Carpenter. I read it first as a callow youth and have revisited it from time to time over the years. This 64-line poem, comprising quatrains rhyming abab, seems to me a telling and comic commentary on our journey through life- which proves the truth of a well-known saying by Solon, the great Athenian statesman and poet, “Count no man happy until he be dead”. I’ve had to compress it to 14 rhyming couplets interspersed with four rhyming couplet choruses and a coda which is also a rhyming couplet. Of course, if you can, read the original or find a YouTube recitation should your preference lie this way. [insert song]

And, as before, circumstances find me staring at the ceiling hoping that inspiration for the next song swings down from one of the cob-webs swaying almost imperceptibly in the currents of air, eddying around the four walls of my weary work-space. But wait! I still have some of that Cabernet left. I wonder if a glass or two of this fine red wine will assist the process? I’ll let you know when I return next week…

 Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021

Letters From Quotidia Episode 125 This Summer Rain, If We Only Had Old Ireland Over Here

Letters From Quotidia Episode 125 This Summer Rain, If We Only Had Old Ireland Over Here

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 125 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

We all know the story about the frog in the warming pot: how it habituates to the increasing heat until it cooks. I wonder who discovered this- some hungry French peasant craving a feed of frog legs? I reckon the frog in a pot story is a crock but the moral of the story has legs (please excuse the double pun, Quotidians!) I, for one, have been reading the signs of the times from as far back as 1968 when I read Paul Erlich’s, The Population Bomb. I was repulsed by his sanguine writing off of tens of millions of humans beings in South Asia who would starve to death in the inevitable famine that he saw as imminent. I must have missed that particular catastrophe.

But the warnings about overpopulation, pollution, and the drain on finite resources have become increasingly strident over the decades and only the stupidest of news anchors, conspiracy theorists, shock jocks and politicians still hold that everything’s hunky dory. Mind you, this still leaves a very large number of numbskulls out there to annoy you with their nonsense. As early as 1962 with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, we have known that we were all in trouble; that big corporations and governments were not about to turn off their own personal money tap just to safeguard the environment.

All down the years of my life they have been lying to us with impunity. Throw a rock in any parliament or chamber of government and, chances are, you’ll hit one of the venal and complicit rogues who place obstacles in the road of anyone seeking urgent reform before it is too late. And, of course, the poets put it best. Here is an excerpt from a poem that I can relate to, by Joy Harjo, the incumbent American Poet Laureate and first Native American to hold that honour:

Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world./Then we took it for granted./ Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind./Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head./And once Doubt ruptured the web,/All manner of demon thoughts/ jumped through—/We destroyed the world we had been given/For inspiration, for life—/each stone of jealousy, each stone/Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light./

So that’s what my song, Summer Rain is all about: how the symbols of hope in the natural world have become ominous in the truest sense of the word as the music thickens and ratchets up while refusing to develop and grow. Not really a typical song of mine, but it insisted on being written. See what you think. [insert song] A bit of a post-script: the tenor sax in the song is a reference to the fact that Joy Harjo is a musician as well as a poet and she plays the saxophone.

Now to the next song. I first came across it in Wollongong at some musical do or other in the mid-70s. Then, I was disdainful as only the newly minted zealot on “real” Irish folk music can be against all that smaltzy, Hollywood, B-grade,  Oirishry that I classed the song in with. The band playing it were wearing jackets of emerald green with shamrock-festooned waistcoats- I felt nauseous. But that was then- now, well…now I am less, ah, Taliban-ish about tastes and fashions that differ from my own. Is it a function of age? Perhaps, but that is not the full story.

For quite a few years now, I have co-hosted a community radio show which plays requests for a range of songs and Irish music from listeners to our program, many of whom are in what some people choose to call, the golden years. Although many of our audience cope with aspects of life that are less-than-golden, such as loss of long-term partners, illness and poverty, they don’t whinge about it but request music and lyrics that have real meaning for them. You soon learn not to pass judgement: a saccharine lyric to one is the purest, sweetest honey to another because of personal association.

The Irish have been in Australia from the first convict ships arrival in Sydney and at one time comprised a quarter of the population. There is not the time to sketch, in even the flimsiest detail, the Irish contribution to Australian culture and life, but here is a poem by 19th Century poet, John O’Brien that speaks to me:

Oh, stick me in the old caboose this night of wind and rain,/And let the doves of fancy loose to bill and coo again./I want to feel the pulse of love that warmed the blood like wine;/I want to see the smile above this kind old land of mine.//So come you by your parted ways that wind the wide world through,/ And make a ring around the blaze the way we used to do;/The “fountain” on the sooted crane will sing the old, old song/Of common joys in homely vein forgotten, ah, too long.//The years have turned the rusted key, and time is on the jog,/Yet spend another night with me around the Boree log/

That gathering around a blazing fire is a magic circle. Now to the song, written by anonymous probably sometime in the 1950s: it tells of the emigrant longing for home and love of the new country- Australia. Its name? If We Only Had Old Ireland Over Here.[insert song]

The songs for the next letter, again, remain provisional owing to the fact that the newly-minted candidate has to be written in pretty short order and the choice of the folk song is predicated on the shiny, new acquisition. So, now I will settle into negative capability the pre-creative mood of any artist, a wellspring of our humanity and an explanation of how periods of indolence may give rise to bursts of creativity.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021

Letters From Quotidia Episode 124 Don’t Get Married Girls, Take It or Leave It

Letters From Quotidia Episode 124 Don’t Get Married Girls, Take It or Leave It

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 124 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

The Slough of Despond, first appears in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress– and here I let Wikipedia take up the story: it’s a fictional, deep bog in John Bunyan’s 1678 allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, into which the protagonist, Christian, sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt for them. It is described thus:  

This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.

So, from fictional 1678 to present day Australia, the Slough of Despond has- like the COVID delta variant perhaps, hopped over centuries, continents and oceans, to come to rest in New South Wales, in 2021. This plucky state, once lauded as the little place that showed the virus what was what and who the big boy in the fight was proved to be- not quite that, as the Premier admitted defeat after seven weeks of increasingly futile lockdowns in Sydney and declared all of New South Wales similarly shut down to try to contain the proliferating plague at five of the clock past the prime meridian, on the 14th  of August in the year of our Lord 2021.

Nothing for it but poetry. I got this excerpt of verse by Jan Beaumont off the net from a site called startsat60.com: We may seem sweet old ladies/Who would never be uncouth/But we grew up in the 60s –/If you only knew the truth!//There was sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll/The pill and miniskirts/We smoked, we drank, we partied/And were quite outrageous flirts.//Then we settled down, got married/And turned into someone’s mum,/Somebody’s wife, then nana,/Who on earth did we become?//We didn’t mind the change of pace/Because our lives were full/But to bury us before we’re dead/ Is like red rag to a bull! 

Hear! Hear! Now for a song by Leon Rosselson who has been around the folk scene from the early 1960s. He is 87 now, still playing music and still an activist. Jim sang his song, Don’t Get Married Girls as part of Banter’s repertoire, but I utilise it here as it seems to fit in well with the verse that came before. [insert song]

Listeners to the Letters will be aware that I am a Boomer and a child of the sixties. The song of the second post, Let Them Not Fade Away, detailed my musical heroes- and the title reveals an homage to The Rolling Stones’ single of early 1964 which had the song, Little By Little, on the B side. (Boomers will not be puzzled by these references to B sides and the like). I bought the first four LPs they produced during this decade and regard them as ascending in excellence. Aftermath, the fourth, released in April 1966 was the pinnacle as far as the not-so-sweet little sixteen-me- was concerned.

I rated it as highly as The Beatles’ Rubber Soul which my older brother had bought me as a present  the Christmas before. I had, by this time, just about worn out my copy of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited released earlier in 1965. These three LPs were to enter the Pantheon of my musical greats and they remain in honoured positions to this day. As a mid-teen, my pleasure in listening to music consumed my being. I put it down to the hormones raging through my adolescent brain. But there could be another explanation- In post 90 of the Letters, I identified with the anguish the protagonist of Richard Power’s Orfeo felt upon learning that his diminished joy when listening to music was probably caused by micro-strokes in the area of the brain where sounds are processed.

The adolescent boy was courting his future wife and consumed by jealous thoughts as he listened to Take It or Leave It, track 12 of Aftermath. This laid-back, folk-rock composition by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, was written at the behest of their Svengali, Andrew Loog Oldham, when they were just 22 years old, a mere six years older than the teen struggling to find the chords as he played along to the spinning disc. So, here we are, 55 years later, and the gentle seas of  sixties’ nostalgia has washed up on the shores of my consciousness this song from all those years ago, which I here present to you instead of one of my own compositions. I regret to report that the furnace of creativity now takes longer to ramp up to a temperature capable of smelting the ore used to produce that precious material from which songs are fashioned. [insert song]

Instead of foreshadowing the brace of songs to feature in the next post, (although one will be from the folk tradition) I am reduced to raiding fortune cookie jars and rummaging through desk calendars for some pithy epigram to assuage your hunger for content. How about this, from Eleanor Roosevelt- It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Or, as the hopes of women and girls perish in these dark days of Taliban triumph in Afghanistan – Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021

Letters From Quotidia Episode 123: Dublin In My Tears, Sprawling Blue Bell (for Mary)

Letters From Quotidia Episode 123 Dublin In My Tears, Sprawling Blue Bell (for Mary)

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 123 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

At the end of letter 122, I indicated that I was lost in a labyrinth, facing the roaring of the Minotaur which stood between me and the fitting poem to accompany the songs presented here. Thankfully, the darkness transmuted into a hospitable tavern filled with folk music and the setting of just the poem I needed from a favourite poet of mine, John Masefield, poet-laureate of England from 1930 until his death in 1967. There are generations of former pupils (including my wife) who can still recite flawlessly his much anthologised and much-loved poem, Cargoes. But the poem I give here is The Emigrant and anyone who has been in this circumstance will relate to it, I am sure:

Going by Daly’s shanty I heard the boys within/Dancing the Spanish hornpipe to Driscoll’s violin,/I heard the sea-boots shaking the rough planks of the floor/,But I was going westward, I hadn’t heart for more.//All down the windy village the noise rang in my ears,/Old sea-boots stamping, shuffling, it brought the bitter tears,/The old tune piped and quavered, the lilts came clear and strong,/But I was going westward, I couldn’t join the song.//There were the grey stone houses, the night wind blowing keen,/The hill-sides pale with moonlight, the young corn springing green,/The hearth nooks lit and kindly, with dear friends good to see,/But I was going westward, and the ship waited me.

The website, poemhunter.com supplied me with the following interesting piece of information about Masefield: According to his wishes, he was cremated, and his ashes placed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Later, the following verse was discovered, written by Masefield, addressed to his “Heirs, Administrators, and Assigns”: Let no religious rite be done or read/In any place for me when I am dead,/But burn my body into ash, and scatter/The ash in secret into running water,/Or on the windy down, and let none see;/And then thank God that there’s an end of me.

Listen now to what some reckon is the best Dublin song ever written- but it’s up against a lot of stiff competition, and not for me to judge. It was written by Dubliner, Brendan Phelan and Sam the Man sang it as part of Banter’s repertoire when we played in western Sydney. Phelan would have related to Masefield’s poem even though, as his song relates, he was travelling eastwards, toward England, where he still resides as far as I know. [insert song]

Writer’s block is (supply your own word or phrase or novel- if you must!) The next song not only blocked all attempts, on my part, to produce lyrics but put me in a full nelson and slammed me on the mat on every occasion I presumed the attempt over the past five years. So battered and bruised-psychically if not physically-I once more climbed through the ropes to confront my fearsome opponent, emboldened by the deadline for episode 123 looming a mere two weeks’ hence.

My Nemesis stood there smirking- looking very much like me– but fatter and uglier and lacking any of my residual charm if you want my unbiased opinion. Before we could get to grips, my wife interrupted proceedings and required my assistance with a number of lock-down household chores, so I gave my antagonist an I’ll be back soon, never you worry shake of my forefinger and left the field of combat. When I returned, he was lounging against the ropes, examining his fingernails- then he spat on the canvas mat and indicated that he was going to face-plant me on the globule of phlegm glistening there.

To show him I was not intimidated, I riposted: “See your signature move, the full nelson? The urban dictionary defines it thus:  A bowel movement in the like of the Mt St. Helens eruption. Usually impacts the entire restroom facility, including stall walls, porcelain, seat and sometimes the floor. Affectionately named after a construction worker named Nelson. And here’s how you would use it in a sentence, were you capable- Brian,  Don’t go into stall #2, I just had a Full Nelson. Bemusement shrouded his features, was he to take this as an insult or what? This gave me the opportunity to duck under the ropes again and make good my escape- this time to my room where I fired up the computer and had another go at the lyrics. So here I am, lyrics at the ready, and it’s up to you to judge whether it is worth the effort expended or whether a more fitting description of it would parallel the urban dictionary’s definition of a full nelson.[insert song]

It’s deplorable, I know but I am unable to provide you with a firm and fully formed idea of what comes next week. There are lots of folk songs that my modest range can accommodate, but I like to leave this choice to after I have managed to locate or compose an original piece- then, I like to twin it with an appropriate folk item. Instead of advertising some lies about the next post, I’ll finish with a poem written by an American girl, many years ago, that had a real impact on my students:

Remember the time you lent me your car and I dented it?/I thought you’d kill me…/But you didn’t.//Remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was/formal, and you came in jeans?/I thought you’d hate me…/But you didn’t.//Remember the times I’d flirt with/other boys just to make you jealous, and/you were?/I thought you’d drop me…/But you didn’t.//There were plenty of things you did to put up with me,/to keep me happy, to love me, and there are/so many things I wanted to tell/you when you returned from/Vietnam…But you didn’t. A poignant and understated poem about grief, wouldn’t you agree?

CreditsAll written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical StuffMicrophone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021

Letters From Quotidia Episode 122 They’re Alright, The Cliffs of Doneen

Letters From Quotidia Episode 122 They’re Alright, The Cliffs of Doneen

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 122 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

We returned to Northern Ireland in early January 1979, just in time for the Winter of Discontent with waves of strikes and Jim Callaghan’s Labour on the nose. Sid Vicious, former guitarist of the Sex Pistols died of an overdose of heroin, while on bail for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Labour lost a vote of confidence in the Commons and a General Election was called for May 4. Republican violence returned with the assassination of the British ambassador to the Netherlands, Sir Richard Sykes, on the 22nd of March and, eight days later, the Conservative Party spokesperson on Northern Ireland, Airey Neave, was blown up in the House of Commons’ carpark. Margaret Thatcher became the first female Prime Minister of the UK and foreshadowed swingeing cuts to the services sector- she would later proclaim that there was no such thing as society.

Closer to home, eleven of the Shankill Butchers were sentenced to life for 112 offences including nineteen sectarian murders. Bombs and killings were part and parcel of the daily news and, as the first half of the year presaged even more awful events to come, including the assassination of Lord Mountbatten, where two 15-year-old boys also perished, and, a little later, the killing of 18 British soldiers in an IRA ambush at Warenpoint, in double bomb blasts, I began to wonder- why did we leave Australia? For this?

I was looking for work, not very successfully, and languishing on the dole. I sat in a room drinking beer, drafting a novel (still to be finished, although it’s still on my to-do list, and not even the item with the longest whiskers on that list- regular listeners will be aware of my Olympic-standard gold medal performances for procrastination). While consuming prodigious amount of beer in my hideaway room, I also passed the time in cobbling together futile schemes of one sort or another. So, is it any wonder that I would write a frenetic song about the class warfare- among other types of warfare- being waged at the time?

The song was influenced by two-tone, which, in Thatcher-era Britain, sought to defuse racial tension and featured bands like The Specials with a multi-racial line-up. The two-tone movement originated in Coventry, a city in the midlands of England and a big part of its appeal comes from ska, a musical genre, which appears in Jamaica in the 1950s. Here’s my samba-flavoured take on the form [insert song].

As a family, we needed a break from all the roiling discontent, so in July of that year, we took off for a jaunt around Ireland, leaving the troubled statelet for Donegal. From this northernmost county, we wended our way down the west coast of Ireland; some notable stops include Drumcliff, a village nestled under the foot of Benbulben just north of Sligo Town. It is the final resting place of W B Yeats whose grave is in the churchyard under a simple headstone with the inscription: ‘Cast a cold eye on life, On Death Horseman pass by.’ Please tell me you didn’t pose for a snapshot! Oh, I did, I did. And later, in County Galway, I visited Yeats’ Tower, named Thoor Ballylee  located near the town of Gort. and gazed out across the landscape from the crenallated roof of this Hiberno-Norman Tower House and dreamed touristy dreams as my kids kicked up a hullabaloo, downstairs.

Another of my hero-poet-laureates, Seamus Heaney, called this place the most important public building in Ireland. Other touristy things we did was photograph my kids gazing out from beehive huts, the stone cells constructed by medieval monks with dry-stone and corbelled roofs, on the Dingle peninsula. I visited poet Richard Murphy, whose work I admired, at the cottage he built himself just as he was packing up to go to London. Here’s a small sample of this under-rated poet’s work. It’s the first stanza of Seals at High Island: The calamity of seals begins with jaws/Born in caverns that reverberate/With endless malice of the sea’s tongue/Clacking on a shingle, they learn to bark back/In fear and sadness and celebration/The ocean’s mouth opens forty-feet wide/And closes on a morsel of their rock.

We did witness huge seas battering the rocky shoreline of the west coast; however, one of the touristy things we didn’t do was visit the place that is celebrated in one of the most beautiful songs- the cliffs of Doneen! If you can, go on YouTube and see if you can get Planxty performing this gem. Christy Moore’s voice is magic and the pipes of Liam O’Flynn will induce levitation. Here’s my lockdown Band in a Box version. Please leave some space between the YouTube version and this one. I won’t be held responsible for the shock to your system should you audition them too closely together.[insert song]

There will be a brace of songs next week: however, with only days to go to get them recorded and to devise some sort of text to cushion them, coddle them and keep them-not to mention the narrator- afloat- it’s too much to expect a proper trailer with actual names, isn’t it? As well as that, I’m lost in a labyrinth trying to locate a poem, howling like the Minotaur, somewhere in the darkness ahead, to bolster the yet-to-be-determined songs.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical StuffMicrophone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021

Letters From Quotidia Episode 121 South Australia, Take This Frame Away

Letters From Quotidia Episode 121

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia –episode 121, a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

The original project, having been delivered as planned on August 6, 2021, I have decided to continue the podcast but in a somewhat altered form. I will combine the Letters with the Postcards where you will hear two songs. One will be an original composition and the other from the folk tradition of the English-speaking world. The frequency with which I will be able to post will be weekly only- at least, that’s how it looks for now- what with COVID, my predilection for procrastination and innate inertia.

For this inaugural post, you will hear, first, a song recorded over 25 years ago, when our folk band, Banter were just getting on their feet. I found a recording on an old cassette tape I unearthed when I was rummaging around for stuff. I managed to clean the sound up a bit and present to you a singer you have not heard before but who has been mentioned in earlier postcards: Big Geordie. Geordie Muir managed the Henry Lawson Club in Werrington on the outer western fringe of Sydney in the 1990s and sang the Australian Bush Songs that were part of our repertoire with considerably more authenticity than we could bring to the material. On this recording, he takes centre stage and presents his rendition of South Australia. [insert song]

In my first journal entry for the sequence The Summa Quotidian way back in 2015, I mentioned the fact that it had been fifty years since I had written my first song. I wish to record the fact that the song included here took me fifty years to complete! I wrote the first part as a 17-year-old, pimply, schoolboy on the inside cover of a Clancy Brothers songbook that I had been working my way through. I added to it over the years, putting a final touch to it three years ago, when I was 67.

Some context, now: what was happening just two days before I began recording for this project, now nearing its completion? Just before dawn on Anzac day, April 25th, 2020, I stood in my driveway and listened to the broadcast from the Australian War Memorial. I set a candle on my letterbox and, glancing up and down the street saw men and women, at the end of their driveways, paying silent tribute to the fallen. A 70-something veteran with a chest full of medals walked slowly past and we nodded a greeting. After the ceremony, I returned to my home, where we are in lockdown, and thought, this was good– nothing like it before or, perhaps, after. The usual gatherings at war memorials throughout Australia were cancelled because of the threat the virus posed, particularly to the aged. The thousands of Australians, like me, who shared in this experience will remember it, I would think, for the rest of their lives- long or short.

Have you noticed that the crisis engendered by the pandemic has brought people of real worth to the fore? Not the vainglorious bloviating buffoons who, hitherto, pranced across the (inter)national stage. I’m thinking about media-hungry politicians and the gross (and grossly overpaid) shock jocks. But now, quietly spoken experts in epidemiology, nurses, doctors, check-out operators and shelf-stackers in supermarkets, paramedics, truck drivers and public transport employees-to name but a few- have engaged the respect of the public by their willingness to step forward in these strange times and do their duty, fully mindful of the potential consequences for themselves and their families.

Meanwhile, the self-absorbed, those self-serving politicians and god-alone-knows how many vacuous celebrities infesting the media (social and mainstream) all continue to flout the regulations as if they don’t apply. Dante would have found a special circle of hell to accommodate them. So back to the present, the middle of August, 2021- Sydney’s in lockdown as the delta variant spreads inexorably among a largely unvaccinated populace. The end of the month is supposed to see the end of the lockdown but I wouldn’t bet any real money on it.

Nothing left for it but poetry: this feature I will bring along to these new Quotidia posts. Postcard 30 featured lines from Walt Whitman. Here, I want to read a poem by his contemporary, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I value both poets even though they are often thought to be chalk and cheese.

The tide rises, the tide falls,/ The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;/ Along the sea-sands damp and brown/ The traveller hastens toward the town./ And the tide rises, the tide falls// Darkness settles on roofs and walls,/ But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;/ The little waves, with their soft, white hands,/ Efface the footprints in the sands,/ And the tide rises, the tide falls.// The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls/ Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;/ The day returns, but nevermore/ Returns the traveller to the shore,/ And the tide rises, the tide falls.//

And, of course, we hope for better times ahead, as we always must. The song: Take This Frame Away, although started over 50 years ago, still seems relevant to the present situation we find ourselves in.[insert song] The next post will be in a week’s time and will feature a song I wrote shortly after returning to Northern Ireland from Australia in 1979. My lockdown version of The Cliffs of Doneen, a song I first heard from Christy Moore’s singing in the mid-1970s, also features. So, if you’re still game to continue the wandering around the highways and byways of Quotidia, you’re very welcome to join me on my weekly ramble.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphones for the songs Shure SM58 and Apogee 96K

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021 

Letters From Quotidia Postcards edition 30

Letters From Quotidia Postcards edition 30a

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 30, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear songs from the repertoire of Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west. The four songs are drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. I will cover the songs because of COVID restrictions. And, as always, Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives- but from time to time they encounter the extraordinary.

I will lead with a song I first heard in 1988 when I had returned to Australia from Northern Ireland. Kevin Baker, an old friend, met me in Wollongong and sang Superstar, a song he had written earlier in the decade. We had last met in Northern Ireland in 1981 when Kevin visited us in Cushendall. We spent a memorable week out on Lough Erne with a fishing group from the school I taught at, Kevin taking photographs and writing in his journal as the hunger strikes unfolded in the province.  In Wollongong, he presented me a copy of his CD Harvest and Heartbreak. On the cover he had written an inscription to my wife and me, generously crediting us with the words, who helped shape the beginning. Although he died on 22 March, 2021, his contribution to music, poetry and community lives on in the Illawarra where he lived for most of his life. [insert song]

The John Prine composition,  Hello In There, was one of my favourite tracks from Joan Baez’s great album, Diamonds and Rust. In the latter half of 1975 I’d bring it over to Kevin Baker’s place in Mangeton, a leafy suburb in Wollongong, NSW, and we’d drink some wine and play some music. This was one of my tracks for providing inspiration (along with the wine, of course). Kevin favoured James Taylor’s Fire and Rain as his go-to muse, as I recall. Prine, in an interview, said that he thought of hollering the title into a hollow log after hearing the reverb on Lennon’s Across The Universe and that was the starting spark of the song. He had an affinity for old people and said,” I don’t think I’ve done a show without singing it. Nothing in it wears on me.” Almost 50 years after hearing the song and using it frequently in my teaching career, I will echo John Prine- Nothing in it wears on me. [insert song]

Only Our Rivers Run Free is a fine composition, written by Mickey McConnell at age 18 in 1965. It’s a song that captures the state of politics in Northern Ireland at that time.  Mickey was born in County Fermanagh in 1947. I first heard this song from Planxty’s eponymous first LP released in 1973. Both main singers from Banter, Sam and Jim, have performed the song in the past, but in the age of COVID, I present it in their absence. [insert song]

The Ryebuck Shearer, is a spirited shout from the Australian bush tradition. First, big Geordie Muir, and then Sam the man, have taken the lead for this shearing song. Although it cries out for live bush instruments, we must content ourselves with a Band-in-the-Box/RealBand combo featuring me on vocals: [insert song]

That concludes the Letters From Quotidia project which commenced on January 11, 2021 and concluded on August 6, 2021- a thirty-week odyssey which comprised 150 posts featuring 240 songs and 150,000 words of text, which totals 35 hours of podcast time. Of course, that last stat could elicit the comment from a worker, say, Rudy from the factory- that’s no more hours that I work in a slack week with no overtime.

Where to from here? For the duration of the project, poetry has been a guide for me, and, although any one of a hundred poems could stand testimony to where this project finds itself, listen to these lines of that magnificent American poet, Walt Whitman, and they will fill this gap effortlessly, As I ebb’d with the ocean of life,/ As I wended the shores I know,/ As I walk’d where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok,/ Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,/ Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,/ I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,/ Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems,/ Was seiz’d by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,/ The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the land of the globe./  

In a COVID-ravaged world, the Doris Day song title Que Sera, sera suggests itself as a motto. But what this little black duck intends to do…oh, hold on! does anyone outside of Australia know what that phrase actually means? The site, World-Wide-Words, suggests that it references that wonderful Warner Bros cartoon character, Daffy Duck, and that it was taken up by Aboriginal Australians. Presumably they were able to identify with this black underdog (or should that be under-duck)!

Sorry, Quotidians, is my lamentable weakness for lame puns showing? But back to the possible reason for Daffy’s attraction for Aboriginal people, particularly the youth. It is plausible that they would find a rallying cry in his catchphrase- not this little black duck– as an indicator of ethnic pride.  “As his personality gained depth at the hands of Warner Bros cartoons’ directors, the little black duck became more self-analytical, competitive, peevish, paranoid, and neurotic”.

Mmm. Do I recognise myself here, I wonder? But World-Wide-Words goes on, more positively: “Daffy, like the Greek hero Sisyphus, is a victim of injustice who continuously protests. And it’s his refusal to surrender his will to the whims of the conspiring universe that makes him heroic”. Well, that clinches it! With my love of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, and my fondness for popular culture memes, I will confess myself content to identify with that admirable cartoon character. In short, what this little black duck will not do is just fade away. And to quote another pop cultural legend: I’ll be back!

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 120 Love Everlasting Complete

Letters From Quotidia Episode 120 Love Everlasting Complete

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

There are really only two ways, it seems to me, in which we can think about our existence here on Earth. We either agree with Macbeth that life is nothing more than a ‘tale told by an idiot,’ a purposeless emergence of life-forms including the clever, greedy, selfish, and unfortunate species that we call homo sapiens – the ‘evolutionary goof.’ Or we believe that, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it, ‘There is something afoot in the universe, something that looks like gestation and birth.’ In other words, a plan, a purpose to it all. So writes, Jane Goodall, in her book, Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey published in 1999.  

I really like that phrase that defines us: the evolutionary goof and see no reason not to accept this characterisation along with de Chardin’s idea of the universe giving birth to something meaningful. I suppose this grows out of my own experience of life and self. I am a bit of a goof- defined variously as a bozo, fathead, goose, mooncalf, nitwit or simpleton. A rather aimless, gormless stumblebum right out of a Wodehouse story as the following anecdote will illustrate: the setting, Cushendall Golf Club, a pleasant, undemanding 9-hole links course in the heart of the Glens of Antrim.

The time, a summer’s evening in the early-1980s. The occasion, a talk by poet Seamus Heaney. I had taken up golf shortly before this and was quite amazingly bad at it- but that’s a story for another occasion, perhaps. I had spent far too long at the 19th hole and, as a result, dozed through most of what must have been a most illuminating evening with a revered poet. In my defence, may I say that I have heard famous Seamus on a couple of other occasions where I was totally awake for the duration. At any rate, at the end of the talk I found myself in the line-up to meet the poet who was signing copies of his latest book of verse.

When I reached the table where the great man sat, I admitted that I had not bought or brought a book for signing, but offered him my arm instead. Smiling, he scrawled something on the inside of my left arm and I wandered off to the bar where I was certain there was a beer with my name on it. Next morning, I woke with a fuzzy head and looked in puzzlement at my arm- written in black biro were the words, In hoc signo bibo. And then, the events of the previous night came back in splinters of chagrined recollection.

But, you know, like a teenage fan of a boy band, I didn’t wash that arm for a week and smiled at the erudite joke, which recalls the time when the emperor Constantine, before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, has a vision in which Christ tells him to use the cross as a symbol to prevail over his enemies. The rest, as they say, is history. The original Latin phrase, In hoc signo vinces, means in this sign you will conquer. No conquests for me, though, other than those involving a tussle with an innocent pint or two of ale, as Seamus Heaney seems to have recognised as he was biro-ing my arm.

And there have been times I have wrestled with various forms of writing, some of them involving song. For the record, the writing of the journal upon which the Letters From Quotidia  is based, occupied almost 14 months between 27 April 2015 and 14 June 2016. The song component took much longer, of course, taking up more than half a century. The final song in this sequence was written just a few months before I started this journal. It is, loosely defined, in the form of a dithyramb. Letter 1 acknowledged the role of Wikipedia as an oracular source, A wildly enthusiastic speech or piece of writing is still occasionally described as dithyrambic.

At a marking conference in Townsville, in the early 90s, I remember defending a teenage student’s creative essay as a valid example of the form, citing Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, as an exemplar of the style the student used. I was successful in maintaining the low A equivalent I had given it in the face of others arguing for a high C. To return to the oracle: The dithyramb was an ancient Greek hymn sung and danced in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility. The earliest mention of dithyramb is in a fragment of Archilochus who flourished in the first half of the seventh century BCE: “I know how to lead the fair song of the Lord Dionysus, the dithyramb, when my wits are fused with wine”.

Like the poet, I too, have led the fair song of the Lord Dionysus, my wits fused with wine. I’m with him, too, as a firm believer that discretion is the better part of valour: better a live poet living to a disgraceful old age than a dead hero where someone else gets to write a pretty epitaph on your stone a  One of the Saians now delights in the shield I discarded/ Unwillingly near a bush, for it was perfectly good,/But at least I got myself safely out. Why should I care for that shield?/ Let it go. Some other time I’ll find another no worse.  

In the opening letter of the sequence, I bestowed upon myself the name of Procrustes, then decided that Procrastis was more appropriate. At other times in the letters I have taken on various personae but here, in the final letter, I have decided that I am a follower of the poet from the island of Paros who threw away his shield. And, you may not believe this, he started a trend, for three other poets from the ancient world, Alcaeus, Anacreon and Horace, also claim to have thrown away their shields in the heat of battle! And for that reason, it’s from these lines of Archilochus, idiosyncratic poet of ancient Greece that I’ll sign off: at least I got myself safely out. [insert song]

Thank you to the subscribers to my podcast.I hope you have found however many of the letters you have listened to, of interest or entertaining. If anything in them has induced you to explore further any of the alleys, avenues or by-ways of Quotidia we glanced into in the course of  our grand tour through that strange meta-place- then, I am truly gratified.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 119 I Won’t Cry

Letters From Quotidia Episode 119 I Won’t Cry

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Some days I wake up in a mood to refer Pollyanna to a specialist in depressive illnesses. Admittedly, such days are mostly in the distant past- presently, it’s the very odd day when I get out of the sunny side of the bed with a cheerful tune on my lips, just a-rarin’ to get out into the light and set the world to rights. In popular digests, one may come across articles which extol the virtues of the optimistic outlook as a promoter of longevity and which also counsel men to access their feminine side- but take care to channel Pollyanna’s I-am-a-happy-little-sunbeam– rather than Cassandra’s glass-half-empty vibe. If you are- what is the word?- proactive in your search for mirth, perhaps a spot of laughter yoga may be just what the doctor ordered.

I am reliably informed that there are over a hundred laughter clubs worldwide but whether you can easily join one of these yuck-fests is problematical. Evangelical Christians of a certain flavour practise holy laughter and there may be a place for you among these folk, although, a caveat: some view such levity as against the Spirit: for example; John Wesley, encountering uncontrolled laughter in his meetings (what!!), ascribed it to the action of the Devil. We are all familiar with the gleeful mwha ha ha of the villain expressing malicious satisfaction at the misfortune of his victim. Still, there’s more to be said for laughing than for crying.

Now, I wouldn’t have pegged the Germans as a particularly lachrymose nation  but must admit to being taken aback by the findings of the German Society of Ophthalmology published in 2009 which found that women cry between 30-62 times a year and that men resort to the blub on 6-17 occasions over the same period. I don’t think of myself as a flinty-hearted brute but I doubt that I would have cried more than once or twice in the past year- if even that! But, then, I was formed by that generation that had coped with the fallout of World War Two by not looking back and by damping down any stirrings of emotion by concentrating on, work, kids, the future- indeed anything that helped make it go away, even booze, for some.

Crying was seen as weakness rather than a catharsis and among a lot of people, men especially, this still applies. Of course, politicians have realised the humanising effects of crying and regularly shed a tear for the cameras. Crocodile tears have a long lineage as a mark of hypocrisy in the shedder but this should not obscure the fact that certain animals do seem to demonstrate a capacity for grief that is more than a just fleeting response to mortality. Elephants and chimpanzees among the higher mammals and mute swans among our feathered friends all exhibit signs of distress when confronted with the loss of a young one, fellow or partner.

Top of the evolutionary pile, we like to think ourselves unique in the animal kingdom- remember when we were once differentiated because we use tools? Because we communicate using vocalisations? Because we use play for learning? Because we can feel and express emotion? Because we are the only animal with a sense of its own mortality? Looks more and more like a God of the gaps argument and just as reductionist. In a decaying world which we persist in poisoning with carbon, nuclear and chemical waste, it seems a bit futile to worry too much about what distinguishes us from the rest of creation. I listened today, to a wax cylinder recording made at the end of the 19th Century. It was made by the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Strait in 1898 and we hear the eerie sound of the death wail or keening.

The practice is found in Ireland and Scotland and also among indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia. It is a link to a deep animal ache for one who is gone, and so what if, among our species, it can build into such artefacts as the Taj Mahal, Michelangelo’s Pieta or Mozart’s Requiem? Most of us are incapable of responding to loss- either personal or vicarious- by erecting beautiful structures, carving marble masterpieces or crafting music of genius- and few have the skill to create great literary tragedies.

But will we cry with Lear holding his dead child, Howl, howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of/ stone: Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so/ That heaven’s vault should crack. She’s gone for ever!/ I know when one is dead, and when one lives;/ She’s dead as earth. Or will we smile with Henry Scott Holland, who wrote lines that have given solace to many people from a sermon delivered at St Paul’s in 1910 upon the death of King Edward VII: it starts, Death is nothing at all./I have only slipped away to the next room… I am but waiting for you./For an interval./Somewhere. Very near./Just around the corner.

Do we listen to Pollyanna or Cassandra? The song at the end of this letter was written in memory of my son, Brian, shortly after we flew to Airlie Beach for my daughter’s 18th birthday in 2009. We rented a hilltop apartment overlooking the Whitsunday Islands and from there, the day before we flew back to Sydney, we drove north for a couple of hours to be at his graveside. [insert song]

The next letter is the last in the series and it shares common features with the series as a whole: it values poetry and the ancient world but also values the world of modern science and rational discussion. It finds strange correspondences across time and space, events and people. It references and values the lighter genres such as the works of P G Wodehouse as well as cranium-busting stuff such as the works of Teilhard de Chardin and mixes anecdotes about those who are the famous living and those who are the famous dead with elements drawn from  the narrator’s quotidian life and times. Above all, it is a validation of the ordinary life and ordinary people who live in this extraordinary world and who try to make sense out of it, and who choose to mark it by laughter rather than tears.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 118 Slipjig Philosophising

Letters From Quotidia Episode 118 Slipjig Philosophising

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

In 1964, in a club somewhere in the British Isles, a tape recorder started spinning and it snared a virtuoso on the tenor banjo playing one of the oldest Celtic dances, Kitty Come Down From Limerick. A little before this, around 655 A.D. an Irish monk set down on sheepskin parchment some quite modern thoughts concerning the manipulation of time in a treatise entitled, De mirabilibus sacrae scripturae. Listening to Barney McKenna play the banjo makes me speculate that he must have hit upon a way to manipulate space and time to produce the notes he played. And perhaps it is not too fanciful to posit something about the Irish milieu that, from time to time, messes with our reality.

After all, didn’t George Berkeley, bishop of Cloynes, in the 18th Century declare that objects are only ideas in the minds of perceivers causing Dr Johnston to kick a rock in an attempt to refute this Irish philosophising. In my mind, I see Sam hopping and leaping about in a painful parody of that most balletic of Irish dance forms- the slip jig. Now, George would never have resorted to the limerick as a form for philosophical exploration but a clever English scholar and priest, one Ronald Knox, wittily used the form to poke fun at Berkeley’s immaterialism,

There was a young man who said “God/Must find it exceedingly odd/To think that this tree/Should continue to be/When there’s no one about in the quad.”/“Dear Sir, your astonishment’s odd./I am always about in the quad./And that’s why the tree/Continues to be/Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.” Knox, also, preceded Orson Welles by a dozen years in perpetrating a radio hoax on a nation: one snowy weekend in 1926, he broadcast on BBC Radio the purported news of a revolutionary uprising in London where rabid malcontents lynched government ministers and destroyed the Houses of Parliament, bringing Big Ben crashing down.

He was neighbours in Oxford for a while with C. S. Lewis, an Ulsterman, who has given us The Chronicles of Narnia and the space trilogy which includes, Out of the Silent Planet. Lewis observed, arguably, Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. The value of philosophy to survival is most clearly seen, not in abstruse, turgid tomes of which there are libraries-full, but in poetry such as the early Irish poet, Amergin who, in The Mystery, writes,

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,/I am the wave of the ocean,/I am the murmur of the billows,/ I am the ox of the seven combats/,I am the vulture upon the rocks,/I am the beam of the sun,/I am the fairest of plants,/I am the wild boar in valour,/I am a salmon in the water,/I am a lake in the plain,/I am a word of science,/I am the point of the lance of battle/,I am the God who created in the head the fire./Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?/Who announces the ages of the moon?/Who teaches the place where couches the sun?/(If not I).

I find an echo of this ancient soul in a piece by one of my favourite American poets, Carl Sandburg, who informs us in Who Am I?, My head knocks against the stars./My feet are on the hilltops./My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of/universal life./Down in the sounding foam of primal things I/reach my hands and play with pebbles of/destiny./I have been to hell and back many times./I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God./I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible./I know the passionate seizure of beauty/And the marvellous rebellion of man at all signs/reading “Keep Off.”/My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive/in the universe. Even in the demotic voice, the resilience and wisdom of the people ring out, as here in a defiant shout by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, 19th Century African American poet’s Philosophy, and, by the way, what follows, is not, I repeat, not, an example of blackface in audio. I am reading, faithfully, insofar as I am able, what Dunbar actually wrote in his dialect poem- here goes!: 

I been t’inkin’ ’bout de preachah; whut he said de othah night,/’Bout hit bein’ people’s dooty, fu’ to keep dey faces bright;/How one ought to live so pleasant dat ouah tempah never riles,/Meetin’ evahbody roun’ us wid ouah very nicest smiles./Dat ‘s all right, I ain’t a-sputin’ not a t’ing dat soun’s lak fac’,/But you don’t ketch folks a-grinnin’ wid a misery in de back;/An’ you don’t fin’ dem a-smilin’ w’en dey ‘s hongry ez kin be,/Leastways, dat ‘s how human natur’ allus seems to ‘pear to me./We is mos’ all putty likely fu’ to have our little cares,/An’ I think we ‘se doin’ fus’ rate w’en we jes’ go long and bears,/Widout breakin’ up ouah faces in a sickly so’t o’ grin,/W’en we knows dat in ouah innards we is p’intly mad ez sin./Oh dey ‘s times fu’ bein’ pleasant an’ fu’ goin’ smilin’ roun’,/’Cause I don’t believe in people allus totin’ roun’ a frown,/But it’s easy ‘nough to titter w’en de stew is smokin’ hot,/But hit’s mighty ha’d to giggle w’en dey’s nuffin’ in de pot. Nuff said?[insert song]

Letter 119 finds us in tears- of laughter and of grief. Did you know that, according to the German Society of Ophthalmology in 2009, that German women cried between 30-62 times a year and their men folk between 6-17 times over the same period! Carefully examine now the tearstains on your desk calendars to discover where you fit within this continuum or whether you are, like me, a flinty-hearted sod, or  are you, perhaps, a lachrymose champion of more than 62 blubs per year? Are you, like some evangelicals, a believer in holy laughter or, like John Wesley, do you consider laughter in church, the work of the Devil? The question will be posed: are you more aligned to the worldview of Pollyanna or are you with Cassandra in looking askance at the world? And what about crocodile tears or the hyena’s laugh? Finally, a more puzzling question is: why do such matters engage the narrator in the penultimate letter of the series?

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.