Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 131 – 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.
Forty-six years ago, we lived in Gwynneville, a suburb of Wollongong, between the botanic gardens and the university. I drove a white Ford Falcon station wagon from that quiet little suburb to Warrawong High School 10 klicks along the Princess Highway for the five years or so we lived here. I was involved with a couple of folk groups and heavily into the pub and club scene, as you do when you’re in your mid-twenties. Ends of a candle and the burning thereof springs to mind. If I spent three evenings a week at home, it was only because I needed to recuperate from the ravages of the other nights and, it may be, that in some dark and narrow crevice of conscience, I conceded that I owed some time to the needs of my wife and two kids.
Husband and father of the year was one title I could not aspire to, even were that honour to be limited only to the dozen or so residences of the short block we lived on. Listening to our collection of LPs while having a drink or two after the kids were in bed was a scene of marital contentment in those intermittent evenings of domesticity. Linda Ronstadt and Kris Kristofferson were on heavy rotation, blasting from our junkyard-purchased record player and we particularly liked his eponymous first album which we had brought out with us from Belfast. That year we were also knocked out by The Carpenter’s album, Horizon. So, with a drip feed of songs such as Linda Ronstadt’s You’re No Good and I Fall To Pieces, or Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night and Sunday Morning Coming Down or Karen Carpenter’s beautiful rendering of Desperado and Solitaire it was inevitable that, notwithstanding my commitment to folk music, I would write a country-influenced reflection on where I was at that year when I got around to writing a song about it.
As I said in the last podcast, I changed the title from Three Views of You to No Angel Will Interfere. Should you happen to be as self-absorbed as I was back then, I can recommend song writing as an antidote to that condition. In the song, I was able to look at myself from my wife’s point of view, in three vignettes or snapshots. Did it enable me to amend my behaviour for the better? Yeah, a little bit. And, little by little is an effective long-term strategy, for, I’ve been reliably informed, that after fifty years of marriage, I’m almost house-trained. Almost. [insert song]
The phrase, after all these years, is in common use, one might even say, a cliché. Back in 1975, Paul Simon was crazy, after all these years and as outlined before, I think I was too, at that time. Which is the theme of the second half of this podcast. Shakespeare, in Sonnet 19 tells us, Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,/And make the earth devour her own sweet brood. Robert Herrick, in the 17th Century, advised the virgins to make much of time: Then be not coy, but use your time,/And while ye may, go marry;/For having lost but once your prime,/ You may forever, tarry. Carl Sandburg, another poet I’ve quoted before, in his free verse poem, Clocks, written towards the end of the First World War, observes: Here is a face that says half-past seven the same way whether a murder or a wedding goes on…And of course, there are wristwatches over the pulses of airmen eager to go to France.
Well, I could go on, and on. But time’s passing and- oh, what the heck! I can’t resist quoting Phillip Larkin’s brilliant poem, Days : What are days for?/ Days are where we live./ They come, they wake us/Time and time over./They are to be happy in:/Where can we live but days?// Ah, solving that question/ Brings the priest and the doctor/ In their long coats/ Running over the fields.
You know, once upon a time, I was a zealot, opposed to anything that approached the maudlin, the nostalgic, the rose-tinted survey of the good old days- Happy Days, anyone? Why on earth, I wondered, would anyone living in the 70s wish to look back to the 1950s? Not me. The repertoire of songs I covered were focussed on highwaymen, outlaws, lusty sailors, and suchlike. Well, I’m no longer living in the 70s (incidentally, Australian listeners of a certain age will recognise that phrase as a song and album title of a popular Melbourne group at the time, The Skyhooks.) Now to the present: I’m living through my 70s, if my luck holds out, that is!
But back in the day, as the young’uns express it, my claws were sharp, and I would rip to pieces anything sweet or sentimental. However, devouring time does blunt the lion’s paws, and, gradually, my repertoire of songs has broadened, and, as several people have noticed, my beam also has! I’m as likely to sing a sweet song of remembrance now as one about a bloody battleground. Our 50th wedding anniversary has come and gone, and I am still unable to treat my wife to a relaxing weekend in some posh harbour digs here in Sydney, thanks to continuing COVID lockdowns. My younger self- even one of a just few years ago, would not have believed I would sing this next Foster and Allen hit from a long time ago of a long-married life- After All These Years, but there you are, and here we go! [insert song]
For next week we will leave the gentler and more elegiac world of this podcast for one more in line with themes of war and desolation. The Foggy Dew is a song of war, written by a Catholic priest, in about 1919. And there is a family connection here which I will explain in Letter 132. The original composition is from the nineteen seventies, and I was living between and among the genres of country, folk, rock, and pop as well as more apocalyptic and experimental genres. As I look, now, at the original manuscript page, I see written at the top in black ink-well, it figures- song/poem/fallout/ and under this the word “Descent” with the words “working title” in brackets. Oh, enough said- I’ll see you all next time…
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