Letters From Quotidia the Podcasts 2023 Episode 2

For the second podcast of 2023, let us talk roads: in the trailer for these Letters from Quotidia podcasts, I featured Walt Whitman’s The Song of the Open Road and the famous song, Route 66. In that first podcast for the year, we encountered Edward Thomas’s road under the trees…where the leaflets out of the ash-tree shed/ Are thinly spread/ In the road, like little black fish, inlaid/ As if they played. Similarly, Amy Lowell’s Roads inspired the first original song of 2023 with the same name. Well, you may forget about Robert Frost’s mischievous, the road not taken but there are more roads to travel, I fear, before I will tire of the theme. Fiction offers some interesting examples: if you are shopping for a magic wand, where better for your diligent search than Diagon Alley? Should you be an overly ambitious suburban developer, your plans will be crisscrossed with paper streets which exist nowhere but in your avaricious mind and on your still-born plans. The cartographers among you will ensure that trap streets are tucked in among your painstakingly charted thoroughfares to ensnare the plagiarists who infest your industry. And how many of your children have yearned to reside at 742 Evergreen Terrace with Homer and Marge? Now, let us leave these Yellow Brick Roads of our imagination and tread along some Biblical tracks. The New Testament offers some dramatic examples; the Via Dolorosa in the old city of Jerusalem, for example is the path taken by Jesus on his way to the Crucifixion. Catholic churches throughout the world memorialise this event by the 14 Stations of the Cross found in or near the building. The Road to Damascus was the site of what Christians believe to be one of the most portentous events of human history where a man, Saul by name, commences the journey as a fierce and murderous opponent of the nascent movement known as The Way and emerges as Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles whose travels around the Mediterranean and environs still provoke wonder at their scope and duration. The Road to Emmaus, on the other hand, provides a quiet and contemplative counterpoint to the Damascene example. And I know, if I had a choice, that I would choose this road rather than that followed by the man who undertook a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell in among thieves! To kick off the music component of the podcast I need to take us back to 1965 where The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan loomed large in the UK charts and The Byrds offered Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man as the phantasmagorical harbinger of the psychedelic movement. As I have admitted, with some embarrassment, in earlier podcasts, I threw in my lot with these shaggy-haired artists and eschewed my previous affinity with country music. So, then who is this clean-cut guy, with a suit and tie, well-trimmed hair touting a classic three-chord country song in swinging eights complete with a semi-tone modulation to get to the bridge and second half of the song? Why, it’s Roger Miller, and he’s singing King of the Road which reached number one on both sides of the Atlantic that year! I knew on a first hearing that it was a great song. Now that I’ve left the foolish partisanship of my mid-teens long behind, may I, somewhat belatedly, present this gem of a song? [insert song] At this time, too, I set sail as a journeyman songwriter but before I regale you with my latest essay as a writer of love songs let me venture down a few more roads in verse, song, prose, and popular culture. The Canning Highway in Western Australia runs from Fremantle, the  long-time residence of Bon Scott of AC/DC and culminates in the Perth suburb of Victoria- a 17-kilometre four lane divided carriageway. Apparently, there was a grungy 1970s booze barn in Victoria called The Raffles where Bon would go to drink and rock out with his mates. Close to the pub there is a steep incline and accident black spot where the number of fatalities earned it the soubriquet- highway to hell. Well, that’s one story. Brian Johnston, successor vocalist in AC/DC after Bon’s death claims that it was about driving across the Nullarbor Plain from Melbourne to Perth, as Bon had done several times, into the glare of the merciless setting sun. I’ve been driving for well over 50 years and in my time, I’ve driven over roads that would qualify for the title, highway to hell and I’m sure many of you could say the same. Chris Rea in 1989 released his masterpiece, The Road to Hell, which I still listen to for its insight and power. Here are its opening lines: Stood still on a highway/I saw a woman/By the side of the road/ With a face that I knew like my own/Reflected in my window/Well she walked up to my quarterlight/And she bent down real slow/A fearful pressure paralyzed me/in my shadow//She said “Son, what are you doing here?/My fear for you has turned me in my grave”/I said “Mama, I come to the valley of the rich/Myself to sell”/She said “Son, this is the road to Hell”//On your journey ‘cross the wilderness/From the desert to the well/You have strayed upon the motorway to Hell// At some distance in time and space from the motorway to hell of Chris Rea, is Crossroads. Written by Robert Johnston, bluesman extraordinaire, in 1936 and popularised thirty years later by Eric Clapton, guitarist extraordinaire, it has attracted that apocryphal story about Johnston selling his soul to the devil in exchange for his guitar chops- all nonsense, of course, but why let the facts get in the way of a good story. Among the most enduring stories of the road in the 20th Century are those of the truck drivers who criss-cross nations and continents delivering the goods that keep the economy humming along like those multi-wheeled rigs that flash by with artwork inspired by angels and demons. I wrote this next song in 1981. It looks backwards to the late 1960s and 1970s and features CB radios, lava glitter lamps, a little lady keeping house, reading escapist fiction, and bored out of her brain. Her husband is a trucker with a macho moniker and love of the game of darts. It would score no points from the #MeToo movement, and rightly so, but I present it as a snapshot of a time that is trapped in the aspic of the misogynistic past. Here, with apologies, is, The Goodtimes of Doris and Ronnie. [insert song]. On March 29, 1689, the Japanese writer, Matsuo Basho, set out with a companion on a journey which took more than 150 days and covered 2,400 kilometres or almost fifteen hundred miles. Here are the  opening lines to his great travel book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, translated by Donald Keene. The months and days are the travellers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them. Many of the men of old died on the road, and I too for years past have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming. Last year I spent wandering along the seacoast. In autumn I returned to my cottage on the river and swept away the cobwebs. Gradually the year drew to its close. When spring came and there was mist in the air, I thought of crossing the Barrier of Shirakawa into Oku. I seemed to be possessed by the spirits of wanderlust, and they all but deprived me of my senses. The guardian spirits of the road beckoned, and I could not settle down to work. I patched my torn trousers and changed the cord on my bamboo hat. To strengthen my legs for the journey I had moxa burned on my shins. By then I could think of nothing but the moon at Matsushima when I sold my cottage and moved to Sampū’s villa, to stay until I started on my journey. Brilliant though this language is, it doesn’t tug at my heartstrings the way the imagery, novels and songs of the American West have done since I was a child. I consumed westerns avidly in both book and movie form and I still wish someone would come along and write something like Larry McMurtry’s great Lonesome Dove series. It is out of these inchoate yearnings of my soul that I came to write yet another song for my wife toward the end of January this year. The song is called The Open Range and Road, and in it I refer to the first song I wrote at age 16 in 1965. At that time, I had just finished a reading jag where I devoured, for reasons I still can scarcely comprehend, the novels in the Sudden series written by Oliver Strange who died in 1952. They are classified as Piccadilly Westerns, so-called because they were written by British authors who derived their inspiration from- who knows where?- but certainly not any first-hand knowledge of the American West. And, while I recognised that they were less than literary, they appealed to my adolescent puerile soul- captured, as it was, by the grand mythos of the old West of America. Here, then, is my latest love song, The Open Range and Road. [insert song] I solemnly promise that my next podcast will seek to avoid roads and the old West and, furthermore, I undertake to restrain the urge to cover Desperado. As a final thought, one of the guitarists I have admired since his days in the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, died last month unexpectedly and it resonated with me because, at about the same time, my wife and I were laid low by COVID-19 and, while thanks to four vaccines shots we had eagerly taken up over the past couple of years, and in spite of our age and co-morbidities, we avoided hospitalisation and were back on our feet within a week or so. Still, it made me think of that old Irish blessing, May the road rise up to meet you,/May the wind always be at your back,/May the sun shine warm upon your face,/And rains fall soft upon your fields,/And, until we meet again,/May God hold you in the palm of His hand.//

Song lyrics in the podcast

“King of The Road” (1965)

by Roger Miller

A            D

Trailers for sale or rent,

E            A

Rooms to let fifty cents,

A            D

No phone, no pool, no pets.

E

I ain’t got no cigarettes.

          A            D

Ah, but…two hours of pushin’ broom,

          E               A

Buys an…eight-by-twelve four-bit room.

      A      D

I’m a man of means by no means,

E           A

King of the road.

A             D

Third boxcar, midnight train,

E           A

Destination Bangor, Maine.

A            D

Old worn out suit and shoes,

E

I don’t pay no union dues.

          A           D

I smoke…old stogies I have found,

E              A

Short, but not too big around.

A            D

I’m a man of means by no means,

E           A

King of the road.

(Key change from A to Bb)

[Bridge]

         Bb                Eb

I know…every engineer on every train,

F                          Bb

All their children, ‘n all of their names,

      Bb               Eb

And…every handout in every town,

      F

And…every lock that ain’t locked when no one’s around.

         Bb           Eb

I sing…trailers for sale or rent,

F             Bb

Rooms to let, fifty cents,

Bb           Eb

No phone, no pool, no pets.

F

I ain’t got no cigarettes.

          Bb           Eb

Ah, but…two hours of pushin’ broom,

        F               Bb

Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room.

        Bb     Eb

I’m a…man of means by no means,

F           Bb

King of the road.

[Outro] (bass only)

Bb           Eb

Trailers for sale or rent,

F             Bb

Rooms to let, fifty cents,

Bb           Eb

No phone, no pool, no pets.

F

I ain’t got no cigarettes.

         Bb           Eb

Ah, but, two hours of pushin’ broom,

        F               Bb

Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room…

The Goodtimes of Doris and Ronnie

Doris pulls the blinds as she blinks another morning

A day can last all week long

Thinks about the Teasmade promised for her birthday

And hums a current hit song

Doris, she believes in magic

(We all need magic in our lives)

Doris, she reads Denis Wheatley

And the Devil rides out once again

She saw her Ronnie drive off as the dawn was breaking

CB chat filling the air

Doris, she recalls the afternoon she met him

She was a young girl with flair

Ronnie was a handsome creature

She squealed excitedly and said

Ronnie treat me like a flower

So he plucked her where they lay

Doris switches on the glitter lamp he gave her

Watching colours collide

Ronnie won that prize with the last dart of the evening

He still remembers it with pride

And he told all the truckers

Ears on now the Devil has some news

I throw a mean set of arrows

Come play me if you choose or you dare

Doris lays the table sets the stove to simmer

Her day has passed in a haze

Sometimes she regrets the loneliness she faces

With Ronnie gone so many days

But there are compensations

Yes! so she reckons now and then

She hears that diesel rumble

As the Devil rides home once again

Open Range and Road

Sitting here with the Spanish guitar you bought for me so many years ago

Across my old lap I pluck at these fine familiar chords again

At 16 I wrote my first song for you and sighing wished that it was better

This first song for you in 2023 has me sighing just as much

Such thoughts go streaming out across my mind as bison across the Great Plains

Or a Thunderbird chasing the setting sun from Las Vegas to LA

Away spin these similes in a losing dance to capture my love for you

Like a parched man staggers in the desert sun in search of water to survive

Such thoughts go streaming out across my mind as bison across the Great Plains

Or a Thunderbird chasing the setting sun from Las Vegas to LA

Away I must follow these wayward thoughts on the open range and the open road

That my mind spreads out like a tapestry woven with my love for you

(So, I must follow this open range and this open road to find my love for you)

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, from time to time, 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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2023 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the Podcasts 1

The year of the rabbit in Chinese inconography is said to be lucky.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

LFQ 231 Podcast 1 After the Rain, How Did We Get This Way? Roads, I’d Rather Go Blind

It’s a New Year and a new version of Letters from Quotidia is rolling out across the space we call cyber with the observation that it never had to have been on January 1st. There are many cultures which start their New Year on a date different from that set down by calendar makers in the Western world. I will not enumerate all the diverse dates to which I refer because I know that the cynical among you will simply say that I am using this information to cover this tardy start as an excuse- and who is to say that you are wrong?

If you are acquainted with the Letters and its mutations, you must possess a modicum of wit and discernment? What I can say with certainty, is that the Letters which became Postcards, which became Postscripts which became Footnotes have now transformed into Podcasts in this year of Our Lord 2023. So the first podcast of this year will be on Sunday 22nd January which marks the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese tradition. I will just treat each podcast as its own genre. It won’t conform strictly to any previous template. But it will conform to the spirit of previous incarnations.

Let’s begin with something I wrote in the interim between the last podcast and now. When I say I, I include a lyricist who was killed in 1917 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Artists Rifles. Edward Thomas, an English poet I much admire. Here is a favourite anthologised poem of his by way of introduction, one I first learned while sitting in Mr Leahy’s fifth form English class at Garron Tower in the mid-sixties,

Yes. I remember Adlestrop/The name, because one afternoon/Of heat, the express-train drew up there/Unwontedly. It was late June.//The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat./No one left and no one came/On the bare platform. What I saw/Was Adlestrop—only the name//And willows, willow-herb, and grass,/And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,/No whit less still and lonely fair/Than the high cloudlets in the sky.//And for that minute a blackbird sang/Close by, and round him, mistier,/Farther and farther, all the birds/Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.//

I use his words from a fine nature poem of his called After the Rain for my first song in a 2023 podcast .[insert song]

In November last year, Catholic leader, Pope Francis likened the aggression against Ukraine today to a genocide perpetrated against the Ukrainian people by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin 90 years ago… This Saturday, he said, is the anniversary of the terrible Holodomor genocide, the extermination by hunger in 1932-33 artificially caused by Stalin. Let us pray for the victims of this genocide and let us pray for all Ukrainians, the children, the women and the elderly, the babies who are today suffering the martyrdom of aggression. Since 2006, the Holodomor – the Ukrainian word means death by starvation – has been recognised by Ukraine and 15 other countries as a genocide carried out by the Soviet regime. An exact death toll is impossible to verify, but historians agree that at least 3 million people died from starvation.

Pope Francis is not the only world leader to liken the 2022 invasion of Ukraine to the tragic events of 1932-1933. US President Joseph Biden issued a statement November 23, 2022, saying, Even as the brave Ukrainian people continue to defend their democracy and freedom from Russia’s brutal aggression, we pause to also honour the victims of past injustices and horrors inflicted on Ukraine. Stalin, said Biden, “imposed harsh and repressive policies on Ukraine, including creating a deliberate famine in 1932-33 that caused millions of innocent Ukrainian women, men, and children to perish. … We honour the brave Ukrainian people who continue to courageously resist Russia’s assault on their democracy.

There are measures a defiant people can take against an aggressor. Taking up arms to resist is clearly a first and obvious response. So, to, is the assertion and nurturing of identity by reference to the language, myths, history, music, art, and poetry of one’s national roots. Just as the Ukrainian people resist the imperial power next to it, as Ireland resisted, over centuries, the imperial power next to it, I think of some of the correspondences between Ireland and Ukraine. Chief among them is the nexus of language. Let me explain: Just as many Ukrainian patriotic poets have used their native language, Russian, to express their opposition to the encroaching tyranny of the imperial aggressor, so too many Irish nationalists have used the power of the English language to register their dissent.

I, in my own small way, continue this tradition by reference to English poets whom, I know, encapsulate the wider truths available to all people. Here in the heat of an Australian summer, I think of those brave and resourceful Ukrainian citizens who are surviving under the sustained and horrendous bombardment of Russian strategists who are trying to recreate the Holodomor of Stalin only 90 years ago. And I think of Thomas Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush written at the turn of the previous century,

I leant upon a coppice gate/ When Frost was spectre-grey,/And Winter’s dregs made desolate/The weakening eye of day./The tangled bine-stems scored the sky/Like strings of broken lyres,/And all mankind that haunted nigh/Had sought their household fires.//The land’s sharp features seemed to be/The Century’s corpse outleant,/His crypt the cloudy canopy,/The wind his death-lament./The ancient pulse of germ and birth/Was shrunken hard and dry,/And every spirit upon earth/Seemed fervourless as I.//At once a voice arose among/The bleak twigs overhead/In a full-hearted evensong/Of joy illimited;/An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,/In blast-beruffled plume,/Had chosen thus to fling his soul/Upon the growing gloom.//So little cause for carolling/Of such ecstatic sound/Was written on terrestrial things/ Afar or nigh around,/That I could think there trembled through/His happy good-night air/Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew/And I was unaware.//

In all the vast geopolitical and global crises that threaten to overwhelm us, I will timidly insert more personal cri de Coeur written at a low point in my relationship almost fifty years ago, and presented in Letter 53 published on 12th April 2021, How Did We Get this Way? [insert song]

The rabbit is the luckiest of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac, signifying forgiveness grace and beauty. For this podcast I will embrace the belief system enthusiastically in the hope that these spiritual nouns come to differentiate this year from the one just past. I now offer a song generated from the signifiers of that lucky zodiac animal. I call it Roads after an Amy Lowell poem I enjoy,

I know a country laced with roads,/They join the hills and they span the brooks,/They weave like a shuttle between broad fields,/And slide discreetly through hidden nooks…//A cow in a meadow shakes her bell/And the notes cut sharp through the autumn air,/Each chattering brook bears a fleet of leaves/Their cargo the rainbow, and just now where/The sun splashed bright on the road ahead/A startled rabbit quivered and fled.

Forgive the darkness in the lyrics. Lowell’s poetry should have inspired something less gloomy! [insert song]

Here is a bonus track. In 1970 I heard Christine McVie (nee Perfect) sing a haunting version of this song. I was in Belfast’s Smithfield Markets and heard her performance of I’d Rather Go Blind over the speakers in a record store. And, of course, I had to buy it.  When I heard of her death at the end of November last year, I listened again (and again) to the track that had captivated me over half a century ago. And here is a poem by Joyce Grenfell, born to an affluent Anglo-American family. Joyce was a monologuist of real talent, and I present here a short verse of hers which I hope is appropriate,

If I should die before the rest of you,/Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone./Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,/But be the usual selves that I have known./Weep if you must,/Parting is hell./But life goes on,/So sing as well. [insert song]

Now like that rabbit in Amy Lowell’s poem, I will quiver and flee to Quotidia until next time I come out of my snug warren to sniff the air. I have added the lyrics to songs in each podcast before the Credits section at the end of each transcript.

After the Rain Edward Thomas, music by Quentin Bega

The rain of a night and a day and a night
Stops at the light
Of this pale choked day. The peering sun
Sees what has been done.
The road under the trees has a border new
of purple hue
Inside the border of bright thin grass:
For all that has
Been left by November of leaves is torn
From hazel and thorn
And the greater trees. Throughout the copse
No dead leaf drops
On grey grass, green moss, burnt-orange fern,
At the wind’s return:
The leaflets out of the ash-tree shed
Are thinly spread
In the road, like little black fish, inlaid,
As if they played.
What hangs from the myriad branches down there
So hard and bare
Is twelve yellow apples lovely to see
On one crab-tree.
And on each twig of every tree in the dell
Uncountable
Crystals both dark and bright of the rain
That begins again.

How Did We Get This Way? Words and music by Quentin Bega

How did we manage to reduce life to this?

With what do we celebrate the end of our dream?

If we could salvage in some way the wreck of our love

We would sail to a different sea 

And watch our aurora blazing above.

It started out fine in Disneyland bliss

Roller-coaster land we lived for the thrill

And then we reached the end a side-show of freaks

We looked inside and we felt the chill 

When we realised that we are the geeks.

How do you compromise when there’s nothing left?

And where do you travel to with nowhere to go?

What do you talk about with nothing to say?

We’re at the bottom and there’s nothing below-

Tell me darling how did we get this way?

And isn’t it funny that now we’re bereft

Of dreams and illusions, we still feel the pain

Of having to face the fact that without our small dreams

We’ve got no shelter from the harsh pouring rain

That rots our emptiness we split at the seams?

So how did we manage to reduce life to this?

With what do we celebrate the end of our dream?

If we could salvage in some way the wreck of our love

We would sail to a different sea 

And watch our aurora blazing above.

We’re at the bottom and there’s nothing below

Tell me darling how did we get this way?

Roads words and music by Quentin Bega

You walk in grace and beauty, love, and bid me come with you

What is it keeps my feet from following your peaceful path

Ah, these dark roads that cross my heart and soul

Leading me downwards to blackness and to woe

Enhance the beauty of the moonlight on the meadows broad

Enchant the mysteries of the night where sleep is at the flood

But for these dark roads that cross my heart and soul

I would come with you and shelter from the cold

Frozen I stay where forgiveness never lives

Frozen I cling to the reason hatred gives

You walk in grace and beauty, love, and bid me come with you

What is it keeps my feet from following your peaceful path

Ah, these dark roads that cross my heart and soul

Leading me downwards to blackness and to woe

Frozen I stay where forgiveness never lives

Frozen I cling to the reason hatred gives

I’d Rather Go Blind

Something told me it was over

                                                D
When I saw you and him out walking

                                                           Em                     A7
Something deep down in my soul said, “Cry, boyl”

                                                       D    
When I saw you and him talking

                                                            Em           A7

I would rather, I would rather go blind, girl

                                                               D

Than to see you walk away from me,

                                               Em
So you see, I love you so much

                                                                               A7
That I don’t wanna watch you leave me, baby

                                                                                  D
Most of all, I just don’t, I just don’t wanna be free, no

                                         Em        A7

And I would rather go blind

                                                                        D       instrumental D Em A7 D

Than to see you walking away from me child 

                D                                                           Em      A7

I was just, I was just, I was just sittin here thinkin’

                                                          D
Of your kiss, and your warm embrace, yeah

                                                                     Em                                       A7
When the reflection in the glass that I held to my lips, now baby

                                                                 D
Revealed the tears that were on my face, yeah

                                                                        Em         A7

And baby, baby, I’d rather, I’d rather be blind, girl

                                                   D        link: D Em A7 D
Than to see you walk away child 

                [Repeat italicised verse]

                                 Em        A7
I would rather go blind girl

                                                                          G7

Than to see you walk away from me child

                                                                 D

Now I watch you walk away from me

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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Trailer for Letters from Quotidia 2023- the Podcasts

I know by now that even the most hardened partiers amongst my listeners will have called a halt to the merrymaking, the carousing, the carolling and may well have broken a few, many, most, or, in the extremist of cases, all of their well-wrought New Year’s resolutions. It is, after all, a week and a day into the new year. Now, you will not find me in the least censorious as I have for a  long time been a resident of my own fragile glass house. 

Instead, may I present a trailer for the ongoing Letters From Quotidia?  To preface it I wish to invoke the courage and the wisdom of that great American poet, Walt Whitman, who, in Part 1 of The Song of the Open Road has this to say, which I have adopted (in spirit, at least) for my New Year’s resolution:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,/Healthy, free, the world before me,/The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.// Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,/Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,/Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,/Strong and content I travel the open road.//The earth, that is sufficient,/I do not want the constellations any nearer,/I know they are very well where they are,/ know they suffice for those who belong to them.//(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,/I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,/I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,/I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)//

From 22nd of January until 15th October I will present, God Willing, 20 Podcasts at two-week intervals. They are my old delicious burdens, and I will carry them with me wherever I go- I am filled with them and I will fill them in return! We really do have to thank our poets for sharing the contents of their wonderful minds with us. And I can’t leave this trailer without attaching a song to it as an accompaniment to the poem. The song was the opener on the first LP I ever bought, The Rolling Stones, released on 14 April 1964.

I loved it from the first bars of Route 66 which blasted out of my Dad’s stereo in the front room of our home in Cushendall, County Antrim. I have never recorded or played this song before because…I don’t know! The Stones have a lock on the song in my humble…and I have never felt the need, until now, when such a trip remains, it must be said, a most unlikely outcome- but one which I will not banish to the impossible corner- just yet. Written by US Marine Bobby Troup who didn’t see colour, only soul, according to one of the marines serving under him, it remains one of the finest songs about freedom and the open road. [insert song]

So in two weeks’ time, I will present my first podcast of 2023- see you then!     

The Rolling Stones (Troup / Chuck Berry)

[Verse] Song transposed to C

A                 D             A

Well, if you ever plan to motor west

           D                                      A

Jack, take my way, that’s the highway, that’s the best

         E7       D      A

Get your kicks on Route 66

A                   D            A

Well, it winds from Chicago to L.A.

          D                  A

More than 2000 miles all the way

         E7       D      A

Get your kicks on Route 66

[Chorus]

      A

Well, goes from St. Louie down to Missouri

A

Oklahoma City, looks oh so pretty

       D                A

You’ll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico

E7

Flagstaff, Arizona, don’t forget Winona

Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino

[Verse]

      A       D                  A

Would you get hip to this timely tip

       D                    A

And go take that California trip

         E7       D      A

Get your kicks on Route 66

[Solo]

A  D  A  E7  D   A

[Chorus]

      A

Well, goes from St. Louie down to Missouri

A

Oklahoma City, looks oh so pretty

       D                A

You’ll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico

E7

Flagstaff, Arizona, don’t forget Winona

Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino

[Outro]

      A       D                  A

Would you get hip to this kindly tip

       D                    A

And go take that California trip

         E7       D      A

Get your kicks on Route 66

         E7       D      A

Get your kicks on Route 66

         E7       D      A

Get your kicks on Route 66

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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Slainte 2

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia- the Footnotes, Slainte 2 It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know but let me be clear. The mouthful also refers to farewell drinks which are common around this time of the year. It’s been a long and eventful journey for the Letters From Quotidia as a whole and even the lowly Footnotes have had a good run, but all good things must come to an end and as we toast the end, and also, new beginnings, let us, without further ado move into the firelit circle where the castaways are assembled and celebrating the end of the year.

It’s only a couple of hours until midnight will strike, and a new year will begin. As usual at such gatherings there is a fair bit of big-noting and bragging and as we join the circle, we hear a recitation of Cargoes by John Masefield, Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,/Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine/,With a cargo of ivory/,And apes and peacocks,/Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.//Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,/Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,/With a cargo of diamonds,/Emeralds, amethysts/,Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.//Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack,/Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,/With a cargo of Tyne coal,/Road-rails, pig-lead,/ Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.//

This gets a round of applause and then we hear the opening strains of I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day. While a fiddle plays the intro the singer says, some say the song’s Irish, others Scottish, I even heard the folk from Norfolk putting in a claim. Me I don’t care where a song comes from- as if that’s even how it works! If I like it, I’ll sing it. Now, I use lyrics where the dog in the song does not get shot. In some versions, you see, the pooch perishes. But I love dogs, so I’ll sing a faster version of one I heard from Barney McKenna, lately the best tenor banjo player in the universe.  Here we go, [insert song]

What a great start to our New Year’s Eve singsong, I say. Do we have another singer or reciter- or both, doesn’t have to be one or the other! A tall, thin, rather intense chap stood up, he was bearded and reminded me of a preacher in search of a congregation. He was one of a pair of castaways who had beached on our island just yesterday. He said, Something there is that does not love a wall. And yet they are all around us- although, happily, not here, he exclaimed turning around in the light of the fire, something there is that does not love a wall, that wants it down. Remember when the Berlin Wall came down, how we cheered and cheered. Tyrants love walls, but people dig under them or climb over them or blast their way through them. To be effective, walls would need to be made of unobtainium- such a wall would be impervious to any agency, method, or technology; impenetrable, resisting any level of energy. Such a wall would serve the wildest fantasies of even the most certifiable of megalomaniacs. But it’s out of reach in our material world. Unfortunately, there is a place where such walls can be forged, people- in the furnaces of the dogmatic mind. Is there anything in this universe more adamantine than the certitude of the religious bigot or political ideologue? And I’m going to sing you a song about a wall that resists logical penetration. Listen now to, An Impervious Wall. [insert song]

The crowd was becoming rather restive, and I appealed for a singer with an uplifting message more suited for the occasion. I groaned inwardly when his mate, a rather portly, dwarfish man, who had helped him steer his flimsy craft to shore stood up- the Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, perhaps. I had spoken to both of them only briefly but had pegged him as a rather simple, bucolic type. Me Mum told me a bunch of lies when I was young. And I don’t hold it against her, nor me Dad, who backed her up in her lies. It warn’t until I was growed a bit that I knew why she lied. In that story about the ugly duckling, do you mind it? the little bird has a lot of trouble along the way but finally growed up to be a lovely swan and at last finds a flock of swans who say, come and join us, and so the wee bird lives happily ever after, but I…all I have is this song which I hope you like, I call it The Cycle of Love because love is the only thing that matters in all the world. [insert song]

And so the singsong progressed fed by the fears and fantasies, the hopes, and dreams of a diverse motley crew of castaways who found themselves washed ashore on the enchanted island, the bullseye of the swirling gyre located off the coast of Quotidia. We had all found something like solace, something like release, something like a hazy dream where respite from what had been assailing us was found. And found we would be, on the next morning or the morning after or a morning soon to dawn when a passing boat or plane or satellite would find something anomalous about the speck in the ocean encompassing us and soon we would inhabit the headlines and news reports and become yet another media sensation that would last a day or a week, perhaps, should events in the swirling world be somewhat slow at the time. But let us return to the firelit circle where a temporal vortex has delivered a female American poet to the campsite where she addresses a mostly male and emphatically maudlin mood.

Hello men, I’m Ella Wheeler Wilcox and much as I’d like to be elsewhere, I’m compelled by forces beyond to bring a leavening of clear-sightedness to proceedings. Here is my poem for the occasion so listen closely; its title is The Year, She stood and looked at each of the faces around her as she waited for silence, then she drew a breath and spoke clearly,  What can be said in New Year rhymes,/That’s not been said a thousand times?//The new years come, the old years go,/We know we dream, we dream we know.//We rise up laughing with the light,/We lie down weeping with the night//.We hug the world until it stings,/We curse it then and sigh for wings.// We live, we love, we woo, we wed,/We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.//We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,/And that’s the burden of the year//There was a round of appreciative laughter and, then, someone yelled out, Aren’t you counted as among the worst poets in American literature?

I regret to inform you all that the person who imparted this information to the assembled crowd was, yeah, it was me! My head had been throbbing somewhat from the effects of some rather good liquor and wine that had washed ashore over the previous weeks which I had partaken of more than a little over the past few days. Sorry Ella, that was uncalled for, I blurted out. She looked at me as she might a bug and strode out of the light.

Temporality, of course, loses its ordinary quality at certain times, for instance, at night (when dreams fill your head), or on certain days such as Halloween or Walpurgis Nacht (when spirits rise out of the ground and go looking for whatever it is they look for), or New Year’s Eve when resolutions  spring out of the febrile minds of millions of revellers who hold the view, if only for a moment, that whatever desire they have evinced will survive more than one diurnal motion. And so it was that a native of Belfast who has more than a passing acquaintance with astral matters strode into the circle of light and invited us not to dwell too much on those things that made us sad and gloomy but asked us to remember that every so often there would be days where everything just fell in place, that, in fact, there would be Days Like This [insert song]

Well, Van the Man could always get a crowd going and so songs were sung and poems were recited and as midnight approached, someone counted down the seconds as yet another year materialised. The castaways continue their songs, poems, prayers, and conversations for some hours but everyone seems to know that the end is in sight and so it is, as if by telepathic agreement that they all sing The Parting Glass. [insert song]

From Quotidia, the final footnote comes to its close.  I wish you peace and all  best wishes for the coming year for you, your family, your loved ones, and community. Perhaps we’ll meet in 2023.

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- 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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Slainte 1

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia- the Footnotes, Slainte 1 It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know but let me be clear. The mouthful also refers to farewell drinks which are common around this time of the year. It’s been a long and eventful journey for the Letters From Quotidia as a whole and even the lowly Footnotes have had a good run, but all good things must come to an end and as we toast the end, and also, new beginnings, let us, without further ado define what Slainte means. It means “health” in Irish and Scottish Gaelic and has spread across the world, particularly among the whiskey-drinking fraternities. Slainte 1 is the penultimate post for the year and well start with a song of farewell. Foss Hill, The Old Comedian [insert song]

Time now for some poetry. Change upon Change, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, tells of false love, Three months ago, the stream did flow,/The lilies bloomed along the edge;/ And we were lingering to and fro,/— Where none will track thee in this snow,/ Along the stream, beside the hedge/. Ah! sweet, be free to come and go;/For if I do not hear thy foot,/The frozen river is as mute,—/The flowers have dried down to the root;/And why, since these be changed since May,/Shouldst thou change less than they?//And slow, slow as the winter snow,/The tears have drifted to mine eyes;/And my two cheeks, three months ago,/Set blushing at thy praises so,/ Put paleness on for a disguise./Ah! sweet, be free to praise and go;/For if my face is turned to pale,/It was thine oath that first did fail,— It was thy love proved false and frail!/And why, since these be changed, I trow/Should I change less than thou?// But not all love proves false-just as well for the human race, eh- and at this time of year we ought to offer a corrective in this song from long ago called, Changes, [insert song]

Continuing the theme of Change, we need to think about starting over. We’ve all had to do it, nothing lasts forever, not even that huge gobstopper you crammed into your mouth as a child.  Back at Letter 13 I considered the inevitability of things , rather grandiosely, by incorporating the universe and a house brick in a thought experiment:  Let’s reduce the universe to your bare foot resting on the ground and a house brick poised thirty-two feet above it. Now, let the brick accelerate downwards subject to the earth’s normal gravitational force. In about one second you will be screaming in pain. Quantum mechanics, however, will rush into the fray to assure you that indeterminism is woven into the fabric of the universe, so, perhaps, that brick, which, when last we saw it, was hurtling towards your unprotected toes, gathering momentum and kinetic energy on its way, will transform into a shower of rose-petals just before impact. In which case, you may, and with some justice, feel inclined to take the time to smell the flowery fragments.

I must admit that I would, in no circumstances, subject my bare foot to the test! However, the final word goes to a once widely lauded author, one Arnold Bennett, the author of the magnificently titled, The Grand Babylon Hotel. It seems though, in our Tik Tok universe, he is not that trendy. He had this to say about the nature of time, which I find compelling: The chief beauty about time/is that you cannot waste it in advance. /The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,/as perfect, as unspoiled,/as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life./ You can turn over a new leaf every hour/if you choose.

At this time of year, even as we hasten to formulate resolutions in another example of the triumph of hope over experience, I’ll admit to being attracted to his views on life. He gives his writing formula, which also appeals: I put in genuine quantities of wealth, luxury, feminine beauty, surprise, catastrophe and genial incurable optimism. And, as to why he wrote so much: Am I to sit still and see other fellows pocketing two guineas apiece for stories which I can do better myself? for stories which I can do better myself? I have yet to earn a solitary guinea for these podcasts- maybe because I have not bothered to put in any monetising mechanism. In any case, Wikipedia discloses that Bennett was the most financially successful author of his time.  But let’s leave the sordid reality of getting and spending and listen to the song, Starting Over Again: [insert song]

The shadowy hound of death in a poem by Fiona McCloud is a wonderful construct where the spectre of mortality is not a grim reaper with hapless humankind withering in helpless stands like the grass and flowers of Isaiah and 1 Peter, All flesh is like grass,/and all its glory like the flowers of the field./The grass withers and the flowers/ fall,  but, instead, we find a questing hound leading the lonely hunter, pursuing the lost-loved face, over a green hill. And what lies over that green hill?

Is it, perhaps, the Cloud Cuckoo Land of Aristophanes where the strife and privation of contemporary Athens in the 5th Century BC, is absent, or is the Feast of Fools of the Middle Ages where licentious behaviour scandalised the sober? Closer to our own times is it, perchance, The Big Rock Candy Mountain with its promise of cigarette trees, lemonade springs and chocolate heights. And might this locale be adjacent to Shangri-la, a mystical valley utopia high in the Kunlun Mountains, long believed to be a paradise of Taoism?

But over that green hill the hound might lead you to something rather more dystopian? Say, into the right-hand panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights which depicts a chamber of hell where the torments of the damned are vividly on show. E. E. Cummings, during the horrors of World War Two in 1944 suggested an alternative to the mayhem when he suggested in a poem, pity this busy monster, manunkind, not/…pity poor flesh and trees…but never this fine specimen of hypermagical/ ultraomnipotence/…listen: there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go.

There is learned speculation about the multiverse where every conceivable story and outcome is endlessly played out. Where, in one iteration of existence, you rule the Big Rock Candy Mountain; in another, you are a tortured soul endlessly enacting a scene from the right-hand panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights, and so on, and on. In episode 4, Season 6, of Through the Wormhole, Morgan Freeman discusses the view of theorists from a number of scientific fields who wonder if this universe of ours is not just a vast video game and we are pre-programmed elements within it.

These guys, presumably, don’t wear hats made of tinfoil but they are actively looking for glitches in the program that will prove that we are just epiphenomena inside, it may be, the latest fad of some alien teenage emo gamer. Now, wouldn’t that be something?  But my head is aching from all this contemplating. I consider myself fortunate that all I need to do is reflect on quotidian matters, as the next song, Just For You and Me, reveals: [insert song]

Finally, I present a song I wrote in Manchester, in 1981 when, as a teacher, I accompanied the rock band from Ballymena Academy where I taught. It was led by Mark Dougherty, a gifted student with whom I have had a long friendship where we have collaborated on a number of music projects in Ireland and Australia. The band placed fourth- a creditable placing in a national UK competition.

The band went out to sample the delights of Manchester nightlife and I sat in my room in Manchester Polytechnic and wrote a song about a guy who met a version of himself from the future. I borrowed the title of a Wilfred Owen poem, Strange Meeting and played it for Mark when he returned. This was one of the songs we worked on in the next couple of years as we explored the worlds of rock and jazz.

Indeed, as lately as October 2020 we were collaborating on an ekphrastic project where I supplied lyrics inspired by Edward Hopper’s famous painting, Nighthawks. And then, a hiatus, but I didn’t think much of it as once before, Mark took off to India for a sojourn. And then, another friend emailed me last month, that Mark was dead. So, to conclude this post, I dedicate Strange Meeting to the memory of Mark Dougherty: [insert song] Vale Mark

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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 8

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes, Episode 8! Regular listeners to the posts know that the Letters just refuse to lie down and die. First, they were plain old letters, then postcards, and afterwards, postscripts. Now they have become footnotes! This is the final in the Castaway quartet.

It is a stormy evening on the enchanted island off the coast of Quotidia in the bullseye of the swirling gyre, and a man stripped to the waist and howling at his fate, is seen. He turns to shake his fist at the sea and reveals a back criss-crossed with the scars of frequent floggings. Hello, I shout as I approach- have you just arrived? He eyes me suspiciously, and in a thick Irish brogue demands to know why that is any of my business. I recognise the recalcitrance of the oft imprisoned and simply extend a welcome to him.

Lots of castaways who find themselves washed up here are a bit discombobulated, I explain, but this island is a place of refuge with sustenance and shelter. He smiled and introduced himself as Frank and as he talks about himself, the penny drops: You’re not Frank the Poet, by any chance, I venture. I read your Convicts Tour to Hell with interest but admit to preferring your song about the convicts at Moreton Bay. He looked at me strangely and said that his name for the song was The Convict’s Lament on the Death of Captain Logan.

I knew that from my research into the matter that Logan was a relentless flogger, the records showing that from February to October in 1828 Logan ordered 200 floggings with over 11,000 lashes.When Logan’s body was brought back to Moreton Bay, after being speared to death by Aboriginal warriors in 1830, the convicts manifested insane joy at the news of his murder, and sang and hoorayed all night, in defiance of the warders. You’ll be glad to know that your song is known far and wide- it’s even a part of school students’ curriculum in Australia. In Ireland, P. J. McCall, a songwriter like yourself, borrowed the tune of it for his well-known song Boolavogue which was composed in 1898, to mark the centenary of the 1798 Rebellion. A man after me own heart, said Frank.

But Frank was cagey about his life and wouldn’t be pinned down as to where he was from or what religion he was or how many times he’d been flogged or in which convict stations he’d been penned. By the look of his back, the reported tally of 610 lashes between 1832 and 1840 seemed “reasonable?”- not really the word for it. But before I could quiz him further, he drew himself up to his full height and declaimed, My name is Frank McNamara/ A native of Cashell Co Tipperary/ Sworn to be a tyrant’s foe/ And while I’ve life I’ll crow!//He turned and walked away from me- clearly not wishing further converse, and, as the storm abated, I heard floating on the air… [insert song]

As the notes of the song faded, I heard another note rising dully over the wind blowing in from the sea and recognised it as the faltering engines of a propellor-driven airplane which flew yawing from side to side in over the reef, rising at the last minute to clear the palms lining the shore and then- well, every cliché in the genre, really, silence, then a loud crash and a rising column of smoke.

And even though I hate cliches, I became one myself in the scenario as I rushed in through the trees to see…to see- in a clearing, three men exiting the split fuselage of a dual engine 1940s vintage aircraft, a DC-3, dusting themselves off, dragging instrument cases behind them. They seemed puzzled, even though they seemed to know one another. I approached and introduced myself: I seem to be something like the concierge of this enchanted island.

After ascertaining that there was no one else on board, I assured the men standing there looking at on another in amazement, that the island was more than a bit strange, and people just turned up in a variety of weird circumstances for reasons I could not fathom, but that they would be OK- no problems about food or shelter. I led them to a grove where I had a fire going and invited them to sit down and relax. Can I look at your guitar? I asked one guy with a case. He opened the case and I saw a Martin acoustic with a sticker on it proclaiming, This Machine Kills Fascists.

Honoured to meet you Mr Guthrie, I thought I recognised you? I turned to the lanky guy next to him and told Pete Seeger that he had long been a hero of mine. The other member of the trio, I did not recognise. Peter Seeger introduced him as Martin Hoffman and informed me that he was a California schoolteacher and he had written the melody in 1958 that made the song famous. I didn’t know that, thank you so much for giving the world such a great piece of music. Well, I was a fan, and I gushed as fans tend to do. I told them about the time when I first performed this song in public:

it was 1969 and a group of long-haired students from the college I was attending carted their guitars from Andersonstown in Belfast to the beach at Bangor, County Down. We had been asked to provide the “entertainment” for the occasion. This song, Deportees, was my contribution. I knew the chords and remembered almost all of the lyrics- which I made up for by repeating the chorus more times than strictly necessary. Shall we sing it? Pete Seeger suggested. There’s still the need to use music to strike a blow for justice in the world- even though we are out of it! They laughed and lifted their instruments and on this enchanted island where sounds and sweet melodies abound, we raised out voices in harmony as we sang this great song. [insert song]

To be singing in such company made me feel so elated. But I hadn’t time to dwell on the feeling, for a man rushed up from the tree line and demanded: Am I, by any chance, in Utah? I assured him, no, and he replied, that’s good, for I wouldn’t want to be found dead in it! Then he lifted his head and sang, You will eat, by and by/In that glorious land above the sky;/Work and pray, live on hay,/You’ll get pie in the sky when you die. (that’s a lie!)Pete Seeger added as he laughed and slapped his thigh, Well, what do you know, if this isn’t Joe Hill! He got up and embraced the newcomer and led him to our little circle around the campfire saying, I’ve sung that song for years- a big favourite for audiences all over.

We all looked in awe at this union martyr, executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915, at Utah’s Sugar House Prison for the murder of John G. Morrison, a Salt Lake City area grocer. When the Deputy, who led the firing squad, called out the sequence of commands preparatory to firing (“Ready, aim,”) Hill shouted, Fire — go on and fire! Some speculate that he had come to see himself as worth more to the labour movement as a dead martyr than he was alive. This understanding may have influenced his decisions not to testify at the trial and subsequently to spurn all chances of a pardon. Joe then pulled a paper out of his dungarees pocket and read, My will is easy to decide/For there is nothing to divide/My kin don’t need to fuss and moan/”Moss does not cling to rolling stone”//My body? Oh, if I could choose/I would to ashes it reduce/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow//Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my Last and final Will./Good Luck to All of you/Joe Hill.  

Pete Seeger, eyes gleaming, then recounted how the song commemorating Joe Hill’s life came to be written. Alfred Hayes wrote a poem back in 1930 which Earl Robinson, camp staffer at Camp Unity in New York State turned into the song Joe Hill in 1936. Paul Robeson and I began singing it and progressive folksingers around the world took it up. I piped up, I’ve been in groups since the 1970s who have sung the song, too. The titans of song just smiled, looking at me indulgently. What might have been an uncomfortable hiatus was broken by Frank the Poet who now swaggered into the fire-lit circle and demanded to know when the singsong was going to start. [insert song]

The singsong continued long into the night as songs were swapped, and bragging rights asserted as a variety of potable liquors also circulated. And so, we leave the Castaways to their songs.

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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 7

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes, Episode 7! Regular listeners to the posts know that the Letters just refuse to lie down and die. First, they were plain old letters, then postcards, and afterwards, postscripts. Now they have become footnotes! This is the third in the Castaway quartet.

A large swell is booming on the reef, protecting the beach from the full impact of the Pacific storms. But through the spray I can that see a gaff cutter is in trouble. As I watch she is split asunder on the spiny coral, her mast and sails collapsing. I pray that the brave crew are spared, and my supplications are speedily answered for I can faintly discern, through the spume and spindrift, a dory containing three men as they negotiate the narrow way through the reef.

They appear to be competent seafarers as they skilfully row the boat ashore. Halleluiah, I exclaimed, smiling at my little private joke. I reach them and help as they pull the dory over the high-water mark. Welcome to the island, I say, as they look about in puzzlement. Bobbing in on the incoming tide were barrels and crates from the stricken craft and we waited to salvage what we could from the wreck.

I worked alongside a well-weathered man who looked, somehow, familiar. During a break we took from the heavy work, he introduced himself as Jimmy Millar from Salford. Really, are you also known as Ewan MacColl? I asked. I told him that I had seen him perform in the mid-1970s in Wollongong Town Hall, New South Wales with his wife, Peggy Seeger. One of the concert highlights for me, I’ve sung Dirty Old Town, The Lifeboat Mona, Oh, I Know that Peggy wrote that one, I babble The Shoals of Herring, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Champion at Keeping Them Rolling and The Thirty-Foot TrailerAnd I’ve sung them in over fifty years of singing and playing in folk groups.

He didn’t look impressed, and his expression seemed to say, Is that all? And so, we turned back to the tide where crates of wine and whiskey were being opened by the other pair and, clearly, as this was a task that took precedence, we hurried to take our part in the rescuing of vital stores lying there on the beach. I told them that I had prepared a camp just in through the trees where they could take their ease and meet some of the other castaways. We spend a time transporting the goods up to the campsite and as the sun was setting, we sat around the fire and shared some food and wine and yarned and told tall tales as is the custom when men meet to establish bragging rights. Ewan MacColl stuck a finger in his left ear and invited me to sing along as he cleared his throat and sang. [insert song]

He said, I recorded all the old fishermen up and down the east coast of Britain and knit together their words with rhymes of mine to produce a true song of the people. He winked at me and then turned to one of his companions and said, Captain Burgess, I think you know a sea shanty or two. One that even features you! Burgess, a stern-looking man with a flowing silver moustache which linked up with bushy mutton-chop sideburns, gave MacColl the stink-eye and rasped with a Yankee twang,

I worked for a living in the great era of sailing ships. You had to do more than just sing a few pretty tunes to keep the men under control and to keep your ship on course and on time. As well as deliver the cargo whole, what with the bulk of the crew nothing but thieves and good-for-nothings! Such a man, I thought, would pose a challenge for HR departments today. But in the interests of camaraderie, I put in cheerfully, I’ll bet you have a store of tales from the great days of sailing ships! He gave me a long look and retorted, I don’t think you would have lasted long on the Davy Crockett, my man!  

But he had a gleam in his eye as he began to relive his glory days. She was a medium clipper ship built in 1853 by Greenman & Co., Mystic, CT, at a cost of $93.000. She was over 218 feet long and weighted 1547 tons. Rigged with double fore and main topsails, and three skysails, admitted by all to be one of the fastest sailing ships! But fast isn’t everything, when I captained her, she was known for always delivering her cargoes in perfect condition and order! Merchants everywhere clamoured for her custom. Yes, yes, interjected Ewan MacColl in mock earnest, but what about that song that you feature in?

You’re referring to the one with the verse, I have signed on a Yankee Clipper ship/Davy Crockett is her name/And Burgess is the Captain of her/And they say she’s a floating Hell.// I know that one, I pipe up. Everyone does, thundered Burgess in exasperation, but how many know the verse, that so many versions leave out- I have shipped with Burgess once before/And I think I know him well/If a man’s a seaman, he can get along/If not, then he’s sure in Hell//Now that, I’ll stand by! Nothing worse than whiny dogs who moan about how hard everything is. Why, once I had to put down a mutiny! On April 20, 1874, we were cleared to sail from San Francisco for Liverpool with a cargo wheat when the crew objected to their conditions and delayed the departure for five days. Five days I lost!

In the hiatus that followed, I decided that poetry might soothe the savage breast of the incensed Captain: I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,/And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;/And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,/And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.//I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide is a wild call and clear call that may not be denied/And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,/And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying// I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,/To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;/And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,/And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.// [insert song]

The long trick’s over for all of us here, I mused, and all that’s left is this circle around the fire as we eat, drink, and reminisce. I know a sea shanty we used to sing to keep our spirits up as we hauled the anchor or the raised the sails. I looked across at the speaker. He was the other member of the trio on the dory. A man in his early twenties by the look of him, dressed in long, loose trousers with a Monmouth cap on his head. He held a white shirt in his hands and was deftly sewing a rent in the arm.

I remember returning to Cobh after a long stint at sea. We limped past Roche’s Point and as we rounded Spike Island- the cheers that went up! We couldn’t wait to get ashore and into our favourite taverns. Oh, how we would make the rafters roar! Where, exactly, is the holy ground? I enquired. Scuttlebutt will have it that it refers to the red-light district, he said, pulling on his mended shirt, but I reckon it’s Ireland. Nothing of the sort! God’s own country is Maine in the U S of A, exclaimed Burgess. You need your head read, scoffed MacColl.  Gentlemen, gentlemen we can all agree that our own particular places are to us, holy places.

Ever the pacifier, I felt I had to intervene before tempers began to boil. The Holy Ground exists outside the lusty taverns of 19th Century, Cork. There is sacred ground everywhere, and some, say with the perspective of astronauts looking back at the blue dot from the vastness of space, would characterise all of this earth as holy or sacred ground. That so much of it (to say nothing of the waters around and flowing through it; or the air which passes over it) is despoiled by violence and pollution and injustice makes one wonder if Gaia herself is unleashing pestilence such as COVID-19 to teach us a salutary lesson to say nothing of the tsunamis, earthquakes, firestorms, floods and famines that remind us of Biblical times. Sorry to preach, I say in response to the searching gaze they subject me to. Maybe we should just sing that wonderful song! [insert song]

And as the rousing chorus of The Holy Ground fades, we see the fire-lit faces of the quartet in the campsite, and we notice that other denizens washed up on the enchanted island are drifting into the space and so the circle widens as music rings out again. CYA.

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- 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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 6

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes, Episode 6! Regular listeners to the posts know that the Letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate. First, they were plain old letters, then postcards, and afterwards, postscripts. Now they have become footnotes!

All you need is the tiniest seed to land on whatever passes as fertile soil, however feeble, however sparse and uninviting. Life goes on here on the shores of the magical island located inside the vast gyre off the coast of Quotidia where castaways from time and space wash up to fill the isle with sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

I’m talking with Kevin Baker who reminds me that when he sang me the words of the song he had written about the Snowy River Men back in 1988 that I seemed more preoccupied with other matters and paid little heed to the value of the research he had undertaken in Australia’s Alpine region and especially the coup of obtaining the letter to Mrs Allen, mother of one of the slain in the Great War which formed the backbone of the song. Ah, Kevin, I replied, I’ve always been something of a slow study- not to mention self-absorbed as I was then and remain!

But I certainly learned to appreciate the song more as time went on, as when a teaching colleague in North Queensland in 1991 put in a cassette tape when she was giving me a lift home and your song pumped out into the cabin of the Holden Ute she was driving. And, so, we continued to reminisce about the times we played together at the docks in Port Kembla and The Boree Creek Pub in Narrandera as part of Currency Folk with John Broomhall, also at various places in Wollongong with Seannachie for a short while. Then, at the Boat Club in Cushendall when you visited Ireland in 1981 and again when I returned to Australia in 1988 in venues around Sydney and at a couple of folk festivals over the years until we lost touch in the noughties.

My last memory of you Kevin was in the mid-teens of this century when you were in a residential home. You had asked to see me but when I got there with Joe from Seannachie, who had become a friend and support for you, your mind had deteriorated, and you didn’t recognise me. But it’s good to see you, now, here in the great gyre off the coast of Quotidia.

Another sad note, for me, was the failure of the 2015 re-enactment of the 1916 Snowy River March where only $75 of a $12,000 target was raised, for traffic control. But let’s not dwell on that but, instead remember that admirable non-combatant from the Snowy River Men contingent, Ernie Corey, who carried a stretcher throughout the campaign. According to ACT Libraries, in a contribution by Michael Hall,

He was the only man in World War I to be awarded Military Medal and three bars. He was awarded the Military Medal four times – at Queant (near Bullecourt) in May 1917, Polygon Wood in September 1917, at Peronne in September 1918 and later that month at Bellicourt on the Hindenburg Line. In the March 1931 edition of Reveille the commanding officer of the 55th Battalion described Corey “as a splendid soldier whose temper remained unruffled even in most adverse circumstances” and that “Corey was of powerful physique and, invariably while out stretcher-bearing, he wore white shorts, carried his stretcher perpendicularly, but seldom made use of it, preferring to pick up his patients under one of his strong arms, and walk back with him, still holding the stretcher perpendicularly with the other.  He had an undaunted spirit, and worked almost up to the enemy wire, rescuing wounded – foe as well as friend”. He enlisted for service in World War II, died in August 1972 and is buried in the ex-servicemen’s portion of the Woden Cemetery in Canberra. His medals are on display in the Australian War Memorial, as is the ‘Men from Snowy River’ banner used in the march of 1916. Talk about a war hero- Ernie Corey was the example par excellence! So, Kevin, here is my version of  your splendid song The Snowy River Men  [insert song]

Scarcely has the last notes of the song faded that I see a man striding along the strand waving his arms and, as he came up to me, he stated that in 1917 he had served in France in the ambulance corps for five months until imprisoned in an enormous room with his friend William Slater Brown just because he didn’t hate the Germans and wrote anti-war letters and preferred the company of French soldiers to those in the American ambulance corps. Well, what do you know, I was in the presence of e. e. cummings, who is one of my favourite American poets. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind reciting one of his anti-war poems.

He looked at me as though he wanted to hit me, but, perhaps because he was on the enchanted island at the bullseye of the great gyre swirling off the coast of Quotidia, he started: What if a much of a which of a wind/gives the truth to summer’s lie;/bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun/and yanks immortal stars awry?/Blow king to beggar and queen to seem/(blow friend to fiend: blow space to time)/-when skies are hanged and oceans drowned,/the single secret will still be man//what if a keen of a lean wind flays/screaming hills with sleet and snow:/strangles valleys by ropes of thing/and stifles forests in white ago?/Blow hope to terror; blow seeing to bling/(blow pity to envy and soul to mind)/-whose hearts are mountains, roots are trees,/it’s they shall cry hello to the spring//what if a dawn of a doom of a dream/bites this universe in two,/peels forever out of his grave/and sprinkles nowhere with me and you?/Blow soon to never and never to twice/(blow life to isn’t: blow death to was)/- all nothing’s only our hugest home;/the most who die, the more we live//

Thanks, I said, I’m delighted you were able to do that for me, but I’m a bit confused over the line, Blow soon to never and never to twice. He just looked at me patiently…Oh! Right! It’s about the se-Second World War, I stammered. He glanced around at the swaying palms of our semi-tropical island- give that man a coconut! And he strode off along the strand looking for more salubrious company. [insert song]

I stood wondering. Why so many great songs about the first world war? It was supposed to be the war to end all wars- and look how that turned out. In retrospect, it was just the prelim match for the bigger second conflict. And the Korean War, which technically is still in progress, continues to resist an iconic song about it. And are all those poxy proxy wars in a lifetime since just preparing us for the big daddy of them all which Putin in Ukraine seems to be tilling the ground for?

The Vietnam War, which the Vietnamese called the American War is a war I was just too young for- but one of my friends from Aruba enlisted in the marines and was killed in the late sixties. My friend, Johnny, with whom I drank poteen in the 1980s, has served on patrol boats on the Mekong Delta. He died cleaning oil tanks in the Philippines in 1990. The folk-band Banter sang one of the iconic Australian songs of the conflict in the mid-1990s. The Australian War Memorial has this to say,

I was only 19 was released in March 1983 when discussion of the Vietnam War, which had so fiercely divided public opinion a decade earlier, was generally avoided in polite conversation. A generation of veterans had been left feeling isolated and with a belief they had been forgotten by their country. I was only 19 provided a fresh perspective, presenting a compelling sympathetic account of an Australian soldier’s experience of the war and its aftermath. Concentrating on the toll paid by those who took part rather than debating the merits of the war itself, it became the quintessential song of the Australian Vietnam War veteran. I still remember a Vietnam Vet watching us perform. When I asked him what he thought he said he thought we were making mock of the song to start with as it was much faster than the original, but he decided by the end of our song that it was legit. Another lucky escape for me? Here, now,  is my version of I was only 19.  [insert song] Until the next issue of Covers for Castaways next week CYAL8R

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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 5

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes, Episode 5! Regular listeners to the posts know that the Letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate. First, they were plain old letters, then postcards, and afterwards, postscripts. Now they have become footnotes!

All you need is the tiniest seed to land on whatever passes as fertile soil, however feeble, however sparse and uninviting. Life goes on! Here in Sydney, summer beckons and so too those clever weeds which jeer every year at my attempts to make my grass and garden, such as they are, conform to something not a million miles away from those photos you see on lifestyle magazines and programs. So, too, instead of keeling over and dying, the footnotes have found another chance of life by transforming from Demos for Damocles into Covers for Castaways!

Gosh, it’s almost like it was predicted or something! Somewhere off the coast of Quotidia is a vast swirling gyre in which is trapped all the plastic waste and detritus of the surrounding ocean. Trapped, too, are those fugitives from…wherever, who have foundered or crashed or blundered into the gyre and then, somehow, made their way to the magical central island which offers basic sustenance and shelter. And those castaways arrive on the island with little more than the songs that have defined them over their lives.

They may, indeed, think of themselves as inhabiting the island of Shakespeare’s, Tempest where they find themselves surrounded by Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not/.Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments/Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,/That, if I then had waked after long sleep,/Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,/The clouds methought would open, and show riches/Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,/I cried to dream again. Are you like Caliban, the monster who loves music?  So, too, am I. The vast swirling gyre off the coast of Quotidia affects not only the physical parameters of our world but also those of time- for pulled into its whirlpool are people from various eras in the history of our world.

The Covers for Castaways are from the folk and popular music traditions of the English-speaking diaspora and are available to all of you who are castaways, on whatever shore your life may have washed you up on. Perhaps you, too, have been swept onto that magical central island that forms the bullseye of the great gyre swirling off the coast of Quotidia. As we walk along the shore of our island we encounter our first castaway, Dominic Behan, who is singing as he throws shells back into the surf churning at his feet. I recognise the song, it’s The Sea Around Us. [insert song]

He was born in 1928 into the literary Behan family of Dublin. A prodigious talent as a songwriter and singer, short story writer and novelist, he was also a playwright who wrote in Irish and English. I encountered him once when, Brendan, my older brother, and I hitchhiked to Bundoran on the Donegal coast from our home in Cushendall in the Glens of Antrim in 1965. He was giving a one-man show in the Parochial hall, and he entertained us with humour and passion.

He died in 1989. But here on the magical island at the centre of that swirling gyre,  we get chatting and he reveals he is still sore at Bob Dylan for stealing from his song, The Patriot Game to write With God On Our Side . When Dylan suggested they let the lawyers sort it out Behan retorted that he had two lawyers at the end of his wrists, and he would prefer that they do the talking. I, of course, maintained a diplomatic silence over Dominic Behan’s many borrowings from others, often without attribution.

A case in point is Avondale, a short, melodious tribute to one of Ireland’s heroes. In Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, there is a gravestone of unhewn Wicklow granite. On it, is inscribed one word. Nothing else is needed. Such is the fame, among the Irish, of the person there interred, that anything else would be superfluous. And the word? Parnell. Also known as “the uncrowned king of Ireland,” Charles Stewart Parnell was born into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family which could boast links with American naval hero Admiral Charles Stewart as well as the British Royal family through his great-grandmother who belonged to the Tudor family. He was a complex mix of conservative inclinations and revolutionary entanglements. Having little detailed knowledge of the Irish tradition of resistance and its luminaries, he would, nevertheless become its figurehead in the imagination of the Irish struggling classes at home and abroad.

So then, what is a toff like Parnell doing in such company? Well, you know, he is not alone. Sir Roger Casement, another scion of the Anglo-Irish establishment and, incidentally, one of the earliest human rights activists in that he revealed the atrocious treatment of native workers at the hands of imperialists in the Belgian Congo. This place was also known as- thanks to Joseph Conrad-  the heart of darkness. Casement is celebrated in song as a hero of the Easter Rising of 1916. And, if we skip back a couple of centuries, we find a descendent of the French Protestant Huguenots who fled to Britain, one Theobold Wolfe Tone, a founder of the United Irishmen.

Not one of these men lived to make old bones: Tone was dead at 35 under unclear circumstances, Casement was hanged for high treason at age 51 and Parnell died at age 45, after a scandal involving his long-time mistress and mother to his children, Kitty O’Shea. Being a hero is tough in any tradition. But if you’re Irish, and you want to come into the parlour of nationalistic Ireland’s prim regard, you’ll need to be squeaky clean in the eyes of the gatekeepers of traditional sexual morality as well as possessing the usual comprehensive skill set of those who aspire to be leaders of others.

Like that headstone in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, the song, Avondale, provides little in the way of information about its subject. But its evocation of the lovely surrounds of Parnell’s birthplace is a feature and he bestows a heroic epithet on the charismatic and talented leader of the Irish parliamentary party- one better than, adulterer, which cruelled his career and Ireland’s hopes of achieving Home Rule. The heroic epithet?- Avondale’s proud eagle. It tickled me to learn, as I was researching the background of Avondale, that Dominic Behan lifted– in the way of folk artists everywhere who often “borrow” from other sources- the tune of a 19th Century loyalist song, “The Orange Maid of Sligo!” [insert song]  

The Patriot Game was written by Dominic Behan to the tune of an Irish traditional song, The Merry Month of May . Its narrator is Fergal O’Hanlon, who was a member of an IRA team who attacked the RUC barracks at Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh on New Year’s Day, 1957. He, along with Sean South from Limerick, was killed; also killed in the attack was a young Catholic constable, John Scalley. I sang the song many years ago at a pub in western Sydney and a couple of blokes there objected to the “IRA song”. Yet, I view the song as an example of the tragic deaths fuelled by love of country, particularly of young men. Interestingly, Christy Moore, the greatest practising singer-songwriter in Ireland today, notes that the song is often requested at his gigs by British soldiers.

Where, I wonder, do you stand on the issue? Are you with Samuel Johnson who wrote, Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Or do you prefer Oscar Wilde’s, Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. George Bernard Shaw sighed, You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race. Much more gung-ho was Thomas Jefferson who thundered, The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. His compatriot and contemporary, Benjamin Franklin sneered, A man who would sacrifice freedom for security deserves neither. I, myself, have had varying positions on the subject but with Mark Twain now say,  Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Here is The Patriot Game. [insert song] CUL8R

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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.

Letters From Quotidia the footnotes Episode 4

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia, the footnotes! Regular listeners to the posts know that the letters just refuse to lie down and die but rather, taking their cue from the coronavirus, continue to mutate: first they were plain old letters, then postcards, then postscripts, now they have become footnotes!

This is the fourth and final footnote of the quartet, Demos for Damocles and it deals with teenage love as well as love in old age- and, also, a strange meeting along the winding way. But let us start in the maelstrom of hormones turbocharging the adolescent brain that finds expression in all sorts of media from the ubiquitously crude anatomical scrawls on the doors and walls of public toilets to the sublime lines of William Shakespeare’s deathless drama: Romeo and Juliet. Between the dung-pit of the former and the sunlit pinnacle of the latter, you will no doubt be able to slot in many examples of your own.

But listen: Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs./Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;/Being vex’d a sea nourish’d with lovers’ tears./So says the grandiloquent Romeo, but Juliet effortlessly surpasses his efforts at expressing love- as found here, Give me my Romeo, and, when I shall die,/Take him and cut him out in little stars,/And he will make the face of heaven so fine/That all the world will be in love with night,/And pay no worship to the garish sun./

In a previous Letter From Quotidia I recounted a poem I used with year-nine teenage students purportedly written by a girl whose boyfriend had gone off to Vietnam. It’s by Merrill Glass and whether true or apocryphal, it had a powerful effect on my class, 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, andyou 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 areso many things I wanted to tell/you when you returned from/Vietnam…/But you didn’t.//

The song I offer as a study in teenage love has two parents: First, Wordsworth, who defined poetry as emotion recollected in tranquillity. Second, Thomas Hardy, who was 72 when he began to write some of the most moving love poems as a reaction to the death of his wife Emma. I wrote then, Now- deluded as I may be about a lot of things- I’m not about to compare myself to these giants! I’m thinking about my mid-teens when I was caught a maelstrom over the developing relationship with my girlfriend- who is now my wife- ineffable proof that even miserable sods like me can strike it lucky. Here is From Your Spell [insert song]

I’ll now present Ambrose Bierce’s version of the 10 Commandments. According to Poetry Foundation he professed to be mainly concerned with the artistry of his work, yet critics find him more intent on conveying his misanthropy and pessimism. In his lifetime, Bierce was famous as a journalist dedicated to exposing the truth as he understood it, regardless of whose reputations were harmed by his attacks. For his sardonic wit and damning observations on the personalities and events of the day, he became known as “the wickedest man in San Francisco.”

I prefer to remember him as I presented him in Postscripts Episode 4, “He served with distinction in the Union Army during the Civil War, receiving newspaper accolades for his daring rescue under fire of a gravely wounded comrade at the battle of Rich Mountain. He sustained a traumatic brain injury at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864, but he survived and thrived, Bierce’s ultimate fate remains a mystery. He wrote in one of his final letters: Good-bye. If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags, please know that I think it is a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico–ah, that is euthanasia!”

Here is his take on Arthur Hugh Clough’s The Latest Decalogue which he entitled, The New Decalogue. Have but one God: thy knees were sore/If bent in prayer to three or four.//Adore no images save those/The coinage of thy country shows.//Take not the Name in vain. Direct/Thy swearing unto some effect.//Thy hand from Sunday work be held—/Work not at all unless compelled.//Honour thy parents, and perchance/ Their wills thy fortunes may advance.//Kill not—death liberates thy foe/From persecution’s constant woe.//Kiss not thy neighbour’s wife. Of course,/There’s no objection to divorce.//To steal were folly, for ’tis plain/In cheating there is greater gain.//Bear not false witness. Shake your head/And say that you have “heard it said.”//Who stays to covet ne’er will catch/An opportunity to snatch./

I have a large store of riffs and chord sequences built up over the years. One sequence from, forty years ago, popped into my head trailing remnants of text behind it. This was the chorus, of the song, A Brief Encounter, you are shortly going to hear. The image of an old man with a suitcase, waiting in the rain on the side of the road surfaced and, perhaps, he was quoting from Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary to while away the time as he waited for someone to stop and offer him a ride, Cannon (n) An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries. Faith (n) Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. Religion (n) A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. And then I pulled over to the side of the road and asked him if he wanted a lift. [insert song]

The final song of the Demos for Damocles is one I never imagined I would write, as I was speculating about it all those years ago. In Postscript 5 I wrote, “I was a callow youth with pimples and pretensions in the year 1967. To be anywhere in the British Isles in those years of the mid-sixties as a music-loving teenager was to be in some iteration of heaven. Hey Joe, knocked me sideways when first I heard it, and Purple Haze knocked me completely out of the park! In the summer of 67 ‘, I went into a music store to buy Hendrix’s first LP, and the strangest thing happened: the girl behind the counter tried to talk me out of making the purchase. Apparently, the cover design with the flamboyant Hendrix with his band and what she had picked up from scuttlebutt and the usual puerile vapouring of presenters on local radio prompted her to attempt to save me from…who knows?

I bought the LP after a brief tussle with the assistant I have no ill aftereffects to report more than 55 years later. The B side of Purple Haze was 51st Wedding Anniversary and I had just started going out with my girlfriend, later to be my wife, and remember puzzling about what such an anniversary would be like for me, for us. I don’t need to puzzle any more as that very anniversary occurred on 3rd July 2022. Here is the song I wrote to mark the occasion- Our 51st Wedding Anniversary Song.” [insert song]

Thus endeth the final footnote of Demos For Damocles. If there were to be more footnotes, I imagine they would have to be tied to something similar to the Demos and with my penchant for alliteration they would have to carry the burden of a title such as, oh, Covers For Castaways? As usual, only time will tell. But let me finish this post with what Ambrose Bierce had to say about Youth (n.) The Period of Possibility, when Archimedes finds a fulcrum, Cassandra has a following and seven cities compete for the honour of endowing a living Homer. Youth is the true Saturnian Reign, the Golden Age on earth again, when figs are grown on thistles, and pigs betailed with whistles and, wearing silken bristles, live ever in clover, and cows fly over, delivering milk at every door, and Justice is never heard to snore, and every assassin is made a ghost and, howling, is cast into Baltimost! I guess he didn’t much like Baltimore. So, until, perhaps, a next time- take care!

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- 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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.