Letters From Quotidia Episode 131 No Angel Will Interfere, After All These Years

Letters From Quotidia Episode 131 No Angel Will Interfere, After All These Years

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 131 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Forty-six years ago, we lived in Gwynneville, a suburb of Wollongong, between the botanic gardens and the university. I drove a white Ford Falcon station wagon from that quiet little suburb to Warrawong High School 10 klicks along the Princess Highway for the five years or so we lived here. I was involved with a couple of folk groups and heavily into the pub and club scene, as you do when you’re in your mid-twenties. Ends of a candle and the burning thereof springs to mind. If I spent three evenings a week at home, it was only because I needed to recuperate from the ravages of the other nights and, it may be, that in some dark and narrow crevice of conscience, I conceded that I owed some time to the needs of my wife and two kids.

Husband and father of the year was one title I could not aspire to, even were that honour to be limited only to the dozen or so residences of the short block we lived on. Listening to our collection of LPs while having a drink or two after the kids were in bed was a scene of marital contentment in those intermittent evenings of domesticity. Linda Ronstadt and Kris Kristofferson were on heavy rotation, blasting from our junkyard-purchased record player and we particularly liked his eponymous first album which we had brought out with us from Belfast. That year we were also knocked out by The Carpenter’s album, Horizon. So, with a drip feed of songs such as  Linda Ronstadt’s You’re No Good and I Fall To Pieces, or Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night and Sunday Morning Coming Down or Karen Carpenter’s beautiful rendering of Desperado and Solitaire it was inevitable that, notwithstanding my commitment to folk music, I would write  a country-influenced reflection on where I was at that year when I got around to writing a song about it.

As I said in the last podcast, I changed the title from Three Views of You to No Angel Will Interfere. Should you happen to be as self-absorbed as I was back then, I can recommend song writing as an antidote to that condition. In the song, I was able to look at myself from my wife’s point of view, in three vignettes or snapshots. Did it enable me to amend my behaviour for the better? Yeah, a little bit. And, little by little is an effective long-term strategy, for, I’ve been reliably informed, that after fifty years of marriage, I’m almost house-trained. Almost. [insert song]

The phrase, after all these years, is in common use, one might even say, a cliché. Back in 1975, Paul Simon was crazy, after all these years and as outlined before, I think I was too, at that time. Which is the theme of the second half of this podcast. Shakespeare, in Sonnet 19 tells us, Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,/And make the earth devour her own sweet brood. Robert Herrick, in the 17th Century, advised the virgins to make much of time: Then be not coy, but use your time,/And while ye may, go marry;/For having lost but once your prime,/ You may forever, tarry. Carl Sandburg, another poet I’ve quoted before, in his free verse poem, Clocks, written towards the end of the First World War, observes: Here is a face that says half-past seven the same way whether a murder or a wedding goes on…And of course, there are wristwatches over the pulses of airmen eager to go to France.

Well, I could go on, and on. But time’s passing and- oh, what the heck! I can’t resist quoting Phillip Larkin’s brilliant poem, Days : What are days for?/ Days are where we live./ They come, they wake us/Time and time over./They are to be happy in:/Where can we live but days?// Ah, solving that question/ Brings the priest and the doctor/ In their long coats/ Running over the fields.

You know, once upon a time, I was a zealot, opposed to anything that approached the maudlin, the nostalgic, the rose-tinted survey of the good old days- Happy Days, anyone? Why on earth, I wondered, would anyone living in the 70s wish to look back to the 1950s? Not me. The repertoire of songs I covered were focussed on highwaymen, outlaws, lusty sailors, and suchlike. Well, I’m no longer living in the 70s (incidentally, Australian listeners of a certain age will recognise that phrase as a song and album title of a popular Melbourne group at the time, The Skyhooks.) Now to the present: I’m living through my 70s, if my luck holds out, that is!

But back in the day, as the young’uns express it, my claws were sharp, and I would rip to pieces anything sweet or sentimental. However, devouring time does blunt the lion’s paws, and, gradually, my repertoire of songs has broadened, and, as several people have noticed, my beam also has! I’m as likely to sing a sweet song of remembrance now as one about a bloody battleground. Our 50th wedding anniversary has come and gone, and I am still unable to treat my wife to a relaxing weekend in some posh harbour digs here in Sydney, thanks to continuing COVID lockdowns. My younger self- even one of a just few years ago, would not have believed I would sing this next Foster and Allen hit from a long time ago of a long-married life- After All These Years, but there you are, and here we go! [insert song]

For next week we will leave the gentler and more elegiac world of this podcast for one more in line with themes of war and desolation. The Foggy Dew is a song of war, written by a Catholic priest, in about 1919. And there is a family connection here which I will explain in Letter 132. The original composition is from the nineteen seventies, and I was living between and among the genres of country, folk, rock, and pop as well as more apocalyptic and experimental genres. As I look, now, at the original manuscript page, I see written at the top in black ink-well, it figures- song/poem/fallout/ and under this the word “Descent” with the words “working title” in brackets. Oh, enough said- I’ll see you all next time…

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

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

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 130 Avondale, Another End

Letters From Quotidia Episode 130 Avondale, Another End

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 130 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

In 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. He 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.

Dominic Behan wrote the  first song of this post, Avondale, a short, melodious tribute to Parnell. Like that headstone in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, it 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. [insert song]

As a postscript for those who may not have heard my other podcasts where Dominic Behan songs feature: 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. He died in 1989 and I’m sure I will sing one or two more of his marvellous output before I finish my podcasts. A final point: it tickled me to learn, as I was researching the background of Avondale, that he 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”

But now to the second song of the podcast, Another End. When I came across the original, smudged and fading photocopy of the lyrics- produced using a portable Remington typewriter, one of my prized possessions, I read the note at the bottom of the page where I had appended the following info: “This piece is experimental. The meaning is not only read across the page as usual but also vertically, or down the page.” I cringed with embarrassment and would have chucked it onto the reject pile which was gathering around me but for the fact that I came across another page where I had set out chords for the songs (18 in all) which I had recorded onto cassette tape for a record executive in Paris, where my sister, Monica, assured me, she could get a hearing for them. I don’t know what became of the tape- another of life’s little mysteries- although I can see, in my mind’s eye, an unopened cassette tape arcing through the Parisian office air into the cylindrical filing repository for all such unsolicited items.

But back to the present; before the song joined the winnowing accumulating around me, I played through the chords several times and, in a short time, recovered the simple melody from my memory. So, the song made the cut. Older and wiser now, I will not duplicate the arrangement of words on the page which certainly looks tres artistique. And my reason: I think, for the time being, I have provided quite enough hilarity out there at my expense! The song was written largely towards the end of 1979 when I was wondering if I would ever get a job again and finished in January 1980 when I learned that I had obtained temporary employment at Roger Casement’s old school, Ballymena Academy.

Another End shares DNA with the song, No Surrender, found in  Letters From Quotidia, Episode 72, which was written in a caravan in 1995 from whence I set out on a brutal commute to a teaching job which commenced in the dark from the outer west of Sydney, all the way into Circular Quay and then to Manly across the harbour. It took three hours each way. Again, I wondered if there would be an end to the crushing tedium I endured. There was an end to it, of course, eventually, but until that time arrived, I lived within the following lines of Baudelaire: When a heavy lid of low sky/covers a soul moaning with ennui and fright/and the whole horizon is rounded by/ a black day pouring down sadder than any night:/…Long hearses roll, slow, silent, hypnotic, through my soul. Ah, yes you can always trust the poets of this world to find a match to the inchoate, emotional and spiritual tangle you find yourself in at times- but be aware that you may have to search long and hard to find that match. And, believe me, it’s worth it! [insert song]

Thanks to the discovery of lost songs, mentioned in my last post, I can tell you the name and genre of the next original composition: No Angel Will Interfere. Apart from the original title, Three Views of You, which I junked, substituting instead the last four words of the song, this simple country composition is just as written in Wollongong, New South Wales, in 1975. Three verses with no chorus, bridge or middle eight. The other song is one that, a couple of years ago, I couldn’t imagine myself ever singing. There’ll be more about this next week.

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

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

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 129 I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day, I Belong

Letters From Quotidia Episode 129 I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day, I Belong

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 129 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Strange how things leak through from post to post. Take line 430 of T. S. Eliot’s, The Waste Land, These fragments I have shored against my ruins, which we encountered only last week.  It has continuing resonance in this post. In my battle against my nemesis, Writers Block, a fearsome foe, who first appeared as the swaggering bully he is in Letter number 123, I have resorted to a variety of stratagems to foil the brute. First, I went through my overstuffed desk drawer where I rifled through folders of yellowing pages to no avail. Nothing sparked. I skimmed a few books of poetry with nothing to show but a rising tide of envy as I was swamped by tsunamis of verse superior to anything I could fabricate. In desperation, I resorted to opening the front of my garage where I had deposited, many, many moons ago, my accumulated literary and musical ephemera.

Now, realising that my filing system leaves something to be desired  (and by something, I mean, of course, everything), I spent one long, hot, September afternoon here in western Sydney rooting through an assortment of boxes, files, and manila folders full of material going back almost half a century, setting aside those pages that held even a meagre promise of something approaching nourishment for my starving muse. So, gathering an armful of discoloured, insect-stained papers, and to the horror of my wife who witnessed my ill-tempered traverse of the kitchen, I returned to my workroom to winnow further the results of  my hopeful harvest.

I surveyed what was there- a  sometimes forlorn testament to  my attempts at songs and writing projects from the nineteen seventies, eighties and early nineties. The faint traces of some of the melodies were uncovered,  slowly and patiently, as I deciphered the chords and musical jottings set down years before. I liken it to an archaeologist putting together a broken vase from an ancient site in Greece, where, perhaps, he inserts an educated guess as to the shape of fragments missing and those ornamental details abraded by time. I favour this analogy over that of the scientist in Mary Shelley’s’ masterpiece, Frankenstein, who labours to create a new but hideous life. You’ll hear the result of my first reclamation at the end of this post.

But first: I’m a man you don’t meet every day. A contested song as so many are. Is it Irish, Scottish, from Norfolk or Somerset or somewhere else? It has variants in 19th Century America and Australia. I use lyrics where the dog in the song does not get shot. In some variants, the pooch perishes. Barney McKenna, of revered memory, usually the non-singing tenor banjo maestro of The Dubliners, presented a compelling version of the song- as he did also for Fiddler’s Green, a song I have covered earlier in Postcards From Quotidia Edition 10. I trust his reading of the song, although I do take it a bit faster than he. [insert song]

The next song also finds us examining a young person, who does not possess any of the braggadocio of the former nor his self-possession, nor his assured place in society. Of course, in folk music, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Jock Stewart, the hero of I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day, emerges from an outsider tradition. One of last century’s best-known singers of the song just heard was Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen, one of the Travellers, a marginalised group there, as in Ireland. She had a prodigious repertoire and, in an encounter in 1953 with Alan Lomax, the legendary American collector and folklorist, she sang a traditional song, Andrew Lammie, which lasted over 13 minutes. So, when  she had finished singing, she spent some time telling Lomax about those parts of the story not covered in the song!

But now- to the unearthed and reconstructed song, I Belong. And here’s another example of serendipity-defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.” I had long resigned myself to having lost the song but my excavation in the front of my garage brought it to light. I remembered it particularly because I was pleased by the shape it took in Townsville in 1991 where I was experimenting with an elaborate electric guitar-and-pedal set-up at a friend’s place. I had been commissioned to write a musical play to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Burdekin Theatre and my protagonists were a couple of homeless teenagers from Sydney. The play also dealt with other outsiders, including aboriginal people and mental patients.

At this time, too, reports of hate crimes against transsexual people were in the news and I crafted a song about a young person (male or female is not specified within the song, and this, I think, is part of the point). However, neither the character nor the song ended up in the final draft for the production and I thought it was lost forever. There are a handful of songs- five to be precise- from that trove, that I will work with to fulfil my intentions of providing a folk song and corresponding original composition over the coming weeks. There were quite a few more but they were consigned to oblivion again as they did not meet the criteria for one reason or another, chief among them was the embarrassment they would cause to even such a thick-skinned individual as me were they ever to see the light of day.

So, here’s the first of that trove I completed: the song tries to explore the situation of someone not at home in their skin. The phrase from the first verse of the song, “sleeping with a stranger” encompasses sleeping with oneself as well as the more obvious reading. I Belong is not a typical composition of mine, but it offers a counterbalance to the first song. See what you think. [insert song]  

Next week will feature a song written by  that fine Irish songsmith Dominic Behan about the great 19th Century parliamentarian, Charles Stewart Parnell. This is followed by a peculiar song I wrote in Ireland in early 1980. More about this in episode 130.    

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

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

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 128 Felix the Soldier, Fragments Piled Against My Ruin

Letters From Quotidia Episode 128 Felix the Soldier, Fragments Piled Against My Ruin

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 128 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

For the Great Gaels of Ireland/Are the men that God made mad,/For all their wars are merry/ And all their songs are sad./ That’s all I’m going to quote from G. K. Chesterton’s great epic poem, The White Horse, in ballad form about the victory of King Alfred the Great over the Danes at the battle of Ethandun in 878 A.D. If you want the other 2,680 lines, you’ll have to look elsewhere. These four lines are well-worn, as accompaniments to song, poetry, articles about matters Irish and a host of other prefatory duties. You may ask: Am I, here and now, going to break with the stereotype, and strike out on usages original, novel or unanticipated? No, no I’m not.

The first song in this post is, Felix the Soldier. And here’s what Alan Lomax, that great and influential American folklorist has to say- and thanks to FolksongIndex.com for the info:  “If soldier folk songs were the only evidence, it would seem that the armies that fought in early American wars were composed of Irishmen. The finest folk ballads of the Indian Wars, the American Revolution, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Plains Indian War, all had Irish tunes.” The site also gives an historical reference: 1754-1763, French and Indian War (the hottest phase of the colonial conflict between France and England). The Irish military diaspora has campaigned in both the Old World and the New, featuring such luminaries as Owen Roe O’Neill, born 1585-died 1649,  a chieftain of the O’Neill dynasty of Ulster who fought with the Spanish forces against the Dutch during the 80 Years’ War or, infamously from an American point of view, Major-General Robert Ross who led the attack on Washington DC during the war of 1812 and who subsequently ordered the burning of quite a few public buildings including the White House and Capitol building on 24th August 1814.

I could enumerate many more illustrious military figures but let’s focus now on the many thousands of nameless men from all parts of Ireland who were driven to military service by poverty and privation. Felix the soldier is one such man. Whether a man called Felix wrote the song, who knows? I like to imagine that such is the case, that he summoned from memory a hornpipe that he knew and put a few words to the tune. And giving imagination free reign, I also imagine that he sustained his injury from the siege of Quebec in 1759. There are no additional parts to the song and I think deedly-dee mouth-music would have substituted for any fancy instrumentation as the soldier boys shivered around a campfire. [insert song]

T S Eliot hove into my mental view like an ocean liner bearing down upon a sailing dinghy. Typical school poetry anthologies of the 1960s were no preparation for the impact The Waste Land made on me as I slumped at the back of the room of the Eng-Lit lecture where I first encountered the work of  the magisterial American titan in 1969: April is the cruellest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain./

Well, I certainly qualified then (and, perhaps, even now) as a dull root, waiting for revivifying spring rain. And recently, knowing I would be returning to Eliot’s masterpiece of 1922, and having reviewed some of the critical work of a century later, I roared with laughter to discover that the poet dissed his own achievement by commenting in a lecture at Harvard, “To me it was only the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life; it is just a piece of rhythmical grumbling” To borrow from Winston Churchill,  whose 1941 riposte to the French collaborator Marshal Petain’s claim that Hitler would overrun England in three weeks and wring its neck like a chicken, still makes me chuckle- Some chicken, some neck! Yeah, T S, old chap! some rhythm, some grumble!

The title of the song at the end of this post, Fragments Piled Against My Ruin, borrows from line 430 of The Waste Land, These fragments I have shored against my ruins.  The splintered milieu of post-war Europe which saw the collapse of several Empires and the ravages of a pandemic that claimed up to 50 million lives, finds an echo today in the aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan, and our ongoing struggles with COVID. Of course, our lives count for little against the backdrop of huge events such as those referenced in the poem and are immeasurably less important- but they are all that we possess and, therefore, if we choose to shore up our ruins by gathering around us the fragments of our own creations, whatever they may be, then that is justification enough in my humble opinion.

Re-reading the Eliot poem raked out the ash choking my writer’s block or, to keep the metaphor consistent with the opening lines of The Waste Land, the spring rain percolated down to the dull roots and stirred memory and desire and, even if stimulating only a rhythmical grumble, it, nevertheless, produced the words and music of an original composition that was so earnestly promised in the previous post. Devotees of the poem will, no doubt, find correspondences between some the lyrics of the song and Eliot’s fine work. Such borrowings are entirely conscious and deliberate.[insert song]

I will be seeking spring rains (for such is the season now in Sydney) to replenish the unconscious reservoirs of creativity in order to fulfil my mission of crafting posts which feature a folk song  on the one hand, and an original and apposite composition, on the other.

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

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

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 127 Matchstalk Men and Match-stalk Cats and Dogs, Maggie

Letters From Quotidia Episode 127 Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs, Maggie

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 127 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

In 1968, I was still infatuated by the psychedelic ethos and dressed accordingly. I am forever grateful that no images survive of me in my day-glo garb- no phone cameras or social media then, thank God- because I would, no doubt, have been an avid adopter of these technologies. What will also date me is the fact that I can remember when Status Quo burst onto the scene with their psychedelic pop hit, Pictures of Matchstick Men which broke into the top ten in January of 1968. The group are still going- although Francis Rossi is the only continuous member from the sixties- and if you want an earful of what they are up to now you should buy tickets for, say, the Retro C Trop Festival in France on Saturday 25th June 2022.

Me, I’m still in lockdown and coming to believe that Sydney is trapped in a time vortex where it’s groundhog day forever. Anyway, were I, somehow,  to escape the vortex I would, in preference, head for Salford, Lancashire where I would visit the Lowry Art Gallery which houses the largest selection of paintings by the rather interesting character, L S Lowry, cited by Wikipedia as holding the record for refusing to accept British honours, including a knighthood, for a total of five knock backs! His instantly recognisable style was the inspiration for the Quo’s first big hit, written by Francis Rossi as he was hiding in the toilet from his wife and mother-in-law.

But it’s not Pictures of Matchstick Men where my interest lies but rather, a one-hit wonder by the duo, Brian and Michael, which cracked the UK charts reaching number 18 in 1978, 10 years after the Quo song and two years after the death of L S Lowry. As I was still in Australia at the time, I didn’t get to know the song, Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs, until about five years ago when I heard it sung by Finbar, off the Fureys album, The Times They Are a Changing, released in 2015. I love their version as I do the original.

The song has an uplifting vibe that many comments attached to the YouTube recording will attest. I only wish that I could write a one-hit wonder such as this. The term, one-hit wonder, is often used pejoratively, mainly by those who haven’t the wherewithal to attempt such a feat. But people like me will give thanks that the gods who rule the music charts have seen fit to reward such great songs as this with the accolade.[insert song]

Towards the end of the American Civil War, a Canadian school teacher named George Washington Johnston walked to the edge of the Niagara escarpment in 1864 and wrote a poem comprising the lyrics of the next song. He had fallen in love with a student of his, Margaret Clark, and they married on 21st October 1864. Their time together was all too brief, as Margaret fell ill and died a little over six months later in 1865. George survived his wife by fifty-two years and died in 1917.

James Austin Butterfield set the poem to music in 1866 and it has been a world-wide hit ever since, covered by many artists, both famous and forgotten across three different centuries. For those who like deep dives into the provenance of such compositions, there is a fascinating discussion about the song on the site Mudcat.org. I will restrict myself to advertising that, as many times before in these letters, I shall declare myself up to the challenge of facing down the legions of more accomplished individuals and groups, across three centuries, no less, who have lent distinction to this composition by presenting my version of the song, Maggie.  

I will preface it by giving thanks that I have been blessed by over fifty years of marriage to my wife, Bridie. Although I was tempted to imitate Sean O’Casey who changed the name of the song to Nora, to fit in with his play- a great play it is, too- The Plough and the Stars– I have resisted the change to the name, Bridie. Why? The extent and depth of my hubris has limits! I hope I do not test the listeners patience too greatly by reciting Sonnet 116 by Shakespeare:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments. Love is not love/That alters when it alteration finds/Or bends with the remover to remove./O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark/That looks on tempests and is never shaken;/It is the star to every wand’ring bark,/ Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken./Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/Within his bending sickle’s compass come;/Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,/But bears it out even to the edge of doom./If this be error and upon me proved,/I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

It’s not for nothing that Shakespeare is credited, by critic Harold Bloom, as being the inventor of the individual sensibility of modern men and women. Modern critical theory regards old Harold as a fossil, but even a fossil can reveal truths that point to matters that need examination- fate of the dinosaurs, anyone? [insert song]

If you are hearing this, I have been unable to write or, perhaps, complete, an original song of sufficient worth to slot in with my weekly podcast schedule. So, forgive the ageing artefact who, with your indulgence, promises to do better, or try, for next time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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