In my first journal entry for the sequence The Summa Quotidian in 2015, I mentioned the fact that it had been fifty years since I had written my first song. For this concluding entry to the sequence, A Bit of Banter, I wish to record the fact that the song included here took me fifty years to complete. I wrote the first part as a 17-year-old, pimply, schoolboy on the inside cover of a Clancy Brothers songbook that I had been working my way through. I added to it over the years, putting a final touch to it
three years ago, when I was 67. A couple of other examples from the 120 songs in The Summa Quotidian, also underwent a similarly, leisurely (some might aver, slothfully) compositional process. By comparison, the 56 songs recorded over a period of three months during the pandemic achieved warp-speed!
Two days ago, before dawn on Anzac day, April 25th, I stood in my driveway and listened to the broadcast from the Australian War Memorial. I set a candle on my letterbox and, glancing up and down the street saw men and women, at the end of their driveways, paying silent tribute to the fallen. A 70-something veteran with a chest full of medals walked past and we nodded a greeting. After the ceremony, I returned to my home where we are in lockdown and thought, this was good, nothing like it before or, perhaps, after. The tens of thousands of Australians who shared in this experience will remember it for the rest of their lives- long or short.
Some Millennial commentators have welcomed the advent of SARS-CoV-2 as an efficient Boomer Remover. Unfortunately for them, it does not so finely discriminate. While those of retirement age are more heavily afflicted, the virus does strike down many of those in their demographic as well. Careful what you wish for, eh?
Have you noticed that the crisis engendered by the pandemic has brought people of real worth to the fore? Not the vain-glorious bloviating buffoons who, hitherto, pranced across the (inter)national stage. I’m thinking about media-hungry politicians and the gross (and grossly overpaid) shock jocks. But now, quietly spoken experts in epidemiology, nurses, doctors, check-out operators and shelf-stackers in supermarkets, paramedics, truck drivers and public transport employees-to name but a few- have engaged the respect of the public by their willingness to step forward in these strange time and do their duty, fully mindful of the potential consequences for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, the self-absorbed, pollies and celebs flout the regulations as if they don’t apply.
I’m now north of seventy years old with a handful of co-morbidities. My wife’s sister-in-law has died from coronavirus (on April 6, 2020, in Northern Ireland) and will be buried next to her mother in a small country graveyard in Rasharkin, County Antrim. She is the first person in our family circle to have been taken from us by the pandemic (May she rest in peace). Because her husband had pre-arranged their funeral-and-burial details some years previously, there have been no problems with the internment. Hitherto, some had felt that he was just too…what? Fastidious? Careful? Over-scrupulous?
What about, perspicacious! How many of us will follow her to a grave that will not be marked by the usual obsequies because of the overwhelming wave of deaths that will accompany the savagery of SARS-CoV-2 as it sweeps across the world as we know it. When I viewed the mass graves in New York City on April 10, it was with horror I asked, Are we living in the 21st Century? And then I reflected, this has been happening in all too many countries, without respite, for every year of this century (and the one before) while most of us were looking away, or at fatuous reality shows on TV…
I do not know if I will survive this event. I may hope. I certainly will pray. I intend to persevere and endure.