Letters From Quotidia Episode 1 Everybody’s Story

A podcast by Quentin Bega

Set out here is the rationale behind the series of letters found in this podcast.

Photo by Mike Chai on Pexels.com

The script of the audio journal: Text found in square brackets and underlined […] is not recorded as part of the podcast but gives information, disambiguation and opinion that may be of interest.

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack-[The spelling craic is used widely now, but it is a back formation of the original spelling of the term in English, which the pedant in me requires me to use] that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, anecdotes 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. Today, we start, not at the beginning- I mean, where’s the crack in that- but somewhere a bit further along life’s path with this first letter, of many, I hope. Here’s Everybody’s Story.

Fifty years ago I wrote my first song. I was 16,[I wrote the first draft of this letter five years ago and had intended to turn it into a podcast then. COVID gave me the space and time to do it rather belatedly] I had pimples, an ambition to be a songwriter, and a cheap, acoustic guitar with old strings and a high action. That first attempt was a parody of country music, which I secretly loved, along with folk music. I was torn between these genres, and the glamour of the rock and pop music of the 1960s and it would be some decades before I finished writing that first song.

If I were an ancient Greek, my name would be Procrastis: “Procrastis is my name and procrastination’s my game.” But I’m not going to play you that particular song- at least not yet. It’ll come later- the subject of another journal entry a bit further on down the line. I wrote the song which figures as the opening track of this audio journal when I was still quite a young man- somewhere in my mid-thirties.

 Now I’m retired and an OLD AGE PENSIONER. I’m one of those hated baby boomers- the Gen X’s and subsequent generations will be at work until their seventies cursing my generation for having the good luck to miss the horrors of the Second World War while reaping the benefits accruing while the going was good. Back then, I was thinking about absent friends and thinking about stuff like- “I’m older than Jesus when he was crucified and I’m halfway to threescore and ten- what’s it all about?”

What, indeed! As W H Auden puts it in his wonderful poem inspired by Breughel the Elder’s The Fall of Icarus: About suffering they were never wrong /The old Masters: how well they understood/Its human position: how it takes place/While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…It seems to me that I have been just walking dully along for an awfully long time- hence the title of my podcasts, Letters From Quotidia. It is the summation of an ordinary life in the form of a journal rather than a diary. Each entry will comprise a song I have written over the past half century, supported by a commentary of sorts and a few lines of poetry or prose or drama from artists with the weight of Auden. To make this point a little clearer, I refer the listener to that play by Aristophanes, The Frogs, where the great god Dionysus, who, according to our constant online oracle, Wikipedia, is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy: he adjudicates a debate in Hades to decide which poet was the worthier candidate to return to Athens in her time of greatest need- Euripides or Aeschylus. To resolve the issue, each poet throws into a pan on a pair of scales a line of poetry to determine which has more heft. In the contest, the older poet, Aeschylus, prevails. In this analogy I see myself as a sort of Euripides, the loser in the contest, whose songs lasting minutes can be counterbalanced by lines of weightier poets lasting seconds.

Euripides was mocked mercilessly during his lifetime by the more conservative among the cultural arbiters of the time. If the term had been current then, they would have reviled him as a post-modernist. His reputation in later ages has not, in my opinion, been as shining as he deserves; Erasmus, according to a dubious source, has him being torn to pieces by dogs, set upon him by enemies. Poor old Euripides had two miserably unsuccessful marriages, and, ironically, another source has him being torn apart by women; although, this seems very close to a scene from his greatest play, The Bacchae, where the king of Thebes, Pentheus, is torn apart by his wife, Agave, and her sister, Ino. Lord, oh Lord: Those ancient Greek women were surely a force to be reckoned with!

Now, some among my acquaintances have hung the label post-modern around my neck. Obviously, in their evaluation, I’m just “froth and bubble” while they, of course, have the solidity of “stone”. It doesn’t really matter which way the scales tip in this matter for judgement, one has to agree with that under-rated 19th Century Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, quoted by the British Queen in her speech to the Guildhall towards the end of her annus horribilis, of 1992, that “KINDNESS in another’s trouble, COURAGE in your own” is a worthy sentiment.

Narratives generally start at the beginning and move through a graceful arc to an inevitable but aesthetically pleasing denouement. This narrative, though, will avoid the pleasant lie that is the convention. It will start “in medias res” as the ancient Romans would have put it.

The song was written at the traditional halfway mark of life’s journey but imagines a time that is still ahead of me by a decade or two (I most sincerely hope that this is, in fact, the case). The persona in the song is of an advanced age and dwindling wit and may indeed be inhabiting his second childhood. He is speaking to his son.  [insert song, Everybody’s Story] That has been episode one of the podcast, Letters From Quotidia. In the next instalment, I will examine formative influences on so many of my Boomer generation in the 1960s, so join me then… if that’s OK, Millennials?

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter; (for many of the songs) Shure SM58, recorded and mixed down using 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended; Music accompaniment and composition software- Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studio. Approximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

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