Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – 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. This post is out of the ordinary sequence. I don’t usually publish on the weekend. But today is special. This letter is to mark Anzac Day, 2021 and it looks back to Anzac Day 2020. I wonder how many of you out there have taken 50 years to complete a project?
I wrote the first part of the song, Take This Frame Away, 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 almost four years ago, when I was 67. A couple of other examples from the 120-plus songs to be found in the Letters From Quotidia , also underwent a similarly, leisurely (some might even aver, slothfully) compositional process- although none has taken half a century to complete!
By comparison, the 56 songs I recorded over two months (61 days,) in lockdown in 2020, for inclusion in the sequence, Postcards From Quotidia, achieved warp-speed! Of course, they are mostly, covers, and not original compositions. So, what was happening just two days before I began recording Letters From Quotidia? It is just before dawn on Anzac day, April 25th, 2020, I stand in my driveway and listen to the broadcast from the Australian War Memorial. I set a candle on my letterbox and, glancing up and down the street, I see men and women, at the end of their driveways, paying silent tribute to the fallen in Australia’s wars. A 70-something veteran with a chest full of medals walks slowly past and we nod a silent greeting, one to the other. After the ceremony, I walk back up the footpath and into the house, where we are in lockdown, and think, this was good– nothing like it before or, perhaps, after, the usual gatherings at war memorials throughout Australia cancelled because of the threat the virus poses, particularly to the aged.
The thousands of Australians, like me, who shared in this experience will remember it, I would think, for the rest of their lives- long or short. But here I am, on Sunday, April 25th, 2021, at the end of my driveway, observing the request of the organisers of Anzac Day not to gather in public, to mark the occasion- as we did in 2020. Why? Because COVID persists just about everywhere on this planet. Not, touch wood, so much in Australia, but the pestilence still rages overseas, particularly in India where nearly one third of one million cases were recorded in one day last week and, so, we are still following precautions to prevent another wave in this fortunate island continent.
Some Millennial commentators, when the pandemic struck, welcomed the advent of SARS-CoV-2 as an efficient Boomer Remover: yes, they’re talking about My Generation. Unfortunately for them, as it transpires, the virus does not so finely discriminate. While those of retirement age are more heavily afflicted, the virus does strike down many of those in other demographics as well. We have recently learned that the newer variants are infecting younger people with dire consequences. 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 times and do their duty, fully mindful of the potential consequences for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, the self-absorbed, those self-serving politicians and god-alone-knows how many vacuous celebrities infesting the media (social and mainstream) all continue to flout the regulations as if they don’t apply. Were he here, Dante would have found a special circle of hell to accommodate them…
I’m now north of seventy years old with a handful of co-morbidities. My wife’s sister-in-law died from coronavirus (on April 6, 2020, in Northern Ireland) and was 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 interment. Hitherto, some had felt that he was just too…what? Fastidious? Careful? Over-scrupulous?
What about, perspicacious! How many in the world today 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 planet. When I viewed the mass graves in New York City on April 10 of 2020, it was with horror I asked: Are we living in the 21st Century? And then I reflected: this sort of thing 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 unfolding event. I may hope. I certainly will pray. I intend to persevere and, Deo Volente, endure. Originally intended as the finale of Letters From Quotidia, I brought it forward to mark this occasion. Means I’ll have to write another letter as item 120, ah well. [insert song] Ad lib concluding remarks.
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)
Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58
For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used
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.