Welcome to Letters From Quotidia –episode 121, 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 original project, having been delivered as planned on August 6, 2021, I have decided to continue the podcast but in a somewhat altered form. I will combine the Letters with the Postcards where you will hear two songs. One will be an original composition and the other from the folk tradition of the English-speaking world. The frequency with which I will be able to post will be weekly only- at least, that’s how it looks for now- what with COVID, my predilection for procrastination and innate inertia.
For this inaugural post, you will hear, first, a song recorded over 25 years ago, when our folk band, Banter were just getting on their feet. I found a recording on an old cassette tape I unearthed when I was rummaging around for stuff. I managed to clean the sound up a bit and present to you a singer you have not heard before but who has been mentioned in earlier postcards: Big Geordie. Geordie Muir managed the Henry Lawson Club in Werrington on the outer western fringe of Sydney in the 1990s and sang the Australian Bush Songs that were part of our repertoire with considerably more authenticity than we could bring to the material. On this recording, he takes centre stage and presents his rendition of South Australia. [insert song]
In my first journal entry for the sequence The Summa Quotidian way back in 2015, I mentioned the fact that it had been fifty years since I had written my first song. 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.
Some context, now: what was happening just two days before I began recording for this project, now nearing its completion? Just before dawn on Anzac day, April 25th, 2020, 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 slowly 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 usual gatherings at war memorials throughout Australia were cancelled because of the threat the virus posed, 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.
Have you noticed that the crisis engendered by the pandemic has brought people of real worth to the fore? Not the vainglorious 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. Dante would have found a special circle of hell to accommodate them. So back to the present, the middle of August, 2021- Sydney’s in lockdown as the delta variant spreads inexorably among a largely unvaccinated populace. The end of the month is supposed to see the end of the lockdown but I wouldn’t bet any real money on it.
Nothing left for it but poetry: this feature I will bring along to these new Quotidia posts. Postcard 30 featured lines from Walt Whitman. Here, I want to read a poem by his contemporary, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I value both poets even though they are often thought to be chalk and cheese.
The tide rises, the tide falls,/ The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;/ Along the sea-sands damp and brown/ The traveller hastens toward the town./ And the tide rises, the tide falls// Darkness settles on roofs and walls,/ But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;/ The little waves, with their soft, white hands,/ Efface the footprints in the sands,/ And the tide rises, the tide falls.// The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls/ Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;/ The day returns, but nevermore/ Returns the traveller to the shore,/ And the tide rises, the tide falls.//
And, of course, we hope for better times ahead, as we always must. The song: Take This Frame Away, although started over 50 years ago, still seems relevant to the present situation we find ourselves in.[insert song] The next post will be in a week’s time and will feature a song I wrote shortly after returning to Northern Ireland from Australia in 1979. My lockdown version of The Cliffs of Doneen, a song I first heard from Christy Moore’s singing in the mid-1970s, also features. So, if you’re still game to continue the wandering around the highways and byways of Quotidia, you’re very welcome to join me on my weekly ramble.
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)
Microphones for the songs Shure SM58 and Apogee 96K
For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used
Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021