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?
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- 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