Welcome to Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 1– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the 200 Letters and Postcards From Quotidia published between 11 January 2021 and 8 May 2022- Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
So, what is a postscript? Well, my trusty internet dictionary tells me that it is 1) an additional remark at the end of a letter, for example, he added a postscript “Leaving tomorrow.” Or, 2) an afterthought; that is, an extra piece of information about an event that is added after it has happened: for example, “as a postscript to this, Paul did finally marry”. …and, of course, we wish them well! One or both of these definitions will apply to each the Postscripts. As to how many there will be- I don’t know, but probably more than a few. As to how long each will be- I can’t be sure but each one will, no doubt, be of between 15-25 minutes duration- give or take.
But why? I hear some cry. How much time do you have? I reply. Short answer is what I had to say when I set up my website on WordPress quite a while back: Quentin Bega was born in the middle of the last century, and then stumbled into the present one with something more to say. If you chance to visit Quotidia, a customs official, dressed in motley, will say to you: “Welcome to Quotidia- you don’t need a passport to get in here… but if you have one, we will make sure your visa is stamped ‘entry always permitted’”.
One of the wonderful things about the writing game, is that you can, should you so choose, re-visit what you have previously produced, whether to amend, to add, to frankly contradict, or just generally blather on. Unlike life which remorselessly follows time’s arrow- with no going back! So, this postscript is attached to Letters From Quotidia Episode 2: Let Them Not Fade Away.
I will use that old rhyme for newlyweds Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue as a template for the Postscripts. The something old component will be a reprise of a song and/or verse extract from the original Letter. The something new will be an original song composition as well, obviously, as the new prose component of the Postscript. Something borrowed will comprise a cover of a song and/or verse borrowed from the great and the good. Something blue will be the predominant hue of the Postscripts.
As my wife reminds me: from our teenage years she was and is personified by the sunny vibe surrounding the song Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations whereas I was and am personified by the gloomier tones of Born Under a Bad Sign by Albert King. I presented an acoustic demo in the trailer to this postscript a while back but here it is as the something old component: [insert song]
I remember with fondness letters I exchanged over many years with my sister-in-law, Dympna before she died. We were great friends. She was ten years my senior, but we formed an immediate connection when we first met and when I was sixteen years old, we often shared a surreptitious cigarette in my mother’s kitchen. The song you just heard describes those times. When, with my girlfriend, now wife, I visited Dympna and my brother Jim, a veterinarian in their home in County Cork in subsequent years we always had a great time listening to music, drinking Sherry from the wood, and playing poker.
After we moved to Australia in 1972, the correspondence struck up, Dympna writing on whatever spare paper surfaces that were to hand, be it quotes for drugs for ailing cows or sundry sheets of paper passing her way that had a blank surface. Her wonderfully parochial and incisive insights into matters of common interest to us both reminds me powerfully of the American poet I referenced in my second letter from Quotidia: Edgar Lee Masters, an American poet writing in the late 19th-early 20th Century.
Here is his poem, The Hill Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,/The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?/All, all are sleeping on the hill./One passed in a fever,/One was burned in a mine,/One was killed in a brawl,/One died in a jail,/One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife—/All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill./ Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,/The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?—/All, all are sleeping on the hill./One died in shameful child-birth,/One of a thwarted love,/One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,/One of a broken pride, in the search for heart’s desire;/One after life in far-away London and Paris/Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag—All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill./ Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily,/And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigne Houghton,/And Major Walker who had talked/With venerable men of the revolution? —All, all are sleeping on the hill.//They brought them dead sons from the war,/And daughters whom life had crushed,/And their children fatherless, crying —/All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill./ I identified with Fiddler Jones when first I wrote episode 2 of Letters From Quotidia. I find that, now, years later, that identification is even stronger! And he gets pride of place, here in the final stanza of The Hill Where is Old Fiddler Jones/Who played with life all his ninety years,/Braving the sleet with bared breast,/Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,/Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?/Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago,/Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary’s Grove,/Of what Abe Lincoln said/One time at Springfield.//
That this literary work is still of relevance, may I cite the following: On March 13, 2021, ‘Spoon River Anthology’ was presented as online verse reading by the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Wow! Good on them- I wish I could have heard that. I referenced, also, Van Morrison in the song Let Them Not Fade Away: he was the singer in “that Belfast band, Them” Here comes the something borrowed, my cover of his song- Days Like This. [insert song]
You know, the older you get the more gaps you perceive in your life. I have listened to Van the Man since the sixties and gone to see him sing jazz standards in Belfast in the 80s. I’ve also purchased vinyl records and CDs over the years, not to mention streaming lots of his songs- yet this is the first of his songs I have ever sung! Go figure. Way back when I started these podcasts, I queried how different was I from Procrustes, the monster of Greek legend, who fitted travellers to a bed where he cut off limbs or stretched to agonising death those who did not precisely fit the bed he had arranged for them. I asked then: Are not all artists Procrustes? Here am I, shaping a journalistic narrative around a series of songs by selecting and editing bits and pieces from the world of letters. But, unlike the original Procrustes, I hope that any idea for a song that is passing by survives the smith’s hammer of my imagination as I struggle to shape it into something pleasing. So, I said then. And now, here I am again, chopping and stretching a story to fit my newest narrative bed. Am I a monster, or what?
I have to tell you: the pressure of composition makes me a rather sad monster, indeed. The something new component remains to be, at the time of writing this section of the postscript- actualised- is this really a word? I set myself a strict-ish regime of reading poetry for inspiration, especially from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. After several days enjoyable but wearisome toil, I came up with a song that claims as its inspiration the poem by Edgar Lee Masters I recited earlier- The Hill. This completes the triad of components that comprise the Postscripts- it is something new.
So, you may judge for yourself- is this a truly inspired composition or is it just some Band-in-a-Box boilerplate I put together with the help of an Artificial Intelligence bot that I purchased from the dark web to boost my numbers in the relentless quest for clicks and comments and commendations? As always, you will be the judge. Here is The Hill. [insert song]
Credits: All written text, song lyrics andmusic (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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.