Welcome to Letters From Quotidia- the Footnotes, Slainte 2 It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know but let me be clear. The mouthful also refers to farewell drinks which are common around this time of the year. It’s been a long and eventful journey for the Letters From Quotidia as a whole and even the lowly Footnotes have had a good run, but all good things must come to an end and as we toast the end, and also, new beginnings, let us, without further ado move into the firelit circle where the castaways are assembled and celebrating the end of the year.
It’s only a couple of hours until midnight will strike, and a new year will begin. As usual at such gatherings there is a fair bit of big-noting and bragging and as we join the circle, we hear a recitation of Cargoes by John Masefield, Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,/Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine/,With a cargo of ivory/,And apes and peacocks,/Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.//Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,/Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,/With a cargo of diamonds,/Emeralds, amethysts/,Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.//Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack,/Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,/With a cargo of Tyne coal,/Road-rails, pig-lead,/ Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.//
This gets a round of applause and then we hear the opening strains of I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day. While a fiddle plays the intro the singer says, some say the song’s Irish, others Scottish, I even heard the folk from Norfolk putting in a claim. Me I don’t care where a song comes from- as if that’s even how it works! If I like it, I’ll sing it. Now, I use lyrics where the dog in the song does not get shot. In some versions, you see, the pooch perishes. But I love dogs, so I’ll sing a faster version of one I heard from Barney McKenna, lately the best tenor banjo player in the universe. Here we go, [insert song]
What a great start to our New Year’s Eve singsong, I say. Do we have another singer or reciter- or both, doesn’t have to be one or the other! A tall, thin, rather intense chap stood up, he was bearded and reminded me of a preacher in search of a congregation. He was one of a pair of castaways who had beached on our island just yesterday. He said, Something there is that does not love a wall. And yet they are all around us- although, happily, not here, he exclaimed turning around in the light of the fire, something there is that does not love a wall, that wants it down. Remember when the Berlin Wall came down, how we cheered and cheered. Tyrants love walls, but people dig under them or climb over them or blast their way through them. To be effective, walls would need to be made of unobtainium- such a wall would be impervious to any agency, method, or technology; impenetrable, resisting any level of energy. Such a wall would serve the wildest fantasies of even the most certifiable of megalomaniacs. But it’s out of reach in our material world. Unfortunately, there is a place where such walls can be forged, people- in the furnaces of the dogmatic mind. Is there anything in this universe more adamantine than the certitude of the religious bigot or political ideologue? And I’m going to sing you a song about a wall that resists logical penetration. Listen now to, An Impervious Wall. [insert song]
The crowd was becoming rather restive, and I appealed for a singer with an uplifting message more suited for the occasion. I groaned inwardly when his mate, a rather portly, dwarfish man, who had helped him steer his flimsy craft to shore stood up- the Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, perhaps. I had spoken to both of them only briefly but had pegged him as a rather simple, bucolic type. Me Mum told me a bunch of lies when I was young. And I don’t hold it against her, nor me Dad, who backed her up in her lies. It warn’t until I was growed a bit that I knew why she lied. In that story about the ugly duckling, do you mind it? the little bird has a lot of trouble along the way but finally growed up to be a lovely swan and at last finds a flock of swans who say, come and join us, and so the wee bird lives happily ever after, but I…all I have is this song which I hope you like, I call it The Cycle of Love because love is the only thing that matters in all the world. [insert song]
And so the singsong progressed fed by the fears and fantasies, the hopes, and dreams of a diverse motley crew of castaways who found themselves washed ashore on the enchanted island, the bullseye of the swirling gyre located off the coast of Quotidia. We had all found something like solace, something like release, something like a hazy dream where respite from what had been assailing us was found. And found we would be, on the next morning or the morning after or a morning soon to dawn when a passing boat or plane or satellite would find something anomalous about the speck in the ocean encompassing us and soon we would inhabit the headlines and news reports and become yet another media sensation that would last a day or a week, perhaps, should events in the swirling world be somewhat slow at the time. But let us return to the firelit circle where a temporal vortex has delivered a female American poet to the campsite where she addresses a mostly male and emphatically maudlin mood.
Hello men, I’m Ella Wheeler Wilcox and much as I’d like to be elsewhere, I’m compelled by forces beyond to bring a leavening of clear-sightedness to proceedings. Here is my poem for the occasion so listen closely; its title is The Year, She stood and looked at each of the faces around her as she waited for silence, then she drew a breath and spoke clearly, What can be said in New Year rhymes,/That’s not been said a thousand times?//The new years come, the old years go,/We know we dream, we dream we know.//We rise up laughing with the light,/We lie down weeping with the night//.We hug the world until it stings,/We curse it then and sigh for wings.// We live, we love, we woo, we wed,/We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.//We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,/And that’s the burden of the year//There was a round of appreciative laughter and, then, someone yelled out, Aren’t you counted as among the worst poets in American literature?
I regret to inform you all that the person who imparted this information to the assembled crowd was, yeah, it was me! My head had been throbbing somewhat from the effects of some rather good liquor and wine that had washed ashore over the previous weeks which I had partaken of more than a little over the past few days. Sorry Ella, that was uncalled for, I blurted out. She looked at me as she might a bug and strode out of the light.
Temporality, of course, loses its ordinary quality at certain times, for instance, at night (when dreams fill your head), or on certain days such as Halloween or Walpurgis Nacht (when spirits rise out of the ground and go looking for whatever it is they look for), or New Year’s Eve when resolutions spring out of the febrile minds of millions of revellers who hold the view, if only for a moment, that whatever desire they have evinced will survive more than one diurnal motion. And so it was that a native of Belfast who has more than a passing acquaintance with astral matters strode into the circle of light and invited us not to dwell too much on those things that made us sad and gloomy but asked us to remember that every so often there would be days where everything just fell in place, that, in fact, there would be Days Like This [insert song]
Well, Van the Man could always get a crowd going and so songs were sung and poems were recited and as midnight approached, someone counted down the seconds as yet another year materialised. The castaways continue their songs, poems, prayers, and conversations for some hours but everyone seems to know that the end is in sight and so it is, as if by telepathic agreement that they all sing The Parting Glass. [insert song]
From Quotidia, the final footnote comes to its close. I wish you peace and all best wishes for the coming year for you, your family, your loved ones, and community. Perhaps we’ll meet in 2023.
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. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition.