Letters From Quotidia ANZAC Special 2021

Letters From Quotidia ANZAC Day Special 2021

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 15

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 15

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.

Where Is The Man? First heard by Jim in the pubs and clubs of republican Belfast around 1970. We would gather around a backyard fire in the evening in Australia after we moved here in 1972 and sing the songs that recalled Ireland. Jim would sing this as one of his repertoire. The song is not performed much by the general run of Irish performers now but It has a great tune to it and lots of energy- just a couple of the reasons we like it. [insert song]

The Spanish Lady– This version is the most widely-known example. It is set in Dublin and concerns various activities of the unnamed Spanish Lady. Variants occur further afield, Belfast, in English towns such as Chester and in America. We don’t actually care if it originates in Timbuctu: it sounds (and sings) great! Sam the Man has a great affection for the song and it features as one of his regular warbles when we play in public.[ insert song]

The Overlander– There are a couple of versions (at least) of this song. One is quite sedate, nice even. We don’t do that one. We prefer the Queensland version which has a lot more swagger and outlaw energy- like the legendary stockmen who drove cattle across immense distances in the Australian outback. Sam, again takes the main vocal and gives it a fair amount of welly. [insert song]

Will Ye Come to the Bower This patriotic song dates to the early 19th Century and thus is one of the earliest of the genre in English. On the surface it appears to be a love song. A bower is a seat found in leafy surrounds often used for romantic trysts or meetings- although this arrangement was usually found among the wealthy!

However, in the song, the bower is a symbol for Ireland herself, and the call in the song is for the Irish who have scattered to Europe and America as a result of British retribution during the rebellions in 1798 of the United Irishmen and the Emmet rebellion of 1803 to return to aid Ireland in her need- will you come to the bower.

This aid, according to some, would encompass armed insurrection as well as political agitation, which obviously had to be couched in code to escape the attention of the authorities. (Although, really, were the authorities so thick that they could not spot sedition in the lyrics!)

The song reached America by the 1830s because the tune was played as the Texan army, under General Sam Houston, marched against the Mexican forces led by Santa Anna, at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21st, 1836 which established the independence of Texas.  Remember the Alamo! the charging Texans yelled.

Over the years the song may have gained some overlays of reference as successive waves of Nationalists had to escape over the next fifty years. Nevertheless, it remains an early example in both its diction and melody of the patriotic impulse of the Irish and their love of Erin the Green.

The song references great Celtic heroes such as Brian Boru, who successfully repelled the Vikings; powerful clans, such as the O’Neills and O’Donnells as well as political figures such as Daniel O’Connell. It name- checks settlements throughout Ireland such as Dublin, Wexford and New Ross as well as bodies of water such as the lakes of Killarney and Lough Neagh; the rivers also get a mention, the Bann, the Boyne, the Liffey and the broad, majestic Shannon. And what broad-brush Irish song would fail to mention Ireland’s patron, St Patrick. (I am indebted to the website irishmusicdaily.com for some of the info above.)

The group Banter has yet to perform the song in public although it has had an outing in a couple of practices. When the virus thing is a pestilence past, we may well perform it, as it has great words and a rousing melody. I first heard this song from an early Dubliners LP in the late 1960s featuring the incomparable Luke Kelly on vocals. So, again, I here present a lockdown version featuring Band-in-a-Box etc.- which is great to have, but I would prefer having living, breathing musos behind me rather than the digital devices. [insert song]

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 60 Come Back An Angel

Letters From Quotidia Episode 60a Come Back an Angel

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.

Entry 60: Come Back an Angel– It depends how you look at it: humanity is either on the verge of a transcendent apotheosis or it is poised on the brink of extinction: either triumphant at the apex of creation or King Lear’s poor bare forked animal struggling to make it into the top ten. On one reading we, as a species, are on a sure trajectory to the domination of space and time- what with our nascent abilities to terra-form planets and create Dyson spheres to enclose stars and make use of the energy therein. After all, the thought merely precedes the action and science fiction stories are crammed with planets and stars at our beck and call.

There are other readings, alas, that predict less than glorious outcomes. One such is neocatastrophism which cites sudden extinctions in the palaeontological record caused by high magnitude, low frequency occurrences such as massive asteroid strikes, super-volcanic eruptions and super-nova gamma ray bursts- any one of which would spoil your holiday plans somewhat. And, in another reading, we don’t even make the top ten. Numero Uno, of course, is the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God with a capital G. Following in descending order of precedence are the nine orders of angels: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Archangels and Angels.

Weighing in at number 11 in the scheme of things- that would be us! So why do I celebrate this? The hendecasyllabic truth is just this: that it lies between the mundane decimal and the ancient order of counting by 12. It is represented as a unicursal hexagram with a five-petalled flower inscribed inside. If you are like me, you love complication if only because simplification forces too much examination. Which bring me to the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. I’ll bet that you chose a number other than 11. But did you get this answer?

From Wikipedia I learned the following: In the humoristic magazine Annals of Improbable Research, Anders Sandberg has presented a calculation based on theories of information physics and quantum gravity, establishing an upper bound of 8.6766×1049 angels. When my son died in a motor-bike crash in October 1989, my niece told me, when she visited me seven years later, that he had manifested at the foot of her bed to reassure her that all was well. I, with my wife, received this information with respect but with a certain amount of puzzlement. Why wasn’t the message relayed to his siblings or, indeed, his parents?

Did I curse his guardian angel? After all, to whom could I relay my dissatisfaction with the issue of guardianship-apart from myself? Pusillanimous by nature, how could I shirt-front a being ranked above me in the universal order? And I also wonder about the better angels of our nature. When I think about the final words of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural speech, I realise that even that great orator was unable to avert the coming catastrophe, we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

I know that a death in one family cannot compare to the mass carnage of the American Civil War, but the human heart has only so much surface area available to be pierced by the arrows of anguish. And what of those forces opposed to the better angels? Renowned 12th Century mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, wrote a poem entitled Antiphon for the Angels, in which she gives the following account, Spirited light! on the edge/of the Presence your yearning/burns in the secret darkness,/O angels, insatiably/into God’s gaze./Perversity/could not touch your beauty;/you are essential joy./But your lost companion,/angel of the crooked/wings- he sought the summit,/shot down the depths of God/and plummeted past Adam -/that a mud-bound spirit might soar.

This remarkable woman, recognised as a Doctor of the Church in 2012 by Benedict XVI, was a formidable intellect who was a writer of poetry, music, philosophy, theology, natural sciences as well as extensive correspondence to Popes, Emperors and others. The Latin word, angelus, means messenger and this is what angels are, traditionally. I can remember, as a boy, working in my uncle’s hilly fields in the summertime. Come 12 noon and the bells would ring out from the village below. Work would stop and he would start: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. We would reply, And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. These are the opening lines of the Catholic devotion marking the Incarnation which seemed to soar heaven-wards in that distant time.  Now, this mud-bound spirit finds it increasingly hard to soar. Listen now to Come Back an Angel [insert song]

We are now on the homeward leg of out journey out of the mystifying realm of Quotidia. Tomorrow sees another postcard which features four pieces of folk music, but, when the letters proper continue next week, we will be searching for answers, or even, the answer. I’ll give you a taster, 42 or 1=0.99 repeating are two contenders. We’ll take a glimpse into the insane labs of East German scientists in 1979 as they experiment on rats to come up with a “cure” for homosexuality. American poet Sara Teasdale will suggest an answer, and we’ll hear from Lord Byron and Greek-Australian poet Dimitris Tsaloumas as we cast about either feverishly- or in a desultory manner, for- the answer.

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 59 Where’s the Harm?

Letters From Quotidia Where’s the Harm?

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.

I love hobbits; the idea of hobbits; the imagination that created these resilient creatures; and the sweeping sagas I first encountered as a teenager in the 1960s. These books I and my wife have revisited periodically  in the decades since. Now, let’s, in the 59th letter, examine another resilient creature- and what wouldn’t I give to have the resilient characteristics of a tardigrade?  These critters are almost indestructible- small but tough. The name tardigrade means slow walker– but who’s in a hurry, if able to withstand extremes of pressure and temperature, to say nothing of poisons and a variety of stressors that would kill every other multi-cellular organism on earth?

And, interestingly, these wonderful little plodders are not classified as extremophiles; that is, they do not seek or thrive in extremes of heat, aridity, or pressure, like those organisms adapted to extreme conditions- but they can resist those extremes, preferring temperate conditions- as we do. I suppose they could be classified as the Hobbits of the microscopic world.  The German pastor, Johann August Ephraim Goeze, in 1773, first described these “little water bears” as he called them, measuring less than ½ mm as a rule. Yes, I think of them as the hobbits of the microsphere slowly walking with hopes of encountering temperate times but ready for whatever extremes come their way.  

Emily Dickinson, in an early poem describes this theological virtue, hope, that we are all familiar with: she writes: “Hope” is the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul/ And sings the tune without the words/ And never stops—at all//And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard/ And sore must be the storm/That could abash the little Bird/ That kept so many warm//I’ve heard it in the chillest land/ And on the strangest Sea/ Yet, never, in Extremity,/ It asked a crumb—of Me. This is a quite different kind of hope from that detailed by Friedrich Nietzsche in his explication of the Pandora myth we encountered a little while back in Quotidia. We may think that we know what words like faith, hope and charity (or love) actually mean.

But it’s not so simple. Our definitions bend and twist as the torsion of our lives unwind under the force of time. I can remember a moment as a child (when the Latin Mass was still the norm) when I was petrified to let the Host touch my teeth. The priests had impressed upon us the need to avoid crushing the body of Christ within our puerile mouths. How could we dare to subject our Saviour to such torture? Decades later, I scoffed at a traditionalist Catholic who objected to the validity of a Eucharist celebrated at a school camp high up an escarpment in North Queensland in the early 90s, by a parish priest confronted with a mixed bag of Catholics and non-Catholics who were invited to share the Paschal sacrifice with leavened bread and wine in clay-ware containers.

The word the critic used was, heterodoxical. Now, as an aficionado of language, I naturally homed in on the usage, particularly when I saw the blanching on the cheeks of the priest. Did I leap to the cleric’s defence? Ah, you know me better by now. Of course not! Today, heterodoxical persons just get excommunicated. Pretty grim, of course, but not as dire as the auto da fe of medieval times where the lateral thinkers were routinely set on fire. 

Fifteen years ago, I awoke on Good Friday morning with a fragment of a song in my head, Where’s the harm in that? linked to a nebulous character who was simple and uncomplicated but who felt as deeply as anyone in MENSA or a Nobel laureate. As the day wore on, the persona of the song became more detailed and real until, by that evening, when the song was finished, Michael-for this was my persona’s name- had as much substance to me as any acquaintance. The line, But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen, from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest applies here.

Carl Sandburg, even though he only had daughters, knew what fathers want to say to their sons, “Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.”/And this might stand him for the storms/and serve him for humdrum monotony/and guide him among sudden betrayals/and tighten him for slack moments./”Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.”/And this too might serve him./Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed./The growth of a frail flower in a path up/has sometimes shattered and split a rock./A tough will counts. So does desire./ So does a rich soft wanting./Without rich wanting nothing arrives./ Tell him too much money has killed men/and left them dead years before burial:/the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs/has twisted good enough men/sometimes into dry thwarted worms./Tell him to be alone often and get at himself/and above all tell himself no lies about himself/whatever the white lies and protective fronts/he may use against other people./Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong/and the final decisions are made in silent rooms./Tell him to be different from other people/if it comes natural and easy being different./Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives./Let him seek deep for where he is born natural./Then he may understand Shakespeare/and the Wright brothers,…and free imaginations/Bringing changes into a world resenting change./He will be lonely enough/to have time for the work/he knows as his own.  

What wonderfully wise advice and it’s a pity Sandburg never had a son to pass it to. I wish I had passed it on to my first-born son, but-alas-I wasn’t to know that he wouldn’t live to see his sixteenth birthday. Listen now to the song, Where’s the Harm?[insert song]

Our next Letter- 60- marks the half-way point of our journey through Quotidia. We wonder whether we will thrive to build Dyson spheres or fall prey to one of the planet-busting events posited by neocatastrophism. Also, did you know that we are ranked 11th in the medieval great chain of being? We come after the nine orders of angels. So,  can you guess who is numero uno?

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 58 Open Season

Letters From Quotidia Open Season

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. Join the narrator in letter 58 as, under the influence of perhaps a little too much red wine at 3:30 in the morning a few years ago, he crafts some sort of epiphany out of a freight train screeching past and sheds a tear or two for victims of famine and conflict.

Entry 58: Open Season– We live in perilous times and in perilous places, wondering all the while whether the complexion of the universe is benign, malign or merely indifferent. I found a ball of grass among the hay/And progged it as I passed and went away/And when I looked I fancied something stirred/And turned again and hoped to catch the bird/When out an old mouse bolted in the wheat/With all her young ones hanging at her teats/She looked so odd and so grotesque to me/I ran and wondered what the thing could be/And pushed the knapweed bunches where I stood/When the mouse hurried from the craking brood/The young ones squeaked and when I went away/She found her nest again among the hay./The water o’er the pebbles scarce could run/And broad old cesspools glittered in the sun.

There is a microcosm here, in John Clare’s The Mouse’s Nest, as finely detailed as any found in theological or cosmological treatises on the matter. John Clare knew privation and the prospect of a bird at hand no doubt stimulated his salivary glands. The odd and grotesque sight stimulates his curiosity and he runs to see more but soon turns away and notices now the broad old cesspools which glitter in the sun. But the world of the mother mouse and her young ones has been considerably disrupted. The god-like persona soon loses the certitude of being the prime mover in a very short time. I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;/My friends forsake me like a memory lost:/I am the self- consumer of my woes. I am the self-consumer of my woes- what a profound statement- yet who knows this little known poet?

Confined to an insane asylum by friends, he seems to have been given better treatment than most people in similar circumstances two centuries later. He is a bit like Kit Smart, who was also considered a lunatic in the previous century, but who, instead of focusing on a mouse, recorded his cat, Jeoffry, …I will consider my Cat Jeoffry./For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him./For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his Way./For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness./For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.

This was written in an age that knew nothing of the problems of feral cats in Australia. There are lots of people in the antipodean great south land that consider cats as servants of Satan rather than the living God. There was a time when hunting the whale was a worthy, indeed, heroic, undertaking. This makes me wonder which activities that attract approbation today will be considered barbarous in out grandchildren’s world. God! Did they actually kill mosquitoes back then! This, after scientists discover that the mozzie is the only thing standing between us and the worst impacts of climate change. Who knows?

Writing this entry at 3:30 a.m. I was distracted by a beautiful sound- listening to a streaming audio, I thought it was part of that effusion. Then I realised that it was something else. Still curious, after all these years, I got up from my desk and wine, and wandered outside to hear the sound of a freight-train, trying to- maximise? – the clangour by slowing down as it passed by. The metal wheels made weirdly harmonic music and I stood transfixed.  If only I were as talented as, say, Phillip Glass or any one of the minimalists, I would now be notating another masterpiece of minimalism based on those squeaking, screeching and craking sounds.

But I have promises to keep: porterhouse steaks to sear and a breaking in of the Weber barbeque- this must happen tomorrow if I am to be accorded full acceptance into the pantheon of Aussie manhood- or so my wife asserts. Yet, in the 1970s, as I recall, I wielded tongs over an Hibachi on North Beach, Wollongong and scorched some meat that passed muster. But now, in the 21st Century, I have to search out strange herbs and spices, uncommon cuts of meat, in-fashion fish and source matching wines to be in the race, it seems. It’s hard to live comfortably with this beneficence after viewing online a still photograph of a mother and child in Syria standing in front of a ruined streetscape in a village near the Turkish border, liberated from Islamic State.

There is something in the eyes that hooks your soul; like the Steve McCurry photo of the Afghan girl, and the Madonna and child image from Ethiopia in the 1980s, there is a cri de Coeur here too, No man is an island,/Entire of itself./Each is a piece of the continent,/A part of the main./If a clod be washed away by the sea,/Europe is the less…/Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind./Therefore, send not to know/For whom the bell tolls,/ It tolls for thee. These lines, fromJohn Donne’s Meditation 17, still apply. [insert song]

Letter 59 finds us wondering how we could embody the resilient characteristics of creatures measuring less than half a millimetre. That slippery concept “hope” puts in another appearance courtesy of that wonderful American poet, Emily Dickinson. Carl Sandburg wrote a poem containing his hopes for a son, though he only had daughters. We watch a clash between orthodoxy and heterodoxy high up on an escarpment in North Queensland and witness the narrator, in his usual pusillanimous guise of observer, reflect on changing approach to the Eucharist since Vatican Two.

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 57 Universe of Blue

Letters From Quotidia Universe of Blue

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. In this 57th letter we find a variety of folk who, whether from fiction or from history, examine and celebrate beauty at its fleeting best. We start with a fabled blues guitarist who named his instrument, Lucille, in the year I was born, after placing his life in jeopardy by running back into a burning building to retrieve his guitar. The fire was started when a heater was knocked to the floor after a fight over a woman with that name and the fire-scorched musician named all his guitars from that time, Lucille, to remind him not to do anything so stupid again. So! Let’s start with that muso, eh?

Entry 57: Universe of Blue– “I don’t do chords,” said B. B. King. Now, most guitarists would treat such a statement from, say, me, as an excuse for excoriation, humiliation and light entertainment. But, for B.B that was OK. He played in a range of venues from juke-joints to stadia and command performances at the White House, as well as other prestigious places over a period of 60+ years.

For women, it’s not so good, though, is it? They begin to fade from view very soon. Is this related to the premium placed on the value of feminine beauty that kicks in earlier and earlier it seems- but which can be estimated as a sweet spot of the two decades between fifteen and thirty-five? Lamentably, fewer women than men older than this remain in esteem in Western culture. Adieu, farewell earth’s bliss,/This world uncertain is./ Fond are life’s lustful joys-/Death proves them all but toys./None from his darts can fly-/I am sick; I must die./Lord Have mercy on us.

The opening stanza of Thomas Nashe’s, In Time of Pestilence, is as striking today as when it was penned towards the end of the 16th Century. Beauty is but a flower,/Which wrinkles will devour./Brightness falls from the air;/Queens have died young and fair;/Dust hath closed Helen’s eye:/I am sick; I must die./Lord, have mercy on us. There must have been something in the water, or perhaps, the firmament during the 16th Century- some alignment of stars conducive to literary excellence. Can you hear echoes of Shakespeare? Or perhaps, Marlowe?

And do you hear, listening intently, the voice of Sir Thomas Wyatt, earlier in the century complaining, They flee from me that sometime did me seek/With naked foot stalking in my chamber/I have seen them gentle, tame and meek/that now are wild and do not remember/That sometime they put themselves in danger/To take bread at my hand; and now they range,/Busily seeking with a continual change. Febrile, youthful males in every generation since have yearned for the consummation outlined in stanza two where Wyatt remembers a time, When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,/And she me caught in her arms long and small,/Therewithal sweetly did me kiss/And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”

How like you this, indeed! Sex and Death- as always, a heady mixture- and one supplied in copious quantities by artists down the centuries. But the mixture cloys and thickens, sweetly-sour, when the 19th Century gets hold of it. The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson supplies the nexus. In a grey tower by the river running to Camelot sits a faery princess weaving a magic web replicating what she sees through her mirror- the passing parade; trapped by a curse…(theorists of every stripe have had a field day with this!) she must not look directly out of her window. The mirror shows her the agrarian round of sowing and reaping and harvest and bucolic celebration until she sighs, I am half-sick of shadows.

Then, Sir Lancelot appears, His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;/On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;/From underneath his helmet flow’d/His coal-black curls as on he rode,/As he rode down to Camelot./From the bank and from the river/He flashed into the crystal mirror,/’Tirra lirra,’ by the river/Sang Sir Lancelot. Oh, my Lord! The power of music- like a pentatonic riff by B. B. King ripping through the consciousness of, say, a pimply 15-year-old in Northern Ireland in the mid-sixties- the lyrical notes of Sir Lancelot drew the Lady to the window where, Out flew the web and floated wide-/The mirror crack’d from side to side;/”The curse is come upon me,” cried/The Lady of Shalott.

No prizes for guessing the denouement. She finds a boat and, singing her death-song, drifts with the current towards Camelot, They heard her singing her last song/The Lady of Shalott/Heard a carol, mournful, holy/Chanted loudly, chanted lowly/Till her blood was frozen slowly/And her eyes were darkened wholly/Turned to towered Camelot/For ere she reached upon the tide/The first house by the waterside/Singing in her song she died/The Lady of Shalott.

The Pre-Raphaelites lapped it up and painted various scenes from it. Founder of the movement, William Holman-Hunt, painted the lady entangled in her magic tapestry’s web as Sir Lancelot passes by outside singing Tirra Lirra. The Awakening Conscience, painted fifty years before, makes for an interesting comparison; there, too, is a mirror, a window and a beautiful woman depicted, but here, she’s on her lover’s lap as she gazes, transfixed out of the window. As I look from one painting to the other, I am, inexplicably reminded of those beauty pageants for pre-teens where mothers primp and preen their pre-pubescent daughters for the cattle-call. The song which follows details the future life of such a little one. [insert song]

John Clare, Christopher Smart and John Donne will supply the necessary fix of poetry that I will need to survive the 58th section of the journey into the interior of Quotidia. As we make our way through the thickets and brambles, the humidity and heat, we may hallucinate that the mosquitoes tormenting us in high-pitched screaming swarms will save us from climate change. You are advised to pack tropical strength repellents if you are to accompany us there.   

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Postcards edition 14

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 14

Letters From Quotidia The Postcards edition 14

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 14, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west, present four tunes and songs drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. And, as always, Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

St Anne’s Reel: When we emerged from our self-imposed torpor a few months ago and started, in desultory fashion, to play music together again, we found ourselves quite rusty and found that the WD-40 that overcame this problem was the expedient solution of slowing down whenever we commenced a hazy tune. Our innate competitiveness, however, invariably resulted in the tune gradually acquiring momentum (sometimes to the extent that it eventually flew apart under centrifugal forces!) All good fun… [insert tune]

McClory: Another immigrant song. Written by Pete St John about three interwoven strands of recent Irish history: the need to leave Ireland to find work, sectarianism and how friendship can overcome religious differences. One of our favourite songs, first heard from the singing of Jimmy Moore with Claddagh here in Sydney in the 1990s. Unlike McClory and the persona of the song, we haven’t returned to Ireland, apart from visits, and as we get older, the song seems to improve- like a good wine. [insert song]

Cross Me Heart: A much requested song from audiences when we play(ed) in Western Sydney- and not only by Dubs, or, indeed, the Irish! The changes in streetscapes, manners and economic circumstances is a worldwide phenomenon, I’m sure. Often, a returning visitor to the British Isles will remark something to the effect- You know, you wouldn’t recognise the place, now! Songs like this have a way of articulating these feelings better than we could ever express. [insert song]

Whiskey on a Sunday: The song, written by Glyn Hughes around 1960, is also known as The Lament for Seth Davy, who died in 1902. Seth Davy was a Jamaican who performed in the square near the Bevington Bush Hotel. In the photograph above he can be seen with his dancing dolls entertaining a bunch of kids. The dolls were attached to a plank which he controlled by striking the plank with his hands.

I first heard the song in 1968, by Danny Doyle, who had a hit with it in Ireland. At that time, I was living between Belfast and the Glens of Antrim. I thought it was about Ireland, what with the mention of buttermilk and whiskey. But, when I started to sing the song a few years back I did a bit of research and discovered the true origin and context of the song. You are never too old to learn the truth about something!

Again, this is a lockdown version of the song. While I really rate the Band-in-a-Box and Real Band software as well as the n-Track recording app, I still prefer standing with my guitar onstage with Jim, my brother-in-law playing the mandolin, Mark, my nephew playing the fiddle and good friend Sam the Man, playing the bodhran. Our appearing in front of a pub or club crowd is still months in the future, I fear. In the meantime… [insert song]

Our next postcard will be a songs only affair, alas. The pandemic has disrupted lots of things on this earth, among them being the fact that I have not been able to record many of the tunes in our repertoire that have yet to be set down in more permanent form. Jim will sing a song he learned in the bars of Belfast during the troubles in the early 1970s, Sam will sing about a Spanish Lady, and I will sing a song about drovers. So join us in Quotidia where we will again explore the world of folk music.

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 56 Somewhere Along the Line

Letters From Quotidia Somewhere Along the Line

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. Let’s step back and take the long view. Maybe a billion light-years will suffice as we are contemplating the beginnings of things from existence itself, to life on earth and then focusing in more narrowly on those years which actually mean something to everyone listening- that is, the ones we live in!

Entry 56: Somewhere Along the Line– A cladogram of the phylogenetic tree of life has its roots in time about 3.8 billion years ago where we find the Last Universal Common Ancestor a.k.a. LUCA. Why it’s not called the First Universal Common Ancestor, I’ll never know, although the acronym FUCA may not provoke as serious a response as most scientists might wish! Please! Don’t leave! Just when we were getting to know one another… Knowing that our heritage is older yet, residing in exploding stars at least three times as old, we are entitled to swagger a little, aren’t we? No one can call you a Johnny Come Lately when you can trace your lineage back to the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago.

So, given our common ancestry, why do we hunt animals to extinction and why do we kill one another in such staggering numbers?  If you are listening to this, you are another link in a long line that is 14 billion years and counting. The Biblical lifespan of three score and ten- or seventy years, just doesn’t make sense if we try to fit it into the timescale of the universe- the number deifies proper human comprehension. But you just have to view a few episodes of that internationally popular program, Who Do You Think You Are? to understand the very real emotions that the celebrities, who are the subject of these programs, exhibit. Typically, they trace their ancestry back three or four generations and are, in turn, gratified, horrified, scarified and discombobulated by what the researchers uncover.

All of us, though, live our lives along a continuum that might be moments or decades but will never exceed by more than a few years, one century. And within that continuum, there may be a section that is subject to more emotional intensity than other sections. Can you remember your first two or three years of life? What about those whose final years or decades are lost in mists of dementia? The song of the entry’s title focuses on a section of such emotional intensity- say, about ten years straddling the second and third decades of life. Ten years is manageable. So much can happen! Such memories! Oh my, how did things turn around so?

For me, the years between 14 and 24 were the most momentous- and although you may cite another age-range for yourself, it seems to me that more of relevance to my life and development happened in that ten-year period than in the decade before or the decades after. Of course, having said this, I may yet discover the secret of time-travel or invent a weight-loss pill that actually works. (In either case, I think I would have to revise the timing of my most momentous decade.) While we may wish we could preserve some moments in amber or on a Grecian vase, it cannot be so.

Smart people have theorised that time is not, as all we lesser intellects have surmised, a linear construct, an arrow flying in one direction only- but instead a mixing bowl into which is folded all the events of the universe and which can be reversed to unmix the ingredients. A film that can be run in reverse, I suppose. You know, this would give me the flaming heebie jeebies! Are you seriously telling me that all those awkward words, thoughts and actions that I thought buried forever in the vault of time are going to be resurrected to shame me all over again? I thought that was what embarrassment was created for! Because every time we remember an incident where blood flamed in our faces, we experience it all over again. The pain, the pain! We all know that, thankfully, we do not re-experience the agony of a leg broken long ago when we recall falling off the bike that time when we were attempting a BMX record.

But that we would see arising from the reversed blender all our less salubrious moments makes me pray that time goes in one direction only, even, or especially, if it leads to oblivion. Banjo Paterson knows all about the nature of time and its murky depths, All of us play our very best game/Any other time./ Golf or billiards, it’s all the same,/ Any other time./  Lose a match and you always say,/ “Just my luck! I was ‘off’ to-day!/ I could have beaten him quite half-way,/ Any other time!”  But to the song- there can be no more poignant scenario than that of passion cooling on the part of one of a pair of lovers.

Entropy proceeds at differing rates in the human heart, unlike the big, old universe. Shakespeare, in Sonnet 73, was way in advance of the Brainiacs of this age- In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,/That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,/As the deathbed whereon it must expire,/Consumed with that which it was nourished by./This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,/To love that well which thou must leave ere long.  [insert song]

Our next visit to Quotidia will remind you of the present time as  it requires face masks as we listen to  excerpts from Thomas Nashe’s, In Time of Pestilence. Another Thomas, surnamed Wyatt, left the world a sonnet of rare force and beauty which we will also sample. Then, with the Lady of Shallot we shall drift along the river to Camelot and listen to her death dirge. The Pre-Raphaelite painters, of course, will be busily sketching the scenario for us as we reflect on beauty, time and death. So, bring your paints and easel, your canvases and kit-bag as we survey the rolling hills of Quotidia in our 57th excursion to the place where all sorts of events take place, some of them even believable.

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 55 Back To You

Letters From Quotidia Back To You

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. In this 55th letter from Quotidia, we will be on the road, taking in the sights and sounds. Among other places, we”ll be in the Bataclan theatre in Paris as well as a honky tonk in Cleveland, Ohio, courtesy of poet Carl Sandburg.

Entry 55: Back to You– The road and music are related and rooted deep in history. Minstrels, troubadours, strolling players, and itinerant harpers such as the great Turloch O’Carolan who travelled the length and breadth of Ireland in the 17th Century, have set a template for musicians with itchy feet ever since. We know for a fact, of course, that Robert Johnston made a pact with the devil at the crossroads and that the late, great Hank Williams perished in the back of the car taking him to a New Year’s Day concert because his last single was prophetically entitled, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.

Now, whether the original musical impulse was connected to the sacred or the profane will never be known, although I would speculate that they were twin births for no more reliable reason than that offered for the crossroads pact and prophetic song title. The brothers Grimm in the 19th Century recorded a tale about and ass, a dog, a cat and a cock, each having served faithfully their masters and mistresses, and now, at the end of their usefulness, about to be slaughtered, take to the road and form a pact to travel to the city where they may try their luck as a band of musicians.

On their journey, they come across a dwelling in which a band of criminals are sitting down to a feast. They hit upon a plan to eat well that night so the donkey stands on his hind legs, the dog climbs up with the cat on his head and the cock at the top of the pile: they are now a real band! When all was ready a signal was given, and they began their music. The ass brayed, the dog barked, the cat mewed, and the cock screamed; and then they all broke through the window at once, and came tumbling into the room, amongst the broken glass, with a most hideous clatter! The robbers, who had been not a little frightened by the opening concert, had now no doubt that some frightful hobgoblin had broken in upon them, and scampered away as fast as they could.

But the real world is not as aesthetically pleasing, alas. On Friday the 13th of November 2015, a band of evil men broke into the Le Bataclan theatre on the Rue Voltaire. In an article in The Guardian shortly after the massacre we read that, the chinoiserie-style theatre was built in 1864 and opened the following year. It has played an integral part in Paris’s musical scene…in the early 70s. Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico performed there in 1972…Prince, Jeff Buckley, Captain Beefheart, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead, the Clash, the Cure, the Ramones, Beck, My Bloody Valentine, Blur and Oasis are just some of countless artists who’ve played at the Bataclan over the years. In a city synonymous with light; in a street named after the great secular philosopher Voltaire; in a venue that is emblematic of the plurality and vibrancy of Western culture- there can be no doubt that this place was not picked at random, but quite deliberately by those whose souls are diametrically opposed to the spirit and energy of the culture of Western civilisation.

I had not heard of the band that played there on the night terror struck. The band, The Eagles of Death Metal, released this statement on their Facebook page which reads, in part …we are horrified and still trying to come to terms with what happened in France. Our thoughts and hearts are first and foremost… with all the friends and fans whose lives were taken in Paris, as well as their friends, families, and loved ones. Although bonded in grief with the victims, the fans, the families, the citizens of Paris, and all those affected by terrorism, we are proud to stand together, with our new family, now united by a common goal of love and compassion. We would like to thank…all those at ground zero with us who helped each other as best they could during this unimaginable ordeal, proving once again that love overshadows evil. The heartless ghouls behind the killings should read the posts on the band’s page to see just how futile their campaign was, is and will be.

A previous attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo inspired a great cartoon by Australian David Pope- He drew first. An online search should bring it up. I know cartoonists will hit back against this atrocity. I leave you with this Sandburg poem entitled Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio, It’s a jazz affair, drum crashes and cornet razzes./The trombone pony neighs and the tuba jackass snorts./The banjo tickles and titters too awful./The chippies talk about the funnies in the papers./The cartoonists weep in their beer./Ship riveters talk with their feet/To the feet of floozies under the tables./A quartet of white hopes mourn with interspersed snickers:/“I got the blues./ I got the blues./I got the blues.”/And . . . as we said earlier:/The cartoonists weep in their beer. But, when they finish weeping, they will pick up their pens and they will be mightier. [insert song]

If you’ve ever had an “off” day, then you will find solace, of sorts, in a bit of verse from Australian poet, Banjo Paterson in our next visit to Quotidia. But our days, weeks, months and years stretch backwards over uncountable eons to the moment of creation and our lives are but brief, evanescent flickers in time that may, if we’re lucky, be illuminated by the incandescence of love. So, lift up your inheritance, which is the whole universe, and if you have the time, come visit me in Quotidia.

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. Mark Dougherty has a co-writing credit for the song Back To You. 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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 54 The Younger Son

Letters From Quotidia The Younger Son

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. For our 54th letter we will ping around the worlds of literature and song. Seamus Heaney and Rudyard Kipling will go to bat for the poets and the gospel writer Luke will supply a parable for our enlightenment. So, if you are ready, attune your senses for they are about to be assaulted.

Entry 54: The Younger Son– What is there outside the skin, the eyes, the ears, the tongue and sense of smell?  Smell, oh, yes, your man Proust would validate that ticket. But books I do love. The Bible, Shakespeare, the canonical poets and great authors; but add to that the songwriters and storytellers who grab you by the lobe of your ear and say- listen, listen, are you deaf or what? Can’t you read? No matter, just sit or stand here and listen. And don’t presume for one minute that it is all about you, despite your uniqueness. Just like you, there are billions of skins, noses, eyes, tongues and ears who yearn for the warmth of the sun, the cooling draught of water, the caress of the breeze, the sweetness of honey and the smell of flowers that makes life such a fine and various thing.

But are you the younger son, the lesser sibling, the undervalued one, the person who has failed to find favour? Whether by gender, politics, primogeniture or…whatever…are you feeling on the outer? Maybe an outsider? Maybe a misunderstood member of a despised group? Perhaps just someone who decided that, hey, I don’t want to think, I don’t want to work, I don’t want to explain, I don’t want to engage, I don’t want to figure in any of your classifications? Who would ever want you? Or to be you?

The great bluesman B.B King sang, No-one loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’ too. Or another King, Albert by name, reminded so many of us in the classic blues song, Born Under a Bad Sign, that, if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all. I subscribe to a streaming music service and the song-lists, left to their own are randomised. I drink to try to keep a tightrope traversing run possible within the bravado imparted by alcohol and the buzz generated by the sound bouncing off the walls as I stab at the keyboard, five-fingered, as stuff that miraculously coheres into semi-meaningful text blossoms onto the screen in front of me to the sonic hammer of, for instance, The White Stripes’ Ball and Biscuit as I marvel at the serendipity of the lyrics moaned by Jack White, Let’s have a ball and a biscuit sugar/And take our sweet little time about it/Let’s have a ball girl/And take our sweet little time about it.

The ball-cocaine and biscuit-MDMA are “right now” while the future promise of getting clean serves as an excuse for the persona’s “seventh son” to excuse present-day excess, We’ll get clean together/And I’ll find me a soapbox where I can shout it. Sure you will!  While the desperate among the affluent flagellate themselves with drugs and despair there are other, more desperate people seeking some sort of solace. Huge movements of dispossessed and persecuted men, women and children reach their hands out to the promise given by the enticing siren images of the Western World’s illusion of peace and plenty as they flee from unspeakable barbarities. Let’s have a ball, baby.

Thirty-five years ago, Seamus Heaney wrote a poem entitled From the Republic of Conscience for Amnesty International where we discover that we are all ambassadors by virtue of dual citizenship of our native land and the Republic of Conscience where their sacred symbol is a stylized boat./The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,/the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye. We learn that we must act rather than turn away and, rather than remaining silent in the face of injustice to speak on their behalf andno ambassador would ever be relieved.

The Bible provides one of the richest sources of material for writers. The parable of The Good Samaritan clearly applies here. Yet it seems to be a puzzling conundrum to the adult political world, largely, although most children get it without too much of a struggle. I have never been inspired to transmute it into song. Or not yet, anyway. This is not the case, though, with another parable which inspired the song at the end of this entry.In the gospel of Luke can be found the parable of The Prodigal Son. And lots of artists, musicians and writers have found this strange and beautiful story. And made something of it.

Here’s a stanza from Rudyard Kipling’s take on the parable: My father glooms and advises me,/ My brother sulks and despises me,/ And Mother catechises me/ Till I want to go out and swear./ And, in spite of the butler’s gravity,/ I know that the servants have it I/ Am a monster of moral depravity,/ And I’m damned if I think it’s fair! The Irish Rover, by The Dubliners, was a favourite single of mine for fifty years and more, and I have sung it off and on in a variety of venues in the decades since: I’ve been a wild rover for many’s the year/ And I’ve spent all me money on whiskey and beer…these lines are more autobiographical than I’d wish, alas. The last verse references the parable, I’ll go home to me parents, confess what I’ve done/And I’ll ask them to pardon their prodigal son. Of course, no parents for me to go home to so all I do is sing the song, drunkenly. [insert song]

Well, Quotidiers, time to hit the road again and move to another part of this strange realm. Among the minstrels, troubadours and strolling players we’ll encounter will be Turlough O’Carolan, the great Irish blind harper, blues legend Robert Johnston and Country icon Hank Williams who will give us a wave as we join forces with a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster as they concoct a cunning plan to get the best of a bunch of criminals. Oh! If only the real world had as pleasing a resolution as one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

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, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.