Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 15

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 15 Who Would, Everything Goes/Restless Paces, He’ll Have to Go

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 15– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

A little while back I admitted that I suffered from imposter syndrome; also, that I was sometimes afflicted with writers’ block. The imposter syndrome, in my case, often takes the form of dreams where I’m a complete klutz- I can do nothing right. Two dream scenarios are common- in one I’m waiting side of stage to make my entrance in a crucial scene when I remember I didn’t bother to learn my lines. In another, I’m at a school darting down corridors desperately trying to find the class I have to take for rollcall. Now don’t worry! That’s it- no more relating of dream sequences which always induce tedium in me when others regale me with their nocturnal narratives.

No, this is just stage dressing for what happened the other morning when my daughter woke me at an unearthly hour to take her to work. She jolted me out of one of the rollcall dreams- for which I was thankful. Driving back, after leaving her at her place of employment, I resolved to kill two birds with one stone- I would address my imposter syndrome and writers’ block simultaneously! It is not uncommon for those suffering writers’ block to set themselves a challenge: say, writing a sonnet on the topic of insomnia. I determined to write a song about the imposter syndrome using the rhyme scheme of the sonnet!

Why make it so hard? Because it helps- sometimes. Because I’d already tried the easy way- a glass or two of fine Irish whiskey, which, while enjoyable, did nothing to address my dual affliction. And so, the hopeful journeyman songster and sonneteer began his labours, settling on a stretched hybrid Shakespearean /Petrarchan rhyme scheme, abba, cddc, efef, ghgh, iiiii! Good Lord! I nearly broke into a Caribbean ditty there! But that would be a bum steer– to employ a quaint Americanism. Instead, I utilised folk instruments and chord sequences for the song. From the initial image of a guy on a beach throwing away something precious, I proceeded to unpack a series of misfortunes for the hapless protagonist. I think somewhere along the line the song transformed into a sort of love song-slash-apology, but that’s OK, it solved my writers’ block/ imposter syndrome problem for just a little while, and that’s what counts. Small mercies and all that. Here is the something new: with the title, Who Would [insert song]  

On now to the Letter this Postscript has decided to attach itself to. Yes, it’s ex post facto: after the fact. I had not known at the outset where it would ultimately land. But that it would land somewhere among the Letters From Quotidia, I was relatively sanguine. And so it proved: Letter 46 published on 30th March 2021 gets this PS. The letter references the mid-1990s when the next song was written and quoted from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence: you know the lines, To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And a Heaven in a Wildflower,/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/And Eternity in an hour.

Look up mad poet in an illustrated dictionary- you might just see an image of the visionary versifier looking out at you! Wikipedia informs us that the 19th-century scholar William Michael Rossetti characterised him as a “glorious luminary” and “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors” A unique poetic talent, painter, and printmaker, he was a committed Christian who was antagonistic to almost all forms of organised religion.

A couple of his poems have  the phrase divine image as part of the title that I’ll give as examples which demonstrate his capacity for dichotomies: first, in its entirety, A Divine Image, which has only two quatrains: Cruelty has a human heart,/And Jealousy a human face;/Terror the human form divine,/And Secrecy the human dress.//The human dress is forged iron,/The human form a fiery forge,/The human face a furnace sealed,/The human heart its hungry gorge.// Seems rather definitive to me, but then, I’m not Blake: For Mercy has a human heart,/Pity a human face,/And Love, the human form divine,/And Peace, the human dress.//Then every man, of every clime,/That prays in his distress,/Prays to the human form divine,/Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.//

This is an extract from The Divine Image, and, sorry, I am unable to disentangle the theological implications of these lines for you. I’m not even able to suggest why the indefinite article “A” attached to the first “Divine Image” poem presages such dire content or why the definite article “The” attached to the second “Divine Image” poem presages such soothing imagery. I am on surer ground when introducing the song that accompanies this part of the Postscript, which is the something old of the sequence. I started writing Everything Goes, shortly after learning, courtesy of illness, that I was not bullet-proof back in the mid-1990s. I was dissatisfied with it and couldn’t work out why, so I left it and started to write a pean to music and love, entitled Restless Paces, which was also OK, but about which I remained less than satisfied. And then, one afternoon, I stitched them together with a linking musical line and-voila– in my humble opinion, it worked! [insert song]

And incidentally- the portmanteau song just heard was one of twenty or so that I recorded in a small studio up the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, in early 2000 while I was on long-service leave. The digital revolution that would place home recording in just about everyone’s reach had not fully developed, and so I drove up to a studio in Hazelbrook with my notebooks, guitar, and mandolin to set down a series of songs I intended to use in a musical play I was writing called And Leave Him There. It premiered, belatedly, on WordPress between 10th and 21st of January 2022, as part of the Letters From Quotidia,  comprising 10 parts- each of 20 or so minutes’ duration.

But now, as I wrap up this Postscript, I’d like to refer to a poem that intensifies in meaning and relevance for me as the days, weeks and months give way to years and, alas, decades- I mean TS Eliot’s great poem, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. Did you know that the poem that single-handedly kickstarted the modernist movement of poetry in English was conceived by a Harvard undergraduate, painfully shy around women? Who took up the noble art- boxing- to bolster his self-esteem and confidence?

And what song is that, coming at me out of leftfield, that’s auditioning to pair with the poetical magnificence of Prufrock? Let me examine its credentials: a country song made famous by Jim Reeves in 1960, mmm. About a man who pleads with his woman to tell a rival to buzz off as he tries to win her back over the phone, Ooh Kay… The persona of the song is the sort of man that the poet and Prufrock could only dream of being. Fair enough. Here’s my take on He’ll Have To Go [insert song]

I’ll end with a few lines of this great poem: There will be time, there will be time/To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;/There will be time to murder and create,/And time for all the works and days of hands/That lift and drop a question on your plate;/Time for you and time for me,/And time yet for a hundred indecisions/And for a hundred visions and revisions…Do I dare/Disturb the universe?/In a minute there is time/For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse…And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,/When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,/Then how should I begin/To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?…I am no prophet- and here’s no great matter;/I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker…And would it have been worth it, after all…To have bitten off the matter with a smile/To have squeezed the universe into a ball/To roll it towards some overwhelming question,/ Ahh, the overwhelming question. I am still trying to formulate this question for myself!

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 14

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 14 Big Yellow Taxi, Home, Spray

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 14– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Since there’s going to be quite a bit of poetry recited in this Postscript, let me ease you into it with the shortest poem written in the Victorian era. It has the title The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs and was written by George McDonald, who was descended from the Clan MacDonald of Glen Coe and, therefore, a direct descendant of one of the families that suffered in the massacre there of 1692. He is regarded as the father of modern fantasy- writing, among many other stories, The Princess and the Goblin.

Additionally, he was mentor to Lewis Carroll and instrumental in getting Alice published. He also was influential in the writings of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. But back to that shortest of poems: I mean, the title, The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs, is three times the length of the poem itself! Ready? The first line is Come/And the last line is Home// Come Home. In Postscript 13 we heard from Thomas Hardy’s  fine poem, Afterwards. If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,/When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,/One may say, ‘He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,/But he could do little for them; and now he is gone.’//

Philip Larkin, has given us another view of the hedgehog in one of his later, and greater, poems, The Mower written in 1979: The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found/A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,/Killed. It had been in the long grass.//I had seen it before, and even fed it, once./Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world/Unmendably. Burial was no help://Next morning I got up and it did not./The first day after a death, the new absence/Is always the same; we should be careful//Of each other, we should be kind/While there is still time.//

Oh dear, that leap forward in time was a bit grim. So, let’s tumble back to the 17th Century and an encounter between a mower (the bucolic, human ones that carry a scythe) and some tiny insects. The Metaphysical poet, Andrew Marvell, who lived between 1621 and 1678, takes up the account in his 4-stanza poem, The Mower to the Glow-Worms Ye living Lamps, by whose dear light/The Nightingale does sit so late,/And studying all the Summer-night,/Her matchless Songs does meditate;//Ye Country Comets, that portend/No War, nor Princes funeral,/ Shining unto no higher end/Then to presage the Grasses fall;//Ye Glo-worms, whose officious Flame/To wandring Mowers shows the way,/That in the Night have lost their aim,/And after foolish Fires do stray;//Your courteous Lights in vain you wast,/Since Juliana here is come,/For She my Mind hath so displaced/ That I shall never find my home.//

Ah, that reference to home again creates a tidal attraction back to the 20th Century and Philip Larkin’s Take One Home for the Kiddies. On shallow straw, in shadeless glass,/Huddled by empty bowls, they sleep:/No dark, no dam, no earth, no grass -/Mam, get us one of them to keep.//Living toys are something novel,/But it soon wears off somehow./Fetch the shoebox, fetch the shovel -/Mam, we’re playing funerals now.//

Yeah, the whole of humankind will be playing funerals soon unless we can arrest the wholesale poisoning of the planet and halt the headlong race towards oblivion courtesy of nuclear or biological warfare. Of course, advances in Artificial Intelligence may, instead, arrange another, unimaginable, method of ridding the earth of its pesky humans. But until then…time for the first song of this post- it’s something borrowed from Joni Mitchell: [insert song]

She wrote and recorded Big Yellow Taxi  in 1970 and I first heard it at about this time. She was in Honolulu looking out at lush green hills in the distance and I was in a one-room bedsit near Carlisle Circus, Belfast looking out at a dingy brick wall. But we did share one thing- a concern for the environment. That’s what this post is about- it’s the environment, stupid! Or, more prosaically- Home. Those bloviating billionaires, and star-struck scientists have worked themselves into a lather imagining new societies on the moon, among the asteroids or on Mars as they refuse to do anything about the despoilation of the only home we have-Earth.

Poets, like artists of every stripe, have always been alert to the state of the world around them and in 1879 Gerrard Manley Hopkins wrote a well-known poem, about a stand of trees that were chopped down, Binsey Poplars My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,/Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,/All felled, felled, are all felled;/Of a fresh and following folded rank/ Not spared, not one/That dandled a sandalled/Shadow that swam or sank/On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.//O if we but knew what we do/When we delve or hew –/Hack and rack the growing green!/Since country is so tender/To touch, her being so slender,/That, like this sleek and seeing ball/But a prick will make no eye at all,//Where we, even where we mean/To mend her we end her,/When we hew or delve:/After-comers cannot guess the beauty been./Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve strokes of havoc unselve/The sweet especial scene/…

Shortly afterwards, the poplars were replanted. In 2004 they were felled again, only to be replanted. As the Bodleian website notes, The poem formed part of the successful campaign to replant the trees. Who said poetry has no power? Ah, we can hope, can’t we? On New Year’s Eve, 1999, I was relaxing in my backyard with a beer in my hand and my guitar by my side. My family were all in residence and the sun was shining. The heat of the Australian summer was tempered by a cool breeze. I realised that, for the first time in over thirty years, I was in a place that I could call home without demur. Usually, I wouldn’t have registered the thought but, that day, I wandered inside, collected a pen and notebook and, calling for another beer, I wrote this song, it is the something old taken from the 29th Letter From Quotidia published on 1st March 2021 and, of course, it’s called Home: [insert song]

But anger rather than whimsy or domesticity  is sometimes called for. Is it any wonder our kids are moving against us as the garbage we created piles up around them? Alas, I haven’t the creative energy or time to create the necessary original response. And then I realised, I already had done so in a song accompanying my 85th Letter From Quotidia published on 7th June 2021. It’s called Spray. Not the water droplets which refract the light in prismed colours as you stroll hand in hand along a beach, but rather a condemnatory diatribe where the spray is a spittle-flecked shout  in the face of complacency. The meaning of spray, in this context, is familiar to Australians. I wrote it a while back when I had the energy to be angry.

And so, we arrive at the heart of darkness. We are upriver, could be the Congo; could be the Mekong; could be any river on this planet, because there is always someone hunched in the gloom, face spectrally lit by a fire or a flatscreen plotting nothing at all good for us . Now let TS Eliot be our guide as the first stanza of his great poem, The Hollow Men, is recited, We are the hollow men/We are the stuffed men/ Leaning together/Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!/Our dried voices, when/We whisper together/Are quiet and meaningless/ As wind in dry grass/ Or rats’ feet over broken glass/ In our dry cellar//Shape without form, shade without colour,/ Paralysed force, gesture without motion;//Those who have crossed/ With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom/ Remember us-if at all-not as lost/Violent souls, but only/As the hollow men/The stuffed men.// [insert song]

If you feel at home, as I do, relish the experience and, should you be so moved, sing hosannas of praise that you are among the fortunate few. We need to do more to keep our homes safe and secure for our children’s sake, don’t we?

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 13

Quentin Bega
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Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 13 Hey Joe, The Mark of Cain, During Wind and Rain

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 13– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! In the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

The topic of Murder Ballads is a good fit for the 13th Postscript. I foreshadowed that I would be dealing with triskaidekaphobia and related matters. What’s with the fear of the number 13, anyway? You can get up to three Friday the 13ths in a year- as well as a couple of blue moons– so, just to be sure, always carry your lucky rabbit’s foot. (Though I do wonder how the rabbit would characterise its luck?)

In any case, avoid any gathering where there is a dozen plus one at the table (the sequel to the Last Supper should give the clue here). And through an abundance of caution- have you noticed how politicians are using that phrase more and more- you should also avoid the even dozen because the trickster god of Norse mythology, Loki, miffed by not being included might just crash your party with results like when he was dissed by a knees-up in Valhalla to which he wasn’t invited. He arranged for Höðr (Hoder) to shoot a mistletoe arrow at the otherwise invulnerable Balder whose death plunged the earth into darkness.

Some hotels don’t have a thirteenth storey or even a room 13. But such superstitious tosh is counterbalanced by the lucky associations with the number 13, of which there are many which I won’t enumerate here because of space and time constraints and a pressing need to talk about a murder ballad that changed my life. (See what I did there? Sucked you in with a common click-bait phrase- changed my life!)

When you come to think of it- any event in your timeline may do this. When you last stooped to retrieve a dropped coin, how do you know that you didn’t just miss a burst of cosmic rays that would have knocked a cell in your body out of equilibrium and started a cascade of cancerous growth that would have consumed you utterly a bit further on down that timeline?

In early December 1966 I saw Jimi Hendrix on the popular music show, Ready Steady Go performing Hey Joe. He also performed the song on the premier pop music show, in the UK, Top of the Pops on BBC TV on 29th December. I had earlier in the same year heard Eric Clapton’s work with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers on their seminal LP. It’s known as the Beano LP because Eric Clapton is pictured on the cover reading this popular British comic mag with his bandmates just sitting against a graffitied concrete wall.

When I was in residence in Trench House, Belfast, in the Christmas term of 1968, I played every lead I could through continuous listenings and playing along with that  Beano LP. So, I had heard distorted, blues-tinged rock music before Hendrix.  But he was in a different league: an exotic black god dressed in plumage that would make a troupe of tropical parrots dowdy in comparison. His piratical swagger and pyrotechnical display of blazing guitar magic ensured that all the British rock establishment came to pay homage. Here’s my version now, the something borrowed, which makes no attempt to duplicate Hendrix’s guitar lines but rather adopts a more country blues vibe: [insert song]

Murder ballads abound in the folk and country music genres. I heard my first murder ballad at the tender age of 9 in Aruba on a friend’s family’s record system in 1959. The Kingston Trio’s number 1 hit, Tom Dooley hid within its smooth presentation and harmonies a dark tale of jealousy, betrayal, and murder. Not long after this I listened to El Paso by Marty Robbins in which the jealous protagonist, enraged by a stranger’s presumption in talking to his Mexican girlfriend, Ferlina, shoots him dead then flees. He can’t stay away though and in the end is shot by a pursuing posse, finally dying in the arms of Ferlina. Other murder ballads I have listened to with horrified pleasure include a version of The Long Black Veil, with The Chieftains and Mick Jagger, where a man refuses to supply an alibi to save himself from the gallows because he was in the arms of his best friend’s wife on the night in question. I cut to the chase now and finish with a reference to Frankie and Johnny, where the woman, Frankie, shoots her lover Johnny whom she has discovered in flagrante with a gal named Nellie Bligh.  

She pays the ultimate price for her crime and the best version of this murder ballad, IMHO, recorded in 1929 by Jimmie Rodgers, ends with the verse, This story has no moral, this story has no end/ This story just goes to show there ain’t no good in men/He was her man and he done her wrong// But there is, of course, a moral. And it’s an imperative: thou shalt not kill. The two commandments which follow it in sequence, thou shalt not commit adultery and thou shalt not steal,  provide the major motives for the murders related in most ballads of the genre.

In the mid-1980s I started to write a TV show for Ulster TV called The Last Country Band in Ireland, and as a preparation for this I had listened to countless hours of country music from Ireland and the US. Then, the opportunity to return to Australia fell in my lap and, with months to avail myself of this prospect, I did not have time to complete the scripting process as well as making the arrangements for the move back to Australia. But I did have the time to write, in addition to the draft script,  a few songs in the genre.

I had intended for this song to open the TV show, which, like so many other ideas, lies stillborn in a file somewhere in the loft or garage. But here’s the product of that ill-fated project, it’s a murder ballad inspired by the very first homicide related in Genesis, with the title The Mark of Cain. The version heard here was published back in January 2021 as part of my Letters From Quotidia series and it comprises the something old of this Postscript: [insert song]  

The song which represents the something new for this Postscript, has a patina of age on it, I have to confess. I’ve merely supplied the music to a poem in ballad form by one of my favourite poets- Thomas Hardy. Dr Oliver Tearle, who established the site, Interesting Literature in 2012, is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University which is ranked as best in the UK for student experience. I’ve been a regular visitor to the site over the past few years and heartily recommend Dr Tearle’s short analysis of the lyric, During Wind and Rain, which was composed by Hardy in his late seventies as he remembered his first wife Emma Gifford who had died five years before. This is not a murder ballad for no murderer of history, however mass, could ever compete with the phenomenon that obliterates the characters in the poem and elsewhere.

Dr Tearle writes although she and Hardy had been estranged for the last few decades of her life, her death triggered an outpouring of grief from Hardy as he began to remember their early life together. This trip down memory lane resulted in Hardy writing some of his finest poetry. During Wind and Rain is one such poem, recollecting Emma’s childhood life in Devon with her family. Emma, like her parents, is now in that ‘high new house’ of heaven, and all that remains of her is the name on her gravestone and Hardy’s memories of her. Hardy’s use of the refrain ‘the years O!’ (or ‘the years, the years’ as the even-numbered stanzas have it) calls to mind not only the passing of time but also the years marked on those gravestones, alongside the names. [insert song]

I do hope that the fourteenth postscript will chart a cheerier course that the one just experienced- see what I’m doing? I’m removing myself from any responsibility at all for the content of the posts. Note well what listening to the bloviators of this world does to you! I’ll end with a stanza from his fine poem, Afterwards: If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,/When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,/One may say, ‘He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,/But he could do little for them; and now he is gone.’//

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 12

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 12 Drink Up the Cider, Step It Out Mary, 12th Night song

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 12– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! In the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Ah! It’s a great number. The last year before you transmogrify into a zitty, hormonal nightmare- also known to parents worldwide as their sons and/or daughters becoming teenagers; it’s the number of jurors, months in a year, daylight hours, apostles, principal gods in the pantheon, labours of Heracles, and number of cream buns I pray my darling wife will bring home from the patisserie- to name just a few attributes of this sublime number. Additionally, the number of songs I will present in this post is the superfactorial of this number.

May I also give a shout out to one of my favourite Shakespearian comedies, Twelfth Night, the title of which derives from the feast celebrated on the last of the twelve days of Christmas: the eve of the Epiphany on 6 January. In the winter chill of pre-industrial Europe, many traditions connected with the return of fertility to the earth were carried out at or around this time. One that caught my fancy is the practice once common in the southwest counties of England of wassailing an ancient Yuletide drinking ritual and salutation either involving door-to-door charity-giving or used to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year.

There is a legend associated with this called the Apple Tree Man. This is the name given to the spirit of the oldest tree in the orchard. In one story a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orchard. He is rewarded by the Apple Tree Man who reveals to him the location of buried gold, more than enough to pay his rent for the coming year. Singing is always part of these rituals: the final verse of one of the songs goes: Old Apple tree, old apple tree;/We’ve come to wassail thee;/To bear and to bow apples enow;/Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full;/Barn floors full and a little heap under the stairs// And singing is on the agenda right now and it is the something old of the trio of songs in this post. It’s from the southwest of England and this song I first learned back in the 1990s: Drink Up the Cider. [insert song]

The wonderful site, Mainly Norfolk tells us: Step It Out Mary is based on a children’s skipping-song written by Irish songwriter Sean McCarthy around 1955. He writes, “The rules of the skipping game were fairly simple. Each skipper took it in turn to use the skipping rope, while the others chanted the  ditty given below. When it came to the last line, the skipper stopped with the left leg cocked as high as he or she could manage and stayed still until the next skipper took his or her place. If the skipper failed to keep their left leg cocked or it if touched the ground, then with many jeers and catcalls they were banished from the game. 

I started my search that night but could find no man or woman who had ever heard extra verses to the children’s skipping song which goes: Step it out Mary, my fine daughter/Step it out Mary, if you can/Step it out Mary, my fine daughter/Cock your legs for the country man.// Indeed, my own Kerry, home of strange songs and poems, failed to supply any more than the four lines. In desperation then, in a London building site, when again times were hard on folksingers, I composed the story of the soldier and Mary, and added it to the Kanturk children’s skipping ditty.

I did it while I was hiding from the foreman under a concrete stairway, and I used the inside of a cement bag for note paper. I took it home to my modest flat, stuck it in a drawer and forgot about it. Eighteen months later, when fortune was again smiling in my direction, I found myself, along with two others, running a folk singing club in the Clapham area of London. The folk club was called The Crubeen, and I suppose if you are a folk buff, you will remember that it started a lot of the present-day trend. If you were a folk singer, then The Crubeen was the place to sing. Most of your present-day singers, Irish, English, and American, dropped in there to try out their material.

A young Dublin ex-army rifleman named Danny Doyle wandered in there one night, I sung Step It Out Mary and later gave him the words, no longer written on the cement bag, but neatly typed on shop paper.The rest is folk history.” Indeed, it is. Danny Doyle made this a hit in 1967 and the song, like all good folksongs, has spawned variants in England and America, some of these you will find on the website, Mainly Norfolk. I’ve long known of and admired the song- but find I’m only getting around to recording it, now, for this post. Here is Step It Up, Mary.  [insert song]

The opposition of mirth and melancholy, merrymaking and misery get a thorough workout in that Shakespeare play I referenced earlier, Twelfth Night. If you have yet to experience this comic masterpiece, I do recommend it. In Act Two, scene 3, Sir Toby Belch is living it up with a gormless knight he is trying to swindle while being entertained by the court clown, Feste. They prevail upon Feste to sing them a song. However, hardly has the roistering begun than the court steward, Malvolio, interrupts with a wrathful admonition for them to desist immediately. And this generates the sub-plot where they plan their revenge on the puritanical Malvolio. I have used the lyrics of Feste’s song as bookends to Malvolio’s vituperative spray which I have set to music in a somewhat jarring middle section: [insert song]  

Let’s finish off this postscript with some more of the transcendent language of Twelfth Night. Here, Orsino the Duke, speaks with Viola, who is disguised as a man and who secretly loves the Duke, about love between men and women. As usual in Shakespeare, dramatic irony abounds: ORSINO: Make no compare/Between that love a woman can bear me/And that I owe Olivia./VIOLA  Ay, but I know—/ORSINO  What dost thou know?/VIOLA Too well what love women to men may owe./In faith, they are as true of heart as we./My father had a daughter loved a man/As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,/I should your Lordship./ORSINO And what’s her history?/VIOLA blank, my lord. She never told her love,/But let concealment, like a worm i’ th’ bud,/ Feed on her damask cheek. She pined in thought,/And with a green and yellow melancholy/She sat like Patience on a monument,/Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?/We men may say more, swear more, but indeed/Our shows are more than will; for still we prove/Much in our vows but little in our love./ ORSINO But died thy sister of her love, my boy?/VIOLA I am all the daughters of my father’s house,/And all the brothers, too—and yet I know not.//

Want more? I’ll continue with the opening lines of this much-loved play. Many who can quote the opening line, don’t know where it comes from: If music be the food of love, play on./Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,/The appetite may sicken and so die./That strain again! It had a dying fall./O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound/That breathes upon a bank of violets,/Stealing and giving odor/Another line, widely known but rarely the source or context is Some are born great; some achieve greatness; and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.

I crave your indulgence, if you are among those who hate Shakespeare- and you are not Robinson Crusoe there, either! With legions of unwilling students forced to ingest the Bard, you may count Tolstoy, Voltaire, and George Bernard Shaw as fellow loathers of  the Swan of Avon. I’ll freely confess that I’m closer to those who are termed Bardolitrists- defined as those who display an exceedingly excessive admiration for this particular poet and playwright. My next Postscript, the 13th in the series, will deal, in some measure, with the term triskaidekaphobia. I’ll end by agreeing with the final lines of Twelfth Night, sung by Feste, one of Shakespeare’s memorable fools or clowns: A great while ago the world begun,/With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,/But that’s all one, our play is done,/And we’ll strive to please you every day.

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 11

Letters From Quotidia PS Ep 11 The Raggle Taggle Gypsy/Battle of Aughrim, The Night-Visiting Song, The Stream

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 11– a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! In the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

This post will focus on women in two songs from the folk tradition and one original. At the outset I will record my debt to Wikipedia for the bulk of the information given. The first is The Raggle Taggle Gypsy In the folk tradition the song was extremely popular, spread all over the English-speaking world by broadsheets and oral tradition. According to Roud and Bishop, Definitely in the top five Child ballads in terms of widespread popularity, and possibly second only to ‘Barbara Allen’, the Gypsies stealing the lady, or, to put it the other way round, the lady running off with the sexy Gypsies, has caught singers’ attention all over the anglophone world for more than 200 years. For obvious reasons, the song has long been a favourite with members of the travelling community.

I first sang this song in the folk group Seannachie almost fifty years ago and I’ve sung it off and on in various venues, solo and with partners since that time.  When Banter formed in the mid-1990s, we all thought that the stirring march, The Battle of Aughrim, would complement it nicely. I do wonder, though, how many fine ladies in history have ever left the money, fine clothes  and privileges of wealth and rank in order to follow a gypsy into the privations of a traveller’s life. Or would the outcome be more like that of John Faa, king of the gypsies, who flourished between 1540-1553.

The story runs that Faa ran away with Margaret Kennedy, Countess of Cassilis. Her enraged husband caught up with them at a ford over the River Doon, still called the Gypsies’ Steps. He hanged Faa and his followers on a Dule Tree (such named trees being used for public hangings) on a mound in front of the Castle Gate at Cassillis while his wife was forced to watch from an upstairs room. He then imprisoned her in Maybole Castle for the rest of her life. So, the version you hear now is one recorded in the round– a laptop on the centre of a table laden with liquid refreshment, hence the field-recording quality. This song, then, is the something old from the template. [insert song]

Most people have heard of the tragic ballad, Barbara Allen. It is a traditional folksong that is popular throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. It tells of how the eponymous character denies a dying man’s love, then dies of grief soon after his untimely death. The song began as a ballad in the seventeenth century or earlier, before quickly spreading (both orally and in print) throughout Britain and Ireland and later North America.

The ballad generally follows a standard plot, although narrative details vary between versions: typically, a servant asks Barbara to attend on his sick master. She then visits the bedside of the heartbroken young man, who then pleads for her love. She refuses, claiming he had slighted her while drinking with friends. He dies soon after and Barbara hears his funeral bells tolling; stricken with grief, she dies as well. In some versions, they are buried in the same churchyard; a rose grows from his grave, a briar from hers, and the plants form a true lovers’ knot.

A diary entry by Samuel Pepys on 2 January 1666 contains the earliest extant reference to the song. In it, he recalls the fun and games at a New Year’s party:“…but above all, my dear Mrs Knipp, with whom I sang; and in perfect pleasure I was to hear her sing, and especially her little Scotch song of Barbary Allen.” There are hundreds if not thousands of recordings of this ballad in song. The folklorist John Lomax and his wife Ruby recorded a version by Hule “Queen” Hines at Florida State Prison on 4 June 1939. I’ll recite, rather than sing, a version of the ballad that is stripped back, omitting the rose and briar intertwining that is found in some versions.

In Scarlet town, where I was born,/There was a fair maid dwellin’,/Made every youth cry Well-a-way!/ Her name was Barbara Allen.//All in the merry month of May,/When green buds they were swellin’,/Young Jemmy Grove on his/ death-bed lay,/For love of Barbara Allen.//He sent his man in to her then,/To the town where she was dwellin’;/“O haste and come to my master dear,/If your name be Barbara Allen.”//So slowly, slowly rase she up,/ And slowly she came nigh him,/And when she drew the curtain by—/“Young man, I think you’re dyin’.”//“O it’s I am sick and very very sick,/ And it’s all for Barbara Allen.”—/O the better for me ye’se never be,/Tho’ your heart’s blood were a-spillin’!//“O dinna ye mind, young man,” says she,/ “When the red wine ye were fillin’,/That ye made the healths go round and round,/And slighted Barbara Allen?”//He turned his face unto the wall,/ And death was with him dealin’:/“Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,/And be kind to Barbara Allen!”//As she was walking o’er the fields,/She heard the dead-bell knellin’;/And every jow the dead-bell gave/Cried “Woe to Barbara Allen.”//“O mother, mother, make my bed,/O make it saft and narrow:/My love has died for me today,/I’ll die for him tomorrow.”//“Farewell,” she said, “ye virgins all,/And shun the fault I fell in:/Henceforth take warning by the fall/Of cruel Barbara Allen.”//

The something borrowed I will present is The Night-Visiting Song. But not the Luke Kelly version, which is memorable as the last song we have of him singing on stage, before his death at age 44 in 1984. The version I am going to sing I found on the website http://www.joeheaney.org and I’ll quote from what Joe said on one of his many sessions, recorded over a lifetime twenty years longer than that granted to Luke Kelly. A renowned sean nos singer from  County Galway, Joe Heaney had this to say about the song:  

Now, there’s another belief that, we’ll say, two people have a date tonight, or tomorrow night, or something. They say, ‘We’ll meet at eight o’clock.’ And meantime, one of them dies, or is accidentally killed or something. They have to keep that date unless they say, ‘God willing’ or ‘if I’m alive.’ They reckon if you say that, you don’t have to keep that particular date. Now, whatever happens you, that party will let you back for one night only, from midnight (which the old people reckoned was the hour of the dead) until the rooster or the cock crows in the morning. This man was drowned off a horse into the raging tempest. And his girlfriend was expecting him home to her place, to be with her. And he didn’t come; she went in to bed. And about the middle of the night she heard the voice outside the door. And she lifted her head up, and she said, ‘Who is there?’ and he said, ‘It’s me.’ Then she thought he was coming at last. And she had no idea was he dead until he said he had to go when the cock crowed next morning.[insert song]

I said when I introduced the Postscripts that the something blue would be subsumed into the background of the posts. And so it has proved to be. For the something new, of this Postscript, however, I wish to veer away from the tragic, the blue, and present something brighter and more heartsome, to use a word that Gaels, and others, will be familiar with- it means, spirited, giving cheer, uplifting. The Raggle Taggle Gypsy  and The Night-Visiting Song  you have just heard lie at the opposite end of the spectrum conjured up by the word heartsome. You know, it took me a full week to break away from my habitual, gloomy cast of mind and write this! In Australia, now, they say that the dismal Climate Wars are over and that we may yet be able to play a part in saving the only  planet we inhabit. So too, I hope that this song can help to affirm that the survival of our species, down the ages, has depended on a commonality among men and women that simply says- we need, want, and love one another! [insert song]

When I started the Postscripts I didn’t dream I would be heralding  a dozen posts. But life’s like that, isn’t it? And I’m not complaining? I mean, who knows what’s coming next, do you? Of course, I do hope you’re all here for the next PS

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 10

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 10 Swallow Flowers, Hello in There, The Unknown Soldier

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 10 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! In the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Sometimes you compose in a haze. How else can I explain the first song I was able to write after being frozen for reasons I explained in Postscripts 8. Just floating along the winding currents in the ceaseless stream that is the internet, I was snagged by some material on Korea, 20th Century Korean protest poetry specifically, and not the Gangnam-style or boy-band  BTS of this century.  No, I was reading about two poets, one from North of and the other South of the Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas.  

Imu Baek is the name a poet from North Korea hides behind- for obvious reasons. Although she titles her collection of verses a “memoir,” it is really a memorial to all those who did not survive the famine that swept through her country during the 1990s. Like Ko Un, the poet from the South whom I will discuss later, she came close to death herself after her parents died and she lived as a homeless orphan. She now lives in South Korea but hasn’t forgotten what she left behind. She writes I will keep the promise we made that day/I will recall the days of suffering we endured/ I will call to mind each of your faces/As I document your names in this book/A record of our lives together//

The lives she is recording are those of the “flower swallows.” According to a note from translators Hyongrae Kim and Siobhan Mei, the expression derives from the Russian word for nomadic, kochevoy. In Korean, that became kot (flower) and jebi (swallow). Just as there is no such thing in nature as a “flower swallow,” there was nothing natural about a horde of ragged children trying to survive on discarded and purloined food… The hungry range across the land like locusts eating everything in their path including grass and tree bark. Those who protest are “beaten, burned, stabbed, and shot.” The corpses that pile up everywhere provide a brief feast for vultures and crows. The truly desperate resort to cannibalism. I’m indebted for this information to a review by John Feffer in the Spring 2021 issue of  Korean Quarterly of Flower Swallows Sing, a poetic memoir by North Korean poet, the anonymous Imu Baek.

This awful scenario reminds me of Seamus Heaney’s poem At Potato Digging and the lines, Mouths tightened in, eyes died hard, / faces chilled to a plucked bird./ In a million wicker huts/beaks of famine snipped at guts. // A people hungering from birth, / grubbing, like plants, in the bitch earth, / were grafted with a great sorrow./ So, one morning, groggy after a much-interrupted sleep, I read through copious material I had bookmarked over previous days. I picked up my guitar and started to strum, finding words from- wherever they arise, and I grafted them onto the first draft of original musical material for several weeks. With a bit of judicious pruning, I fashioned something I deemed worthy of display.

But, in the furor poeticus, I got the key phrase  of the song…ah, how can I put it – arse about face is the technical term that applies here. I stared at the book title- Flower swallows– and then at the first two words of the chorus- swallow flowers. Oh no! If I reverse the phrase, it will throw the rhyme off. But then, thought the cunning lyricist, I’ll just pretend the whole thing is deliberate- you know, how some Asian cultures reverse the way names are presented (to Western eyes) Finally, I decided since it was composed in a haze, so be it. [insert song]  

Now to Ko Un, the greatest living Korean poet, born on 1 August 1933. In the late 1950s, when he was in prison and expecting to be executed, Ko Un vowed that if he lived, he would write a poem about every person that he’d ever met. This monumental project, Maninbo, as it is known in Korea, represents one of the major classics of modern Korean Literature. It currently contains 4,001 poems in 30 volumes. In Ten Thousand Lives, its English translation, Ko writes poems about people forgotten by those outside their immediate families. He also details the sacrifices that so many Koreans made to create the modern democracy of today. He has long been a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature, but this is likely to be cruelled by a Me-Too-type scandal that has erupted around him in the past few years.  But in this post, I will just focus on his poetry. Of the many thousands he has written, I offer his poem,

Sunlight. I’m utterly helpless./ I’ll just have to swallow my spit/and adversity, too./But look!/A distinguished visitor deigns to visit/my tiny, north-facing cell./Not the chief making his rounds, no./As evening falls, a ray of sunlight./A gleam no bigger than a crumpled postage stamp./I’m crazy about it! Real first love!/I try to get it to settle on the palm of my hand,/to warm the toes of my shyly bared foot./Then as I kneel and offer it my undevout, lean face,/in a moment that scrap of sunlight slips away./After the guest has departed through the bars/the room feels several times colder and darker./This special cell of a military prison/ is like a photographer’s darkroom./Without any sunlight I laughed like a fool./One day it was a coffin holding a corpse./One day it was altogether the sea. How wonderful!/A few people survive here./Being alive is a sea/without a single sail in sight.  

Some of the imagery here will reappear in the final song of the podcast- but let’s not get ahead of ourselves- who knows where that may lead? So, back to the template: having heard the something new, now for the something old, and it’s John Prine’s Hello in There. The Korean link is tenuous but significant. This was one of my favourite tracks from Joan Baez’s great album, Diamonds and Rust. In the latter half of 1975 I’d bring it over to Australian poet, Kevin Baker’s place in Mangerton, a leafy suburb in Wollongong, NSW, and we’d drink some wine and play some music.

This was one of my tracks for providing inspiration (along with the wine, of course). Prine, in an interview, said that he thought of hollering the title into a hollow log after hearing the reverb on Lennon’s Across The Universe and that was the starting spark of the song. He had an affinity for old people and said, I don’t think I’ve done a show without singing it. Nothing in it wears on me. Almost 50 years after hearing the song and having used it frequently in my teaching career, I will echo John Prine- Nothing in it wears on me. [insert song]  

The something borrowed is a song I came across as I was auditioning songs of the Korean War online. None of them appealed to me and not one I recognised as having survived that dismal conflict which is still unresolved today. Until, that is, I came across the B-side of an RCA Victor single from 1951 by country singer-songwriter Elton Britt with lyrics by John Schram and Charles Grean (The latter a writer, composer and arranger who worked at RCA Victor and elsewhere in the entertainment industry for decades). The Unknown Soldier is the name of this song and what struck me was the similarity of the imagery here and that found in the poem by Ko Un quoted earlier, Sunlight. The song questions the sacrifices made by the slain- did they die in vain? [insert song]

While that song is firmly located within the country music genre of mid-20th Century America, might I suggest that most soldiers from every country, across many centuries would agree with these sentiments But I’ll finish with two short love poems to lighten a rather tenebrous post. The first is by Kim Yong-taek, An Early Winter Letter, Lovely leaves/have all been shed/from the mountain ahead of me./ Longing for the empty mountain,/ white snow/might fall/upon the river.//Before the snow falls I would love to see you.// The second is by Moon In-soo, Love: Making a Long Distance Phone Call, So it’s raining over there?/It’s bright and sunny here./Your sadness dries up little by little./I am slowly getting drenched.// What will PS 11 bring? I really wish I knew.

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 9

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 9 Airman, Hiroshima, Progress, 237 Dollars, Morning Dew

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 9 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the 200+ Letters and Postcards from Quotidia over the past 18 months. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

This saddest of postscripts commemorates an event that took place on the 6th of August, 77 years ago. The dropping of the first nuclear device over the Japanese harbour city of Hiroshima which ultimately killed 120,000 people heralded the new age in which a clever species on planet earth which had evolved only a mere eye blink before in the history of the planet,  devised the means to end life as we know it. In this special podcast each of the five song refers to that grim reality from its own perspective.

First is Airman  which I wrote in the late 1970s- with my sometime musical collaborator, Mark Dougherty, adding the bridge in 1981. For episode 38, I wrote: “I was born into the Age of Anxiety. In Aruba, in the early sixties, Castro was a renegade on the rampage not too far to the north- but somehow comic with his beard and cigar, a Latin Groucho Marx rather than the more imposing German, Karl. However, the Cuban missile crisis sparked nervous cocktail conversations in the patios of expatriate Americans: You can bet the refinery will be hit! The periodicals were full of details of how to build bomb shelters. The commies would, of course, be utterly destroyed. MAD was more than a magazine title, in those days…

On 6th August 1945 the crew of a B-29 captained by Colonel Paul Tibbets dropped a bomb nicknamed Little Boy on the Japanese city of Hiroshima killing 80,000 people instantly. Japanese poet, Sankichi Toge, who was in Hiroshima on that day, died at age 36 on the operating table in Hiroshima, wrote poetry about the bomb. I’ll preface the song with these lines from his poem, The Shadow: Burned onto the step, cracked and watery red,/the mark of the blood that flowed as intestines melted to mush:/a shadow. Who were you, shadow, and what were your dreams that morning as you approached  those concrete steps?” [insert song]

The song you will hear now, Hiroshima, was written over a couple of days in early August 2005. It was written to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. However, as I was writing the song, I realised that there was another, more personal anniversary- of a sort- for this particular date also marked the passage of time where the duration of my son’s time on earth was balanced by the time since his passing. This realisation coloured the composition of the piece which had started out as a straight remembrance of that epoch-shattering event but morphed into a more personal threnody. [insert song]

In an earlier post, I referred to a cartoon from the 1960s by Ron Cobb, entitled Progress, the upper panel shows two cavemen brandishing bones at one another. Then, dividing the upper panel from the lower, is the word Progress. The lower panel shows two men in suits; one has a pistol with which he has just shot his rival dead. The next song inserts a few more panels outlining the history of war. Originally entitled Pentagon Progress, I thought, afterwards, this was unfairly restrictive (particularly in the light of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal and China’s burgeoning defence budget) and so I just adopted the Cobb label. Nonetheless, the US accounts for most of the world’s total expenditure on the military but hosts just a fraction over 4% of the total population of the planet. [insert song]

Back in 1979, I wrote a song about Major Claude Eatherly, one of the pilots of the Hiroshima bombing raid of August 6, 1945. He piloted the Straight Flush, a weather reconnaissance plane and radioed the Enola Gay, the plane which carried the atomic  bomb, Little Boy, that the weather was perfect for the strike on the unsuspecting city. My first reading about his life left me with the opinion that he was a hero. Later,  I read material that painted him as a derelict husband and father, a crook and opportunist willing, for example, to bomb Havana, Cuba, for $100,000. To this day I remain torn between these readings. So, what to do?

The song, long written, was misplaced until I found it when fossicking in the front of my garage in September 2021. Anne I. Harrington, in The New York Times magazine of August 6  2020, the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, wrote: Passing judgment on whether he was a hero for speaking out about his suffering, or a malingerer out to capitalise on his wartime experiences became a way to stake a claim within the debate about nuclear weapons. Do we believe what we want to believe, then, regardless of facts? Does it really depend on which side of the nuclear debate we are on? Me? In a world where I’m lied to constantly by a variety of clever and manipulative government and non-government actors, all I know is that I’m on the side of music, poetry, compassion, and humanity. So, I’ll play you the song and leave you to decide whether Major Claude Eatherly is worthy of bouquets or brickbats: its title is, 237 Dollars, the amount of his monthly government pension. [insert song]

Canadian folk-singer Bonnie Dobson wrote the song which concludes this Letter after seeing the 1959 black-and-white film On the Beach The film depicts the aftermath of a nuclear war. The final scene shows, and thanks, Wikipedia, for this dramatic sentence: The empty windblown streets of Melbourne are punctuated by the rise of dramatic, strident music over a single powerful image of a previously seen Salvation Army street banner: “There is still time .. Brother”. Bonnie wrote the song, Morning Dew, the first of her career-and what a first!- after friends she was staying with in L.A. went to bed. It has been covered by a wide range of artists. It was first released in 1961, As recently as autumn 2021 she was touring at the age of 81- what a woman, eh? The song has universal themes- which I will not insult you by explicating here- the 21-year-old Bobbie Dobson set it out as clear as the morning dew. [insert song]

I leave the last words of this post to Tsutomu Yamaguchi, a modest Japanese engineer who avoided publicity for decades, choosing instead to raise his family away from the glare of the limelight, which he could have claimed early, had he so chosen. Mr. Yamaguchi, who died in 2010 aged 93, survived both atomic blasts; first, in Hiroshima, then, three days later, in Nagasaki. As mentioned previously, this unassuming employee of the Mitsubishi corporation shunned publicity for decades. In his daughter Toshiko’s words, he was so healthy, he thought it would have been unfair to people who were really sick. However, he did endure the cancer-related deaths of his wife, Hisako, and son, Katsutoshi, as well as the life-long illnesses of both his daughters before succumbing to stomach cancer himself.

Gradually, he began to realise that he had a responsibility to future generations, and he became engaged in anti-nuclear weapons activities. In the documentary Niju-uhi-baku (Twice Bombed, Twice Survived), screened at the United Nations in 2006 he’s finally able to weep, in his 80s, as he recalls watching bloated corpses floating in the city’s rivers and encountering the walking dead of Hiroshima, whose melting flesh hung like ‘giant gloves.’  He resorted to poetry over the years to try to encompass his experience usually tanka, 31-syllable poems. In 1969 he wrote, Thinking of myself as a phoenix,/I cling on until now,/But how painful they have been/ the years past.

He wrote hundreds of these, each one an ordeal. When he composed them, he would dream of the dead lying on the ground. One by one, they would get up and walk past him. Carbonised bodies face-down in the nuclear wasteland/all the Buddhas died,/and never heard what killed them. At 90, on his first trip abroad…in front of the UN, he pleaded for a non-nuclear world, If there exists a God who protects/nuclear-free eternal peace/the blue earth won’t perish. Amen, to that.

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 8

PS Ep. 8 Standing on the Moon, The Shoals of Herring, I’m a Man You don’t Meet Every Day, Joe Hill, The Parting Glass

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 8 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! In the Letters, Postcards and Postscripts from Quotidia published since the beginning of 2021. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Sometimes the future reaches back and re-arranges the present. Such is the case now where the usual template of these postscripts is broken. Instead of three songs- one old, one new and one borrowed- there will be five of them linked to a theme of sorts. Next week- well, I’ll not pre-empt that postscript other than to say it is a commemoration of a  portentous event. For this podcast, what passes for my creative prowess, took a bit of a beating. Shakespeare, of course, articulates so well what we go through as individuals.

In Hamlet we find the line, When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. In the past year I have lost to the grim reaper both my younger sisters and now news of another death, that of my nephew, dropped in my inbox. In Hamlet, we find the eponymous prince frozen by the loss of his father and hasty remarriage of his mother to his uncle. And, in like manner, this latest grim news has frozen my ability to create anything new. If past experience is anything to go by, a thaw will come, but not just yet. Instead, I want to celebrate aspects of humanity I admire in five songs.  

In 1965, a 24-year-old  Robert Hunter was writing lyrics for a San Francisco band called The Grateful Dead. His worked mainly with Jerry Garcia over a forty-year period until Garcia’s death in 1995. His lyrics underpinned some of the Dead’s best-known songs. To prepare for the song at the start of this podcast, here is a lovely short poem about the moon by imagist poet T.E. Hulme, who was killed in action during World War One on 28th September 1917:

Above the quiet dock in mid night/Tangled in the tall mast’s corded height/Hangs the moon/What seemed so far away/Is but a child’s balloon forgotten after play.

Most men and women who have been to outer space attest to the perspective distance gives and how fragile yet magnificent our blue earth appears from afar. Standing on the Moon, then, gives a wide perspective on life that the songs following will fill out in their own, unique fashion. [insert song]

I’ll continue with an account of hard yakka as Australians term it- demanding physical work. The late, great Ewan McColl wrote this song. I was privileged to hear him sing in the Wollongong Town Hall in the mid-1970s with his wife, Peggy Seeger. He wrote lots of fine songs about workers and the alienated. In 1971 Philip Donnellan adapted the Radio Ballad ‘Singing the Fishing’ into a TV documentary called ‘Shoals of Herring’ which was televised on BBC 2 in 1972.

Donnellan wanted to show the fishermen’s struggle and how they were being exploited, he felt the original Radio Ballad lacked political edge…something Ewan MacColl would never have taken kindly to. Whilst many Scots families owned their fishing boats Donnellan saw the English fishermen as wage slaves to the big fishing industrial groups (source, folkradio.co.uk) Perhaps the greatest exponent of this song was Luke Kelly of the Dubliners. This is my version. [Insert song].

Continuing the trend of the individual as hero of his own story is the following fine ballad, I’m a man you don’t meet every day. A contested song as so many are. Is it Irish, Scottish, from Norfolk or Somerset or somewhere else? It has variants in 19th Century America and Australia. I use lyrics where the dog in the song does not get shot. In some variants, you see, the pooch perishes. Barney McKenna, of revered memory, usually the non-singing tenor banjo maestro of The Dubliners, presented a compelling version of the song. I trust his reading of the song, although I do take it a bit faster than he does. Of course, in folk music, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Jock Stewart, the hero of I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day, emerges from an outsider tradition. Here’s my rendition of the song. [insert song]  

Joe Hill (born, October 7, 1879 –executed, November 19,  1915),  was a songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, familiarly called the “Wobblies”). Hill, an immigrant worker frequently facing unemployment and underemployment, became a popular songwriter and cartoonist for the union. His most famous songs include “The Preacher and the Slave” (in which he coined the phrase “pie in the sky”), You will eat, bye and bye/In that glorious land above the sky;/Work and pray, live on hay,/You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

In 1914, John G. Morrison, a Salt Lake City area grocer and former policeman, and his son were shot and killed by two men. Hill was convicted of the murders in a controversial trial. Joe Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915 at Utah’s Sugar House Prison. Just prior to his execution, Hill wrote to Bill Haywood, an IWW leader, saying, “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true-blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize … 

Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His last will requested a cremation and reads: My will is easy to decide/For there is nothing to divide/My kin don’t need to fuss and moan/”Moss does not cling to rolling stone”//My body? Oh, if I could choose/I would to ashes it reduce/And let the merry breezes blow/My dust to where some flowers grow//Perhaps some fading flower then/Would come to life and bloom again./This is my Last and final Will./Good Luck to All of you/Joe Hill. I first heard the song, from a record by Joan Baez in 1970 and it’s been one of my favourites ever since. [insert song]

The Parting Glass is a traditional song, often sung at the end of a gathering of friends. It has long been sung in Ireland, enjoying considerable popularity to this day. The earliest known printed version was as a Scottish broadside in the 1770s. However, it was known at least as early as 1605 as a poem- Armstrong’s Goodnight, by one of the Border Reivers  executed that year for the murder in 1600 of Sir John Carmichael, Warden of the Scottish West March.

In 1757 Oliver Goldsmith wrote in a letter : “If I go for the opera where Signora Columba [Mattei] pours out all mazes of melody, I sit and sigh for Johnny Armstrong’s Last Good Night. In 1759 in his essay Happiness in a Great Measure Dependent on Constitution he remarked that the “music of Mattei is dissonance to what I felt when our old dairy-maid sung me into tears with Johnny Armstrong’s Last Good Night

The overlay of mortal sadness, of one facing execution, has seeped into the melody. and I am reminded of that amazing poem by the 24-year-old Chidiock Tichbourne who was executed by being hung, drawn and quartered for his role in the Catholic Babington plot to assassinate Elizabeth I in 1586. He sent this moving examination of life and death to his wife on the night before his execution:  

My prime of youth is but a froste of cares,/My feaste of joy, is but a dishe of payne,/My cropp of corne, is but a field of tares:/And all my good is but vaine hope of gaine:/The daye is gone, and yet I sawe no sonn:/And nowe I live, and nowe my life is donn.//The springe is past, and yet it hath not sprong/The frute is deade, and yet the leaves are greene/My youth is gone, and yet I am but Yonge/I sawe the woorld, and yet I was not seene/My threed is cutt, and yet it was not sponn/And nowe I lyve, and nowe my life is donn.//I saught my death, and founde it in my wombe/I lookte for life, and sawe it was a shade./I trode the earth and knewe it was my Tombe/And nowe I die, and nowe I am but made/The glasse is full, and nowe the glass is run/And nowe I live, and nowe my life is donn. [insert song]

As I contemplate my own mortality and start to think about what music I would wish to usher me out of this world, The Parting Glass remains a contender for inclusion in that stygian playlist. Next week I will present another special five-song postscript from Quotidia, before, God willing, I revert to the more usual three-song template.

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.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 7

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 7 Sea Song, The Ship Song, Sidekick

Welcome to Letters from Quotidia Postscripts Episode 7 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the 200+ Letters and Postcards from Quotidia over the past 18 months. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

When inspiration strikes it rarely comes as a bolt from the blue, rather, it is a laggard and begrudging epiphenomenon dredged from the turgid soup that lies beneath the conscious mind and soul. And so it was for this postscript, after a tedious trawl through the original letters brought nothing to the surface in my mental nets other than an old welly boot, part of a child’s bicycle, some seaweed, and a tangle of plastic waste.

Then my inbox pinged with an offering from the website Poem-a-Day, and I opened it to find the following marvel which had been published over a century ago by Rabindranath Tagore a Bengali polymath who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1913 for the unique lyrical verses of Gitanjali: here is part of it entitled Gitanjali 60,

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances./They build their houses with sand, and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds./They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl-fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets./The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby’s cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach./On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.

Poem-a-Day tells us that Gitanjali was self-published in 1910. Later, his English translation of the book, Song Offerings, was published by the India Society of London in 1912, whereupon it won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature. W. B. Yeats wrote, An innocence, a simplicity that one does not find elsewhere in literature makes the birds and the leaves seem as near to him as they are near to children, and the changes of the season’s great events as before our thoughts had arisen between them and us. . . Indeed, when he is speaking of children, so much a part of himself this quality seems, one is not certain that he is not also speaking of the saints…Thirteen years later, Yeats, himself, was awarded the same prize. So, as far as outstanding poets go, it takes one to know one, eh? I took a medium-slow Band-in-a-Box jig in 6/8 time and used the words of Gitanjali 60 without amendment as the lyrics for the following composition entitled Sea Song. [insert song]

On the 14th of December 2014, I attended a Nick Cave concert at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre with my daughter, Cathy, who is a huge fan. It was a great show from a great showman, and we left feeling all was well with the world. This euphoria didn’t last long, for the next day a murderous, narcissistic thug held eighteen people hostage at the Lindt Café in Martin Place, not far from the venue which had given so many so much joy the night before. Unfurling a black jihadist flag, he brought terror and despair to the people of Sydney and beyond over two days before police stormed the café and shot him.

Tragically, the young man who managed the café, Tori Johnston, and Katrina Dawson, barrister, and mother of three also died in the incident. What brought all this back was a trip to the local library this week where I saw a book of Nick Cave songs on display. From it I have selected The Ship Song in remembrance of that time and as a reminder that love outlasts hatred as its light drives back the shadows. [insert song]

I will end this postscript by reprising a song I wrote some years back as I was contemplating fame and oblivion. Our poets may help us as we negotiate these waters. One of the best is Shelley, IMHO. He wrote a poem many will know:

I met a traveller from an antique land,/Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone/Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,/Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,/And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,/Tell that its sculptor well those passions read/Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,/The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;/And on the pedestal, these words appear:/My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;/ Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!/Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Wikipedia tells us that Shelley wrote the poem you have just listened to, in friendly competition with his friend and fellow poet Horace Smith in 1817, who also wrote a sonnet on the same topic with the same title, Ozymandias, the Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses the Great. The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion. Alas, Horace Smith’s poem is almost unknown while Shelley’s poem graces many an anthology. But here I will resurrect the Smith sonnet for your delectation:

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,/Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws/The only shadow that the Desert knows:—/”I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,/”The King of Kings; this mighty City shows/”The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—/Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose/The site of this forgotten Babylon.//We wonder,—and some Hunter may express/Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness/Where London stood, holding the wolf in chace/He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess/What powerful, but unrecorded race/Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Not bad at all, wouldn’t you agree? However, most of us are fated to be famous only in our dreams, or deluded imaginings, if you are like Walter Mitty, that great character invented by American humorist James Thurber. Sidekick represents the human condition- at least for most of us, and, as the conclusion of the song stipulates, not even heroes get to go to heaven.[insert song]

That concludes the seventh postscript. I think I have made up for the dearth of poetry in the sixth postscript, but in case you feel enough is not as good as a feast, may I offer this translation of an ancient Celtic greeting as we face uncertain times: May the road rise up to meet you./ May the wind be always at your back./ May the sun shine warm upon your face;/ the rains fall soft upon your fields/ and until we meet again,/ may God hold you in the palm of His hand. The next postscript will be published next week or the week after: I thought this one would not make the cut for publication this week as I was floundering for most of it until the last day or so. Until, again, the fountains of inspiration gush, I bid you peace and joy.            

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.

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 6

Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 6 Summertime, Still on the Move, It’s Been Taken Away, Au Revoir, Monica

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia Postscripts Episode 6 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for listeners who enjoyed that Irish phenomenon- the crack! in the 200+ Letters and Postcards From Quotidia over the past 18 months. Quotidia remains that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Hey, it’s deep in winter here in Australia- but summertime in Northern climes where I was born. And Summertime is the name of the first song on this podcast. It is a somewhat contested song: early in the piece, the similarity to an earlier black spiritual, Motherless Child was commented on, and the great Mahalia Jackson recorded the two together as a medley. Its lyrics are by DuBose Heyward, of whom Stephen Sondheim has written he has gone largely unrecognized as the author of the finest set of lyrics in the history of the American musical theatre – namely, those of Porgy and Bess.

The music, of course, was written by George Gershwin. In Porgy and Bess, set in Catfish Row, a dockside area of Charleston, South Carolina in the 1930s, Clara, a young, black woman, sings to her baby. Her husband Jake is a fisherman, and, like all the people of the settlement, they live hardscrabble lives. This scenario, of life, of death has been repeated throughout history and indeed prehistory. Through all the noise and nonsense, the conflict, the clash, we hear the soothing tones of mother to child as she seeks to shield her offspring from the unruly universe by resorting to a lullaby.

21-year-old Billie Holiday recorded the first cover of this song in 1936. She was part of the Harlem Renaissance spanning the 1920s and 30s including such important black artists as musicians Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong and writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.  According to Wikipedia some people would argue that the Harlem Renaissance never ended and has continued to be an important cultural force in the United States through the decades: from the age of stride piano jazz and blues to the ages of bebop, rock and roll, soul, disco and hip-hop.

I saw somewhere that there are some 25,000 commercial covers in the years since the song’s première in 1935! I guess you could add a zero to that number to include the non-commercial covers- so this recording will perhaps take that total to 250,001.

In 1971, a month or so before I got married, my brother Brendan, who was my best man, organised a night for our family and friends at a small, cosy, hotel in Cushendall. We had a meal and retired for drinks to a small lounge area where a piano set against the wall. A pleasant-looking matronly guest who was staying at the hotel- not one of our little group- sat down and began to tinkle the ivories as I think they call it. Emboldened by wine, I asked did she know Summertime. The previous year I had devised a lead break for the song on my Burns short-scale jazz guitar instead of studying for my exams. I was rather proud of it and still had dreams of rescuing my first electric from the pawn shop where I had traded it for rent arrears. Historical note- I never got round to it. Maybe, that’s why I requested that song- I can’t remember now, but I remember with gratitude her rendition of this classic for a rather bleary-eyed young man. Memory renders it right up there with the great interpreters. And, for what it’s worth, here is my take on it: [insert song]

Summertime is a postscript to Letters From Quotidia Episode 23 Still on the Move published on 17th February 2021 where, apart from discussing the arrow paradox of Zeno and its refutation by Diogenes the Cynic, I referred to a brief blues song I had written some 40 year previously. Daddy was a jazz singer in the rain, Mama got wet was the first line that just popped into my head one day as I was noodling on my guitar in 1981. Was this an unconscious referencing of duBose Heyward’s with mammy and daddy standing by which finishes his classic lyric? Perhaps. I carry a lot of stuff around in my head: snippets of poetry, lines of songs, quotations from the Bible, a lifetime’s perusal of books and paintings- all the detritus of a liberal arts education (which, of course, includes a lot of science stuff, too). So, here’s Still on the Move [insert song]

In the last post I mentioned how the postscripts have a capacity to surprise, I should also add: not only are they able to resist my wrangling of them, but they, from time to time, bend me to their will! This one insists on a reference to one of the world’s great dance companies- Bangarra, which was established over 30 years ago here in Australia to tell the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Its presiding genius is Stephen Page who, with his brothers Russell and David, created one of the most stunning and exciting dance ensembles in existence today. Russell was an amazing dancer whose physicality and grace left me spellbound. He took his life at the age of 32. His brother, David, was according to The Sydney Morning Herald the musical heartbeat of Bangarra, composing scores for 27 of the company’s 35 major works. He invented a pioneering modern soundtrack that embodied traditional language, song and instrumentation with the sounds of electronica, hip-hop, classical and nature, defining the Bangarra sound that would fill the theatre and leave audiences reverberating with hauntingly beautiful melodies. He took his life in 2016.

I mention these tragedies not from some ghoulish wish to shock or attract attention, but to emphasise that the burdens carried by indigenous people here, far exceed those of the colonisers and their descendants or of those migrants who have arrived here over the past two centuries. In 1996,  two years after arriving in Sydney from North Queensland, I wrote a song about the plight of the Aboriginal people, shortly after the Coalition under John Howard took power. Why, I thought, has so little progress been made in delivering justice? So, I wrote It’s Been Taken Away. [insert song]

There are stirrings of hope again. But I don’t want to be premature, as Prime Minister Paul Keating proved to be in his Redfern speech of 30 years ago. This great country of Australia seems to have to be dragged, inch by inch, or millimetre by millimetre, to use a more accurate metaphor, to a proper acknowledgement of the claims of a culture that is more than 65,000 years old. In words taken from the Uluru statement: Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.

Have you noticed that, unlike my usual practice, there is no poetry in this podcast? Oh, but there is: the words I have just quoted, and, indeed, the whole, gracious and accommodating text of the Uluru statement, is true poetry, I suggest.

Now to personal pain. My sister Monica, the youngest of our family of six children, passed away on 27th May this year. My brother, Brendan, the best man at my wedding all those years ago, had visited Monica earlier this year, and was left with the sad responsibility to convey this news to me in Australia. I last met with her here in our home in Sydney in the summer of 2010. She was once a trilingual secretary working for the  ILO, a branch of the UN, in Geneva, until her retirement. She resumed her love of the sea, a condition first caught in our shared childhood in Aruba and its fabulous Caribbean tropical waters.

She loved the ocean, the reefs and the fish and being able to float amidst a paradise of colour and life. She came to us bearing gifts and a CD showing her encounter with sharks circling as she sat amidst the coral underwater off Cairns in the outer Great Barrier Reef. Of course, the really dangerous sharks are not out there in the world’s oceans, but swim in your bloodstream as cancer cells ravenously seeking to destroy you from within. Both of my younger sisters, then, have been taken within little more than a year, by the blight that is cancer. Monica, my lovely sister, this song is for you. [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.