Letters From Quotidia Episode 181 And Leave Him There 7

Letters From Quotidia Episode 181 And Leave Him There Part 7

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 181. If you recall, we left our protagonist sitting ruefully in his chair looking out the window and about to take a snooze. But the apartment is empty. Just the lights of Manhattan visible through the large picture windows. Now the lights come up as he re-enters, obviously one of those motion-sensor switches had been engaged. He is carrying a filled bread-roll in his hand. He eats ravenously as he paces back and forth, back, and forth. Finishing his nocturnal repast he licks his fingers, wipes them on his dressing gown and sits again to take in the view of the city.

The gun. I will not have one in my house. Even a replica to hang tastefully on the wall. Although I used to love them. Playing Cowboys and Indians, I wanted to be with the cowboys in every game because they had guns only- not those environmentally friendly, if deadly, bows and arrows. An early memory, before we returned to Aruba in the mid-fifties. The Irish News had an account of the dying gasp of the, then, latest occurrence of IRA insurgence. I cheered at the headline of a policeman being shot. Through the pores, you see… my father was outraged, and my mother joined in the deprecation of my childish glee. They had memories enough of the Black and Tans’ predations in Ireland in those grim years after the First World War and the rivers of blood that flowed in the forties.

Suitably chastened, I took care to conceal my love of that quintessentially twentieth century icon. In Aruba, borrowing American friends’ BB rifles, I was a crack shot, killing lizards and iguanas before my age was in double digits. Under the sea, I would impale reef fish with a rubber propelled spear-gun which I concealed under the house. Kids love blood. Some more than others. I remember being on the receiving end of a BB gun. We were down at Rodgers’ Field where we played baseball and soccer and held track meets. Steve Flaherty, the friend I mentioned earlier, had brought along a relative nicknamed Gordo who was visiting from the States; a gangly, bespectacled guy who had scabs on his arms that he picked at all the time.

We had Steve’s BB gun and were taking pot-shots at this and that. Steve dared me to climb one of the lighting poles that surrounded the field. Do kids still do that? Dare one another to do stupid things? Course they do. I stood on Steve’s shoulders and reached for the first metal rung, swung up and began the precarious ascent. The rungs were meant for adults rather than a runt like me. I reached the top and stood inside the lighting platform, arms raised in triumph. Ting! There was a noise, but I ignored it and started the even more precarious descent. Ting! Again, that noise.  Tingchik! I grabbed at my eye- was it a bee sting?

There was blood on my fingers, not much, but blood, nonetheless. I looked down. Steve was trying to take the BB gun from Gordo. Gordo just pushed him to the ground and raised the gun in my direction and pumped it for another shot. It took less than a couple of minutes for me to complete the descent, but it felt longer as, eyes tightly shut, a succession of BBs hit the pole, my arm, my neck,  my leg. I ran enraged towards Gordo, Steve just stood there looking stunned. I swung at Gordo, but he had a much longer reach and landed a punch that put me on my back, winded. “Why? Why?” I gasped, crying. “I wanted to see if I could make you fall”.  

Perhaps it was that episode, perhaps it was “the decade of love, man,” but I began to lose my zest for bloodletting in the sixties. On reflection, though, it may have had something to do with reality. In the summer of 1969, five years after returning to Ireland from Aruba, I was dreaming in the country, deep in the Glens of Antrim. Lazing the days away, reading Lord Byron and generally being an aesthete, I thought that it would be fun to be among the decadent boyos of the fin de siècle of Pater and Wilde and…I heard it on the radio. Bombay Street in Belfast had been burned out the night before. The latest instalment of the Troubles had begun in earnest. The college I had just completed my initial year of tertiary education at, in Andersonstown at the top of the Falls Road, Belfast, put out a call for volunteers. Emergency housing had to be found for those residents of the lower Falls who had the misfortune to live, at that interesting time, too close to the Shankill Road.

The civil service bureaucrats could not, or maybe would not, respond to the unprecedented demand. I packed a bag and caught the train to Belfast. Other students, too, had responded to the call. My psychology lecturer, at our initial briefing, told us solemnly that, first names were OK for the emergency but that the appropriate academic formalities would have to be maintained when lectures resumed in September. No buses then, all burned out, and barricades going up in all the streets, and Radio Free Belfast, and me, dazed by drink after trying to forget how I had to process, via forms that drain humanity, the sad detritus of lives caught in the terrible text of yet another colourful page of history. I remember walking late at night towards the centre of town, along the Donegall Road, past corrugated iron ramparts, knowing that I might be in the crosshairs of a gunsight. Knowing that it would be something more potent than a BB gun.

I wasn’t brave. Just, young, confused and, generally, drunk. Evacuating people from North Queen Street and running them in a shonky motor over unapproved roads and across the border to an Irish army camp in Donegal, I feared the B Specials, bogeymen to our generation as the Black and Tans had been to my parents. The next few years, a phantasmagoria. Who, but an optimist, or someone not terribly well in touch with the real, would marry? But I did, and rented a house, as a student, off the Whiterock Road. My wife pregnant, clambering over barricades to get to work, one day called into a corner shop and was pushed unceremoniously to the floor as a rubber bullet crashed through the pane of glass in the front door and ricocheted among the tinned goods. We had that rubber bullet as a memento on the mantelpiece for a while: I don’t know what happened to it.

I, protective husband that I was, remonstrated with the local women that night, that I would not let my wife go out on bin-lid duty- this was the early warning technology of the savvy citizens to warn the local brigade of British Army patrols, and she, returning to the corner shop the next day, encountering a wall of silence as she was motioned silently to the counter to buy her bread and milk and sugar. My propensity for daydreaming nearly killed me. I was walking through a back lane towards our digs from one of my last lectures, psychometrics I think it was, when I became cognisant of an alien voice.

A British soldier, my age, was pointing a gun at my head, shaking, as his hands clenched his SLR. I hadn’t heard his repeated calls to stop. I think what saved me from a beating, or worse, was my accent- not at all typical of Belfast- when I explained that my mind was elsewhere. Elsewhere, was Australia. Gunfire was in the air, as my father picked us up to take us for a few weeks back to the relative peace of the Glens of Antrim before we flew to the land of OZ. It was 1972.

Even there, the gun. I remember being with friends from Belfast, in the outback of New South Wales shortly after we had arrived. They were hunting feral pigs and kangaroos. I took with me a guitar, an orange box with rusty wires, really, and on the first day’s hunting, I was given, should I want to join in the sport, a .22 with a telescopic sight. A popgun, next to their more potent armaments. A feral sow broke cover: she was running heavily, sway-bellied with, with… and, as I raised the gun, I saw, through the scope, the dust pop off her flank as the larger rounds pierced her…

I have never fired or held a gun since that day. But others were not so squeamish. No, as the decades turned over, as the calendar pages spun away into time’s vortex the appetite for guns grew until, in Europe, which thought it had exorcised the demons from the Holocaust, a new horror called ethnic cleansing arose and Goran SImic captured it in his poem, The Calendar:

I heard the fall of a leaf from a calendar./It was the leaf for the month of March./The calendar belongs to a girl I know./She spends each day checking the calendar/and watching her belly grow./Whatever is in her womb/was nailed there by drunken soldiers in some camp./It is something that feeds/on terrible images and a terrible silence./What fills the images?/Her bloodstained dress, perhaps,/fluttering from a pole like a flag?/What breaks the silence?/The fall of the month of March?/The footstep of her tormentor- his face/the child’s face, the face she will see/every day, every month, every year/for the rest of her life?/I don’t know. I don’t know./All I heard was the fall of a leaf from a calendar./

Oh, yes…the nineties showed us a thing or two about barbarity and violence. And the strangest thing is: who cares? The victims; certainly, those who can still feel anything. Their family and friends, obviously. But for the rest of us- with a few exceptions of course- you perhaps?- it is all something happening in electronic space, which unlike the Newtonian construct, is not vast, empty and silent, for most part, but babbling and buzzing and bedazzling: a welter of sound and image and exhortation to buybuybuybuybuy…

I, meanwhile, was drifting on my raft, spinning in the choppy seas of that last turbulent decade, as my calendar pages dropped, year by year, waiting for a boat to appear to fish me from the confused waters. My raft, now, as then, an unlikely craft. Buoyed by my family, a few good friends, and flotation devices that I assert, though others may demur, saved my sanity: my guitar and literature and music. [play Oblivion Mountain]

What will he get up to next? I hope he does not charge around the apartment attempting a vigorous dance to exorcise the demons that seem to be cavorting about in his head. He looks around the apartment and seems to be looking for something. It is not here because he now exits stage left, but not, in this case, pursued by a bear, like the unfortunate Antigonous in Shakespeare’s late play The Winter’s Tale.

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 Episode 180 And Leave Him There 6

Letters From Quotidia Episode 180 And Leave Him There Part 6

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 180. Last we knew our narrator was on the way to being the worse for wear, but he has stopped imbibing for the moment- he seems to have settled down and is reading from a volume of Romantic poets. He gazes at the wall next to the bedroom where there is a tasteful reproduction of what is said to be the most expensive map in all the world: it is Waldseemuller’s Universalis Cosmographia of 1507, the only surviving copy of 1000 original prints. The Library of Congress purchased it for $10,000,000 and it has been called “America’s birth certificate” because, for the first time, it showed the New World as a separate continent. He looks at the twelve panels that comprise the map-maker’s art in wonderment:

Any attempt to be a cartographer of the present is bound to fail; there are too many fracture-lines running in a crazy pattern. The hammer blow delivered to the ancien regime by the first great war was followed by others in quick succession; depression, global war, the atomic apocalypse, explosions of technology and population. But it all gets back to a solitary brain (that may or may not contain the mind) carried around in a body (that may or may not contain a soul). Watching newsreel footage of the masses recorded in their moments of revolution, despair, and jubilation distances you from the obvious truth- there, that face, just about to disappear behind the police horse’s flank- looked just like your son the last time you saw him as he waved a cheery good-bye…can it be twelve years already? Name, fame, the celebrity game is just so much blather. We are all used to yet another icon exposed on the breakfast news as venal or sad or pathetic- just like us really.

I remember when the great cynic of English poetry in this- or rather, the previous, century, Philip Larkin was taken off in one of those ships with black sails. Almost before the vessel had vanished around a misty bend of the River Styx, we were breathlessly informed that the poet had a collection of what was described as repulsive pornography, and as for the content of his diaries…well! But I will always think softly of him, not because of his life or works but an anecdote concerning him. He was, as I recall, driving back towards his home in Hull along the motorway, listening to the radio and tapping his fingers on the steering wheel in time with the windshield wipers when he had to pull onto the hard shoulder, blinded by tears, because, on the radio, someone had begun reciting a sonnet by Wordsworth.

Surprised by joy- impatient as the Wind/I turned to share the transport- Oh! with whom/But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,/That spot which no vicissitudes can find?/Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind-/But how could I forget thee? Through what power,/ Even for the least division of an hour,/Have I been so beguiled as to be blind/To my most grievous loss!- That thought’s return/Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,/Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,/Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more;/ That neither present time, nor years unborn/Could to my sight that heavenly face restore. [play Surprised by Joy]

Surprised by joy…it’s been a long time… The eighties were an awful time and an awesome time, too, I suppose. Never mind the crumbling of communism, the Falklands war, the marriage of Diana and Charles and all the other headline events. The dislocations in world history meant little to me. I had hammer-blows enough in the personal sphere to absorb. Unemployment, loss of my father, then mother, serious injury of my younger son, then the loss of my firstborn son began my personal catalogue of horrors, and they filled my world during the decade of- what did the eighties mean to you? To me it was global ping-pong: living in Sydney, then Belfast then back to Sydney as the hammer-blows rained down. Not even the…windfall that came my way so recently has provided solace- the cold wind still keeps blowing through me.

The larger events were only on TV and newspapers- not real for me at all. And as I mourned my son, I remembered my brushes with death as a younger male. Note to mothers, we all think, as teenage boys, that we will live forever, no matter what we do. When I was about twelve, or maybe thirteen, I built a raft. My friends and I lived in and on and near the water. Why not? The blue, coral-fringed lagoons of Aruba were paradise for us. Swimming and snorkelling and spear fishing and catching moray eels on hand lines, yanking them out of their coral caves and spinning them round our heads and breaking their backs on the sharp coral ridges above the surface at low water… filled our days… and beach parties under the stars, and watching from the beach the fireworks display set on barges out in the lagoon on the fourth of July, punctuated our nights- such was the influence of the water fringing that small island of my early youth.

One Saturday morning we cycled to a seldom-used beach; there we built a flotilla of rafts. Flotsam and jetsam. We dragged pallets washed in to the shore and shoved driftwood and a variety of containers in through the slats. Three of us, like tropical Huck Finns, launched the unlikely craft into the water. We laughed and joked with one another as the current carried us along the coast. But we started to drift further apart under the influence of the current and waves and the differences in the seaworthiness of our individual rafts. I lagged further behind- not being much of a marine designer. My friends had rounded the point on the coastal current while I…well, I had been daydreaming, looking towards the distant coast of Venezuela wondering what life was like there, and when next I checked my bearings, discovered I was much further from the shore than I had been only, it seemed , moments before. As I vacillated, wondering whether to attempt the swim to the shore, it seemed to rush into the distance.

Desert island adventure? No, just fear. The raft bobbed and spun in the choppy offshore sea, and I clung to it feeling sick. Alone in the sun I had time enough to recall the drowned, native, fisherman brought in a few months before to the boat-slip near the Esso club. My first sight of a dead body, I had watched, as his friends tried frantically to empty his lungs and bring him back to life- but only froth and mucus for all their labour. He had dived off the boat to try to clear the anchor, but his leg had become entangled in the rope, and he was dead before they could cut him free. A matter of minutes, they said. Not for the last time, I promised God, with whom, then, I was on speaking terms…I promised Him not to be so stupid again…if only. The denouement? Well, I’m still here.

Mr Flaherty, a big noise in the company, whose son, Steve, I hung out with occasionally, had a cabin cruiser that he used to take friends, and other corporate big guns from the States, out into the Caribbean in search of game fish. Coming back from a successful morning’s hunt for aquatic game, I guess he pulled another prize from the water. Although, judging from what he said to me and repeated to my parents on the phone that night, I was valued at much less than the fish in the capacious icebox of his boat. It was an early brush with metaphysics and the larger questions, I think they are called. I do prefer the way that artists address these larger questions- professional preachers and career carers usually leave me cheering for the grim reaper. And one of the larger artists addressing these questions is Les Murray, Australia’s premier poet. Listen to this- from his poem, The Quality of Sprawl:  

Sprawl is the quality/of the man who cut down his Rolls-Royce/into a farm utility truck, and sprawl/is what the company lacked when it made repeated efforts/to buy the vehicle back and repair its image./Sprawl is doing your farming by aeroplane, roughly,/of driving a hitchhiker that extra hundred miles home./It is the rococo of being your own still centre,/It is never lighting cigars with ten-dollar notes:/that’s idiot ostentation and murder of starving people./Nor can it be bought with the ash of million-dollar deeds./ Sprawl is Hank Stamper in Never Give an Inch/bisecting an obstructive official’s desk with a chainsaw./Not harming the official. Sprawl is never brutal/though it’s often intransigent…/Sprawl gets up the nose of many kinds of people/(every kind that comes in kinds) whose futures don’t include it…/ No, sprawl is full-gloss murals on a council-house wall./ Sprawl leans on things. It is loose-limbed in its mind./Reprimanded and dismissed/it listens with a grin and one boot up on the rail/of possibility. It may have to leave the earth…/Being roughly Christian, it scratches the other cheek/and thinks it unlikely. Though people have been shot for sprawl. [play Patrimony] 

What is he doing? He’s on his feet and appears to be dancing! Has he got a second wind? No, he’s sprawled on the rug now. Lucky for him it is a thick woollen affair with colourful ethnic designs and tasteful tassels at each end. He lies there motionless. He now fumbles in his dressing gown pocket. Is it to retrieve his panic button to summon help? He certainly seems to require it. Oh, he’s sipping from his flask. He screws the cap shut and laboriously gets to his feet and resumes his seat. He gazes out the window and taps his fingers on the armrest. I think this is a safer use of appendages than his rather pathetic  previous use of the lower ones! Now he is nodding off, he needs the rest, poor man, what with all that mixing of pharmaceuticals and alcohol. And nary a thing to eat, too.  

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 Episode 179 And Leave Him There 5

Letters From Quotidia Episode 179 And Leave Him There Part 5

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 179. Time hangs heavy on the hands of anyone who has little to do but mark time, who wait, for- a verdict? A diagnosis? A visit? And so, it is for our apartment dweller as he looks at lights flashing out there in the Manhattan night. He seems to feel that pacing back and forth in front of the vista is a suitable way to pass the time as he thinks of how he is really looking forward to meeting his wife later in the day. And he thinks about his grandson, so let us re-join him as he paces. He decides to fill his flask again from one of the crystal decanters on the counter of the built-in bar.  

Small children have an affinity with those the all-conquering youth generation and their go-getting parents call old. They respond to the easy tolerance and gentle understanding of their grandparents. Alas, I didn’t experience this at first hand as both sets of grandparents had died before I was born.  And I regret that I am not fated to become an indulgent grandad surrounded by the progeny of my progeny. But I have one grandson, one link to the universe beyond, the only way in which my being can truly live into the future. My God, how I quake at the idea that anything will happen to him before he…

I don’t buy, and never have, that hogwash that claims all parents as evil, warping pathologies in the development of their children. The strident attacks on the supposedly artificial nuclear family by ideologues of left and right never quite rang true- the generation gap, for me and lots of people I know, was not a yawning chasm boiling with hellfire, but a difference, not all that astounding, comprising difference in age, experience and changing culture and expectations. As the kids of Seroe Colorado Junior High in Aruba would have responded, as they did to any fatuity: Duhhh!!

Of course, what I have said is a generalisation and I was to encounter in the stories of other people’s lives a vast, often dark, forest where fiends do, indeed, lurk. However, the tabloids of paper and TV would have us believe that behind every vicarage curtain a satanic coven meets and …you know as well as I the variety of paranoia peddled, the range of hypotheses hyped by those who profess an interest, not all of it well-intentioned, in the care of children.

As young parents, we were anxious to do the right thing, and, like so many of our generation we read the Spock child-rearing manual with the same avidity that theological students use scouring Scripture for the meaning of existence. I wish I had found out earlier than I did that we would have been better employed assimilating the words of wisdom uttered by the pointy-eared Vulcan of the same name. Appropriately enough, Star Trek lives on. As do so many innocent and enabling fictions.

In our house in Cushendall, my father set up, in a front room overlooking the lawns, his beloved hi-fi gear, B&O of course…his AKAI reel to reel, state of the art when he proudly purchased it a couple of years before- a retirement present to himself, perhaps?… his writing desk and chess sets and comfortable chairs. An ornately carved chest smelling of camphor gleamed dully in one corner and, around the walls photographs in polished wooden frames peopled by grimly countenanced Victorian and Edwardian gents and ladies.

Two photographs in oval frames on adjacent walls, stared into space at right angles to one another. One his father, an imposing moustachioed man in his sea-captain’s uniform; the other a pale and delicate young woman in a ruffled blouse closed at the neck with a cameo brooch – his birth mother. He was comfortable with reminders, not of his twenty-five years in the sun, but with the mute artefacts that recalled the early years of the century. He thought of those war years when he was just a small child and, as I read in my anthology, a poem by Joseph Brodsky, the cataclysm that still reverberates to this day is summoned in words: Nineteen-fourteen! Oh, nineteen-fourteen!/Ah, some years shouldn’t be let out of quarantine!/Well, this is one of them…/In Paris, the editor of Figaro/is shot dead by the wife of the French finance/minister, for printing this lady’s/ steamy letters…/Jean Jaures. He who shook his fist/at the Parliament urging hot heads to cool it,/dies, as he dines, by some bigot’s bullet/in a cafe. Ah, those early, single/shots of Nineteen-fourteen! ah, the index finger/of an assassin! ah white puffs in the blue acrylic!/There is something pastoral, nay! Idyllic/about these murders./Well, to make these things disappear forever,/the Archduke is arriving at Sarajevo;/and there is in the crowd that unshaven, timid/youth, with his handgun…

The texts from those times are as dated as the flock wallpaper of an Edwardian drawing room. The inheritors of modernism, those pop mavens, working in animation, the written word, sound, and stone as well as on canvas have made everything glowing and immediate. Simple, bold, fluorescent statements replace the mandarin meanderings of those sonorous artistic aristocrats of the first tranche of the twentieth century. Purple prose and blue blood is replaced by an apotheosis in green- Warhol’s wall of dollar bills becomes the central image on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel of our imagination. Radix malorum est cupiditas- croaks the Pardoner- the love of money is the root of all evil. Well, those roots have spread under the foundations of our civilisation.

So, what’s new? Maybe nothing, there have been greed and violence as well as selfless love and self-denial since Adam was a lad. I’m not a pundit; I can’t predict what my cat will do next never mind the whole, vast shebang. But I know that the language has been ripped back to reveal…what? Orwell was wrong; it wasn’t the thought police of a totalitarian state that eviscerated expression. We did it to ourselves, pursuing the dream, once called American. It responds only to monosyllables or those articulated words that it sanctions: words like Proactive, Functionality, Multitasking, Consumerism. And in the race the swift make sure there is nothing left for those who lag too far behind-not even what our predecessors would have called language.

Eleanor Brown in her poem, The Lads, says it really well: The lads, the lads, away the lads;/we are the Boys, who make this Noise: hoo, ha; hoo, ha;/a-way, awayawayaway, a-way, away;/ere we go, ere we go, ere we go;/we are the Boys, who make this Noise;/ hoo ha;/Away the lads, I love your poetry,/It strips the artform down to nakedness,/distilling it to spirituous drops/of utter poetry./I like the way you shout it all so loud,/revelling in the shamelessness/ of its repetitiousness; the way it never stops/

It may not be as obvious to you, as it is to me, that our recent Manhattanite is drinking more than would be strictly necessary to just take the edge off. Of course, he can indulge his taste in expensive drops now- and his wife, who can keep him in check is not returning until later in the day, so he’s probably thinking that he might just as well push the boat out. But there is no one here to help him celebrate? If that’s the word, so perhaps he has just decided to get Hammered, Wasted, Buzzed, Sloshed, Pie-eyed, Loaded, Skunked, Three sheets to the wind all on his own. I’m not sure any of these metaphors quite capture the strange mood he is in. And I’m not sure what impact the mixture of alcohol and the drugs he is taking is having on his mental state. Still, you only live once, eh?

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 Episode 178 And Leave Him There 4

Letters From Quotidia Episode 178 And Leave Him There Part 4

Welcome to Letters From Quoitidia Episode 178, where we find our protagonist perched in his eyrie high above Manhattan and wondering what to do next as he frets and fusses with his medication which is having the effect of preventing “sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleave of care”- that quote floats through his mind and he wanders along the bookcases that line one of the walls. He replaces his volume of 20th Century poems and lifts down John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, which was a book he really identified with in his twenties when he felt the constraints of the world pressing in around him as he struggled with debt, the pressures of work and family. [play Cannery Row]

One of my first discoveries in the Old World was the existence of old people. Aruba was an expatriate society with one purpose only: to refine the crude oil from Venezuela and send it off to the gas guzzlers of the American Dream. Hence, it was an artificial social construct using any indices you might select. Even the water was, in a sense, artificial. It didn’t fall from the sky or run along river courses but was piped in from a desalinisation plant and was more valuable than the crude oil. I recall where an employee of the company, actually one of the rising young executives, was summarily dismissed for tampering with his water meter. Through youthful eyes all the adults were old- but, in reality, they were mostly in their thirties or forties. Really old people, like my parents, had attained the impossible age of fifty- younger than I am now.

The houses, schools, clubs, boats, cars, clothes, toys, tools, furniture, fittings, fixtures- all new. Set down by American Capital on a small desert island only a generation before. Aruba, at that time, was owned by the Dutch but the Americans built a refinery and constructed a quasi-colonial enclave- we actually called it the Colony– on one end of the island which was walled off from the rest of the island, the gates manned by armed police to ensure its isolation. The food also was, for most part, freighted in and sold from a commissary.

Now, Ireland was different. When my father returned upon his retirement from the company- I had preceded him and my mother to start boarding school some months before- he took me up a narrow, rutted, lane in the country to visit his stepmother. It was a small one-storey Irish cottage with whitewashed walls and thatched roof. The wooden half-door was open and inside was an open fire with an iron kettle swung over it. There was an open dresser with gleaming crockery, an old wooden bench, and a dog asleep on a rug. Decades later I was to visit a theme park in the south of Ireland with an almost identical cottage, outside and in. My father knocked and we entered. A small, stooped, wizened woman with deep fissures in her face smiled faintly at us as she hobbled out of a darkened room off to one side of the main living area. This was his stepmother. After introductions, he told me to go play by the stream that ran close by, while they talked.

There I had one of those almost preternatural encounters that puzzles me to this day: across the stream was a tinker lad- one of the travelling people of Ireland. Commonly called the Gypsies, they are the subject of prejudice wherever they go. He called across the stream to me, but I could not understand what he was saying. He repeated his words- still no comprehension. The next thing I remember, we were throwing stones at one another. Then I heard my father call my name; the tinker-lad dropped the stone he was about to throw, laughed, and disappeared into the bushes lining the stream. I walked back feeling, feeling…and the feeling persists to this day…somehow cheated.

When we were settled in the car I asked my father about his real mother, but he answered only that she had died when he was a small boy. It wasn’t until much later that I was to receive a fuller account. I saw old people on the streets, at Mass, when I visited relatives, or in attendance at the funerals and wakes that were a not unusual feature of country life in the Glens of Antrim: I ought, in short, to have been inoculated by the…Methusaleh-isation of my life in a society with a more natural demographic spread than the one I had been living in but remember being shocked to the core by the evidence of rampant geriatric carnality encountered when I worked for a summer on the Isle of Man at a holiday camp a few years after my return.

I was sixteen years old and, for the first time in my life, truly on my own, away from the influence of adults who had an interest in or responsibility for me. I had completed my O- Levels and flew to that strange island in the middle of the Irish Sea with Sean Flynn, a friend from school a year older than me. He was a day boy who travelled by bus from Ballymena, and I travelled by bus from Cushendall- a day boy too, apart from a few months boarding- of which, more later. But to get back to the rampant geriatric carnality- oh I wished I possessed in greater measure the easy English approach to sexuality in the mid-sixties which was somewhat in advance of the Irish kind practised in the repressed Catholic country parish I lived in.

One night, returning to my cabin after washing the pots and pans in the cavernous kitchen which catered for the happy campers, I heard low grunts and thumps coming from the other side of my very basic sleeping quarters. Thinking it was a dog at the garbage cans placed there, I rounded the corner to confront Ernie and Madge engaged in what I was later to learn was called a knee-trembler. Ernie was a janitor, married to Edna who was head of the cleaners at the camp. Madge was one of the cooks in the kitchen. What was said to me was short but not incongruent with the activity I had so inconsiderately interrupted. Whispering my revelation to Sean, after I had prodded him awake upon my stunned return, I was puzzled by his failure to fall out of his bunk at the enormity I had just related: But Jesus, Sean, I said, they’ve both got grey hair!

After I had returned from Aruba, I was shoe-horned into a prestigious boarding college that my parents had arranged for me to attend. I was domiciled in St Marys one of the Houses of the college. It was the most recent addition to the boarding accommodation of this august institution- at least that’s what we were told- the college, in fact, was a relatively recent response of the Catholic bishops who were determined to use education as the wedge to overcome the sectarianism of the Northern Ireland statelet. And so, a faux castle overlooking the Irish Sea was bought and filled with callow Catholic boys. And it grew, and overseas students helped to fund its expansion, the latest of which was St Marys which was a three-storey honey-brick construction.

It was, unlike the more communal arrangements of the other Houses, a single-room complex. One room and one student. No dormitory living for us! And the priest who had charge of it had, on what my memory can only remember as Walpurgis Night, been called away suddenly to a family emergency. Don’t ask me how it got out. But seeping through the walls of our individual minimalist rooms- seeping through the walls was the information- we’re on our own. WE’RE ON OUR OWN! I had been caned just that day by that very same holy man, that guardian of our Catholicity, that warder in charge of St Marys.

It happened this way: we were up on the slopes overlooking the Irish Sea, up above the college, four friends and I, playing poker and smoking, and we missed curfew. So, as we trooped into St Marys, the four recalcitrants and I, Father Grinsin was waiting with his thin instrument at the door. Ten times the cane hissed and thwacked- one on each hand. With pride, I can relate that not one of us yelped in pain. We sucked it in. But, you know, I can still feel it to this day. I was sitting at my desk, reading and taking notes on the novel we were studying in English, rubbing my smarting palms between my legs. I was really getting bored by the doings of  Ralph and Piggy so when the seeping seeped into me-I was ready. Knock, knock, who’s theeere

I opened my door and was hit in the face by a wet mop. Fabulous. Was I ever waiting for this! I charged out of the room and pursued my attacker down the corridor. He dropped the mop, and I ripped the handle out and threw it at him. It sailed past his head and stuck in a prefect’s door at the end of the passageway. It was brilliant! The door opened and I screamed an obscenity and the door shut. Ha! Water bombs, pillow fights, beds upturned, it was brilliant! Although we didn’t say brilliant back then. Brill was the in-word at the time. It was Brill. The strangest thing was…there were no repercussions to speak of. We all just tidied away as best we could (mind you, the place was still a bit of a shambles!) and, when Grinsin returned the next day and conferred with his prefects and the powers-that-be, well, nothing. It was as though nothing had ever taken place.

We all agreed that it had not, really, happened! The prefects, sotto voce, were scathing over the next while as they condemned our utter disregard for the proprieties, for besmirching Grinsin’s grief, for sullying the memory of an old, old man who had lived an exemplary life and brought Father Grinsin into the world to look over us. Yeah, right- I thought then, and now… Here are lines from Roger McGough’s poem, Let Me Die A Youngman’s Death. Let me die a youngman’s death / not a clean and inbetween / the sheets holywater death / not a famous-last -words / peaceful out of breath death / When I’m 73 / and in constant good tumour / may I be mown down at dawn / by a bright red sports car / on my way home / from an allnight party… / Let me die a youngman’s death / not a free from sin tiptoe in / candle wax and waning death / not a curtains drawn by angels borne / “what a nice way to go” death/

Does anyone here among the demographic that this podcast is aimed at, admit to acting out dramas of the mind when you are on your own? Unobserved. I know today that the younger folk among us do not have any inhibitions at all. And good on them! But I noticed that our protagonist seemed to be miming throwing a spear earlier. I’m a bit concerned that he seems to be drinking more than his medicine lately, too!

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 Episode 177 And Leave Him There 3

Letters From Quotidia Episode 177 And Leave Him There Part 3

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 177. Our man in Manhattan is still ruminating on life when we pick up from the last letter. He is a little less agitated because he has been sipping from another flask as well as the one which holds his medical potion. While not strictly contraindicated, alcohol is not advised for people in his condition. Would you offer a chocolate and fresh cream confection to a diabetic? But he won’t be told and who are we to tell him, anyway? Looking out at the magical lights in the sky that is the cityscape of Manhattan, he ruminates that here is yet another island in his life’s story- first Ireland, then Aruba, latterly, the island continent of Australia, and now, the smallest island of them all-Manhattan, weighing in at just under 60 square kilometres which would fit into Aruba over five times but arguably worth more than all the other islands combined. His head spins and he sits down as he tumbles back through time to Aruba on his 13th birthday. [ambience changes]

I first held a switchblade in 1962. We were bored. All those movies of youthful rebellion, the stories of the streets brought back by boys from New York City or Chicago fed our hunger for connection in the tropical nights. Sneaking out was a test of manhood. While our parents snored, we would slip away to an assigned meeting place among the cactus and coral. We would throw eggs or almonds at passing police trucks, steal Coca Cola from crates in the backyards of bungalows and crash parties of younger or uncool kids. I remember the shock on the faces of teachers shortly after we showed up at the High School Halloween dance dressed in jeans, black jackets, and white, white T-shirts. It was prize-giving time.

The scariest costume or theme was supposed to win. We swaggered up, five of us, stood in a semicircle before the judges, who, as the younger and less powerful members of the teaching staff, had been allocated supervision duty for the night. They smiled indulgently… how could we hope to compete with the assortment of ghouls, ghosts and goblins standing about in the hall? On a signal we each produced our knives. The click as the blades locked in place was executed with the precision of a US Marine honour guard hefting arms. We didn’t win. Our shiny blades were confiscated,and we got detention for a month.

We were that Junior High’s coolest gang, and we were bad– in a middle-class, pampered, sort of way. Innocent, really, now that I look back on it. We were never going to be a match for the real-life counterparts of The Sharks and The Jets: West Side Story was causing a sensation at the time. And, of course, we were not even in the same universe as those teenage gangs who called themselves the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the seventies. The lesson I learned as I served my detention time was that the wielders of authority decide who is going to win, regardless of what the rules may say, even when they solemnly intone that everyone has to abide by them… especially then. [play Outlaws]

The following year I took my Dad’s Chevvy for a drive. It was 1963 and I was feeling a bit of an outlaw. I’ve always looked younger than my age and among the well-fed North Americans I was the Irish runt- always the smallest in my class. In yearbook after yearbook, I’m that really small kid at the end on the left-hand side. The police sergeant smiled as he handed the keys back to my father saying that at first, he thought the car was driving itself. It was time to bail. A criminal life was not for me. It’s hard to sustain the persona of an underworld czar when your victims only laugh at your exploits. But, hey, it was the sixties, and rebellion didn’t have to take the form of serious law-breaking. There was a new music being born. And I started to listen.

An older girl who could actually drive legally- she was sixteen- showed me a Martin guitar. She was raving about the coffee house folk scene back in the States. Her name was Mary Ann and she, with her friends Bonnie and Cheryl, took a shine to me and my friends. They adopted us as mascots and drove us around, gave us beers and smokes and complained about their boyfriends. They were seriously cool chicks; they read widely, knew about art and music, and told us that women actually dug men with brains above the pelvic region. Not that this stopped them whistling at the senior basketball team at practice and singing rude songs, the content of which would make a rugby team blush She didn’t need liberating, Mary Ann. Bright academically, really striking in looks, (although, funnily enough it isn’t reflected in her yearbook photographs) she laughed at the teachers at the school and called them greys- even though they were mostly in their thirties and selected for their above average academic record.

I almost cried when I told her that I had to leave to return to Ireland. She laughed, gave me a cigarette, and handed me a bottle of Amstel beer. She leaned over and whispered in my ear: “Don’t go grey.” Now, I never thought she was advocating that I dye my hair in later years. It took me years to realise that she and her friends were an extraordinarily deviant group, but deviant, only in the sense that they were just about as far from the conventional 60s norm as you can get. Then, I just took it as read that the other half of the human race, in whom I was just starting to take hormonal notice, were wise and witty and funny beyond anything that we could come up with.

Time for poetry? I’m currently reading an anthology of 20th Century poems and I’m looking for one that reminds me of Mary Ann…How about  I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miro– Moniza Alvi I would like to be a dot in a painting by Miro./Barely distinguishable from other dots,/it’s true, but quite uniquely placed./And from my dark centre/I’d survey the beauty of the linescape/and wonder- would it be worthwhile/to roll myself towards the lemon stripe,/Centrally poised, and push my curves/against its edge, to get myself/a little extra attention?/But it’s fine where I am./I’ll never make out what’s going on/around me, and that’s the joy of it./The fact that I’m not a perfect circle/makes me more interesting in this world./People will stare forever-/Even the most unemotional get excited./So here I am on the edge of animation,/a dream, a dance, a fantastic construction,/A child’s adventure./And nothing in this tawny sky/Can get too close or move too far away/

I have never forgotten Mary Ann. I would like to think that she took her iconoclastic insouciance into her future life. If she still lives, and if she, by some magic of mathematical chance, hears me now, can I say, Mary Ann- I took your advice, I didn’t go grey or tried not to- I read widely, and listened to music from everywhere I could manage, sought out art and sculpture and tried, even if in a small way, to create. Although, I would be the first to concede- I will never be among the pantheon of your artistic heroes. But, as I said, I read voraciously and still can’t resist a big, really big, Art Folio or an extravagantly outré exhibition- and Manhattan is just the place to be for that! Music still has me enthralled, and I have gorged on jazz and rock and experimental and classical over the past months of my Big Apple residency and I still haven’t been satiated and, alas, I think something else will intervene before satiation occurs.

Oh, I never will forget her laughter at a world that was horrible and risible at the same time. Her laughter was the sound, you know, the music that made me first look at life with a clear, cold eye. I have basked in the glow of memories such as those starlit car-rides out through the police gates, guarding the segregated housing of the employees of the oil company, into the more anarchic multiracial streets of San Nicholas- a mini-Manhattan in its own way- and I have derived strength from something created in those few short months that has endured to this day.

Thomas Hardy wrote a poem, The Self-Unseeing, where he set out that universal truth: that it is only long after the event that we can actually appreciate the significance of our actions and of the people in our lives. Not long after I had the privilege of knowing you, Maryanne, (and, also, Cheryl and Bonnie) I was heading towards a new life in the Old World. Tired old Europe and tired old Ireland were to be the setting of the next phase of my life: the gates of Eden closed as we drove to the airport, my older brother and I, to take a flight that was heading north to Miami and New York, then east, over the Atlantic, towards the emerald isle.

As we soared above the clouds, I persuaded my brother to order a vodka and coke for himself, which I drank. He didn’t drink at the time and, reflecting on this small episode, you might well wonder how the diminutive youth could be so persuasive. Years later I asked him about it and he said that I had an appeal, then, that was hard to resist. His use of the past tense hurt somewhat. We lose so much, as we grow older, don’t we? I wasn’t trailing clouds of glory, but the fumes of that spirit, high above the Atlantic, helped to kill the pain. I knew I was leaving the walled garden, that Eden, in Aruba and that the coming years would be…well, I was to find out:

The conceit of having been cast out of Eden is common enough. It exists everywhere and Genesis does not have a lock on this story, this feeling, this archetype- Oh, I suppose in a world that, now, believes only in getting and spending, I need to point out that I’m referring here  to the first book of the Judeo-Christian Bible, not the popular English prog-rock group. The human condition screams at the loss of  the primordial state of divine perfection and so we hunt for Shangri La and seek to ascend the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

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 Episode 176 And Leave Him There 2

Letters From Quotidia Episode 176 And Leave Him There Part 2

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 176. When last we left our hero, he was wandering around in his apartment sitting room with a splendid view of Manhattan after dark out of the large, picture windows. Why would you have miserly portholes with such a vista, after all? And, as the globe spins eastwards summoning the sun on what will be a glorious fall morning, a jetliner followed the earth’s rotation carrying the wife of our protagonist and, as a surprise for him, long planned with his daughter, it carried, too,  his precious grandson on a farewell visit: you know the sort of thing, Vale, grandad.

But let us re-join the perambulating plutocrat. Perambulating plutocrat! My role is not to mislead you as would an unreliable narrator, so let me quote the Bard from Henry IV. Part I: Hotspur: And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil/By telling truth: tell truth and shame the devil./If thou have power to raise him, bring him hither/,And I’ll be sworn I have power to shame him hence./O, while you live, tell truth and shame the devil! This was in 1597 but the preacher Hugh Latimer used it in 1555 and it was in common use then. So, being schooled by that valiant English knight, Henry Percy, nicknamed, Hotspur let me admit that our protagonist is not really a plutocrat, just a recently wealthy, middle-aged dying man who has nothing but time on his hands- for a little while anyway. [Coda sting][sonic ambience changes]

I have an addictive personality, I am told, and I have to be watched for my own good. And because she isn’t here to watch- she has left this device for me to use if I go over the edge. It’s called a panic button- it’s a real thing! Apparently, it will summon help: the ever-dependable Eddie downstairs or some paramedical service. Ha! Help! Help…  Australia, then, was the land of the long weekend, bland but safe. Oh, I know that horrors lurked. But not for us anymore – or rather, the beast was safely out of sight for another ten years or so. It was strange to reflect that less than ten years before, I had been part of that sixties’ optimism- all the entrenched bigotries were being swept away by the scornful laughter of rejection as youthful shock-troops kitted out by Carnaby Street and waving the incoherent manifestos of various pop philosophers stormed the tired ramparts of- what else- The Establishment. And 1968 was the annus mirabilis- a time when, throughout most of the western world, change seemed not only possible and desirable but inevitable and imminent.

But, in Belfast, other, less fashionably dressed, players were in the game. They, too, had the establishment in their sights. But with them that expression was not figurative. It all went sour very quickly. Anyone who has lived through the experience of a civil society collapsing can attest to this. One day, it seems, all is well, nothing but mundane concerns clouding the horizon. The next day the sun doesn’t rise because, in Yeats’ memorable lines, the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity. And what was I during the cataclysm? Neither best nor worst. Was I lukewarm, perhaps? To be spewed out of destiny’s mouth! Excuse me a moment….oh, that’s better. This liquid I’m drinking from this rather fancy flask, is a concoction compounded by my medicos and which I need to swirl around my mouth before swallowing- is itDestiny’s mouthwash perhaps? Once upon a time I would have riffed on that conceit- turned it into a song-lyric, short story or, more likely, barroom bluster. Now I find it a chore merely to recount. [Harlequin’s Poles plays]

I had a friend, once upon a time, who lived in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney. From a new house with bloodwood timber floors and views across a wilderness of eucalypts, he only had to step outside to walk for hours in any direction through one of the most glorious landscapes the world can offer. But he was bored; dissatisfied with his lot. You see, entering into his fifth decade, he had never experienced history. I reminded him of the ancient Chinese curse that wishes the enemy a life in interesting times. Drink your steaming, gourmet coffee as the sun burns the early morning mist off the mountains, I said, and read about it from the comfort of your hillside retreat. You teach in a multicultural school in the city. Do you wonder why that seventeen-year-old Croatian girl’s eyes are full of pain? Remember the expulsion of the Afghani youth whose behaviour was seriously alarming? It’s safer to read about the Taliban’s treatment of dissidents than experience it.

Too young to have seen service in Vietnam, he had at least one student in each of his classes as a consequence of Australia’s involvement. A good person, he had helped repair the damage done to some of those who, in fact, had the misfortune to be living in places undergoing interesting times. And he had worked and scrimped and saved with his beautiful wife to build the beautiful house of their dreams to share with their two beautiful children. But he was bored; dissatisfied with his lot. So, he set out to experience history. We threw them a going-away party and our kids played together in the backyard as we drank a wonderful red wine around an open fire, yellow-box wood was burning in the brazier, and I can smell it still.

He was killed by separatists outside a model school… somewhere in the Himalayas as I recall, burned to death in his car with his wife and two pre-teen daughters as they were arriving to start the new school year. As I watched our kids playing in that Sydney backyard, I was reminded of playing on the patios of Aruba- the adults would drink and talk and never think our little ears were listening. But they were. For a few years, it was evident that a change was coming. My dad would talk about the new crew he was training up; my mum would ask “But when will they…?” “Shhh, Big ears is just over there…”

In 1964 we returned to Northern Ireland, for the last time from the sunny sojourn that was my childhood; from the Lotus Land that was the small Caribbean island of Aruba where my father had worked for twenty-five years as a tug-master for the oil company founded by old man Rockefeller, one of the icons of Capitalism. From time to time, to break the monotony, I would rummage about in the attic of a rainy day- and the small coastal village of Cushendall had more than its share of these that year, as I remember it. There was, in an old, green steamer trunk, brass-bound with an ornate hasp and decaying leather handles, piles of newspapers, copies of The Irish News from the years of the Second World War. And I began to read: there in black and white was the frisson of living in exciting times. A newspaper that doesn’t know if it will publish the next day, courtesy of a German bomb, has rather more focus than the indulged rags of peaceful epochs. A bit like a man facing execution- as Doctor Johnston said- it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

At any rate, this was history. My father and mother were in its pages, in very, very, small print- he hadn’t been a general at Stalingrad but has watched a U-Boat blow a friend out of the water, literally. Strange how glibly that phrase “blown out of the water” falls from the mouths of those who have never been closer to conflict than raised voices, a shove or a drunken slap. Dad and his pal were on the Maracaibo run bringing crude oil from Venezuela to the oil-refinery in Aruba. He never spoke about it to me- it was part of the family legend and some things you knew better than to broach. My mother, meanwhile, an ocean away, helped console the shattered survivors of the Luftwaffe’s attacks on Belfast. They made monsters in those days, and even the ordinary people seemed larger-than-life.

But I was born into the next age, the Age of Anxiety. 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 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. That magazine, by the way, provoked in me spasms of hysterical laughter one day in 1961- I don’t remember what, in particular, set me off but I remember my mother regarding me oddly as I pointed gasping and shrieking at the source of my merriment.

In memory it seems to be in vivid colour even though I know the magazine didn’t abandon the black and white form for decades after that. The other magazine I remember from the time was US News and World Report which, unlike MAD, featured prominently on the periodicals display in the High School library. And, from that sober source I learned about an invisible, mysterious killer- Radiation delivered in its hellish sacramental form- Fallout.

My learning was from the printed page. In 1945 on a clear August day the people of a Japanese harbour city learned about it much more directly. The Japanese poet, Toge Sankichi puts it this way, from his poem, The Shadow:  That morning/a flash tens of thousands of degrees hot/burned it all of a sudden onto the thick slab of granite:/someone’s trunk./Burned onto the step, cracked and watery red,/the mark of the blood that flowed as intestines melted to mush:/ a shadow./Ah! if you are from Hiroshima/and on that morning,/amid indescribable flash and heat and smoke,/were buffeted in the whirlpool of the glare of the flames, the shadow of the cloud,/crawled about dragging skin that was peeling off,/so transformed that even your wife and children/would not have known you,/this shadow/is etched in tragic memory/and will never fade.

[play Airman] [Coda sting] As we leave the clouds of hell boiling above the hapless city of Hiroshima, let us fast-forward into the future which is American. The economy of the US towers above that of the rest of the globe and in a small enclave on a small desert island a group of juvenile delinquent wannabees are about to make an entrance to a dance that is being conducted under the auspices of  the Seroe Colorado High School staff at the Esso Club in Aruba in the year 1962. As far as the eye can see, there are no clouds on the horizon- what could possibly go wrong for the towering global superpower or for those held closely and, in some cases, uncomfortably, to the bony bosom of Uncle Sam?

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 Episode 175 And Leave Him There 1

Letters From Quotidia Episode 175 And Leave Him There Part 1

Welcome to the 2022 Letters From Quotidia. This is episode 171. As you may already know, Quotidia is that place that space where ordinary people do ordinary things but, from time to time, encounter the extraordinary. For the next two weeks we’re going  back to 2001 in New York City, where, over the course of a few hours of real time, where the dramatic unities are preserved, we will accompany a man who is dying: however, he is doing so in the lap of luxury in an elevated apartment located within a venerable building in midtown Manhattan. It is from an unperformed play I wrote twenty years ago. Listeners who have tapped into the Letters From Quotidia from 2021 may suffer multiple occasions of déjà vu. This is not a sign of anything other than the witnessing of serial cannibalisation- which is par for the course for artistic types like me who have no shame whatsoever and recycle wherever possible! Now, back to the scene. It is a few  hours before dawn and the narrator is up and about, restless, ruminative, and wandering around his opulent digs. Shall we join him? [Coda sting] [sonic ambience changes]I have lived in harbour cities in that global abstraction that we call the West: on both sides of the Atlantic- Belfast on the Eastern edge; New York on the other- and also that Emerald City of the Antipodes- Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Alas, although I would have loved to complete the trans-oceanic set, adding San Francisco or L.A: these were never to be locales in which I have lived…and now-not to be? Ah, well! As a child I met a courteous merchant marine captain named Schnell who knew and revered Hitler. This was in 1959; he had, no doubt, dined out on this for years. As, indeed, have I That’s done: the introductory dance, that is. I suppose you wonder why you should stay to listen to this. I know of those men and women, artists all, who put their all into whatever genre they are presenting- the laundry lists, the diaristic agonies, the close-up of tears, the unendurably sad sobbing of violins. I will not do this. I am much too cold a fish for that. I have been told this. I have been told this. My wife, in fact, compared me to a fish as she left for JFK 28 days ago. Today, she’s flying back from Sydney where she spent some time with our daughter and her family. “Don’t drink like a fish when I’m gone- and don’t forget-you have the infusion at the clinic on the 10th of next month”. But she did leave me with this.Ha! The panic button! Not so long ago, I thought it was just a saying. Strange. The sound is horrific- the point, I guess, and it also sends a wireless signal to the doorman and to the medical centre who will come running if ever I should press it.  Also, it does double duty- to scare off any mugger who may wish to redistribute some of my wealth- in his direction, of course. The memory of the sound is etched in my mind [we hear the sound] Where was I? The violins…the violins. Yes! Now, I will not emulate those monsters of ego who tell you nothing but can show everything: who surround themselves with great paintings, priceless first editions, antique furniture and all the uncountable, unimaginable accoutrements of culture in their landmark chateaux, schlosses, castles and penthouses. The sort of people you love to know about even though you may hate everything they have achieved and everything they stand for. You know, I’m just like you, so, it may be a kindness of fate that a recent windfall has come late enough to save me from myself. For I think, I think, that if such great good fortune had come my way earlier in my life when I could have fully indulged any monstrousness within- Oh, I would have been a monster too. Like the abominable duke in Robert Browning’s, My Last Duchess. But more of that later.  We are only at the beginning of our journey, after all. I think therefore I am. Descartes. Yes? Don’t flinch; I will not bombard you with Wittgensteinian profundities and obfuscatory perambulations around abstruse philosophical topologies only negotiable by a Poindexter with the agility of a mountain-goat harbouring a penchant for semiotics. No! I inhabit a much more moderate tract of intellectual real-estate. I am what you may call- a middle-brow sort of person. No threat, no threat at all. That which I have is, for most part, borrowed rather than grown or owned. But to get back to the courteous captain. As a child of about…oh, I was nine or ten, I listened with only the vaguest comprehension to the table-talk. Ah yes, The table talk. The good Captain Schnell emulated his hero in pontificating from his place at the head of the table.  We were on an oil-tanker, in mid-Atlantic, on our way to a vacation that the oil-company insisted the families of its employees took every two years. My father had many contacts among the merchant marine, and he had arranged passage from Aruba to Southampton for his family on this occasion during our sojourn in the tropics. As guests of the captain, we were at his table. There was, as well as my sisters and mother, another guest; a young man of mixed race who showed to me on deck one day a miniature camera that was one of his proudest possessions. As I say, I have only the vaguest recollections of the content and import of the captain’s conversation. What registered then, and has never left me, is the icy contempt with which he treated that young man whose name, I regret to say, I do not remember. Captain Schnell would lavish old-world courtesy on my mother; he would smile at me and my sisters indulgently. But as for the young man of mixed race- and what a stupid and vacuous phrase that is- there is only one human race after all. And here, in this place, in this space, I think we can all agree on that. But in that other space, that other time, on that oil tanker in mid-Atlantic- the captain was never rude. He was always punctilious in passing the soup tureen and so on- but everybody knew, everybody knew, the young man included, that captain Schnell despised the young-not-quite-white-man who must have had connections the captain could not refuse. So why did I forget his name? Maybe, it’s been the weight of several decades: the sluice, no, no, the torrent of information that has poured in through my senses- only five, by the traditional way of counting them. All that noise and light; the odour, taste, and texture of life itself. Maybe it was that I didn’t care enough then and perhaps don’t really care enough now- or am I being too honest? Can one be too honest? And still, forgetfulness fills us with such terror. I don’t really understand- but then, I don’t have to- I’m not an explicator, explainer, philosopher. Perhaps something of an observer. And from time to time I scratch that itch that some call the need to create. An observer, then, with a need to relieve the itch.  The conceit is not unusual but probably borrowed even though it fits so easily, so naturally. That’s me done with introspection- for now, anyway. I’ve always preferred stories- a good read over the worthy canonical tomes you can find under the heading: self-improvement. And, indeed, I’m always surprised to find people who think that I’m educated, even erudite. Having encountered and, in a couple of instances, been friends with people who are- I know my place, my pleasure, my role, if you want to be reductive about it. I scavenge…collect enticing bits and pieces, turn them over close to my face in wonder, then notice something glinting just over there, and either drop what I am examining or stuff it in a pocketas I clamber over, it may well be, the secret of the universe as I reach for the next shining artefact, leaving the real prize untouched. This metaphor, too, is, in all likelihood, borrowed. From now on take it as read that much of what transpires has not been voiced in the universe for the first time. Of course, I have enough vanity left to tell you that I will feel disconsolate, for however short a time, if you conclude, as did a professor after reading his student’s plagiarised essay: “this work is both original and good but, unfortunately for you, the good bits aren’t original and the original bits aren’t any good.” The icy captain Schnell stirred my interest in history. But have you read a history book recently; so heavy, doesn’t fit in the pocket or the mind easily? Scavengers only rarely have the time. Much better is to slip a poem or a song snugly into the memory and take it out, when leisure allows, and set it beside some other small treasure that you have found along the way. Let me demonstrate what I mean, courtesy of Edwin Brock, from his poem Five Ways to Kill a Man: There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man/you can make him carry a plank of wood/to the top of a hill and nail him to it…/Or you can take a length of steel,/shaped and chased in a traditional way,/ and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears,/…you may, if the wind allows, blow gas at him…/ …you may fly/miles above your victim and dispose of him by/pressing one small switch…/ …Simpler, direct, and much more neat/is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle/of the twentieth century, and leave him there. Strange, when I’m reading poetry, all I hear in my head is my wife’s voice. Could be these drugs I take to get by, could be I’m just missing her. [The Emperor of Ice Cream now plays] A much younger man wrote that song in the mid-seventies: sitting in a Sydney park under the antipodean sun, reading the poetry of Wallace Stevens, watching his two young children playing; a refugee from the cauldron that was Belfast- the first of the harbour cities to give a shape to his life, the place he sought out as a teen for its music and the sweet, sweet girl who was to become his partner for what has been now over thirty years. And now circumstances have forced her to be his warder- (You realise I’m talking about myself here- third-person pretension, I think it’s called?) [play Coda sting outro]In the next letter we find our man remembering times of past glory- if his miniscule role in the large events unfolding around him can ever be so described! And talking about miniscule roles, let me differentiate myself from this other guy. Time for me, as for you, is unfolding in the actual present of January, 2022, although I will try to avoid causing too much anachronistic pain as I top and tail the events narrated in these podcasts- but time is a puzzle I can’t yet solve.

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 Episode 174 Making the Living Poetry 4

Letters From Quotidia Eoisode 174 Making the Living Poetry Part 4

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 174 and Part 4 of Making the Living Poetry.  But there will be no grand climaxes here. I suppose that’s why we love stories- let’s admit it-our own lives are too messy and inconsequential to be satisfying to anyone else, let alone ourselves! So, back to the tale:


I borrow a two-man tent, a sleeping bag and fifty pounds,/Hitch a lift to Ballycastle and catch the boat for Rathlin Island,/Almost as inaccessible as Australia, and as bare. It awakens memories./Out through Ouig, past the loughs I walk to Ushet Point reflecting/And remembering, hearing in my head the song I wrote upon returning:/The light reflects upon the waters of the sound as I sing:

Singing songs over coffee cups, trancing in the gloom,

Reading Nietzsche in a darkening room, Lord how it gets you down.

I wish I were a rolling wave approaching a winter shore

Where the moon consecrated the blood as the spay hits a windowpane.

Playing fool with the troubadours, laughing in an empty space.

Changing masks in a burning glass with a rigid facility.

I wish I were a scented breeze along a garden path

Where ladies parade and sing my praise, feed swans on a silver lake.

Dreaming down in the Southland, poised beneath a frozen wave,

At the carnival of Babel lost the voice to struggle through.

I wish I were a nomad fire scorching a frosty plain

Where shadows dance as fire, a lance, keeps at bay night again.

Sailing in through the spice-lands, watching as the curve fell north,

Under the shadow of Krakatoa, held my breath until we passed.

I wish I were a high peak scraping holes in heaven’s floor,

Sun above and clouds below, surrounded by prayers and poems.

But I go back. A week on Rathlin does me. I can’t be Joyce or Singe./No, perhaps for me, naiveté, domesticity, and, yes, verbosity,/Is as close to high art as I will get. We meet, my wife and I:/She cries a bit, and so do I- not the stern stuff of heroes made./Walking back to my room, resuming the life I left before,/I feel a dislocation and try to type the ghosts away:/

It seems so strange, after days and days away,

To come back- as to a scene of murder.

First the slow survey. You recognise a pile

Of papers, written on and once sufficient

To hold at bay what you have since become.

It seems so strange, after days and days away.

My forensic skill increases- to read the clues,

Discarded whistles, mute bouzoukis, flaccid

Bodhran, banjos, bones, and my guitars

Lie scattered in the room to which I come

To try to re-establish lost communion.

And can it be repaired, so much hope

For this one, last throw? Driven back

Impacted, retreating like a stone before a flood

And even the ossified heart sends out its signals

Help help help help help help help help.

And so, my life goes on. The dole-man’s been, has to know/The reason why I haven’t signed. I’ll tell a lie tomorrow./And reaching for my Russell, read again that magic prose/Made for dunderheads like me- explaining Western thought./Then, taking down the Tao Te Ching, I read my favourite passages/And from them both I gain, once more, a reason why I write my poems:

Any way may lead to no end:

No way may lead to the One.

In the room a pale electric glow

Allows the cursory pen

To lead the line, direct the flow

Wherein a poem or tale is spun.

Further into darkness spinning round

Begins the night squalls

The table shakes

The words are written down

The house shakes

The wind is at the walls.

I climb the stairs, I’m tired now. My wife is sleeping in the/Other bed- no chance of her joining me tonight. I look in on the/Kids. Yes, they’re both asleep- I wonder: did they miss me?/But sleep won’t come just yet. I reach beneath the bed and/Set down random thoughts on the pad I always keep there. A cat/Cries, and the gibbous moon outside inspires a nocturne:/

The cat outside my midnight window

Rubs the moon  Rubs the moon

This book of poems beside my pillow

Filled with gloom Filled with gloom

My wife beside me breathing

Over there Over there

My eyes inside their sockets seeing

All so bare All so bare

The light off now and late-night thoughts: a tune swirls in my/Head. And round it goes. Words come. I compose sometimes like this./And tomorrow? Well, I suppose I’ll wake late as usual- no work./And try to hold myself together with words and songs. I have it/Now. The words won’t go away, or the tune. The advantages of being/Simple, I suppose. And tomorrow? Tomorrow I’ll make the living poetry:

Don’t shed a tear for me, Mr Brown,

I’m on my knees, I’m almost off the ground.

I’m on my way back up to a life

That you won’t blight

Send back the wreath if you can.

I read your sister’s poems on the lawn,

Down by the gasworks sang songs of your son.

And if it comes out that I agreed,

Don’t send for me-

Look to the road, I’ll be gone.

The job you gave me almost filled a need,

The problem was my spirit atrophied.

Don’t think I’m not grateful, it’s not that.

But when I look back,

I didn’t breathe, I didn’t bleed.

If we should meet again, Mr Brown,

Don’t ask me to laugh with you at the clowns.

I’ll laugh at you, at your expense.

And in recompense,

I won’t shed a tear when you’re down.

Don’t shed a tear for me, Mr Brown,

I’m on my knees, I’m almost off the ground.

I’m on my way back up to a life

That you won’t blight

Send back the wreath if you can.

Here endeth the lesson. Such was the expression used by worthy clergymen (and, as you may intimate from the archaic construction of the quotation, no women were-ostensibly-involved in those days of yore where it originated.) But as will be clear to any who have followed the four parts of Making the Living Poetry, the feminine energy running through the narrative is very evident. From a deep dive a full four decades deep, we will ascend to a relatively shallow depth of only two decades ago for our continuing New Year’s season of unpublished items from the bottom drawer of Quentin Bega’s writing desk. The next ten episodes of  Letters From Quotidia  plunge us into a narrative where we will join a wealthy middle-aged narrator who has recently moved to New York City for medical treatment. We follow him through a few hours of pre-dawn darkness in 2001 where he will engage us with a prose monologue of musings interspersed with music and readings from poets of the 20th Century This is the much belated premiere entitled And Leave Him There and it’s on for the next two weeks!

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 Episode 173 Making the Living Poetry 3

Letters From Quotidia Episode 173 Making the Living Poetry Part 3

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 173, You never know what effect you have on others. Several years after returning to Northern Ireland, I attended a reading of poems, at the New University of Ulster at Coleraine, by a Wollongong poet who told me afterwards that he had been inspired to pick up the pen and start writing poetry from reading the crown of sonnets I had written which were published in a small magazine entitled, Poems in Public Places in 1978. And he was already on a reading tour of the UK! So, as we enter the third year of the pandemic, remember, you count, and you should never underestimate the positive impact you may make on others, unbeknownst to yourself. Now let us return to the narrative.


Where will I go now? Perhaps Australia, but no…no…/It beat me too. Quietly leaving through the glass door/At the front I walk to the shore. Remembering with pain/The lost years. I put it in a poem, the only one ever published./Crown of sonnets, crown of thorns. Beaten and leaving,/ My friends published it- favour or good riddance gesture?


“Drowning Tragedies Have Occurred Here”

We strike, tentatively, away from water.

Coarse grass closes on my foot. I fear

This place; a man saw a girl and caught her

Unaware at just this point. The dune

Has stood an age dividing Fairy Creek

From ocean waves while life, like the moon,

Has waxed and waned: a burgeoning or bleak

Retreat as circumstance rolled snakes eyes or sixes.

Pushing through the bush the senses blur

And then the foliage flows to form a rictus-

Pulls us through and into time we swirl

Where tyrant lizard stamped to win and lose

The Earth; exult and then, too late, accuse.


Two factions, gulls, squat down; one in ooze,

The other sand prefers. The canopy

Breaks behind- a black bird arcs to use

The air, the morning under wing, slapping

Down our gazes as it traces in

The wind a portent of the bones the beach

Has hidden ‘til the rumours rolled within

The sea-tongue stripped away the skin revealing…

I did not know the beach had bones or was

So old. My son plays in a pothole twice

His size and seeks to know the why, the cause.

The wind whips my coat: I feel the ice.

Beyond the gulls are rising as a hand

Shakes the trees- the squat dune bleeding sand


This beach is home in summer for that band

Of sybarites who dwell inside the sun

And, surfing, dream of king-waves: timeless, bland

Rejection of our life- seen on the run.

The beach is washed away, a wreck of stone

And weed. The storms exist in time and place

But northwards the surfers run chasing foam

On unspoiled strands: sun on every face.

Schoolboys take their midday break in cars

Their fathers lend and carefully ignore

The desolation; think of girls in bars

And plan the cheap seduction placed before

Their willing eyes: the TV stations nourish

All our baser dreams so they may flourish.


Backed by high-rise flats and units: boorish

Architecture blots the sky behind.

Two cannon point to sea: did there perish

Cruising vessels in a former time?

I think not- every high park near the sea

By regulation, it seems to me, has cannon

Pointing bravely making phantoms flee,

Their bores with litter jammed and kids upon

Their roundness: candid snapshots for the album.

Gulls sweep down to eat discarded food

The council workmen throw to see the fun

As weaker birds are buffeted: a rude

But common spectacle- these gulls have fought

And thrived upon the scraps we leave to rot.


The north end graced by craft that most cannot

Afford (convict labour built the basin)

Best seen, surely, from the picnic spot.

A warning tells of fearful infestation-

Sharks! (they’d have understood the sign.)

We walk along and watch the trawlers run

In toward the southern, working end. A line

Of Norfolk Island pine has swept the sun

Back toward the dune; while out the harbour mouth

The spray, like lace, adorns a shore a million

Miles away. The gulls sweep down then out

As frosty flowers falling from chill

Hands…and all I know has left me- dazed

I turn and scan the basin; stand afraid.


The rocks here; fissured, whorled, and splintered gave

Prefiguration to the land before

This city, poised below a frozen wave,

Stamped its uses- like a semaphore

Of silent signals radiating pain

And danger: land will not give up with ease

What aeons shaped and groaning made. In vain

We grasp the shadow, think the substance seize.

Endeavour Drive is patched with wind-blown sand.

I watch surveyors making measurements

While sand-wraiths whisper past unnoticed. Hand

In hand we walk, my son and I: we spent

The day exploring- now it nears its end.

Above, the lighthouse gleams and there we bend. 


Occulting ten times a minute, sending

Light to mariners: avoid red sectors.

The reef and islands to the south sent

Men to liquid doom. The graven vectors

Etched in metal celebrate the voyage

Captain Cook assayed- he didn’t climb

Here: failure jarred his journal’s page

The sun sets, and for the first time

Today the wind drops. Tiny insects

Whir above the commemoration plinth.

A ghostly light on Fairy Creek reflects

And tarnishes the time the dune fought: since

From the water, binding close and near

It gave rise to a future human fear.

Although I’ve dabbled in verse over the years and decades since I wrote these sonnets, I have not found the time or motivation or confluence of forces that would produce something as complex as the crown of sonnets I wrote all those years ago. I keep telling myself to get into the habit of always keeping a notebook handy to set down such thoughts, but, in my usual desultory, dilatory fashion, I invariably put it off until mañana. Which, as we know, never comes.

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 172 Making the Living Poetry 2

Letters From Quotidia Episode 172 Making the Living Poetry Part 2

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, Episode 172, which is Part 2 of Making the Living Poetry. The narrator was flailing about, writing away for jobs of various types, and sending away scripts and songs, and dreaming up schemes to kick start the next part of his life all the while consuming beer in large quantities. So large that his parents, with whom they were staying, proposed he attend a drying out clinic in Dublin, at their expense. He declined the kind offer.


My paranoia blossoms in the afternoon- I read new poetry./And don’t they understand, the silly shites, ensconced inside/Their cradles in the colleges and universities? For most/I see from notes have safe positions, teaching students,/Or cosy sinecures the councils for the Arts provide:/No starving-in the-garret poets grace the page. No more:/

There is no time for a new poetic

For guns are made faster than language.

The opiated spires are falling to

The rocking tilt of flashing boots.

At rest within your soft regime,

A scented bath in a palace of liquid sound:

The regiments of silence bid the eunuchs

With twisted towels from behind…

And just as darkness falls, I have a swipe at God./Oh, don’t we all? Easy, now they don’t burn us anymore./But as Edwin Brock says, we’re left here in this century-/And that’s enough. The TV essay tells us of those men,/The particular physicists, who now aver that here it is,/Or maybe isn’t- could be fish or could be pheasant/:

The hand outstretched from sky above

In Books and Tracts teach to remove

From mud and slime to be sublime

Encounter His most perfect Love.

To reach, to press, with fingers splayed

Through brush and bramble, rock and void,

Avoiding by-ways then I clutch

The outstretched hand of the anthropoid.

Black, brooding thoughts- on the dole, no work this year at all./I’m resting! I’m resting! Well, it’s true enough-/I’m paid to play the part of bludger, work-shy me./I pick up my guitar and dedicate a song to the Employment Minister./I get a reggae beat; dreadlock anger- words come easy/And I sing my song alone, I sing my song alone:/

They’re Alright

I watch them from my window walking down the street

They’ve everything they’ll ever need or have to know

Why do they scream from the dole queues of their plight?

They’re all right They’re all right

I have to rise up every morning half past five

I catch the train and join the swarm just half alive

They sleep all day and party half the night

They’re all right They’re all right

My ulcers and my taxes always get me down

My neighbour’s son relaxes there’s no work in town

And yet he tells me things are getting tight

They’re all right They’re all right

I went away last summer on my holidays

But they were all around me in the sun to laze

I wonder why I work with all my might

They’re all right They’re all right

What more could they want I just can’t figure out

They take this question as a taunt without a doubt

It’s as clear as black is black and white is white

They’re all right They’re all right They’re all right…

My wife comes in and asks, “Have you written for those jobs/I marked for you in the paper?” /No…no…no…no…/“I told you! You should have gone for that temporary teaching post!”/Oh God, I remember, remember last year, the last day,/That last day of teaching. We played that silly blackboard/Game. I saw more than a game. Felt a metaphor. I wrote then:

Let’s play hangman. It’s easy!

Strokes and dashes, wild guesses

That get nearer and nearer to the

Point where the rope begins to choke.

It’s fun, and a treat you know,

For the whole family. Take a flask,

Cut sandwiches and a rug to sit upon.

Find a grassy knoll- some small prominence.

Now, nicely settled, let us aid the man.

“A?” No. “Z?” Never mind, the charge

Will not survive this mob. Now look!

He’s worried. Time is short. Running out.

He knows the class only crowded there

To see an end. The last letter is now in place.

Nice to see…

Nice to see…

The memories of the past, the recent past, impels a scramble/To my box of papers, poems, songs, half-finished essay:/All the detritus of a negligent literary life. I come across/A spring-back folder read the hopeful dedication. Hopeful/In that I wrote 25, then scrubbed out five, wrote six,/Stroke, seven, stroke eight, I scrub eight, write in nine:/

Twenty-nine and nothing done

And at this age to do

So, nothing doing?

Time of search and I review

And nothing in my view

Is worth reviewing.

Once I seemed to have it made

But find I’m on the make

With nothing making.

Embrace my form and find it false

But am I just a fake

Or merely faking?

I’m drinking whiskey now from a pint glass diluted with/Brown lemonade. It looks like ale but it doesn’t fool/My wife. And now we scream at one another. No point in/Describing it for you. Most of you will know what it’s like,/If not from life, from books or the TV teaching eye. I threaten/To leave. And I’m taken at my word:

What do you mean you’re going away?

You say that life with me is no longer your scene

You say our interests are now far apart

For you it’s over and you want a new start

Baby hold on this won’t take much time

I must be blind deaf dumb stupid yeah lame-witted so could you explain

Why you tell me that you want to stay friends (no thanks)

Is that what you call making amends?

Baby you have been listening too long

Those songs on the radio just don’t tell the truth

Nor do the books that you point to with heat

The Moon and Sixpence is not me at all

Do you recall when we walked down the aisle?

You swore to stay by me neither falter nor fall

You say the truth is everything now

Is that what you call breaking your vows

I want to know tell me then go

Are you leaving me because it now shows?

That you’re a failure you’ve fooled all your friends

But you couldn’t hide it from me in the end

I know I must bear some blame

I could have lied to you but what would remain

Narcissus with an echoing head

Who made love to a mirror in bed at night?

So, I go. Couldn’t stay after that. And I walk. I know/A friend- he’ll put me up. He isn’t pleased. “I’ve walked/For miles- I’ve nowhere to stay!” We stand. “All right!/You’d better come in- and don’t waken the house. So, what’s/It all about?” I tell him. He’s not impressed, goes to bed,/Taking pen and paper I now repay his hospitality:

My false friend tells me things that I should know

The terror in my rambling only fear of night

My lack of something called technique and feeling

Overwhelming reason why to him I should defer.

But have you seen a hare caught within a trap?

No technique or what you would call feeling

Yet the terror and pain flooding a tiny body

Makes me wince in my gross hemisphere.

This dark meandering within my resting time

When I catch the scraps of minutes when

I cast the books and pens and papers all aside

Attends no febrile muse of high domain.

There comes a time, I think, when I must reject

The counsels of the learned and the sage

For time throws up a coursing track where

All their stratagems become a trap.

Part 3 of Making the Living Poetry is a crown of sonnets: a seven-poem sequence with an interlocking rhyme scheme. It, unlike so much of what I write was carefully planned, supported by copious notes I took on a journey of about three hours along North Beach, then along the road past Battery Park and Belmore Basin up to the lighthouse on Wollongong Head. I was accompanied by my young son, Brian. The seven poems you will hear in the next episode are the heart of Making the Living Poetry.

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