Letters From Quotidia Episode 101 Mr Brown

Letters From Quotidia Episode 101 Mr Brown

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ by any other name would smell as sweet, Romeo famously declaimed. What’s in a name, Romeo? Quite a lot, actually. He was not the sharpest tool in the shed even if he was, arguably, Verona’s most eligible bachelor. Suppose, taking a leaf out of Romeo’s book, you decided that a rose was to be called a stench. A dozen stenches just for you, darling! Does not sound as sweet, and I dare say, the connotative transfer would attenuate somewhat the perfume perceived by the recipient of your well-meaning romantic gesture.

Consider the flipside of this, where honourable words cloak dishonourable intentions as in Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Othello, where Iago draws the naïve hero down into his devilish trap by pretending to withhold, for noble motive, the name of the person rumoured as having seduced Othello’s wife, saying, Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,/Is the immediate jewel of their souls./Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; /’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;/But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of that which not enriches him,/And makes me poor indeed.

In The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witchcraft trials of 1690 as a commentary on the poison of McCarthyism in 1950s America, John Proctor, the play’s flawed protagonist cries, Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them you have hanged! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! The magistrates, who had hanged a dozen innocent people on the word of hysterical girls, were desperate to get his confession because of his stature in the community and, thinking that they had succeeded, bring him the paper to sign so that they might display it for all to see on the church door. But Proctor, ultimately, refuses to blacken the names of the others by denouncing them as witches and, with them, is led to his death.

Naming rituals have been important in all cultures and at all times. Christians confer names at baptism, and some at Confirmation. Hindus, Jews and Muslims all name their children within days or weeks of birth. Many non-believers, too, have secular naming ceremonies. If you’re into secret names, you may wish to join a Wiccan coven where you will receive your Craft-name to be used only among others of your faith during ceremonies performed away from public gaze. Other secret names are to be found in a variety of sub-cultures; and let us not forget lovers who would be discomfited if their pet-names of, say, Snugglie-poos and Cuddle-cakes were widely known.

Not only people, but place-names are causes of dissension: in the province of my birth- Ulster- it is still possible to witness apoplectic arguments over the proper name of the city on the River Foyle- is it Derry or Londonderry? Or Stroke City as local radio presenter, Gerry Anderson dubbed it, as wry acknowledgement of the clunky but widespread usage Derry/Londonderry as a compromise solution to the conundrum. Post-colonial renaming of African and Asian countries and cities has proceeded apace since the mid-twentieth century: are you enjoying a cup of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka, perhaps as an accompaniment to your tasty Peking duck, a delicacy prepared in Beijing since the imperial era- or do you like something stronger -Bombay Gin, mmm? Even at a parochial level, tempests rage in innumerable tea-cups over the naming or proposed renaming of streets and parks.

And the imbroglio extends to the metaphysical: naming the Deity has been a no-no for pious Jews from Biblical times who refuse to pronounce the ineffable name of God or G-d, as they prefer to put it. It is rendered as the four consonants YHWH or YHVH (known as the tetragrammaton) which transliterates to Yahweh or Jehovah. It is also unwise to bandy about the name of the Adversary or Devil: the harmless-seeming idiom, speak of the devil! when someone you have just been talking about puts in an unexpected appearance derives from an earlier saying, speak of the devil and he doth appear.

But to things more heavenly now: lines of poetry: Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night./A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,/And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,/I started with A, So begins The Names, a poem by American laureate Billy Collins and he proceeds through the alphabet: it wasn’t until he reached X that I twigged that this was a special poem: (Let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound). The last line, so many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart, underscores the sorrow: a naming of some of those lost on 9/11. So, what’s in a name, Romeo? Quite a lot, actually. [insert song]

Do you ever dream of power? We all did as children when we wished fervently for…whatever, and were just a little disappointed when the wished for pony or fire-engine did not materialise. Every wished that playground bully dead? Or merely struck down with some loathsome malady, if your thoughts pulled up short of homicide? And now, even in the years of your altruistic maturity, do you not wish for a Lotto win to enable you to furnish your nearest and dearest with material security? The next symposium in Quotidia examines these sage matters. For those for whom philosophy is a tetrasyllabic swear word, fear not, because we will also discuss one of the great comedians of the early cinema- Fatty Arbuckle. The poetry is supplied by Langston Hughes, one of my go-to guys for dollops of wisdom. And, confession time: the narrator cynically subverts the parable of the child throwing one of the starfish stranded on the beach back into the ocean. I’m sure you all know it from homilies and the like.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 25

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 25

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 25, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear songs from the repertoire of Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west. The four songs are drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. I will cover the songs because of COVID restrictions. And, as always, Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives- but from time to time they encounter the extraordinary.

The Shoals of Herring  by Ewan McColl was written specifically to highlight the life-story of Sam Larner, who had spent a long life as a herring fisherman.The song has a special place in my pantheon of folk songs because my father, like Sam Larner, first went to sea as a cabin boy, aged 14. He followed his father and grandfather in this choice of occupation, finally reaching the status of captain of a shallow-bottomed oil-tanker running oil from Lake Maracaibo to Aruba, dodging German U-boats, during the Second World War. This song is another from Banter’s repertoire featuring Sam the Man on vocals. For this lockdown version, I use the Outlaw Country rhythm section from Band-in-a-Box featuring acoustic piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass and Nashville outlaw drumsApart from doubling vocals on the final line of each verse, I don’t bother with any other embellishments.[insert song]

The Old Maid In The Garrett dates to the 17th century but the lyrics here are 19th century by Martin Parker from London. This was one of the first songs I learnt when I was whaling away on my old acoustic and dreaming of fame and fortune- as you do as a young’un. Later, after we moved to Australia, my wife and I sang this song as part of our set as a folk duo in Wollongong at a couple of restaurants that were trialling folk music as part of their offering to the grazing public. When Bridie would sing this song, she would gaze kindly at me when she sang the words, There is nothing in this wide world that would make me half so cheery/ As a wee, fat man who would call me his own deary Not that I minded- I got, by far, the better of the deal! [insert song]

McAlpine’s Fusilier’s (expanded version.) Dominic Behan wrote this song  (among many other fine examples from the genre) and it captures the essence of the Irish navvies who, in their thousands and tens of thousands built the rail, the roads the tunnels and canals and a lot more of the infrastructure in Britain and farther afield .For many years it has been an open secret among Irishmen who toiled in the construction trade in England that Dominic Behan did not write the words to McAlpine’s Fusiliers. So, who did write McAlpine’s Fusiliers? Well, according to some sources the originator of most of the words was a labourer by the name of Martin Henry from Rooskey, on the East Mayo/ South Sligo border. There was also another verse in the McAlpine’s Fusiliers song that wasn’t used as part of the “official”release. Old-timers have said that they often used this verse as the second one to last. It refers to the common practice on big jobs of bringing in a Catholic priest on a Sunday to say mass for the men who had to work. As this verse shows, the foremen were not pleased with this practice. And it came to pass we should go to mass/ On the Immaculate Conception/The foreman met us at the gate/ And gave us a terrible reception/ Get down the sewers ye Kerry hoors and never bloody mind your papist prayers/For the only God is a well-filled hod with McAlpine’s Fusiliers/. [insert song]

The Sandy Hollow Line I first heard the song in the mid-1970s from the a capella singing of Kevin Baker, the composer of The Snowy River Men. As a document of what so many people had to endure in the Great Depression, this has few equals. Duke Tritton wrote this from first-hand experience as he was one of the blasters on the Sandy Hollow Line, an initiative of the Australian government to give work to men who had no means to support their families. It began as an unemployment relief scheme of the NSW Government, achieving infamy for having no modern mechanical devices used on it, other than trucks carrying concrete for the 5 tunnels and bridge piers, all other work being done with picks, shovels, hand-drills, horses and carts. Construction continued through World War 2 at a desultory pace, held up by money, labour and especially steel shortages, only to be abandoned unfinished, approximately 92% complete, a few years later in 1951. (source, Wikipedia).Well, well, isn’t it good to see that the stupidity of government initiatives has survived the 20th century and are still alive and kicking in modern Australia? I wonder, are there echoes of this in the present pandemic?  [insert song]

The first two songs in Postcard 26 deal with the Great War, first, my rendition of Kevin Baker’s moving account of a letter written by a mate of a slain digger to a grieving mother. Then, a song I wrote about my great-uncle who was killed on the western front in 1917. The third song is Slim Dusty’s version of Three Rivers Hotel about construction work in the searing heat of North Queensland. The piece that brings the postcard to a close is The Old House a short song about a country house in Ireland with a fascinating back story. So, until then, keep clear of wars and heavy work under the heat of a tropical sun!

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 100 Dumb

Letters From Quotidia Episode 100 Dumb

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

How dumb can you get?! Question mark; exclamation point. Hands up all those who have never had this accusation, or some synonymous hoot, levelled at them. Oh…Kay… can you just shift over to the liars’ corner- now, please?  1959, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles. It was not long after my tenth birthday and I had just returned from my best friend, Rusty’s, “Christmas party” (air-quotes, here).  His Dad was a raging atheist and had flushed his Mom’s Bible, page by page, down the toilet, not so long before, as Rusty had confided in me.

So, she had to have a party that had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, but she still wanted to have some sort of commemoration, being a woman of faith, however brow-beaten, and possibly beaten in other ways, too. What she did: she devised a gift-sharing party for her son in mid-December which coincided with his birthday. We all brought gifts, bought and wrapped by our mothers, of course, and we placed then in a large wicker contraption in the centre of the lounge room. We had cake and snacks and we played silly games, as kids do on such occasions. Then came the gift exchange. There was a musical chairs sort of game where, when the music stopped, the standing child was able to choose a gift from the basket. The music was traditional Christmas carols.

The only rule was: you couldn’t choose your own gift. Sorry, there was another rule- you could exchange gifts with another child if you hated your gift and the swap was agreeable. My gift was a quality thermos flask. I hated it on sight. An older child, whose name I will suppress to protect the guilty, suggested a swap with his gift- a plastic ray-gun that made a snazzy sound and had sparks. Of course, I made the swap! When I reported the exchange to my father, he responded in words similar to those at the start of this letter- How dumb can you get? My Dad was tough, and he had respect among the hard men, Rusty’s Dad included, who worked for the oil company on that enchanted desert island.

But I loved that space-gun for the two days that it worked. And, do you know, even at this remove in time of over sixty years, I do not regret the choice I made on that hot, tropical afternoon. Two days of pretend wars in space! How could a thermos flask compare? But, through the years, I still remember Rusty’s, mother, and I wonder how things turned out for her, that subversive believer who delivered to me a ray-gun that sparked my imagination for two whole days. As you can imagine, I remained mute in the face of my father’s scorn at my ill-advised deal with the older boy. Of course, Dad was only trying to toughen me up for the real world, of which he knew a great deal.

I’ll dedicate the remainder of the content of this entry to the courage of the woman who defied her husband to bring to kids like me the joys of sharing gifts. I’ll start OT. There is some ambiguity as to whether the prophet, Ezekiel, was struck dumb or if he just held his tongue for several years by the rivers of Babylon. Whatever the case, no one suggested that he was stupid. There can be no doubt, though, if you choose to accept the testimony of Luke  chapter 1: verses 18-22, that Zacharias, priestly husband of Elizabeth and father of John the Baptist, choosing to disbelieve the tidings of the archangel Gabriel, was, in fact, struck dumb from the moment of doubt through the duration of his wife’s pregnancy and was not released from his mute state until he had written on a wax tablet, at the ceremony of circumcision of his son, that his name was to be John, as mandated by the archangel and not Zacharias, as custom dictated.

Now, although it is never advisable to bandy words with an archangel, no one suggested a lack of intelligence on the part of Zacharias. So where do you stand? Does dumb mean mute or stupid? Acres of pedantic tedium could scarcely contain the volume of material generated by this dispute. Just accept both as being OK. Dictionaries will give first position to the former while common usage will favour the latter. Me? Oh, I’ll go to the poets, every time. Report for duty now please, Robert Graves,

Children are dumb to say how hot the day is,/How hot the scent is of the summer rose,/How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,/How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by. Robert Graves knew about childhood and he tells us of the cool web of language and how we are trapped in its sticky essence as we grow older: we have speech, to chill the angry day,/And speech, to dull the rose’s cruel scent./We spell away the overhanging night,/We spell away the soldiers and the fright. Yes we do, and I thank the poet for reminding me that the awkward butterfly has, a just sense of how not to fly:/He lurches here and here by guess/And God and hope and hopelessness./Even the aerobatic swift/Has not his flying-crooked gift. Another of God’s dumb creatures. [insert song]

One-Oh-One is an evocative number, don’t you think? It summons images of first year college students crammed into lecture theatres anxiously awaiting the inspirational manna from heaven to be delivered by hieratic lecturers and associate professors. But, if the mere mention of numbers, those mathematical entities that form a whole kingdom in the world of mathematics, brings you out in hives, fear not!

The one hundred and first letter is all about names. Shall I throw out one of these for you to conjure with? Romeo! But why confine ourselves to a mere name? What about whole plays: Othello (again, Shakespeare enters the list). Or to shift to an American master which does not also incorporate a name in the title: The Crucible. And we’ll glance at secret names, names that cannot be uttered, and contested names. And poets have not been neglected, for we end our trawl through names by citing American laureate, Billy Collins, once again.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 99 Over and Over

Letters From Quotidia Episode 99 Over and Over

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

What does it mean to live a life that has meaning? I never had to ask myself this question until I was approaching 25 years of age. Well, maybe these existential queries did intrude on my psyche before this time, but, for the sake of this journal entry, let’s just pretend that I was a wide-eyed innocent as I answered the door one Saturday morning.  I remember a vacuum-cleaner salesman of about thirty who originated, as it transpired, from the New England tablelands: I invited him into our rented house on Paulsgrove Street in Gwynneville, Wollongong in 1975. I was protected by my employment by the Education Department of NSW from privation even if luxuries were mere aspirations at the time.

He tried to tell me that I needed his product even though it was evident that I had recently  sanded and estapolled the floorboards of the whole house and had scattered a few budget rugs here and there to make the Government Real Estate property seem more like a home and less like the big, fibro box it was. I didn’t buy his product, but I will never forget the look in his eyes as he registered yet another failure on his journey and confided that he was for the chop.  Within five years I was in a better position to empathise: six months without a job, watching savings dwindle and feeling less and less like a man.

Fast forward about ten years and I’m back in Sydney. Again, six months without a job, I scan the papers: not that I have many options outside of teaching. Even so-called educationalists are a bit leery about employing Shakespeare-loving, poetry-spouting candidates: one snide Principal even writes that my CV is incredible.  Thankfully, I have only had to endure a year’s unemployment in total over a working life of 45 years. However, back when I was in my mid-twenties, I met a muso who had suffered a back injury, was unemployed, and was despairing that he would be excluded from the world that everyone else so smugly inhabited.

I regret to report that I did not pay much attention to his sob-story, especially because he seemed perfectly mobile and displayed no pain; I also remember thinking that he could kick back and collect benefits for the rest of his natural. What I missed, until I had a taste of it myself, was the soul-destroying grind that being unwillingly unemployed imposes. In Cushendall, in the winter of early 1979 I found myself sitting in pubs with people who hadn’t worked in years, in decades, and didn’t want to. I found I had little in common with them and soon avoided the interaction.

Ten years later in Werrington, I again felt adrift and afflicted with ennui as I left my wife at the railway station in a borrowed car, to commute to Parramatta for her job as a court reporter while I picked up a few casual teaching days here and there, wondering when a permanent job would eventuate: back then, the idea that experienced teachers would long endure the uncertainty of casualisation was not a reality until, that is, the new millennium with its challenges and changes hove into view in the mid-nineteen nineties when I wrote this song.

Over the next twenty years,  I saw the increasing use by cynical employers of repeated short-term temporary employment contracts and similar ruses to keep the workers on their toes. I thought of the vacuum-cleaner salesman and the injured muso from twenty years before and wondered how they had fared. Bruce Dawe, in his poem, Doctor to Patient, compares unemployment with a disease that increasingly isolates the individual as, in the monologue, the doctor outlines some of the treatment options to his patient, you’ll no doubt be urged to try the various / recommended anodynes: editorials in newspapers, / voluntary unpaid work for local charities, booze, / other compulsive mind-destroyers, prayers, comforting talks with increasingly less-interested friends. He concludes by reassuring the afflicted teenager that you will be relieved to know the disease/is only in a minority of cases terminal. / Most, that is, survive.

But not all: Sarah Boseley, writing in The Guardian of 11 February 2015 reports that 45,000 suicides a year- or one in five of the total worldwide- are attributable to the distress and despair brought on by unemployment. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, warns Roger Webb and Navneet Kapur, from the University of Manchester, Many affected individuals who remain in work during these hard times encounter serious psychological stressors due to pernicious economic strains other than un­employment, including falling income, zero­-hour contracting, job insecurity, bankruptcy, debt, and home repossession… we also require a better understanding of other psychosocial manifestations of economic adversity, including non-fatal self-harm, stress and anxiety, low mood, hopelessness, alcohol problems, anger, familial conflict and relationship breakdown. They add: We also need to know how and why highly resilient individuals who experience the greatest levels of economic adversity manage to sustain favourable mental health and wellbeing. Amen to that! [ insert song]

The next letter would be in line for a letter from the Queen were it a person. But in the absence of that honour, let me blow out, in a virtual way, of course- my lungs being what they are-, 100 candles on the cake, which has only been baked in a virtual way, too. Cutting this most quotidian of cakes open, what will we discover? Holey moley! I am dumb-founded. For Dumb is the name and theme of the centagenarian letter! We have a look at two Biblical dudes who were struck dumb, Ezekiel from the Old Testament (Rivers of Babylon and all that) and Zecharias from the New. You may know him as the dad of John the Baptist. Poetry, of course, makes its usual appearance with excerpts from two poems from Robert Graves. Where would we be without our poets?

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 98 Fleurs du Mal

Letters From Quotidia Episode 98 Fleurs du Mal

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

It’s the first of April. And no, the clock was not striking thirteen, but I got up late enough to escape the prank planned by my daughter to make a fool out of me. She had to leave to catch the bus (for something or other) and my wife came into the bedroom to advise me that I had just dodged a bullet. But, me being me, I lolled in bed for a further three hours to make assurances doubly sure. I’ve been fooled before, of course, and I will be again. As I lie in bed, I think of the situation I find myself in: I luxuriate under the sheets while the rest of the family are up and moving and shaking and generally making a good impression of being productive citizens.

So, I reprise, if only for a short while, the part of an indolent dandy. As a teen I discovered mad, bad, and dangerous to know Lord Byron. I dressed, for a time, in paisley cravats, bell-bottom trousers and floral shirts ensuring hoots of derision as I walked past city-centre building sites on my way to visit my Mod girlfriend- later, wife, who was also a dedicated follower of fashion in those all-too-fleeting pre-“troubles” months of Belfast in the years 1967/1968. The scorn of the whistling workers only validated my choice of attire and attitude at the time. That I would fall under the spell of Baudelaire was inevitable, I guess. He wrote, that to be a dandy, one must have no profession other than elegance… no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons… The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption; he must live and sleep before a mirror.

His poems, especially in the 1857 volume, The Flowers of Evil, with their themes of sex and death, are perennially appealing to youth. To shock disapproving adults and institutions is de rigueur for the aspiring dandy who will quote with approbation such lines as, Slowly, luxuriously, I will hollow a deep grave,/ With my own hands, in rich black snail-frequented soil,/ And lay me down, forspent with that voluptuous toil,/ And go to sleep, as happy as a shark in the wave. These lines from the poem, The Grateful Dead, or, what about, With bold and insolent grimace,/ Love laughingly bestrides/ The bare skull of the Human Race,/ And, as enthroned he rides,/ Blows bubbles from his rosy cheek/ Which soar into the sky, this, from Love and the Skull. Sooner or later, though, most of us out-grow the fashion for feculence and recognise dandyism for what it ultimately is: nihilistic nonsense.

Camus points this out in his 1951 book-length essay The Rebel, The dandy is, by occupation, always in opposition. He can only exist by defiance…He can only be sure of his own existence by finding it in the expression of others’ faces. Other people are his mirror. A mirror that quickly becomes clouded, it’s true, since human capacity for attention is limited. It must be ceaselessly stimulated, spurred on by provocation…Perpetually incomplete, always on the fringe of things, he compels others to create him, while denying their values. He plays at life because he is unable to live it.

When it was safely past 12 noon and I could emerge from the bedroom without getting pranked by my wife (who, for all I knew, was in cahoots with my daughter to visit some indignity on my spirit or person) I resolved to get a fix of culture and so I drove across the Nepean River and along the River Road to the regional art gallery. It’s a great place to chill (To use the nomenclature of one-or more- of the younger generations): it looks out over the Nepean River and is set in a beautiful garden with a lively café and an interesting collection. Today, I take in a fascinating exhibition entitled Punuku Tjukurpa from the central and western deserts of Australia that include Uluru, that great red omphalos in the centre of the continent.

From the exhibition notes I learn that it is, an exhibition celebrating the stories and Law of Anangu culture told through intricate carvings and artefacts…for Anangu the country dies without its people because human beings, who act according to the law, are fundamental to the wellbeing of the land. As usual, I am overcome with feelings of inadequacy even as I think I recognise the deep authenticity of what I am viewing: perentie lizards, boomerangs, desert serpents and spears produced by Aboriginal artists from the centre of Australia. In the same venue, there is an exhibition by a non-Aboriginal artist who spent months in the east Kimberley region and who has a number of large modernist paintings with three colours only- black, white and orange in blocks reminiscent of Mark Rothko.

A couple alongside remarked to me that their daughter, at pre-school, could do better. I thought about Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word that I had read in the mid-seventies and it brought to mind Andy Capp’s quip about abstract art that sums up, it seems to me, Wolfe’s acerbic critique, a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered. And I really feel for the young artist who would struggle, and I hope successfully, to overcome the cynicism made so manifest by the young couple also getting their “culture” fix, after, no doubt availing themselves of the very fine coffee and cakes of the gallery’s cafe. [insert song]

Our next stop in Quotidia is the dole. When I was growing up, surrounded by family who had stable, long-term jobs, it never occurred to me that life consisted of anything else. But, of course, gradually I began to see a less stable and more temporary employment scenario for so many- and this just in our privileged and cossetted Western World. The grim reality of life in the exploited third world would dawn upon the consciousness of the tertiary-educated student in short order. Australian poet, Bruce Dawe, brings some relief (as poets always do) to the litany of hard-luck stories, grim statistics and depressed cityscapes.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Mark Dougherty has a co-writing credit for the song Fleurs du Mal. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 97 Autumn Road

Letters From Quotidia Episode 97 Autumn Road

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

A haiku is not a poem, it is not literature; it is a hand beckoning, a door half-opened, a mirror wiped clean.  It is a way of returning to nature, to our moon nature, our cherry blossom nature, our falling leaf nature, in short, to our Buddha nature.  It is a way in which the cold winter rain, the swallows of evening, even the very day in its hotness, and the length of the night, become truly alive, share in our humanity, speak their own silent and expressive language. So wrote Reginald Horace Blyth in the first of his four volume Haiku series published between 1949 and 1952. He has exerted influence on several generations of writers.

What interests me about this definition is that, after stating that a haiku is not a poem, he goes on to define it in terms that are very reminiscent of definitions of poetry that I have come across over the decades. The poem as a doorway or mirror or deep expression of our humanity or a path to our imaginative self or to the natural world are tropes not unknown to the history of western poetics. My first memory of haiku was reading Alan Watts, a populariser of eastern philosophies, when I began, during the mid-1970s, to search for meaning outside the frame of Western, Judeo-Christian perspectives. I’ll admit, but only after a few sakes, that I was one of those lemmings who rushed over the cliff that was,  Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance!

But back to one of the more serious practitioners of the discipline: Alan Watts, also, has influenced generations of writers and I was taken by the lucidity with which he communicated his enthusiasm for exploring elements of being and consciousness, particularly in his books The Way of Zen and Tao: the watercourse way. He still has a significant presence, thanks to YouTube, that has opened up his writings and talks to new, digital generations. Both Blyth and, later, Watts brought the 17th Century Edo Period poet Basho to the attention of Western audiences.

Working in my box-room tonight, cut off from every natural sight and sipping spirits, I am reminded of one of Basho’s haiku, No blossoms and no moon,/and he is drinking sake/all alone! Not an exact match, though- my computer tells me there is a waning gibbous moon outside, 71% illumination, and I am imbibing whiskey, not sake. But close enough for the purposes of this journal. So let’s talk about flowers now- in particular Camellia sasanqua. That excellent resource, Wikipedia informs me, At the beginning of the Edo period, cultivars of Camellia sasanqua began appearing… It has a long history of cultivation in Japan for practical rather than decorative reasons. The leaves are used to make tea while the seeds or nuts are used to make tea seed oil, which is used for lighting, lubrication, cooking and cosmetic purposes. Tea oil has a higher calorific content than any other edible oil available naturally in Japan. Camellia sasanqua is valued in gardens for its handsome glossy green foliage, and fragrant single white flowers produced extremely early in the season.

Basho, I think, would have been well-acquainted with this plant. Blyth, in his jisei– or death poem- references this blossom, I leave my heart/to the sasanqua flower/on the day of this journey. Watts, too, references vegetable matter in what some have seen as his jisei, written towards the end of his life when, after a long, uphill trek, he had visited a Buddhist temple in Japan, This is all there is;/the path comes to an end/among the parsley. About ten years ago, my interest in haiku re-ignited and I came across many translations of Basho’s work online. On one, haikupoetshut.com, I came across eight readings of Basho haiku by three different translators: R. H. Blyth, Lucien Stryck and Peter Beilenson. The penultimate haiku, the one about the temple bell, featured alternate readings by Stryck and one by Blyth followed by the jisei of Blyth, himself. All the readings are noteworthy and I have used them in the classroom as a way of introducing haiku to students although, here following, I give the translations by Blyth only.

Along this road/Goes no one/This autumn evening.//Moonlight slants through/ The vast bamboo grove:/ A cuckoo cries//From time to time/The clouds give rest/To the moon beholders.//Ah, summer grasses!/All that remains/Of the warriors’ dreams.//The butterfly is perfuming/Its wings in the scent/Of the orchid.//The old pond/A frog jumps in/The sound of water.//Yes, spring has come/This morning a nameless hill/Is shrouded in mist.//It is deep autumn/My neighbour/How does he live, I wonder.//The temple bell dies away/The scent of flowers in the evening/Is still tolling the bell.//I leave my heart/to the sasanqua flower/on the day of this journey. And I can’t end this journal entry before recording the last haiku of Basho, himself, as he lay dying, surrounded by his disciples: Falling ill on a journey/my dreams go wandering/over withered fields. These resonating bells, and butterflies, and blossoms, were the inspiration for the song, Autumn Road. [insert song]

The next stage, takes us from the neatly scraped Zen garden we have been philosophising within, to a decadent 19th Century European vibe where Lord Byron sneers at you in that aristocratic way of his; where Baudelaire seeks to mire you in his cloying poetry celebrating all things Thanatos; and where the desire to play the dandy is finally debunked by the acerbic prose of Albert Camus. Now isn’t that a name to conjure with in this 21st Century world of ours wracked, as it is, by the pestilence of COVID-19 and its proliferating variants. The travel advisory for this next stage of our journey through Quotidia, recommends that you avail yourself of one of the many vaccines available should you be fortunate enough to live in a country that has access to this life-saving resource. And agitate for its wider availability.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 24

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 24

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 24, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear the narrator singing the songs from the repertoire of Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west. The four songs here are drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. In this edition, like the previous one, I will cover the songs because of COVID restrictions. And, as always, Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Last postcard I told you that I thought I would have to reproduce all of songs here using my Band-in-a-Box and RealBand software, but, again, thanks to my chaotic digital filing system, I came upon this demo version of the first song for the postcard, featuring Banter!   Dainty Davie: The song dates to the middle of the 17th Century and it concerns the much-married minister of St Cutbert’s Church in Edinburgh- one David Williamson. At one point he was being hunted by English dragoons and, a guest of landowner-sympathisers, he was put in bed with the 18-year old daughter by her mother in an effort to hide him. The Mum returned downstairs where she plied the soldiers with liquor to deflect their ardour in searching for the minister. Pity she didn’t consider the ardour developing upstairs! Williamson repaid this act hospitality and concealment by becoming intimate with the daughter. This gallant was then required to marry the saucy young woman. The song is popular among both Scottish and Irish folk-singers. I think the lyrics of this version are by Robert Burns. [insert song]

It’s Heaven Around Galway Bay: This song I came upon by accident a couple of years ago. I was on You Tube listening to music of various kinds and came upon a Dublin City Ramblers take on it. I have since, listened to several versions but reckon that the DCRs is the gun version. A couple of us in the band were going through songs one night and I pulled out this song thinking that it might suit Sam the Man. He did sing it once or twice in practice but nothing eventuated. Still in Lockdown (though with restrictions easing here in NSW) I decided to give it a go. I don’t know much about this song. It was written by Eamon O’Shea (who, I found out, was a man called Herman Weight who lived in the west of Ireland) He adopted the name because it sounded more Irish! Apart from that, I found out that he is better known as the composer of the song, Come Down the Mountain, Katy Daly. But this is a good song, and worth keeping alive in the tradition.[insert song]

Missing You: Jimmy McCarthy has written some of the most important songs from the folk revival in Ireland from the late-1970s onward. Our group has featured Ride On for at least 25 years and songs such as Bright Blue Rose, Katie, As I Leave Behind Neidin, and No Frontiers feature as requests in the Irish program Sam the Man and I host every other Sunday for two hours between 10:00 a.m. and noon. I first heard Missing You  over twenty-five years ago when Bobby, who used to play with the group, Banter, featured this song as part of his repertoire. He left after a couple of years to return to Belfast. However, I didn’t pick it up until about five years ago.  I do like to track down originals, so, today, when I heard Jimmy McCarthy’s version (check it out on You Tube) I realised that his was the best version of all! Originals are usually best. If the band, Banter, ever gets together for public performances in the post-COVID dispensation, I think I’ll re-work the arrangement of the song and use  McCarthy’s vision as my template, rather than Bobby’s which leaned heavily on Christy Moore. [insert song]

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down: I first heard the song in 1971- the Joan Baez version. It wasn’t until years later that I came across the original when I watched the documentary by Scorcese, The Last Waltz in the mid-80s when I was living in Ballymena, Co Antrim in Northern Ireland. When Banter was formed in the mid-90s in western Sydney, Big Geordie introduced his take on the song to the band and we performed it, off and on, for the few years he was part of the band. It wasn’t until 2015, when Banter re-formed after a years’ long hiatus that I picked the song up and started to perform it. Levon Helm’s refusal, according to Garth Hudson, to play and sing the song because of his dislike of Baez’s version strikes me as odd. However, we can’t check with the source as, alas, Levon Helm is no longer with us. The version set down here is probably situated somewhere between Baez and Helm. Johnny Cash recorded a version that is worth a listen.

Ralph J. Gleason (in the review in Rolling Stone -U.S. edition only- of October 1969) explains why this song has such an impact on listeners: “Nothing I have read … has brought home the overwhelming human sense of history that this song does. The only thing I can relate it to at all is The Red Badge of Courage. It’s a remarkable song, the rhythmic structure, the voice of Levon and the bass line with the drum accents and then the heavy, close harmony of Levon, Richard and Rick in the theme, make it seem impossible that this isn’t some traditional material handed down from father to son straight from that winter of 1865 to today. It has that ring of truth and the whole aura of authenticity.” Boy, that’s some heavy load to carry for any singer. But, here I go…where angels fear to tread, perhaps? [insert song]

The 25th Postcard features my version of that great Ewan McCall song, Shoals of Herring. The Old Maid in a Garrett gets an outlaw vibe treatment: and I do hope Sam can look past the theft of two of his favourite songs. I also present an expanded version of McAlpine’s Fulsiliers yet another song from Sam’s repertoire. I have added a verse with some lines from the man Dominic Behan used as a source for his lyrics. I end with a tribute to Kevin Baker, a noted  Australian songwriter, who died in March of this year. I cover what is probably the best known of his songs: The Snowy River Men.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 96 The Muso’s Lament

Letters From Quotidia Episode 96 The Muso’s Lament

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

When did you first realise that you were on your way; that you had cast off the shackles of home and its myriad restrictions? For me, it was when I left my cosy home in the Glens of Antrim in the autumn of 1968 for the allure of the big city: Belfast. Isn’t it delicious when you think you have something no one else has? When all the flowers blossom all at once just because you are passing by?  

Oh! Then, you must have been a budding guitarist along with me as I took up the challenge of negotiating the pathways of the musical world, unlocked by the possession of a guitar, however humble. Mine was a second-hand Burns jazz short-scale guitar. My first electric!  Walter de La Mare knew the feeling, When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,/ And all her lovely things even lovelier grow. You must have been with me in Belfast as I walked up the Falls Road to St Joseph’s College of Education in the autumn of 1968.

But others were walking up that road too. On one side of me was a handsome, movie-star clone who boasted that he had had his way with many lonely housewives in his district. He tried, at one stage, to seduce my girlfriend, who found him rather oleaginous. (My word… she called him oily). Walking on my other side was a charismatic musician who had a position with the Catholic establishment of the diocese. He did his best to rape me, one night when I was more than just a wee bit in my cups. The shadow at my left-hand told me that it was OK to lie to achieve whatever you wanted as long as you didn’t get caught in the arms of someone’s wife. The shadow at my right-hand told me that anything was OK as long as you didn’t get caught and you were secure in the arms of mother church.

Nearly fifty years later, I watched a skilful young tenor banjo player rip up the scene as he surveyed the drunken crowd at the Penrith Gaels on Paddy’s Day, 2016. I identified with him as he played to a largely oblivious audience. And this is why it is good to go to music festivals. The day after, we spent three days in Katoomba wandering from venue to venue within the festival site and heard some of the best music going on this planet. Some of it was courtesy of artists with an international reputation but, if you are lucky, a new unknown emerges to gasps of delight as the audience members recognise that a new star has ignited and was starting to shine in the musical firmament.

Three days and nights of this served to recharge seriously depleted emotional and spiritual batteries and, as we drove down the mountains to the Cumberland plain, we resolved to repeat the experience next year. Musicians from Ireland were prominent among the artists and I remembered that at one time I had ambitions that would have set me on the same festival-strewn path but for one small problem: I didn’t really have the requisite chops. I twigged within a couple of years that, while I could make what passed for music, I was not in the same league as so many talented musos I encountered among the bars and byways of Belfast, not to mention the wider world in the years and decades since.

But this hasn’t stopped me practising the art in a small way, nor has it diminished the truth of what de la Mare wrote in his poem, Music, When music sounds, all that I was I am/ Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came. Brooding dust- don’t you love poets for their verbal felicity! The beauty borne on vibrating air, whether set in motion by words or music, often bears no relation to the shape and physiognomy of the progenitors of the vibrations. Roger Bourland, professor of music at UCLA, nominated Rossini as the composer whacked most often by the ugly stick. Witter Brynner, minor American poet not much read now, and deservedly so, would probably have awarded Amy Lowell the gold medal for ugliness when he referred to her as a hippopoetess, much to the delight of Ezra Pound, who repeated the unflattering epithet.

Journalist Heywood Broun Jr, who is remembered for his passion for battling social ills and for taking the part of the underdog, defended Amy Lowell in his obituary notice for her, he wrote: Given one more gram of emotion, Amy Lowell would have burst into flame and been consumed to cinders. Very handsomely done, sir!  You get a sense of this in a poem of hers entitled, Music, where the persona lies in bed at night and listens to a flute being played by her neighbour. The notes invade her bedroom and press in upon her at night, but by day she observes how he eats bread and onions with one hand while he copies music with the other.

She is somewhat conflicted by the dichotomy between the unseen vibrations and the seen surface: as she notes, He is fat and has a bald head,/So I do not look at him,/But run quickly past his window./There is always the sky to look at,/Or the water in the well!/But when night comes and he plays his flute,/I think of him as a young man,/With gold seals hanging from his watch,/And a blue coat with silver buttons./As I lie in my bed/The flute-notes push against my ears and lips,/And I go to sleep, dreaming.

The Muso’s Lament was one of the first songs I wrote in college and it recalls the frustration I felt at the disconnect between what was yearned for and what was actually manifested as I thrashed and whaled on my guitar to the vociferous objections of my neighbours on either side of my college room back then in my first year of tertiary education. [insert song]

I love Haiku, those miniature gems of poetry which come from the Japanese tradition. I spent a lot of time, also, reading and thinking about Zen and Taoism. In our next Quotidian stop we will enter an exquisite garden where such matters are discussed while reverently participating in a tea ceremony. Some unnamed participant may slip something into the cup from a hip flask.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 95 A Packet of White Powder

Letters From Quotidia Episode 95 A Packet of White Powder

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

You would really like Rat Park, if you were a rat. And- actually- it doesn’t look too bad from a human perspective. Lots of friends and things to do, plentiful food and diverting activities including the odd hit of stimulating substances such as cocaine: what’s not to like?  In Rat Park there is no war on drugs and hence no multi-billion-dollar organised criminal rodent cartels corrupting the institutions of society and spreading misery and mayhem through every level of Rat Park.

The rats are free to have a blast whenever they feel like it. But, surely then, there are hordes of addicted, drug-addled rats committing all sorts of dastardly rat-crimes all over the place? No… Back in the 1970s a perceptive psychology professor from Vancouver, Bruce K Alexander, questioned the accepted protocol of placing lone rats in a bare cage and offering them drug-laced water. The outcome of such a protocol was: heavily addicted rats who would take the drugged water repeatedly until death intervened.

He and his colleagues built Rat Park as described before and, guess what? Because the rats lived in a healthy, harmonious community, they partook of the stimulants offered- but did not become dysfunctional. I read an article (or it may be a transcript of a speech) of his from July 3 2014 which begins, Herewith, I confess to the charge of attempted murder. My intended victim was – and still is – the Official View of Addiction, sometimes known in the field by its aliases including, “the brain disease model of addiction” or “The NIDA model”. The presentation below contains irrefutable evidence of my guilt. However, it also expresses my plea to the High Court that ridding the world of the Official View of Addiction is justifiable.

His thesis is simple and compelling: addicts are not brain-damaged creatures in thrall to their substance of abuse in an otherwise well-functioning society, but rather, in modern times, most addiction arises because of the dislocation caused by fragmented societies. In fragmented societies, addiction leaves few people untouched. This dislocation thesis is eloquently elaborated by Johann Hari in his book, Chasing the Scream: the First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.

Now initially, he, like many of you, felt the glowing reports from Rat Park were, well, rat-o-centric. But, as he writes in a Huff Post article in 2015, I discovered that there was – at the same time as the Rat Park experiment – a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. The American forces in that conflict used heroin habitually: 1 in 5 becoming addicted. There were some professionals back in the good old USA who were terrified of the prospect of hordes of addicted, drug-addled G.I.s returning home to commit all sorts of dastardly crimes all over the place. Bated breath now, as Johann Hari reports what happened next, but in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers…simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.

WTF! All this was known forty years ago? How much money has been misspent, how much misery has been inflicted, and- yes- how much dislocation has been visited on societies and communities throughout our world over the decades since the war on drugs was declared by powerful forces in the US long, long ago? Sort of reminiscent of the war on terror that exercises the bulging craniums of the great and good in our contemporary world, don’t you think? 

Now, I could be privy to the secrets of deeply imbedded whistle-blowers and reveal here incontrovertible evidence that would support the professor’s thesis. But it would be in vain. The only force that can break through the immovable object which is the world’s received wisdom is…(drumroll)…Poetry! Music! Literature! Art! Who knows! That could be a crock, too!

But I sit and sip my shiraz and feel the fan swirling the humid midnight air around me and I thank God that I can still tap, tap, tap on the keyboard as I try to negotiate a way through this thicket before I have to go to bed and plug in the earplugs that will deliver to me Beethoven’s late quartets as I toss and turn in the sheets and try to imagine a sun rising sometime soon when I can re-join the world of birds and buses and busy, busy, busy people.

Our addictions are legion. And I am grateful for those artists who have negotiated the shoals and reefs of their pain in order to show us what it is like to be on the edge of agony: and here, I would like to pay homage to Anne Sexton, I’m the queen of this condition./I’m an expert on making the trip- …Then I lie on my altar/ elevated by the eight chemical kisses./What a lay me down this is/with two pink, two orange,/ two green, two white goodnights./Fee-fi-fo-fum-/Now I’m borrowed./Now I’m numb. [insert song]

Number 96, as well as being the number of the next podcast in the series, was the title of a runaway hit soap-opera in the Australia of the 1970s. It was set in an apartment block in inner Sydney and featured a variegated cast. It was well ahead of the rest of the world in its treatment of gay couples, interracial romance, nudity and risqué story-lines. It would have fit right in to Rat Park! But to the podcast, now: it features both beauty spots and warts, as most of them do.

Let’s introduce a wart- one with the name of Witter Brynner, a minor poet whose major accomplishment was fat-shaming. Enough about him. Let’s talk, instead, about real talent: first, his target- American poet, Amy Lowell. We also hear from Walter de la Mare, an English poet with an exquisite romantic imagination. What these real poets have in common is an appreciation of the power and appeal of music. And, of course, that is the podcast’s major theme.

Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.

Letters From Quotidia Episode 94 Central Story

Letters From Quotidia Episode 94 Central Story

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

The text of this podcast was largely composed in 2016, or should I say, 4 BC. That is, before Covid. It was also at a time when the group, Banter, was experiencing yet another hiatus in it chequered history. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day and I have not had a single drink for three days now in preparation for the feast. For the first time since it was inaugurated in Sydney, the St Paddy’s Day parade will not be held. The reason? Money. The organisers discovered the debt too late to do much more than pass round the begging bowl in the hopes that next year it will be reinstated.

One would have thought the fact that this year is the Centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, a not inconsequential event in Irish history, might have concentrated the minds of the committee. Ah, well. So Irish.  And so much for thinking ahead. When I returned from North Queensland to Sydney in 1995, I helped form a group we called Banter, and we landed the gig playing Irish jigs, reels, hornpipes and ballads on a float through the city centre. We repeated the gig in 1999 and then we called it a day. For a while.  But what a day. The song celebrates the anarchy and the craic of the gathering in the park near Central station in the mid-to-late 90s. In the years since, the celebration moved to another, enclosed, location and it has gone up-market with the tight security and ballooning expenses that goes with such a move.

Radix malorum est cupiditas, hisses the Pardoner to the congregation in Chaucer’s great tale: the love of money is the root of all evil. When we started, we were a knock-about group playing in small rooms in the back of pubs and clubs. Then we got ideas. What about getting better equipment? Mics, a PA, stands, cables? But to pay for these? Charge the venues. And slowly and inexorably things changed. A mate who was OK in the more relaxed atmosphere of an informal session, found he was not comfortable with the more disciplined requirements of the new regime. So, he left. Those paying the piper felt, increasingly, they could call the tune. Can you play for dancing? Not really, having neither a bass nor a drum-kit. But if you can stomp a hornpipe or reel or double jig- go for your life!

Now, seeing how musicians, however accomplished, have become merely part of the backdrop, little more than a blood-and-guts juke-box over which the audience discuss loudly the minutiae of their lives or consult constantly their digital devices lest they miss out on the latest ephemeral tit-bit chiming through the ether, I am glad that I don’t have to endure the ignominy that is par for the course. Some don’t seem to mind; a duo playing along to backing tracks with vocal enhancers makes more economic sense than having to divvy up the meagre spoils among five or six.

Still, radix malorum est cupiditas, hisses the Pardoner in Chaucer’s tale of three young drunken revellers who set out to murder Death, who had claimed one of their friends that very day, is a masterpiece of storytelling. Encountering an old man, they are directed, to fynde Deeth, turne up this croked wey,/ For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey,/ Under a tree, and there he wole abyde;/ …Se ye that ook? Right ther ye shal hym fynde. And under the oak tree, instead of their quarry, they find bags of gold. They draw straws to determine who should go back to the tavern to get wine to celebrate their great fortune. The youngest draws the short straw and sets off. His fellows determine to kill him and split his share between them. However, the youngest has a similar mind and soul and so poisons their bottles of wine. He is killed upon returning and his murderers drink the poisoned wine. The drunken revellers are, indeed, successful in their search for Death.

So, I am not going to the city to the parade this weekend, but I am travelling up the Blue Mountains to Katoomba for the 21st music festival held there. I was there for the inaugural event in 1995 and returned for quite a few years but have not been there for a decade or so. On a whim, upon learning that there was no parade, I decided to book my wife and myself into accommodation. I reckon that I must have got just about the last room going in Katoomba and I reckon that I paid about five times the normal tariff. Silly me. Radix malorum est cupiditas is alive and well. The immutable law of supply and demand sounds so much more acceptable, though, doesn’t it? But I like Kurt Vonnegut’s way of putting it: thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.

But it would be wrong to leave the rotten stench of cupidity as the end of this account; instead, let Goethe have the last word, One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words. So, I intend to hear a little song or two and take with me a book of poetry as well. I’ll not bother taking my guitar with me, though. After listening to the talent that will be on display in one of the tents or halls of the venue, I would be sorely tempted to take my instrument to Echo Point and, to the consternation of the many tourists there, heave the fickle instrument over the cliff edge to bounce jangle-ingly off the rocks as it plunges to destruction in the scenic bush below. But listen, now to the song written and set in the anarchic times of a quarter of a century ago in Albert Park next to Central Station in Sydney. [insert song]

Stop 95 on the Quotidian Scenic Trail takes in Rat Park, not intended for us, but a Nirvana for the rodent species for whom its architect found a parallel in the Vietnam War- which will be explained! Anne Sexton provides the relief of poetry to close out this problematic chapter. So, bring along your favourite addiction and join us on the trek through Quotidia.

 Credits: All written text, song lyrics and music (including background music) written and composed by Quentin Bega unless otherwise specified in the credits section after individual posts. Illustrative excerpts from other texts identified clearly within each podcast. I donate to and use Wikipedia frequently as one of the saner sources of information on the web.

Technical Stuff: Microphone- (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter)

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

For recording and mixing down 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used

Music accompaniment and composition software– Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2020 as well as- for some 20 of the songs of year 2000 vintage- I used a Blue Mountains, NSW, studioApproximately 48 Banter folk songs and instrumentals recorded live (“in the round”) with a ThinkPad laptop using the inbuilt mic.