Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 16

Letters From Quotidia Postcards edition 16

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, the Postcards edition, number 16, a podcast by Quentin Bega where you will hear Banter, a traditional Irish folk group from Sydney’s outer west, present four tunes and songs drawn from the traditions of the English-speaking world. And, as always, Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.

Hard Times: Written by Stephen Foster who died much too soon at age 37. The wowsers of the time were smug, characterising him as a “drunkard” who wrote songs about “pathetic people”. Well, he’s remembered and revered 150 years after his death for such classics as Beautiful Dreamer, Gentle Annie, My Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair and Camptown Races, while his mean-spirited critics have sunk into well-deserved oblivion. Here’s Jim to sing the song.[insert song]

Spancil Hill: Another much loved and requested song from the 70s onwards, in my experience. It was originally a poem written by Michael Considine, who left for America in the wake of the Great Famine. He hoped to make enough money to return home and marry his sweetheart. He died at age 23 in 1873, without ever having fulfilled his dreams. But he sent a poem to his nephew on which the song is based. The punch and power of the ballad, even in its popular, abbreviated form is a testament to his feeling for “my first and only love” . Sam Beggs takes the honours here for this great song. [insert song]

Three Rivers Hotel: An Aussie song recorded by many country artists here, most notably, the late, great Slim Dusty. It tells of the hard-working, hard-drinking blokes who undertake the hot and hellish, dirty, dusty construction jobs in the bush of Australia. The hotel, where cold beer and entertainment of various kinds is to be found, is the heart of the vastness and celebrated in more songs than this one. This is one of several variants on the song, written, I think, by Stan Coster, a songwriter and bushman of note, who died back in 1997.[insert song]

The Wild Rover: Historically, the song has been referred to in Irish folklore and, since the late sixteenth century, it has been noted in written records—although it is likely that some northern Atlantic fishing crews knew the song before these historical accounts were made. The song is a staple for artists performing live music in Irish pubs. It is often considered to be a drinking song rather than a temperance song. For many people, the Wild Rover is the stereotypical Irish drinking song.

“The Wild Rover” is the most widely performed Irish song, although its exact origins are unknown. The song tells the story of a young man who has been away from his hometown for many years. Returning to his former alehouse the landlady refuses him credit, until he presents the gold which he has gained while he has been away. He sings of how his days of roving are over and he intends to return to his home and settle down.

According to Professor T. M. Devine in his book The Scottish Nation 1700 – 2000 (Penguin, 2001) the song was written as a temperance song. The song is found printed in a book, The American Songster, printed in the USA by W.A. Leary in 1845, and spread from Scotland to America from the Temperance movement. There is another USA printed version in the “Forget-Me-Not Songster” (c 1850), published by Locke. An alternative history of the song is suggested by the fact that a collection of ballads, dated between 1813 and 1838, is held in the Bodleian Library

Raymond Daly and Derek Warfield of The Wolfe Tones describe how the fans of Celtic Football Club in Scotland  sing The Wild Rover at away matches. The chorus is well known throughout most English-speaking cultures, even among people who have no knowledge of the rest of the song. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the notes above. Do donate to a great site, if you can afford to.)

I first came across this song off the Dubliners 1964 LP and the song was a staple of the dance-halls in rural and metro Northern Ireland. The showbands of the time were nothing if not versatile: able to keep the punters entertained with songs from the Top of the Pops as well as Country staples from the USA. Add to the mix,  Irish folk songs and Ceili dance-tunes and you get the idea of what a night out was like in the mid-1960s in Ireland. It was a great time that has, alas, faded into the past.

Sam the Man helms the song in our wee group, Banter, but because the virus has us in lockdown, and, anyway, there are no venues open for live music yet, so I get to sing it and share it! [insert song]

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

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

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 64 Whatever Comes

Letters From Quotidia Episode 64 Whatever Comes

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. Do you like rockets? You’re in the right place. Or do accounts of the activities of the terroristic fringes of the hard-left and extreme-right claim your quantum of leisure. Here in Quotidia, you are able to witness the highs and lows of humanity at its best and worst.

Entry 64: Whatever Comes– On September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41 sixteen days after its twin, Voyager 2, for a stupendous mission to chart the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond- that continues to this day. On August 25, 2012 it crossed the heliopause to become the first man-made object to enter interstellar space. Meanwhile, back on earth on the day of the launch, the Red Army Faction a.k.a. the Bader-Meinhof gang kidnapped German industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer and subsequently murdered him among thirty-three others whose deaths they were responsible for.

And as the tiny space craft, weighing only 721.9 kilograms, entered interstellar space, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to twenty-one years in jail for killing seventy-seven innocent people in Oslo and on the island of Utoya. These stats illustrate the best and worst of humanity. Rightly, the golden record affixed to the space-craft does not include details of human atrocities but instead images of the beauty and variety of life on earth as well as our cultural treasures. From the world of classical music, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and Blind Willie Johnston and Chuck Berry from the realm of popular music. Incredibly, EMI refused permission to have the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun included because of copyright concerns!  Aliens with a sense of humour would be tickled.

Journeys to the interior, can be remarkable, too, as Margaret Atwood demonstrates in her poem about inward voyaging, that travel is not the easy going/from point to point, a dotted/line on a map…that here, too, are found cliffs and swamps, hills and a tangle of trees. And, crucially, I know/ it is easier for me to lose my way/ forever here, than in other landscapes. For some, the journeys and voyages have been both within and across the surface of the globe. Marco Polo, whose travels to China and back to Venice encompassing 24,000 kilometres and twenty-four years are remarkable and were influential in whetting the appetite of Europeans for exploration- but little is known of the interior changes wrought in the man who set out as a youth of seventeen years and returned as a middle-aged forty-one-year-old dignitary.

However, someone who travelled a comparable distance in time and space but who leaves an account which deals with what is within- from a time thirteen hundred years before Marco Polo set out on his journey- is the towering figure of St Paul. The song is about him- but not only him, because I mash him up with another outstanding character from world history, contemporaneous with the apostle of the Gentiles; St Peter- you know, the guy who denied his leader- how many times?  Was there ever such an inauspicious start for a world religion?

But we all are acquainted with those who shift their allegiances: sometimes it is for the most honourable of motives, at other times it is self-serving and venal. But there are other avenues to explain these antipodean changes: sometimes it is just a matter of information. As a 13-year old, courtesy of US News and World Report, a magazine I read avidly in the school library of Seroe Colorado High, Aruba, I accepted, uncritically, the World View of the CIA- or the USA- whichever you prefer. Then, when I found out that I had been lied to, egregiously, I swung to the fashionable Left, featuring Che Guevara et al. But, later, finding that the pendulum had swung to an equal and opposite lie- I became somewhat apathetic.

Today, I find myself wondering if I should even pay attention to the volume of mal-informed drivel coming down the various pipes that masquerade as the media. So where, or to whom, do you turn to if you wish for some sort of answer to the problems of the world we live in? To itemise the horrors between the launch of the Voyager 1 spacecraft and its exit into interstellar space makes me feel ill. The Jonestown mass suicide/murder claiming over 900 lives happened just a year or so after the launch. As the Voyager 1 broke through into interstellar space a crime was committed in Australia that filled me with anguish and broke the hearts of those who loved a vivacious and intelligent young woman named Jill Meagher who was raped and murdered in Melbourne. Like millions of others, I saw the CCTV footage of Jill’s last sighting followed by the stalking gait of her predator, who had nothing in mind other than the extinguishing of a lovely life.

But, to return to the original subject- St Paul: such an intrepid traveller; such an obstinate adversary; such an eloquent interlocutor; such a fine explicator of the nature of belief and love and, above all, he had the quality that my mother said all true men should have: the ability to endure, whatever comes. So intertwined are the stories of Peter and Paul that, in this song, I ascribe Peter’s Quo Vadis moment to Paul, as well. Heretic! I hear the guardians of holy text screech. But then, none of them has ever been in the grip of furor poeticus where the madness of composition dictates form and content rather than any rigid adherence to orthodoxy. [insert song Whatever Comes]

The 65th letter finds the narrator, uncharacteristically, unable to make a start! First, he stumbles over a misattributed quote of Stalin, then, he fumbles an opportunity to, perhaps, who knows?, bring a political career crashing to the ground. Finally, giving this whole starting thing up as a bad job, he decides to just telegraph the opening lines of the song at the end of the podcast as an easy way out as a means of ending the letter: not having to worry about beginnings or endings- a cunning plan, indeed.

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 63 Hold Me Love Me

Letters From Quotidia Episode 63 Hold Me Love Me

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary. In letter 63 we reflect on Grammar Schools and hedge schools; punishments run the gamut from tar-and -feathering to assassination; and we learn that map-making is a most political undertaking…

Entry 63: Hold Me Love Me– I was appointed as a teacher at Ballymena Academy in January 1980. It was a bit of a change from the multicultural, behavioural and academic mix that was Warrawong High School in NSW where I had worked for six years. The Academy was selective, taking the top 10% of students sorted by an exam at age 11. It was almost exclusively white and Christian- mostly Protestant although a few of the wealthier Catholic families sent their kids there. 95% of the kids wore their uniform neatly, did their homework without complaint and were attentive and cooperative in class. The polished, civilised, veneer of middle-class, mid-Antrim respectability shone out- for most of the time. Not an adverse criticism- we need our veneers to cover the less sightly aspects of our souls and to protect us against damaging elements.

Towards the end of the academic year, in early June, we were shocked in the Glens (I was back living in Cushendall, again) by the news that John Turnley, the area’s biggest landowner, had been assassinated on his way to a council meeting by three members of the UDA, the biggest Protestant paramilitary group. Although a scion of the Protestant ascendency, he had been drawn to the nationalist side of politics and, as a recent member of the Irish Independence Party, was agitating for recognition of political status for Republican prisoners in the H-Block. In my senior classroom shortly after, I remarked on the savagery of this murderous attack on a husband and father. Silence. No one actually said he deserved it because no one said anything, but the silence was eloquent: he was a turncoat, a lundy. The latter word is a Northern Irish colloquialism which is derived from the name of the governor of Derry in the 18th century, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Lundy, who was suspected of Catholic sympathies by the Protestant community.

Seamus Heaney’s 1975 poem Punishment recognises the reciprocal nature of this silent response where he compares the 2000 year-old killing of a young female adulterer exhumed from a German bog with the treatment of Catholic girls who consorted with British soldiers in Northern Ireland: they were chained to railings, their hair was shaved off and hot tar was poured over them. Thinking of the bog girl he admits, I almost love you/but would have cast, I know, /the stones of silence… I who have stood dumb/when your betraying sisters,/ cauled in tar,/wept by the railings. Like my students a few years later, he understands the exact and tribal… revenge.

When I attended a performance of Brian Friel’s acclaimed drama, Translations a few months later, I understood much better the theme of failure to communicate which underpins the play which is set in a remote rural settlement in 1833 as two British officers come to map the area for the Ordnance survey. In making a map, of course, the maker gets to name (or rename) all the places and notate the roads, bridges, forests, hills, settlements and other strategic elements that form the necessary preparation for the consolidation of imperial rule.

They are accompanied by Owen, the son of the alcoholic teacher of the local hedge school- an Irish institution of which Irish writer, William Carelton, provided the following contemporaneous account to amuse his English reading audience, On once asking an Irish peasant, why he sent his children to a school master who was notoriously addicted to spirituous liquors, rather than to a man of sober habits who taught in the same neighbourhood, “Why do I send them to Mat Meegan, is it?” he replied – “and do you think, Sir,” said he, “that I’d send them to that dry-headed dunce, Mr. Frazher, with his black coat upon him, and his caroline hat, and him wouldn’t take a glass of poteen wanst in seven years? Mat, Sir, likes it, and teaches the boys ten times betther whin he’s dhrunk nor when he’s sober; and you’ll never find a good tacher, Sir, but’s fond of it.

The Catholic hierarchy were pleased when the British Government introduced National Schools in the 1830s because, as the bishop of Kildare wrote to his priests in 1831, he approved of the rule which requires that all the teachers are henceforth to be employed be provided…with a certificate of their competency, that will aid us in a work of great difficulty, to wit, that of suppressing hedge schools, and placing youths under the direction of competent teachers, and of those only. That is, only those of whom the hierarchy approved would get a position.

The best hedge schools (which were held in barns or cabins rather than under hedges) taught a range of subjects, including Greek and Latin as well as a curriculum geared to local needs. Where, oh where, are they now? The song, Hold Me Love Me, which follows maps three different scenarios of imposing one’s will. [insert song Hold Me Love Me]

On our next visit to Quotidia we will watch the Voyager spacecraft lift off from the Cape Canaveral Launch Complex in 1977 for truly epic exploratory ventures that continue to this day. The golden records aboard both spacecraft carry to the vastness of the cosmos an account of human life in its rich diversity and diverse accomplishment. Meanwhile back on Earth atrocities and venalities accumulate with the passage of the years as an obscene counterpoint that fills people of good will with horror and shame. We finish with a comparison between Marco Polo and a guy named Saul.

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. Mark Dougherty has a co-writing credit for the song, Hold Me Love Me. 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 62 Desolation Row 1984

Letters From Quotidia Episode 62 Desolation Row 1984

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.

FM Radio has a habit of sanitising and/or re-writing history. Its present dissemination of the pop music of the 1980s would have you believe that that decade was all big hair and big guitar and synth bands whose audiences danced and tranced in multi-coloured clothes in a world of bubble-gum and day-glo. It wasn’t quite like that- anywhere. Let’s drop in just before that endless party of the radio DJs’ imagination. We’ll start with the genesis of the song Desolation Row/1984…

Entry 62: Desolation Row/1984 The song dates to 1979. I was largely unemployed during 1979 (having just returned from a seven-year sojourn in Australia) and I had spent some time driving around Ireland and staying in various B&Bs and above pubs. I look at the photographs from that time and weep that I was so unconscious. My wife and kids were there too, thinking that I knew what I was doing. After all, would Hubby-slash-Dad take off, driving them around Ireland without some sort of plan? Mmm, as it transpired, Yeah! The 1960s were the decade of coming of age; transition between Aruba and Ireland; between adolescence and young adulthood. The 1970s were years of graduation, marriage, children, emigration to Australia and first employment, return to Ireland and first (but not only) taste of unemployment.

The song references two of the great influences on what might loosely be termed my development as a songwriter- Dylan’s phantasmagorical lyricism and Orwell’s pellucid prose. I never got close to either- but did that stop me trying? Not on your Nelly! (What does that phrase even mean?) Were we to actually stop and interrogate my every usage or idiom, there would be no advancement on what might laughingly be described as a narrative. I do have a clear memory of a meal with my family at our home in Cushendall. This would have been sometime late in 1965. I was sixteen years old and my brother, Brendan had bought for me, as a birthday present, an LP by Bob Dylan called Highway 61 Revisited. Looking at that seriously cool dude on the cover, I was captivated even before I heard the opening bars of Like a Rolling Stone. Even more impressive was the response of the eldest sibling of our family, Jim, who was visiting from County Cork where he was established as one of the new, young Vets of modern Ireland. He was knocked out- demanding that the 11-minute song, Desolation Row, was allowed to be played rather than turned off, when the meal was to be served. Did I preen? Yes. Did I get all the allusions Dylan peppered throughout his song? No. But I knew, at a visceral level, that this was an important work of art and that it would follow me down the years. And here I am more than half a century later listening to the masterpiece at 2:00 a.m. Will it stand the test of time? I cannot say anything other than, this song fills my soul as much now in my senior years as it did way back when everything seemed possible.

1984 was an anti-climax- the year, I mean, in the small statelet of Northern Ireland . I was teaching English at Ballymena Academy to O-Level and A-Level. For a change, nothing much was going on politically or para-militarily in the province. The rest of the world lived in more interesting times, though. On the sub-continent, Indira Ghandi was assassinated and thousands died of toxic gases in Bhopal, courtesy of the Union Carbide chemical company. In Africa, widespread famine in Ethiopia prompted a bunch of UK and Irish rockers to stage the Band-Aid charity event while in Australia, Bob Hawke was Prime Minister and a bunch of feuding bikies shot it out in a gun-battle that became known as the Milperra massacre. In the US, a gunman killed 20 people at a McDonalds in San Ysidro, California and in the UK the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton where the Conservatives were holding their annual conference.

On a more optimistic note, the first Apple Macintosh went on sale and the space shuttle Discovery made its maiden voyage. 1984, the novel, has given us some enduring concepts and memorable quotations. Doublethink, where one is capable of holding two contradictory ideas in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them, is one of the concepts Orwell has bequeathed to us. His image of the future as a boot stamping on a human face, forever, is as chilling now as it was in 1949 when it was published.

Irish poet, Louis MacNiece was among the ‘thirties poets, a coterie comprising W.H. Auden, Cecil Day-Lewis and Stephen Spender as well, who were opposed to fascism but MacNiece rejected the armchair activism of his contemporaries for a more wry take on the world that I responded to immediately when I read his poem, Bagpipe Music, It’s no go the Government grants, it’s no go the elections,/Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension. Been there, done that! The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever,/But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather. Another poem, more favourite lines, The sunlight on the garden/Hardens and grows cold,/We cannot cage the minute/Within its nets of gold;/When all is told/We cannot beg for pardon…// And not expecting pardon,/Hardened in heart anew,/But glad to have sat under/Thunder and rain with you,/And grateful too/For sunlight on the garden. Time for the song. [insert song Desolation Row/1984]

Our next posting to Quotidia has the narrator experiencing the shock of the…old- that nothing much had changed in the years spent on the other side of the world. We learn that assassination was still  political strategy in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. We sample (again! and it won’t be for the last time) a poem about tribal retaliation from Seamus Heaney and Brian Friel’s play, Translations, gets a mention. And finally, schools, historical and contemporary, are examined in the Irish context. Make sure you bring an accurate map with you…

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 61 The Answer

Letters From Quotidia Episode 61 The Answer

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. We all want answers- some look in test-tubes (and thank God they do, for how else did we get our COVID vaccines?) Some look for answers in metaphysics, religion or poetry, and there are examples of these too- so, where do we start?

Entry 61: The Answer– Back in 1979, when the German Democratic Republic was still a glowering presence on the frontline of the Warsaw Pact, I watched a BBC documentary which showed East German scientists conducting animal research involving rats in order to find a “cure” for homosexuality. The song was written then as a reaction against the excesses of reductionist philosophies such as Marxist dialectical materialism which produces this sort of absurd activity; although, falling to one’s knees to pray as a reaction may be seen as equally absurd.

Mathematics is the purest science, they say, and the mathematicians smug it up as they point to the answers contained in their elegant and, to most of us, incomprehensible equations. One, though, I like- perhaps because it’s the only one I sort of understand: the equation goes, 1=0.99 repeating. Stephen Strogatz of Cornell University cites it as his fave, I love how simple it is — everyone understands what it says — yet how provocative it is. Many people don’t believe it could be true. It’s also beautifully balanced. The left side represents the beginning of mathematics; the right side represents the mysteries of infinity. Popular culture goes for another number, though. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”, calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years turns out to be the number 42. Unfortunately, the question is lost to us.

Maybe Adams was aware of the mathematician, Paul Cooper who theorised in 1966 that, the fastest, most efficient way to travel across continents would be to bore a straight hollow tube directly through the Earth, connecting a set of antipodes, remove the air from the tube and fall through. The first half of the journey consists of free-fall acceleration, while the second half consists of an exactly equal deceleration. The time for such a journey works out to be 42 minutes. Even if the tube does not pass through the exact centre of the Earth, the time for a journey powered entirely by gravity (known as a gravity train) always works out to be 42 minutes, so long as the tube remains friction-free, as while the force of gravity would be lessened, the distance travelled is reduced at an equal rate. (The same idea was proposed, without calculation by Lewis Carroll in 1893 in Sylvie and Bruno Concluded.) Doug Adams was a big fan of Lewis Carroll.

The American Sara Teasdale who composed clear, elegant verse wrote a poem entitled The Answer early in the 20th Century.  Again, you will have to search for the question, but it may be a tad uncomfortable, particularly if you are a male, When I go back to earth/And all my joyous body/Puts off the red and white/That once had been so proud,/If men should pass above/With false and feeble pity,/My dust will find a voice/To answer them aloud:/“Be still, I am content,/Take back your poor compassion,/Joy was a flame in me/Too steady to destroy;/Lithe as a bending reed/Loving the storm that sways her—/I found more joy in sorrow/Than you could find in joy.”

The search for meaning takes people on strange and arduous paths. The image of a guru on a mountain top dispensing wisdom, wit or cynicism to an endless procession of seekers has become an enduring meme in popular culture. I remember being somewhat puzzled, as a teen in the sixties, by the Beatles’ infatuation with the giggling Maharishi; although, not much later, I followed them eastwards to explore the worlds of Buddhism and Taoism. Not on anything so arduous as a pilgrimage, mind you. I used books as my means of conveyance- cheaper and more comfortable, I found (or, rather, I didn’t find- for interesting and diverting though the textual exploration was, in the end, I had to admit that I still hadn’t found what I was looking for).

That said, the concept of pilgrimage has always had an appeal to me, ever since, as a teen, I read Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, …in Albion’s isle there dwelt a youth,/Who ne in virtue’s ways did take delight;/But spent his days in riot most uncouth,/And vexed with mirth the drowsy ear of Night./Ah, me! in sooth he was a shameless wight,/Sore given to revel and ungodly glee;/Few earthly things found favour in his sight/Save concubines and carnal companie,/And flaunting wassailers of high and low degree. The hormonal 16-year old boy was, unsurprisingly, much taken by this.

The Australian-Greek poet, Dimitris Tsaloumas approximates where I am now, fifty years later, in his poem, The Pilgrimage, I’ve been on this pilgrimage for a long, bitter time…twelve austere couplets lead to the desolate conclusion that I share, as I flash in and out of belief, …I fear the message; there is no temple/ of light, no priest to read barefoot the voice of God.   [insert song The Answer]

In out next letter we will hob-nob with a bunch of British poets who were fashionable in the 1930s- that dreary decade where depression led to hyper-inflation and the rise of fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany and where the Spanish Civil War served as a dress rehearsal for World War Two; then, we’ll hop, skip and jump to the mid-1960s where a birthday boy hears for the first time Dylan’s magnificent album, Highway 61 Revisited. Propelled by the narrative almost twenty years, we find ourselves in 1984 where humanity demonstrates yet more examples of bastardry- but where a few shining and redemptive acts keeps the flame of hope flickering. So, come along for a trawl through a few decades of the last, and largely unlamented, century and we will see what of interest comes up in the nets.

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, The Answer.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 ANZAC Special 2021

Letters From Quotidia ANZAC Day Special 2021

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary. This post is out of the ordinary sequence. I don’t usually publish on the weekend. But today is special. This letter is to mark Anzac Day, 2021 and it looks back to Anzac Day 2020. I wonder how many of you out there have taken 50 years to complete a project?

I wrote the first part of the song, Take This Frame Away, as a 17-year-old, pimply, schoolboy on the inside cover of a Clancy Brothers songbook that I had been working my way through. I added to it over the years, putting a final touch to it almost four years ago, when I was 67. A couple of other examples from the 120-plus songs to be found in the Letters From Quotidia , also underwent a similarly, leisurely (some might even aver, slothfully) compositional process- although none has taken half a century to complete!

By comparison, the 56 songs I recorded  over two months (61 days,) in lockdown in 2020, for inclusion in the sequence, Postcards From Quotidia, achieved warp-speed! Of course, they are mostly, covers, and not original compositions. So, what was happening just two days before I began recording Letters From Quotidia? It is just before dawn on Anzac day, April 25th, 2020, I stand in my driveway and listen to the broadcast from the Australian War Memorial. I set a candle on my letterbox and, glancing up and down the street, I see men and women, at the end of their driveways, paying silent tribute to the fallen in Australia’s wars. A 70-something veteran with a chest full of medals walks slowly past and we nod a silent greeting, one to the other. After the ceremony, I walk back up the footpath and into the house, where we are in lockdown, and think, this was good– nothing like it before or, perhaps, after, the usual gatherings at war memorials throughout Australia cancelled because of the threat the virus poses, particularly to the aged.

The thousands of Australians, like me, who shared in this experience will remember it, I would think, for the rest of their lives- long or short. But here I am, on Sunday, April 25th, 2021, at the end of my driveway, observing the request of the organisers of Anzac Day not to gather in public, to mark the occasion- as we did in 2020. Why? Because COVID persists just about everywhere on this planet. Not, touch wood, so much in Australia, but the pestilence still rages overseas, particularly in India where nearly one third of one million cases were recorded in one day last week and, so, we are still following precautions to prevent another wave in this fortunate island continent.

Some Millennial commentators, when the pandemic struck, welcomed the advent of SARS-CoV-2 as an efficient Boomer Remover: yes, they’re talking about My Generation. Unfortunately for them, as it transpires, the virus does not so finely discriminate. While those of retirement age are more heavily afflicted, the virus does strike down many of those in other demographics as well. We have recently learned that the newer variants are infecting younger people with dire consequences. Careful what you wish for, eh?

Have you noticed that the crisis engendered by the pandemic has brought people of real worth to the fore? Not the vain-glorious bloviating buffoons who, hitherto, pranced across the (inter)national stage. I’m thinking about media-hungry politicians and the gross (and grossly overpaid) shock jocks.

But now, quietly spoken experts in epidemiology, nurses, doctors, check-out operators and shelf-stackers in supermarkets, paramedics, truck drivers and public transport employees-to name but a few- have engaged the respect of the public by their willingness to step forward in these strange times and do their duty, fully mindful of the potential consequences for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, the self-absorbed, those self-serving politicians and god-alone-knows how many vacuous celebrities infesting the media (social and mainstream) all continue to flout the regulations as if they don’t apply. Were he here, Dante would have found a special circle of hell to accommodate them…

I’m now north of seventy years old with a handful of co-morbidities. My wife’s sister-in-law died from coronavirus (on April 6, 2020, in Northern Ireland) and was buried next to her mother in a small country graveyard in Rasharkin, County Antrim. She is the first person in our family circle to have been taken from us by the pandemic (May she rest in peace). Because her husband had pre-arranged their funeral-and-burial details some years previously, there have been no problems with the interment. Hitherto, some had felt that he was just too…what? Fastidious? Careful? Over-scrupulous?

What about, perspicacious! How many in the world today will follow her to a grave that will not be marked by the usual obsequies because of the overwhelming wave of deaths that will accompany the savagery of SARS-CoV-2 as it sweeps across the planet. When I viewed the mass graves in New York City on April 10 of 2020, it was with horror I asked: Are we living in the 21st Century? And then I reflected: this sort of thing has been happening in all too many countries, without respite, for every year of this century (and the one before) while most of us were looking away, or at fatuous reality shows on TV… 

I do not know if I will survive this unfolding event. I may hope. I certainly will pray. I intend to persevere and, Deo Volente, endure. Originally intended as the finale of Letters From Quotidia, I brought it forward to mark this occasion. Means I’ll have to write another letter as item 120, ah well. [insert song] Ad lib concluding remarks.

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

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

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 15

Letters From Quotidia Postcards Edition 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 60 Come Back An Angel

Letters From Quotidia Episode 60a Come Back an Angel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 59 Where’s the Harm?

Letters From Quotidia Where’s the Harm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

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

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

Letters From Quotidia Episode 58 Open Season

Letters From Quotidia Open Season

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary. Join the narrator in letter 58 as, under the influence of perhaps a little too much red wine at 3:30 in the morning a few years ago, he crafts some sort of epiphany out of a freight train screeching past and sheds a tear or two for victims of famine and conflict.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microphone (for many of the songs) Shure SM58

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

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