Letters From Quotidia Episode 178 And Leave Him There 4

Letters From Quotidia Episode 178 And Leave Him There Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 177 And Leave Him There 3

Letters From Quotidia Episode 177 And Leave Him There Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 176 And Leave Him There 2

Letters From Quotidia Episode 176 And Leave Him There Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I was born into the next age, the Age of Anxiety. In the early sixties, Castro was a renegade on the rampage not too far to the north- but somehow comic with his beard and cigar, a Latin Groucho Marx rather than the more imposing German Karl. However, the missile crisis sparked nervous cocktail conversations in the patios of expatriate Americans: You can bet the refinery will be hit! The periodicals were full of details of how to build bomb shelters. The commies would, of course, be utterly destroyed. MAD was more than a magazine title, in those days. That magazine, by the way, provoked in me spasms of hysterical laughter one day in 1961- I don’t remember what, in particular, set me off but I remember my mother regarding me oddly as I pointed gasping and shrieking at the source of my merriment.

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

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

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

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 175 And Leave Him There 1

Letters From Quotidia Episode 175 And Leave Him There Part 1

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

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 174 Making the Living Poetry 4

Letters From Quotidia Eoisode 174 Making the Living Poetry Part 4

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

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

Singing songs over coffee cups, trancing in the gloom,

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

I wish I were a rolling wave approaching a winter shore

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

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

Changing masks in a burning glass with a rigid facility.

I wish I were a scented breeze along a garden path

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

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

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

I wish I were a nomad fire scorching a frosty plain

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

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

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

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

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

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

It seems so strange, after days and days away,

To come back- as to a scene of murder.

First the slow survey. You recognise a pile

Of papers, written on and once sufficient

To hold at bay what you have since become.

It seems so strange, after days and days away.

My forensic skill increases- to read the clues,

Discarded whistles, mute bouzoukis, flaccid

Bodhran, banjos, bones, and my guitars

Lie scattered in the room to which I come

To try to re-establish lost communion.

And can it be repaired, so much hope

For this one, last throw? Driven back

Impacted, retreating like a stone before a flood

And even the ossified heart sends out its signals

Help help help help help help help help.

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

Any way may lead to no end:

No way may lead to the One.

In the room a pale electric glow

Allows the cursory pen

To lead the line, direct the flow

Wherein a poem or tale is spun.

Further into darkness spinning round

Begins the night squalls

The table shakes

The words are written down

The house shakes

The wind is at the walls.

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

The cat outside my midnight window

Rubs the moon  Rubs the moon

This book of poems beside my pillow

Filled with gloom Filled with gloom

My wife beside me breathing

Over there Over there

My eyes inside their sockets seeing

All so bare All so bare

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

Don’t shed a tear for me, Mr Brown,

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

I’m on my way back up to a life

That you won’t blight

Send back the wreath if you can.

I read your sister’s poems on the lawn,

Down by the gasworks sang songs of your son.

And if it comes out that I agreed,

Don’t send for me-

Look to the road, I’ll be gone.

The job you gave me almost filled a need,

The problem was my spirit atrophied.

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

But when I look back,

I didn’t breathe, I didn’t bleed.

If we should meet again, Mr Brown,

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

I’ll laugh at you, at your expense.

And in recompense,

I won’t shed a tear when you’re down.

Don’t shed a tear for me, Mr Brown,

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

I’m on my way back up to a life

That you won’t blight

Send back the wreath if you can.

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

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 173 Making the Living Poetry 3

Letters From Quotidia Episode 173 Making the Living Poetry Part 3

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

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

I TRAVERSING THE DUNE

“Drowning Tragedies Have Occurred Here”

We strike, tentatively, away from water.

Coarse grass closes on my foot. I fear

This place; a man saw a girl and caught her

Unaware at just this point. The dune

Has stood an age dividing Fairy Creek

From ocean waves while life, like the moon,

Has waxed and waned: a burgeoning or bleak

Retreat as circumstance rolled snakes eyes or sixes.

Pushing through the bush the senses blur

And then the foliage flows to form a rictus-

Pulls us through and into time we swirl

Where tyrant lizard stamped to win and lose

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

II ALONG THE BEACH

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

The other sand prefers. The canopy

Breaks behind- a black bird arcs to use

The air, the morning under wing, slapping

Down our gazes as it traces in

The wind a portent of the bones the beach

Has hidden ‘til the rumours rolled within

The sea-tongue stripped away the skin revealing…

I did not know the beach had bones or was

So old. My son plays in a pothole twice

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

The wind whips my coat: I feel the ice.

Beyond the gulls are rising as a hand

Shakes the trees- the squat dune bleeding sand

III AT NORTH BEACH PAVILION

This beach is home in summer for that band

Of sybarites who dwell inside the sun

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

Rejection of our life- seen on the run.

The beach is washed away, a wreck of stone

And weed. The storms exist in time and place

But northwards the surfers run chasing foam

On unspoiled strands: sun on every face.

Schoolboys take their midday break in cars

Their fathers lend and carefully ignore

The desolation; think of girls in bars

And plan the cheap seduction placed before

Their willing eyes: the TV stations nourish

All our baser dreams so they may flourish.

IV BATTERY PARK

Backed by high-rise flats and units: boorish

Architecture blots the sky behind.

Two cannon point to sea: did there perish

Cruising vessels in a former time?

I think not- every high park near the sea

By regulation, it seems to me, has cannon

Pointing bravely making phantoms flee,

Their bores with litter jammed and kids upon

Their roundness: candid snapshots for the album.

Gulls sweep down to eat discarded food

The council workmen throw to see the fun

As weaker birds are buffeted: a rude

But common spectacle- these gulls have fought

And thrived upon the scraps we leave to rot.

V BELMORE BASIN

The north end graced by craft that most cannot

Afford (convict labour built the basin)

Best seen, surely, from the picnic spot.

A warning tells of fearful infestation-

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

We walk along and watch the trawlers run

In toward the southern, working end. A line

Of Norfolk Island pine has swept the sun

Back toward the dune; while out the harbour mouth

The spray, like lace, adorns a shore a million

Miles away. The gulls sweep down then out

As frosty flowers falling from chill

Hands…and all I know has left me- dazed

I turn and scan the basin; stand afraid.

VI WOLLONGONG HEAD

The rocks here; fissured, whorled, and splintered gave

Prefiguration to the land before

This city, poised below a frozen wave,

Stamped its uses- like a semaphore

Of silent signals radiating pain

And danger: land will not give up with ease

What aeons shaped and groaning made. In vain

We grasp the shadow, think the substance seize.

Endeavour Drive is patched with wind-blown sand.

I watch surveyors making measurements

While sand-wraiths whisper past unnoticed. Hand

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

The day exploring- now it nears its end.

Above, the lighthouse gleams and there we bend. 

VII THE LIGHTHOUSE

Occulting ten times a minute, sending

Light to mariners: avoid red sectors.

The reef and islands to the south sent

Men to liquid doom. The graven vectors

Etched in metal celebrate the voyage

Captain Cook assayed- he didn’t climb

Here: failure jarred his journal’s page

The sun sets, and for the first time

Today the wind drops. Tiny insects

Whir above the commemoration plinth.

A ghostly light on Fairy Creek reflects

And tarnishes the time the dune fought: since

From the water, binding close and near

It gave rise to a future human fear.

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

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 172 Making the Living Poetry 2

Letters From Quotidia Episode 172 Making the Living Poetry Part 2

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

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

There is no time for a new poetic

For guns are made faster than language.

The opiated spires are falling to

The rocking tilt of flashing boots.

At rest within your soft regime,

A scented bath in a palace of liquid sound:

The regiments of silence bid the eunuchs

With twisted towels from behind…

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

The hand outstretched from sky above

In Books and Tracts teach to remove

From mud and slime to be sublime

Encounter His most perfect Love.

To reach, to press, with fingers splayed

Through brush and bramble, rock and void,

Avoiding by-ways then I clutch

The outstretched hand of the anthropoid.

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

They’re Alright

I watch them from my window walking down the street

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

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

They’re all right They’re all right

I have to rise up every morning half past five

I catch the train and join the swarm just half alive

They sleep all day and party half the night

They’re all right They’re all right

My ulcers and my taxes always get me down

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

And yet he tells me things are getting tight

They’re all right They’re all right

I went away last summer on my holidays

But they were all around me in the sun to laze

I wonder why I work with all my might

They’re all right They’re all right

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

They take this question as a taunt without a doubt

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

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

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

Let’s play hangman. It’s easy!

Strokes and dashes, wild guesses

That get nearer and nearer to the

Point where the rope begins to choke.

It’s fun, and a treat you know,

For the whole family. Take a flask,

Cut sandwiches and a rug to sit upon.

Find a grassy knoll- some small prominence.

Now, nicely settled, let us aid the man.

“A?” No. “Z?” Never mind, the charge

Will not survive this mob. Now look!

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

He knows the class only crowded there

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

Nice to see…

Nice to see…

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

Twenty-nine and nothing done

And at this age to do

So, nothing doing?

Time of search and I review

And nothing in my view

Is worth reviewing.

Once I seemed to have it made

But find I’m on the make

With nothing making.

Embrace my form and find it false

But am I just a fake

Or merely faking?

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

What do you mean you’re going away?

You say that life with me is no longer your scene

You say our interests are now far apart

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

Baby hold on this won’t take much time

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

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

Is that what you call making amends?

Baby you have been listening too long

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

Nor do the books that you point to with heat

The Moon and Sixpence is not me at all

Do you recall when we walked down the aisle?

You swore to stay by me neither falter nor fall

You say the truth is everything now

Is that what you call breaking your vows

I want to know tell me then go

Are you leaving me because it now shows?

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

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

I know I must bear some blame

I could have lied to you but what would remain

Narcissus with an echoing head

Who made love to a mirror in bed at night?

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

My false friend tells me things that I should know

The terror in my rambling only fear of night

My lack of something called technique and feeling

Overwhelming reason why to him I should defer.

But have you seen a hare caught within a trap?

No technique or what you would call feeling

Yet the terror and pain flooding a tiny body

Makes me wince in my gross hemisphere.

This dark meandering within my resting time

When I catch the scraps of minutes when

I cast the books and pens and papers all aside

Attends no febrile muse of high domain.

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

The counsels of the learned and the sage

For time throws up a coursing track where

All their stratagems become a trap.

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

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 171 Making the Living Poetry 1

Letters From Quotidia Episode 171 Making the Living Poetry Part 1

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 171 – 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. Welcome to a new season of the Letters for 2022. In 2021 I published 170 posts under the Letters From Quotidia title using a variety of content formats. To kick off the New Year I will present two hitherto unpublished works in a short season over consecutive days of the week. I’ll start the ball rolling with a composition entitled Making the Living Poetry. This will be podcast in four parts this week.

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The longueur between my eyes ungluing and fitful sleep/Can challenge a score most tedious or page a-snoring./I know the ceremonies of the egg at breakfast time:/The scene has not exhausted TV writers yet-/And so, I wrote a poem: commemoration blessed/By the “Times” (TV Times, that is.)

Galahad at the kitchen sink

Reviewing his strange position sees

In memory vast battles fought

Over sauce bottles and arduous

Pilgrimages to a point where two

Can understand a simple gesture.

Most strange: he shakes his elfish

Head and wrings the dishcloth.

Later, waiting for the post I hope again…/I take a turn around the garden, smell a rose perhaps./Still later, looking at the sky, as I will often/Do outside; I gasp a gasp (small, of delight)./-I’ve read my Keats you know- I rush inside and grasping/Pen I live again and practise poetry:/

Let me say to the whole sky- Hello!

Not forget the clouds or sheets of rain

But take them too and with them take the low

Swooped birds which flatten out the rolling plain

And make mirrors of the silver rivers:

Best seen from a curtain of rarest mind

Distilled which then attuned re-shivers

Shaking out the foil that makes me blind.

My wife interrupts creative flow: “The post/Has come.” I go, and grabbing missives from beyond/Return to recognise my writing- Self Addressed Envelopes-/Their purpose you all know, myself, I sigh, too well./Not surprised and counting up the cost of postage/Am inspired to verse- strange term for despair./

 If I could affix a postage stamp to my desires

And by swift courier send my dreams direct:

By easy payment cease to feel the gnaw

Of rats and slimy presences within my heart

How I would clerk away this toil:

Forego the rant and laugh away the blasted

Urges burned upon my shrieking mind

And feel the calm of statues to the moon.

My family gives advice, they find my stuff insipid./“You’re in here while a world out there is going mad.”/They’re getting holes-in-one and winning journeys- sun/Drenched vistas kissing cardboard packets- I reply./I can take advice from anyone; not proud, I scribble/Down a souped-up-eight-line poem, full of life./

We are excited! We are ecstatic!

The world has delivered another one to us!

I was just getting bored, going to bed

But we have been rescued! We have been saved!

They say that he lived with a tiger for two months!

Taught it Zen Buddhism! Chess! And Backgammon!

Lived on raw meat! The occasional peasant!

But now he has come he will tell us it all!

I’m glad I’ve taken their advice. Feeling humble, humble,/Bumble to the pub to re-acquaint myself again, again,/With vast events which justify the forests falling, falling./Royalty is worth the trees, I see. Po-faced politicians, too./Blessed be communicators, blessed be their name, their fame./And glad to see democracy alive and well, I register dissent:

Trained at fox hunting, a guest in the Bourse

And schooled in reading the secret signs

On portals through which we blindly pass

Enables you to laugh when I say

“You are the enemy- you are no friend.”

For you point to rows of men in singlets and

Double-knits, girls in evening gowns and common prints

Who do knee bends if you but bow their way.

In the interests of realism, I hope you understand me when I say/That though I was contrite earlier today I must report/My feelings now at the masses, the hoi polloi, have it/As you will- I’d flush ‘em down the toilet-/That they’d comprehend- the language and the action!/And now the spin-off: hear and mark the next denunciation./

We have seen the winners and heard them rejoice

Tumultuously in the city squares and coffee bars.

Hanging out of office windows, whooping along the corridors

Or tastefully gloating in Laundromats or bistros.

For they are vindicated in their perfect view: a loss

Of control of the hardening shades of real power

Releases them once again to their fragrant marshes

Until another prophet points to the beast nearing Bethlehem.

Fire in my belly, actually it’s beer, and quite a lot/Judging by the path worn, not to the Guinness tap, but/To the jakes. Emboldened now I borrow pen from man who serves/This slop and bursting from the close restraint of/Eight-line verse I sally on. I now attack my critics/Who send me S.A.E.’s instead of money through the post./

Quizzically befrowned, stop and go,

Reverse and sagaciously ponder,

Sniff and cock an ear toward

The howls of dogs around you.

The task- so fitting for your prowl.

The traces faint but soon perceived:

By all means call the others dogs

But hide your doghood from them.

A likely clump, some singing bush,

A sniffing joy, a wagging trill,

On spreading haunch give voice, for, Aye,

The masterpiece has found you.

No money in polemics, I decide, and dreaming, scheming/Come to know that I won’t win the pools- notice all these/References to Mammon? Yes, I admit I’m venal and greedy/But I’m safe ‘cause lots of poets have made it big by/Bringing the Confessional into the open. I hit upon a plan-/Listen to this discussion of my coffee-table poem:

Books are passé, my dear, don’t you know?

And little games on hooks, the same, the same,

I’m sure your husband uses to keep sane

The whiling day away, I’m sure. But tell me

Do you know what I myself have found?

All by myself while polishing my belt?

You don’t! Well, let me take you in, my dear,

-To my confidence, that is- what I have found.

I bought it in the Art shop down the road:

A coffee-table poem to firm our flaccid dreams.

I stumble up the hill and meet the wife a-blazing:/“Where the blazes have you been? Your dinner’s burnt!”/I listen to the litany- I know it all by heart./And I will be revenged- I will get her back./Stamping to my room I hammer typing spite/Take that, and that, and that, thou awful kite!/

Filling up with poison like a poison sac

Suck I in and blow me out, drinking down

And then piss out some fraction of the death

I comprehend and, indeed, I apprehend

Although it makes no difference in the end.

Breathe pure air if that you really must

And drink the chlorinated water from your tap.

But why to me you come if you would know

Why flowers will not flourish under snow?

That concludes the first part of Making the Living Poetry. It’s a strange feeling resurrecting this artefact after more than 40 years. It filled a need, during the year 1979, when I was unemployed in Northern Ireland- apart from a few days of casual relief teaching at the local schools. When we re-join the versifier in part two, we will hear two of the songs he wrote in that time. These have also featured as part of the Letters From Quotidia sequence in 2021.

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22 also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments. I use the Band in a Box/RealBand 2022 combo for music composition

Letters From Quotidia Episode 140 Rambling Robin, Staircase Wit

Letters From Quotidia Episode 140 Rambling Robin, Staircase Wit

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 140 – 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.

Irish folk legend, that modern minstrel, Christy Moore, sang  Rambling Robin as the last song on his 1972 album Prosperous. This is where I first heard the band that was later to become Planxty. Moore wrote in the liner notes: I learned this song from Mike Harding of Manchester just before I made this record. Most large families have at least one Rambling Robin, and like the prodigal son he always returns, but in this case the fatted calf was not to be had. This is one of my favourite folk songs to perform.

My earliest memory, though, of people who wander the roads was from a publication I came across as a voracious reader of books from the attic of our house in Cushendall, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, by W H Davies. I would have been 12 or 13 at the time, at home for the summer holidays from Aruba, which was an island paradise I was to leave the very next year. His adventures, related in easy-to-read prose, held my attention- and my regard for him deepened when I later came across examples of his poetry in 1960s school anthologies. W. H. Davies was born 3 July 1871 and died on 26 September 1940. He was a Welsh poet and writer but spent a significant part of his life as a tramp in the UK and Canada and the US, where he would have been termed a hobo.

His most famous poem is Leisure and who does not know the first couplet from that poem: What is this life if, full of care,/We have no time to stand and stare?/ But I want to give you, unabridged, his poem A Plain Life, that seems to encapsulate his, ah, mission statement it might be called by corporate types: No idle gold — since this fine sun, my friend,/Is no mean miser, but doth freely spend.//No precious stones — since these green mornings show,/Without a charge, their pearls where’er I go.//No lifeless books — since birds with their sweet tongues/Will read aloud to me their happier songs.//No painted scenes — since clouds can change their skies/A hundred times a day to please my eyes.//No headstrong wine — since, when I drink, the spring/Into my eager ears will softly sing./No surplus clothes — since every simple beast/Can teach me to be happy with the least.//

I often dreamed, in those days, of emulating the super-tramp, of being one of those who dare to choose the alternative path, the road not taken: to grab life by the scruff of the neck! Alas, the only thing I grabbed in such a fashion was a book or piece of music I was intent on hunkering down with! Here’s my Band-in-the-Box version of Rambling Robin. [insert song]

Isn’t it great to be in a comfortable majority? You can feel confident that your stance on issues of contention is supported by most of your fellows. You are not likely to be fearful that your appearance will attract hostile looks or, worse, actions. And when you bring along food to a festive occasion you will not suffer the indignity of your hosts wrinkling their noses in disgust at the odours emanating from your casserole dish, for you have been nurtured from the same cuisine as have they.

But majoritarianism is not always your preferred position, is it? Should you finally achieve admittance to an exclusive club with highly restricted membership, you may well fight tooth and nail to prevent a relaxing of the rules that you have so recently, and narrowly, negotiated to gaze condescendingly on the milling masses clamouring for a place within the hallowed halls you had hoped to long enjoy with just a few favoured friends. Hello? Karen here! We need a philosopher right now to sort out this problem.

But what I do know is that being in the majority is not always so comfortable. According to Wikipedia: It has been estimated that nearly 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of impostor phenomenon at least once in their life. First defined by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978, as an individual experience of self-perceived intellectual phoniness, it may be accompanied by anxiety, stress, rumination, or depression. Me? Never mind once! I’ve suffered from imposter phenomenon throughout my existence. A recurring dream is one where I am standing in the wings, waiting to go on stage, but I am filled with dread because I have neglected to learn my lines.

I wrote about this endemic feeling of inadequacy in a piece of doggerel I put in a journal I kept in my mid-twenties: Twenty-five and nothing done/And at this age, to do/So nothing doing?/ Feel my form and find it false/ But am I just a fake/ Or merely faking?// This phenomenon knows no boundaries of gender, class, ethnicity or occupation, numbering among its sufferers politicians, poets, billionaires, actors, writers, musicians and comedians. In my case, it is also accompanied by a phenomenon known as espirit d’ escalier or staircase wit. This term derives from an account by the French philosopher, encyclopedist and art critic Denis Diderot of a humiliation he suffered at a dinner held in the home of the statesman, Jacques Necker, who was the finance minister for the French king Louis XVI.

A remark was made that left him speechless and drove him from the table. On the way down the stairs from the contretemps he came up with just the right retort- but too late, as he had left the company dining and laughing in the room above. As a corrective for all these neuroses, I need look no further than one of my favourite poets, Rudyard Kipling, and to his much-loved poem, If. Funny how much heft a two-letter word can have. I would quote it in its entirety, if space allowed, but you probably know it anyway. I’ll just give the final four lines of the poem: If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,/  Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,/   And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!/ Of course, it is entirely OK to substitute the words woman and daughter for Man and son- and never mind that it wrecks the scansion and rhyme-scheme of the poem- it’ll survive it.

I wrote the song, Staircase Wit, in 1981 as a commentary on my shyness and stage-fright and my tendency to freeze under pressure. I may have overcome these challenges to some degree over the decades, but I still dream of being able to approach the composure under trying circumstances of, say, a surgeon in the Emergency Department of a major metropolitan hospital or the sangfroid of the pilot, Captain Sullenberger, who landed a plane full of people in the Hudson back in 2009- with the loss of no lives after his aircraft was incapacitated when the engines lost power due to an encounter with a flock of birds. In one of those nice ironies, Tom Hanks, who is reputed to suffer from imposter syndrome, played the role of the heroic captain in the movie, Sully, in 2016!

I’ll finish on this topic with a quatrain from another sufferer from imposter syndrome, Maya Angelou. It’s from her inspirational poem, Still I Rise: You may shoot me with your words,/You may cut me with your eyes,/You may kill me with your hatefulness/But still, like air, I’ll rise/ Here’s the final song for 2021- Staircase Wit. [insert song]

And that concludes the 140 podcasts for the pandemic year 2021. I started publishing these back in mid-January and I finish now in mid-December. Encompassing 140 folk songs and tunes, 140 original compositions as well as prose, poetry and lyrics totalling over 150,000 words, comprising 40 hours of podcast time- doesn’t seem much, does it?- but I’m exhausted. So now I’ll take a break: just the traditional furlough-length of four weeks, which I hope is long enough to recharge the batteries, gather my thoughts and, I hope, return to the fray, having bested, if only temporarily, my current and hovering, contemporaneous nemesis, writer’s block! Best wishes for the holiday season and new year to you and yours from Quentin Bega- a proud citizen of the republic of 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- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021

Letters From Quotidia Episode 139 Logoland, Johnny McEldoo

Quentin Bega
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Letters From Quotidia Episode 139 Logoland, Johnny McEldoo

Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 139 – 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.

At the end of episode 138 I whinged about the fact that the only reward the muses left me  for my hard labour in the salty mines of writer’s block was the first song of this post called Logoland. But, not wishing to anger the muses, I will refuse to examine the mouth of this particular gift horse and, so, I’ll just make the most of it- hoping that an exploration the topic yields something that, if not novel, at least holds some interest for an audience.

Now, I can’t prove it, but I think the first logo was actually daubed on the entrance to a cave-dwelling and the prehistoric tribe got to know that this was the doorway to desire. What the mechanism of exchange was, I don’t know for sure, nor whether the desire advertised was carnal or spiritual, or, perhaps, both. But fast forward to 1389, where, according the site 99designs.com.au, King Richard II of England passed a law requiring establishments that brewed beer to hang a sign indicating what they did (or risk having their ale confiscated). This led to businesses differentiating themselves by adding heraldic images to their signs. One pub would become The Green Dragon, another the Two Cocks.

And talking of ale, when I was last in Auckland, New Zealand, before the pandemic made trans-Tasman jaunts a thing of the past, I visited  the Shakespeare Hotel in Alfred Street and bought a Tee shirt featuring a quote from Henry V Act 3 scene 2  I would trade all my fame for a pot of ale. We incautious consumers are invited to imagine that this is the Bard himself speaking, or some other illustrious personage. The truth is less uplifting: shall I enlighten you?

We find three wastrels, about whom I have written in earlier posts. Pistol, Bardolf and Nym, who, in their usual cowardly fashion, are hanging back from the siege of Harfluer- this was a real event which took place between 18 August – 22 September 1415. They are with a boy with no name- and it is he, who utters the well-known saying. His full utterance was: Would I were in an alehouse in London, I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety. Somewhat anachronistically, I imagine that the sign swinging outside the alehouse referred to by the boy and counting among its patrons the scoundrelly trio Pistol, Bardolf and Nym, I imagine that the swinging sign features a white feather.

So, be careful what you buy into! How does that old Latin admonition go? Caveat emptor! Buyer beware. With the invention of the printing press logos began to proliferate as merchants advertising theirp wares and services began to seek points of difference between themselves and their competitors by the use of slogans and logos in the evolving print media. By the time Frank Mason Robinson designed the Coca Cola logo in 1885 the gentle lapping waves of logos from earlier times became a tsunami which is still washing over the globe today. Which one of us, amidst the churning surf of brands we are caught up in, is not wearing something that corporations have spent billions persuading us to consume.

Shall we start with the feet? How are you shod? Does the Nike swoosh feature? How about the lower limbs? If covered by denim, do the pockets or tag at the belt loops provide an iconic jeans identifier? As for Tee shirts- too easy- what percentage of you are draped in just a plain old sweat? On to the head, now- what  make of sunglasses do you display on your pretty face to make the rest envious? OK, so you’re a monk and wear only sack cloth. Good for you, but why are you listening to my podcast? Ah, penance. I understand, brother. Your superior must be a bit of a bastard, though, eh? Listen now to, Logoland, and I hope it is not too much of a penance for the monks among you or, indeed, the more orgiastically inclined! [insert song]

The next song is a hymn- actually more a frenetic tongue-twisting chatterfest- to gluttony-which is one of the seven deadly sins. The others are pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, and sloth. Margaret Atwood, in The Penelopiad, has this to say about it: Nothing helps gluttony along so well as eating food you don’t have to pay for yourself. In our final song for this post, the eponymous hero tries to get away without paying- with painful results.

But before we come to that- how about some poetry? I first came upon the poet Seamus Heaney at Trench House where I was a student from 1968-1972. I read his first book of poetry, Death of a Naturalist in 1969. Although only a published poet for a few years at this time, his reputation was already substantial in Belfast. Later, of course, he became “famous Seamus” and snagged a Nobel prize for literature. But back to the Belfast of 1969. I found  a wonderful poem about excess in that volume, first published in 1966. I am referring to the poem,Blackberry-pickingHeaney describes a childhood memory of gathering, in late August, blackberries.

The first fruit eaten is redolent of Eden. summer’s blood was in it/Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for/ Picking… which drives the boy, almost in a frenzy, to accumulate as many of the berries as can be gathered in a variety of containers he rushes to fill. The first stanza ends with more than an inkling of the denouement: …on top big dark blobs burned/Like a plate of eyes./… our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s./ Heaney conveys wonderfully the pointlessness of getting, getting, getting more and more in the final lines where the cans, are emptied into an old bath in the byre but the boy discovers, with the bitterness that children feel keenly at the outrageous unfairness of the universe: That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot./Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not./

As a student becoming ever more acquainted with hangovers, I knew the feeling: utilizing ethanol, you pursue that magic buzz where the senses open up and the mind and tongue race across acres of possibility chasing after the zig-zag hare, crack- not cocaine, now, but the Irish noun synonymous with enjoyment- and you pour the pints down until you stumble over your feet or your thickening tongue where the fur accumulates during the stentorian snoring night and, when you reach for the sacramental analgesics in the head-splitting morning light, hands shaking, water dribbling down past a mouth barely able to swallow the pain-relieving tablets, you swear, never again, never again! And yet you know you will, that very night.

So on to the Dionysian praise of excess  that is Johnny McEldoo. I first heard it from an LP recorded by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, This was a live album of traditional Irish folk songs performed at The Gate of Horn night club in Chicago. It had the title, Hearty and Hellish! and was their second album for Columbia Records. In a January 1963 article, Time Magazine selected Hearty and Hellish! as one of the top 10 albums of 1962. Robert Shelton, writing in The New York Times, favourably compared the album to the group’s Grammy nominated first Columbia record, A Spontaneous Performance Recording. He considered Hearty and Hellish! to be “much more representative of these gifted performers.” Although, to my ears they are fairly similar. Here’s Johnny! [insert song]

You know who would have been game for that epic binge? Sir Toby Belch from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, one of the finest romantic comedies in all literature. He was a real party lad and one night he was revelling away with acquaintances, in the court of his niece, Olivia, who was in mourning for her recently deceased brother. His roistering is interrupted by Olivia’s steward, Malvolio, who bids him desist! Sir Toby, outraged at being upbraided by a servant, retorts: Art any more than a steward? Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale? He sends Malvolio packing with the following advice: Go sir, rub your chain with crumbs. Olivia’s gentlewoman, Maria, who had come in a bit earlier on a similar mission- to bid the revellers to be quiet now becomes the focus of Sir Toby’s attention, A stope of wine, Maria.

Malvolio, unable to say anything more to the intemperate Sir Toby, turns to Maria and snarls, Mistress Mary, if you priz’d my lady’s favour at anything more than contempt, you would not give means for this uncivil rule. She shall know of it, by this hand! And this annoys Maria so much that she sets in train a prank that will see the pompous, puritanical Malvolio humiliated a bit further along in this wonderful play. But now, it’s time to tell you about the final post of the pandemic year 2021.

The first item on the agenda is an old English folk song with the name, Rambling Robin, a favourite song of mine and one that I have performed quite a few times over the decades. The final song of the calendar year is one I composed back in the early 1980s, Staircase Wit. I’ll explain the strange title in Letters From Quotidia Episode 140. I’ll leave you with a nugget of wisdom from the hemock-sipping sage, Socrates: He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. Ah well, he’s got me all figured out. How about you?

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

Technical Stuff: Microphone- Shure SM58; (for the podcast spoken content) Audio Technica AT 2020 front-facing with pop filter); Apogee 76K also used for songs and spoken text

For recording and mixing down: 64-bit N-Track Studio 9 Extended used; Rubix 22  also used for mixing of microphone(s) and instruments

Music accompaniment and composition software: Band-in-a-Box and RealBand 2021