Welcome to Letters From Quotidia, episode 124 – a podcast by Quentin Bega for lovers of music, poetry, and the Crack- that most Irish of nouns which may encompass, news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Quotidia is that space, that place, where ordinary people lead ordinary lives. But where, from time to time, they encounter the extraordinary.
The Slough of Despond, first appears in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress– and here I let Wikipedia take up the story: it’s a fictional, deep bog in John Bunyan’s 1678 allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, into which the protagonist, Christian, sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt for them. It is described thus:
This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore is it called the Slough of Despond: for still as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place; and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
So, from fictional 1678 to present day Australia, the Slough of Despond has- like the COVID delta variant perhaps, hopped over centuries, continents and oceans, to come to rest in New South Wales, in 2021. This plucky state, once lauded as the little place that showed the virus what was what and who the big boy in the fight was proved to be- not quite that, as the Premier admitted defeat after seven weeks of increasingly futile lockdowns in Sydney and declared all of New South Wales similarly shut down to try to contain the proliferating plague at five of the clock past the prime meridian, on the 14th of August in the year of our Lord 2021.
Nothing for it but poetry. I got this excerpt of verse by Jan Beaumont off the net from a site called startsat60.com: We may seem sweet old ladies/Who would never be uncouth/But we grew up in the 60s –/If you only knew the truth!//There was sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll/The pill and miniskirts/We smoked, we drank, we partied/And were quite outrageous flirts.//Then we settled down, got married/And turned into someone’s mum,/Somebody’s wife, then nana,/Who on earth did we become?//We didn’t mind the change of pace/Because our lives were full/But to bury us before we’re dead/ Is like red rag to a bull!
Hear! Hear! Now for a song by Leon Rosselson who has been around the folk scene from the early 1960s. He is 87 now, still playing music and still an activist. Jim sang his song, Don’t Get Married Girls as part of Banter’s repertoire, but I utilise it here as it seems to fit in well with the verse that came before. [insert song]
Listeners to the Letters will be aware that I am a Boomer and a child of the sixties. The song of the second post, Let Them Not Fade Away, detailed my musical heroes- and the title reveals an homage to The Rolling Stones’ single of early 1964 which had the song, Little By Little, on the B side. (Boomers will not be puzzled by these references to B sides and the like). I bought the first four LPs they produced during this decade and regard them as ascending in excellence. Aftermath, the fourth, released in April 1966 was the pinnacle as far as the not-so-sweet little sixteen-me- was concerned.
I rated it as highly as The Beatles’ Rubber Soul which my older brother had bought me as a present the Christmas before. I had, by this time, just about worn out my copy of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited released earlier in 1965. These three LPs were to enter the Pantheon of my musical greats and they remain in honoured positions to this day. As a mid-teen, my pleasure in listening to music consumed my being. I put it down to the hormones raging through my adolescent brain. But there could be another explanation- In post 90 of the Letters, I identified with the anguish the protagonist of Richard Power’s Orfeo felt upon learning that his diminished joy when listening to music was probably caused by micro-strokes in the area of the brain where sounds are processed.
The adolescent boy was courting his future wife and consumed by jealous thoughts as he listened to Take It or Leave It, track 12 of Aftermath. This laid-back, folk-rock composition by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, was written at the behest of their Svengali, Andrew Loog Oldham, when they were just 22 years old, a mere six years older than the teen struggling to find the chords as he played along to the spinning disc. So, here we are, 55 years later, and the gentle seas of sixties’ nostalgia has washed up on the shores of my consciousness this song from all those years ago, which I here present to you instead of one of my own compositions. I regret to report that the furnace of creativity now takes longer to ramp up to a temperature capable of smelting the ore used to produce that precious material from which songs are fashioned. [insert song]
Instead of foreshadowing the brace of songs to feature in the next post, (although one will be from the folk tradition) I am reduced to raiding fortune cookie jars and rummaging through desk calendars for some pithy epigram to assuage your hunger for content. How about this, from Eleanor Roosevelt- It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Or, as the hopes of women and girls perish in these dark days of Taliban triumph in Afghanistan – Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.
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