Poor George

I feel a bit sorry for George. The royal sprog has barely opened his eyes to the light of existence and already is being heckled by the world and his dog. In the first week of being welcomed into immeasurable privilege and all its daunting opposites, things he has no control over are already being scrutinised – even the small stuff. Namely, his name.

By George, I have read reams of rot spouted about the choice of this name. Which I love, incidentally. There are far more modern names being dragged into common useage that leave my skin bristling with that clamminess you get before you puke. I’ll refrain from listing in case I get hate mail from a disgruntled Lambrusco. (Sorry – that one popped out.)

When I was floating around my Mum’s amniotic sac her and my Dad used to call me Fred. A twee little lovers’ joke. They wanted a girl, and pondered Charlotte awhile. And Sophie, and Phoebe. And even Georgina. They settled on Sadie.

I have always liked my name. I like the sound. I like the fact it’s not used much. I like the care that went into it. It can make me feel all sorts of things. I am fiercely protective of it if I hear it being bellowed at a naughty child. I can feel close to a stranger if I hear someone reminiscing about their stalwart Glaswegian grandmother Mammy Sadie, who went without shoes for the kids. I can feel young and sassy or like a melancholy Jewish widow, all in the same hour. It seems to suit a lot of aspects of my character. Have I grown to suit the name, or have I changed its connotations in my own mind to suit what I am?

Would my life have been any different if I’d been a Fred, or Charlotte? Georgina, Sophie, or Phoebe?

What life will George have? What will he see and do, and think and feel? How much of it will have anything to do with his name?

There’s a lot tied up with being a royal George. None of us will ever really understand that very particular sort of pressure (and, whatever we think personally or intellectually about monarchy, we should always give them some thought as fellow human beings, or damn our own selves to wilful ignorance and meanness).

I’m not massively pro-monarchy, though I do think the monarchy are vaguely trying to make themselves more relevant to us while no doubt trying to preserve their clan, as is completely natural; no family wants to run itself out of existence – that would be anti nature. My indignance over royal ‘privilege’ only extends to thinking that some monetary cuts could be made, and some creative ideas applied to the use of their assets so they can sustain themselves better independently, rather than using our tax money when so many other needful things are in a ruddy mess. I mostly feel that having them there is quite nice for the country. They’re a feature. Like a cocky stone cherub peeing into a garden pond.

I wonder if our new George will find his way to being his own George, or a variation on the past. Will he be another dreary offshoot on a chart of disheartening history at school, or a man who can define his age with all the qualities we wish for in a king?

Either way, he has quite a weight already on his tiny fontanelle. I sort of hope we’ll be his friend along the way, especially while he’s just a boy. We all need them, whoever we are.

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Bin-bagging Alan

Right. Let’s do this. Column. Go.

Oh, hi guys. Excuse the ‘tude up there in the first line. I’m having a sort out at home and I’m being a bit brusque because I am Being Efficient and that’s the tone you should have when you are being that, right? I’m wearing my hair in a bun too. Because nothing says ‘I Mean Business’ like a big knot on your head that takes ages to get out because you didn’t brush it first.

Right. Focus.

So, my hallway is currently lined with binbags, which apparently – in the interest of my not falling over the bannister and dying – I now have to go through and see what can actually be ‘thrown away’. Which bits of my collected living that I saw fit to keep a while, perhaps even forever, are now redundant.

It’s quite tough keeping your ‘I Am A Machine’ vibe going when you’re worrying about hurting the feelings of a broken coat hanger, and a festival T-shirt that didn’t even accommodate your left breast let alone the right one as well. What if they figure out they’re on the ‘Defo Chuck’ pile? Can I be responsible for that inanimate emotional fallout?

FOCUS, HASLER.

Anyway. I have a system of sorts. I think. In that the first ‘chuck pile’ doesn’t count. Does it. I mean, it doesn’t, does it. (Note: absence of question marks.) That is merely a pile of maybes lying there waiting for further scrutiny (/lengthy cross-legged musing). I will need to spend at least another five hours quadruple-checking the things I callously lobbed (/placed lovingly piece by piece) out of my Room of Woe – the box room which lives up to its descriptor, storage possibilities, and Pandoran mythology. Which items should definitely be advanced into Pile 2 – the ‘Maybe Definitely Maybes’. And even beyond, in time, after further consideration, to the ‘Absolutely Definitely Think About Throwing Away One Day’ pile.

It’s a hazardous job. I just almost frenchied the chin of my life-size cardboard Alan Partridge when a bamboo screen I had forgotten I owned fell on me at an odd angle. Alan stood awkwardly, a bit bent, as I tried and failed to move an old 50s iron that I stole from a theatre in Margate. (Or somewhere less specific. In my defence, it didn’t seem like it was being well looked after there. I am not a thief. I am a rescuer.) Anyway. Alan was a gent and moved the iron for me.

FOCUS HASLER.

I tell you what – just while I pause for tea and to write to you guys and possibly shave the dog – I’m ruddy glad we don’t have to obey health and safety regs in our own homes because my life would get shut down. I’d have men in hard-hats making big black crosses on a clipboard and shaking their heads at me while they wave in a rubbish truck to take me and my life down to the tip. (I love the tip. Have you been? There’s loads of great stuff down there. You should go.)

Pause.

I’ve been thinking. This is a big job.

I might just put it all back and start again when I’ve got more time. I want to do it justice. These inanimate objects that I am in no way attached to deserve it. Good plan, Hasler. Do it another day.

Come on, strange lampshade – come sit on a bookshelf for a bit like I know how to fix you in any way. You pretty, lovely, useless broken thing.

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The Vagabond Diaries – ‘Clarence Larchsap’

The Vagabond Diaries – stories of being human by Sadie Hasler accompanied live by M G Boulter & The Lucky Strikes – premiered in the Old Trunk theatre at Village Green Festival 2013.

The piece was read by actor David Streames.

Thursday, April 5th, 1922

This is the 47th year of my writing a diary every day. I would say I have written it religiously but there have been days, as we are all like to have, when I have not been all that religious. There have been days, as we are all like to have, when I might say I have written in poor reverence to the lord. I have had bad thoughts, I have cheeked people without their knowing, stolen small and large items according to need or want, have cast my eye too long on a raised skirt far more than a Christian man might, and I have cussed, but have always seen fit to scribble the badness out. My diary has more black lines than words. Some days are just great black lines, and now that I am in my 62nd year I cannot always remember what went there in the first place.

I feel a little like starting again. Writing a new date, that has never yet existed, of telling you, whoever you are – for who do we write to when we write a diary? I do not know – telling you, a you whom I do not know, who I am. If anyone ever knows such a thing.

I would start, I suppose, with my name. I could do that. I can and so I will. My name is Clarence Larchsap. I had a nickname once, but I forget what it was or who saw fit to give it me.

I suppose I might next tell you I was born in a little town in South Carolina. For I was. The name, I suppose, does not matter. Its topographical features, how I travelled around them and what I did within them matters not either. I could inform you of a great many biographical details, as people seem so set on doing, as though telling you things about themselves makes them exist a bit more, but I shall not.

Schooling, love, happy days and friendship, they didn’t last and mean little to me now. Parentage, even, those broken souls who forerun our own blighted journeys, that too has come to mean no more than a quick sigh and is not something I can stretch out to lay on the paper.

So why do I write, what do I store in these pages? I think I write to pass the time. If I did not write as I sat I would not know what to do. I cannot just be.

I suppose you might call me a man of few roots, a traveller, a vagrant, a vagabond.
I move about. People don’t tend to want a man with such a character to stick around. And so I keep moving. Having such an…anti-social proclivity does not invite your welcome in most places. People like their stuff to remain intact. Unburned. I try to respect that by not sticking around after I have reduced their property to cinders. Sometimes I will pass through without giving in to the calling of the match in my pocket, which always burns there even before it is struck. And sometimes I permit myself. Sometimes I plan it in detail, and sometimes I do not know I have done it until I stand there with the hard honest heat on my cheeks.

Was I set off at a state of unrest, born as I was during an earthquake? Did the noise and chaos of nature set itself thudding in my heart from the moment I burst out into the air? I don’t suppose to know. I know only one real thing. As soon as my eyes could flicker, as soon as my fingers could curl and pinch and reach towards the things I wanted, I was drawn to flame. I would disregard all toys and books, I would ignore all beauty and spectacle, if I could look instead at fire. Even a lamplight in its last juddering breath would hold my attention more than the desire-struck face of the most beautiful woman in the world. She is nothing next to it.

You might say I was an arsonist. I suppose most people would. But I do not think the word does justice to the sight of something reducing itself down to ash in the blinding searing heat of a man acting in the thrall of his own secret will – something condemned to nothing in the smallest of moments. The word says nothing of this, so I prefer to leave myself uncategorised.

Perhaps it is sickness. Perhaps it is a revenge against something I cannot remember from my past. Perhaps it is a struggle with myself, with the world, with God himself.

Dear Diary, I do not know or I would tell you. But I will say, with the candour you can stow in a diary – this most loyal of friends, silent as ash – I will say, as a final thing before I take my night-time’s perambulation around all that dry matter people build up, those frames for future fires – I will say, before I move on in the morning – nothing shines quite a light like a thing you have set aflame yourself. Simply put, between two friends, I just like burning stuff down.

SONG – ‘BEAST’ – THE LUCKY STRIKES

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Bloody Humans

What do you do when you see a violent act? Do you step in? Or do you pass by like nothing’s happening and let the events spiral unimpeded? Do you even, if you’re honest, glaze over and feel a bit like you’re just watching telly, and feel that coal of voyeuristic pleasure light up somewhere dark in your gut? Do you act, or do you watch?

I had a day last week where two separate but similar occurrences cleft my instinct in two. I was busy setting up for Village Green Festival with the burly dudes who were putting up my theatre company’s tent. (Or rather I was sat scrunching my toes into the grass while they bashed tent pegs as big as carrots with a cartoon mallet.) I heard shouting from across the street – two men arguing, with increasingly horrible threats. One of them was trying to walk away while the other was ranting. I did what most people would – earwigged the hell out of it while trying to look like I couldn’t hear anything. I didn’t sense ‘actual’ violence. Because I am a naive twonk who goes around oblivious to stuff until it whams her in-between the eyes.

Anyhow, five minutes later I found myself calling the police because one of the tent dudes pointed out that the one walking away was covered in blood. His head was beaten in. I squinted, and almost vomited in horror. I was not wearing my glasses so things at a distance were a bit of a blur, plus was wearing sunglasses so colours were all neutralised and brown. In all my ‘innocent’ earwigging I had not clocked that his skull was pouring. I also – in my busy, distracted, ‘watching a pretty tent being put up’ daze – hadn’t clocked that the beaten man sounded like he had learning difficulties of some kind. My brain had somehow filtered out certain specifics and allowed me to just tut at ‘the sort of people who row in the street’. Stupid girl.

The mess was soon tended. The police came, took away the vile creature who felt it was ok to keep coming at a man who clearly couldn’t defend himself; who was shouting murderous threats involving testicles, dismemberment and an eternal unrest with no nads on. The bleeding man was nursed and calmed and taken away too, shivering with shock and bewilderment. My tent dudes finished their job, and I suppressed my palpitating heart and began to have fun again. How quickly we cast off events that don’t directly pervade our own lives. We’d never get on with stuff nor be happy if we didn’t.

Laters that night, on the walk home I observed another fracas out in the street, though this was far less violent, but more insidious somehow in what it implied about the relationship of the two people concerned. The violence between the men that morning had the air of a spontaneous mess bubbled up on the spot, a male ego affront taken way too far, but the evening’s to-do, though more muted and tame, had the air of a long-lived abuse, almost casual in its continuation. A woman who kept going back to the same man even though he beat her. There’s lots of them about. I suspect I’m made of enough stoic idiocy to put up with it for a bit too if I loved someone who saw fit to punch me. Some people are built to withstand the fucking obvious.

We saw a woman getting pushed out of a car while her character was blasted with sexual allegations. Then her boyfriend got out of the car to fling some final niceties at her. I saw my friend’s back bristle and his hands flex and I thought “Uh oh. He’s about to be noble.” I tried to keep him moving while he faux-casually inquired if everything was alright. The man squared up to him, I said something vague to fob him off and we kept walking. I am ashamed to say my mental calculations at that moment wanted my friend safe and I didn’t care if a lady was being strung up for flirting with Big Dave. Sometimes love outweighs morals and in a quickly-gauged situation like that looking out for friends often trumps ‘doing the right thing’. I wasn’t about to see my friend’s nascent law career ruined by being given a rugby nose just because a stranger had had too much to drink and fondled the wrong groin. (Does that make me a bad woman? Should ‘sisterhood’ come before the safety of friends who’ve earned your loyalty and love?)

The car of men drove off and my friend went over to the woman who was tottering off on the other side of the road. She told him through a nose bubbling with blood that he was mad to get involved, that she’s dealt with worse, and that he would be killed for getting involved. She begged us to leave her alone and strode off like an Essex amazon. We followed her from a distance to make sure she was safe, my friend called the police, and only when a friend of hers appeared out of the shadows to lovingly berate her for being dumb enough to keep going back for more, did we peel away back into our own evening.

Both events left me unsettled.

Because I couldn’t tell what was right. Was it a good thing that I am still innocent enough not to have spotted the danger in the first situation, or does it make me irresponsible and unhelpful to good people who might need me? Was I right to not give enough of a fuck about the woman caught in an abusive relationship when it might see my chivalrous friend get a clout, or worse, or does it make my morals weak and fickle?

It seems that if we are in a position to change things, to make things better, then we should. Easy. And if we would make things worse, then we should hold back. Fine. But what if the outcome is uncertain, what if we can’t be sure our efforts will glean the right results; then what? I suppose we just are left to act on instinct; that thundering stream of potential chaos; that part of us which causes all the trouble in the first place.

Bloody humans.

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Tambourine Girl

The last time I shook a tambourine it was quite by accident. I was carrying it for someone in a band who let me help load a car so that I could pretend I was a rock star. As it jingled lightly I felt guilty – as though the Gods of music might smite me for daring to unsettle their percussion with my arrhythmic clumsiness.

The time before that was as the backing singer in a staff band named Detention when I was a teacher, but it didn’t count because we only played to a hall full of nonchalant kids at the end of term. ‘As a treat’. It didn’t matter if they didn’t think I was any good because a) what did they know about anything anyway, and b) I could just give them Ds to make myself feel better.

I’m one of life’s tambourine shakers. Because it’s the only way, other than humming, that I can join in with that almost celestial art, Music.

But a tambourine accidentally fell into my hand again last week, drawn to my fingertips by that powerful sorcery of wanting to make a ruddy noise. I was very privileged to be the only non-member to enter the rehearsal room of awesome band The Lucky Strikes. I thought that I might disintegrate on entry to that hallowed ground, but instead I walked through the door and was whammed in the nostrils by the smell of stale farts that had soaked into the sound-proofing over the years. It put me at ease somehow – despite the fact breathing had become markedly harder.

I was there to work with the boys on a show I’ve written called The Vagabond Diaries, which sews together stories inspired by their songs. Collaborating with proper musicians was a new thing for me. I was a little daunted by having to speak up in case the language and methods of an actor-writer sounded dumb to cool musicians. I didn’t want to sound like a wanker. But once they started playing (‘jamming’ I believe it’s called in the trade), I got so excited to hear the words I’d written coming together with their amazing songs that I forgot that I wasn’t actually a part of the band.

That’s when I may have picked up the tambourine. I may have tried to do a bit of shaking against my leg like a hippy in a scout hut. The boys looked at me. I put it down and said something very clever and droll about the cross-pollination of genres being really liberating. (I didn’t. I reminded them that I had brought them cookies and hoped that would prevent them from beating me with the sullied tambourine).

I left ‘the studio’ (jargon) feeling a bit high. It may have been the vapours of ghost farts I’d inhaled, but I think it was because we all felt like we’d stumbled onto something exciting and new.

I went home humming, and as I fell into bed I thought about the old adage that music is what all art aspires to. I think it must be true. I wasn’t thinking about the words I’d written, or the stories or characters within, or the themes of the piece, or even the brilliant lyrics that had inspired me in the first place, I was humming. Just the tune. The notes repeating in that magical order. The music is what stayed with me as I fell asleep, and it’s what was there as I woke in the morning.

The Vagabond Diaries – tales of being human accompanied by the music of The Lucky Strikes – can be seen in the Old Trunk Theatre Tent at Village Green on Saturday 13th July.

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Love On The M25

The M25, that concrete serpent throttling the neck of our nation’s capital, is seldom considered a place for clarity, unless that clarity is the sheen on the righteous murderous intent directed at all other drivers in rush hour traffic. But clarity of a non-homicidal nature is what I had there on that writhing mass of roady woe last week.

I was on a road trip with my boy and my bestie, on the last leg of the journey home from a gig. We’d stayed over night with bestie’s Dad, Martin, who I have not so secretly stolen for my own. He spoiled us rotten and I duly repaid him by reading extracts from Adrian Mole over breakfast while he indulged me as he would if one of his own was being dull. His loveliness is such that I reckon I could bleat most entries of the Encyclopaedia Britannica at him before he even raised a tired eyebrow.

Anyway. We’d reluctantly left Martin’s fairytale house in the woods to drive home, and were partaking in the sort of chatter that gurgles up with hangovers on return journeys. We meandered our way around books we love, people who hack us off something chronic, music, careers, basic existentialism, and sausages. Then Bestie, driving, told us something sad he had learned the night before. And he started to cry. While thundering along that arterial beast, he had a moment about something he should have had a moment about a long time ago.

We sat with our hands on him, one on his lap, and one on his shoulder. It was a brief moment, tears pulled back from the brink of real weeping by manly stoicism perhaps, or the very real possibility of crashing into a Scandinavian heavy goods vehicle. I thought my heart would break watching it. I felt so impotent seeing my friend in pain, especially when it was too dangerous to administer a full hug from the back seat at 80MPH.

But sometimes good things spring from powerlessness. It creates an inverse sort of power. We three sank into that car not knowing quite what to say or how to make such a big thing better, and then we charged up. We bashed the balls off the blues. We vented about every thing in our lives that we hated, every thing we wanted to change. We action-planned our next moves like we were newly-appointed commanders of the world.

We did what most nerds with a plan do. We made a list. This was our list.

1. Lose weight
2. Cope with suicide
3. Eat more fruit pastilles
4. Book Paul Foot tickets
5. MB to lend DG ‘Herzog’
6. DG to lend MB ‘The Catcher In The Rye’
7. SH to stop being agoraphobic
8. Make chutney
9. Network
10. Write more lists
11. There is no 11

We rallied around the sadness and life’s dissatisfactions with tangible plans in our seatbelted mania, and we laughed at the list even though it was just trying to helpful.

I suppose now, in retrospect, that the energy in the car was not marked by our discontent with the stuff that went on to be hidden behind the safer conciseness of bulletpoints in a semi-joke list, or even the sadness that prompted the fervour in the first place. It was love. Something happens when you see someone break down. And in a car on the M25 you are just there with it, with nowhere else to go. It binds you tighter.

With our little car newly brightened we performed the next integral stage of our operations. We stopped for petrol to get us home, and fruit pastilles – the confectionary of champions.

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