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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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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Filthy Heathen

This morning, as I stood on my doorstep waiting for my dog to piddle out his overnight wee reserves, I yawned and pottered along my path. I did it dressed, against all sartorial advice, in black leggings and a tight black top. Like a chubby 30 something who has decided to give everything up and fulfil her teenage dream of going to study mime in Paris, unable to feel spiritually sated until she can hire herself out to weddings and bar mitzvahs for general ‘climbing a glass-fronted building while eating a banana and looking a bit sad’ larks.

I felt no shame in standing on my doorstep like this, just as I feel no shame when standing there in heinously mismatched clothes as I often do, (when I suppose I must look like a children’s TV presenter having a breakdown), or when standing there in pants and vest, (when I probably look like I’m a washed-out mum of ten screaming kids, barbecuing raccoons on a trailer park in Albuquerque). Is this nonchalance something you earn as you get older; the carefree oblivion you wish you’d had when you were younger, when you had a better body?

There’s something quite nice about standing on your doorstep for longer than it takes to find your keys. You notice more. The tree buds, a cat napping, a proud new fence soaking up its stain. This morning I was treated to the delicate strains of a violin undulating across the road. Must be new neighbours; the old ones used to drink cans of beer at any hour, and shout. I fancied I have more of an affinity with the violinist, when in reality I have drunk beer and shouted way more than I have ever played the lilting opening bars of a Brahms concerto, which is never. But I listened to the violinist like they were an old friend, like we’d been at the same conservatoire in the 80s and got chucked out for smoking pot. Music pinched us together, gave us an imagined history.

I wandered out in my bare feet and stood at the privet hedge, looking up and down the street. The sensible mumsy part of myself thinking “Ugh, you filthy heathen, get back inside, this pavement is probably covered in the dried spatterings of rabies flobber, fox diarrhoea, and Tennants Super Head-Exploder.” The non-sensible part of me just thought it felt nice and natural and warm, and that no one had ever died from dirty soles. (I’ve often worried I am just one Jasmine joss stick away from becoming a total hippy. If you ever see me doing Tai Chi in the street with pigeons on my head, slap me.)

While I wouldn’t want to set up a permanent deckchair in my front garden, ready to pass the time of day with any passerby that didn’t look psychopathic, I do think it’s a shame we’ve lost that ‘chatting over the washing line’ culture that film-makers feel compelled to use in anything set in the 50s. I suppose it depends where you live, but it seems that most people hurry in and out of their houses with their eyes lowered so they don’t have to talk to their neighbours. It’s sad really. There’s something peaceful about wandering out into your lesser-used space in a state of morning disarray, unconscious of image or societal norms, to just watch a snail go by, to watch the world go by, and of course, to watch your dog pee.

You’ve just got to remember to wear clothes that’s all.

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