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.



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.


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.