Friday, 31 July 2009

On Cleaning and Writing

Today I simply must clean the house. The eucalyptus tree in the garden is shedding leaves at the rate of about a ton a day and at least a million of them have found their way inside, brought in by the tread of my flip-flops as I come in from sneaky peeks at my sweet-peas, obsessive deadheading of my geraniums, and picking the green-fly off my one tragic rose. I don't mind the odd mucky footprint, they make me feel like part of an active-outdoor family, but when getting to the bathroom involves wading it becomes apparent that the old vacuum cleaner hasn't been taken from its cupboard in too long.

But before I do I have to tell you about this It's one part of the result of (my writing mentor/tutor) Tom Pow's latest writing project. Called Dying Villages it is a response to his visits to villages throughout Europe that are fast losing their inhabitants. (There is also a book of poetry and a CD.) This website's worth looking at for the pictures alone if, like me, you find a bit of decay enthralling. There are also some very interesting statistics about the continuing exodus from rural areas of Europe, and an opportunity to join in the debate about what, if anything, can be done about it.

Also, I promised a sample of my handwriting to join in the meme I came across at Savannah's place. So here it is: it ain't pretty but I think it's mostly legible.

I still write with a pen on paper a lot. The computer hasn't quite taken me over, yet. I find writing my first drafts with a smooth pen on a large pad the best way to organise my thoughts. If I try and do it using a keyboard it comes out kind of stilted with most of the connections missing, and doesn't make enough sense to give me something to work on. This might be because I love the image of a person sitting at a table, head bowed over in deep concentration, pen scratching away, and this fuels my imagination making me feel like a real writer, following in the footsteps of real writers who have gone before. And, of course, there's the slow, rhythmic act itself which probably helps bring a vague notion into focus.

I also write letters, in the old fashioned way, to my best friend. I started this because I hadn't been able to resist some incredibly beautiful French note cards

when I visited the fantastic emporium RE, not too far from Newcastle. It sells the contents of my dream life; things like copper plant tags, glass cake stands with domes, Spanish cane-work deer heads, as well as the world's most desirable stationery. Once I had them home I had to use them so I wrote her a note and stuck it in the post. I've kept it up because she was so delighted to receive it. And it gives me an excuse to go back and buy more gorgeous writing paper.

There was something else that I wanted to tell you, but I've forgotten what it was, it will come back to me. I better get my duster out now.

Can you believe it, I forgot to hit 'publish post' earlier so now the house is basking in the soft glow of 'real' beeswax polish with not a leaf to be seen, but I still can't remember what else I want to tell you.


savannah said...

what a delightful hand you have, sugar! i'm so glad you remembered to come back and hit publish! xoxox

(gorgeous notepaper!)

Jimmy Bastard said...

Listen doll, regardless of what you want to tell us, I could listen to you all night. You have a certain way about you that keeps me glued to the screen.

Eryl Shields said...

Savannah ~ you are kind! XXX

Jimmy ~ you are a complete charmer!

steven said...

hi eryl, you have lovely handwriting - it dances across the page! i love your thought about it being like brown paper parcels but not quite like riding a camel across the desert! i love that its close to a person in the sense of perhaps being more intimate than text on a screen, and i think for that reason - that unveiling of intimacy that it does have a little bit of magic in it. what i would dearly love is for technology to reach the point where we could post our blogs with handwriting, artwork, chicken scratch scrawls, photographs, found objects, whatever crosses our mind at the time of creation, and there it would all be!!! it'll come i'm sure. have a peaceful ummm lemme see now in england right now it's sometime in the night . . .so have a lovely morning! steven

PI said...

Can I be the only person who has manged to kill a eucalyptus tree?
Your hand writing does not disappoint - I love it. But Eryl your kisses are weird:)

Eryl Shields said...

Steven ~ I now have this image of computers becoming something like the machines they have in Star Trek where they press a button and a meal or other object materializes. So when you click on someone's blog whatever they have posted actually materializes in your room, if that were so I'd be able to hold in my hand the actual pages of your journal you posted yesterday. How good would that be? The only problem: I can't throw anything away so I'd have to live in a warehouse!

Pat ~ I think you must be! We're going to have to get ours cut down as it's now so huge it's a threat to the house. We didn't plant it, it was here when we arrived.

I'm glad my handwriting doesn't disappoint, but what's that about my kisses...?

Brother Tobias said...

You're right about it being a shame that writing is a dying art. It's laziness with me. The same with calculators; I tend to reach for one automatically, when I could do it quicker in my head. Diaries should always be hand-written, I think.

(Couldn't get the 'this' link to work, by the way)

savannah said...

i LOVE that shop RE! omg, i could have ordered damn near everything! xoxox

Emerson Marks said...

Quite right, there's something sexual about fine writing paper. There we go, I said it.

Eryl Shields said...

Brother T ~ there's something so cool about calculators though: echoes of the stationery cupboard. I can't work out anything in my head but I do try and do sums on paper first, before checking them on a calculator.

Savannah ~ ain't it so?! XXX

Emerson ~ and you have altered me for ever!

angryparsnip said...

I love writing paper, sending note, letters, and I even send postcards !

When I pick up the mail nothing makes me feel better than seeing "real mail" not just bills and advertisements.

Eryl... don't visit Japan, they have the best stationary/cards and I always come back with a suitcase full ! my kids mantra in Japan is "Mum, step away from the paper goods" they check my bags too! it is like a drug !

Great handwriting, I print, too many years in commercial art ...

Tousled Raven said...

I can thoroughly recommend the CD from Tom's project. It is both haunting and beautiful.
Your writing is gorgeous Eryl. Weird that I don't remember seeing it before! It's upright and spaced and neat and so open that I think a reflection of your good self. Keep me away from writing paper and notebooks - I'm an addict. I hope that a lovely notebook will enhance my writing skills! We can all dream eh?! xxx

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love writing by hand too, there's something reassuring about it in some ways and I certainly feel poetry flows better by hand....

Dying villages is a great project, I do like to see images of decay somehow they're aesthetically pleasing but the stories behind this are so sad....

Eryl Shields said...

Parsnip ~ I'm booking myself on the next flight!

TR ~ I have seen your handwriting and it is beautifully neat; as for those writing skills of yours, all I can say is: distinction!

Crafty ~ it is sad, but I can't help believing that people will return to these villages, or some of them, eventually. Blind faith, perhaps.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Most interesting post. Handwriting used for poetry and keeping journals was the thing to do. I had a job once of rewriting a journal that went on display instead of the real one. The old journal was interesting. I mean it took half a day to travel by horse and buggy and now it takes maybe 15-30 minutes depending on traffic.

Handwriting has been ignored in school and Zaner Bloser is hurting. Most students learn how cursive is done and then print. Teachers don't seem to put any emphasis on teaching handwriting skills.

Anyway, I enjoyed your post.

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PI said...

Sorry my fault. I mistook your signature for E R and three kisses:)

Eryl Shields said...

Mr Lincoln ~ luckily, here in Scotland, they do still teach handwriting skills. That doesn't negate the fact that there is little recourse for it these days. I teach first year undergraduates and they really struggle to take notes in lectures and write in exams because they are just not used to using their hands in that way.

Pat ~ you be a barmy lady! XXX

Derrick said...

Hello Eryl,

Opposite to you, I find my thoughts flow more easily if I'm typing rather than hand writing. And the fact that I can very easily erase/alter things without having one huge mess is a bonus! When I do write it's with a biro. I haven't written a letter in eons but I DO send postcards!

Kanani said...

I write letters as well, though rarely do I receive one back!
I wish I could do that meme, but my scanner doesn't work!

Eryl Shields said...

Derrick ~ Hello there, I recently read an interview (Paris Review vol 1) of Joan Didion in which she said that she begins each writing day by retyping what she wrote (typed) the day before, to get into the rhythm of the piece. Which makes me think that for some people the rhythmic action of typing feeds composition, somehow. I wish it were so with me, and I have tried to move to the keyboard, as you say so much tidier, but it's not to be!

Kanani ~ same here, Rhona usually replies to my letters by phone!

Why not take a photo of a handwriting sample instead of scanning?

Scarlet-Blue said...

I agree about doing first drafts by hand. It's the only way I get my thoughts organised. There seems to be more freedom on a piece of paper.
Blimey, everyone is posting like bonkers at the moment and I am quite behind!

Eryl Shields said...

I just can't keep up with everyone at all, so it's not just you!

Brave Astronaut said...

I've had this discussion with myself frequently. I would like to be better about actual writing but have become increasingly dependent on the computer.

I miss the days of receiving an actual letter in the mail. It happens so infrequently.

I am often reminded of the correspondence between John and Abagail Adams, which to me really serves as the model for how two people should write to one another.

And don't get me started on how my handwriting has deteriorated in the new era of non-writing.