Friday, 1 October 2010


In a comment on my last post Jenny said: "You love everything, Eryl..." Or words to that effect. This has been working away at me. I do tend to say 'I love...' rather often: 'I love the cuff treatment here,' (on the Sartorialist, recently); 'I love cake,' (with alarming regularity), and the 'I love graffiti,' that Jenny was referring to, are a few examples.

I have fallen into the habit of nonthink-speak. Love has become my catchall word for... what?

One of my problems has always been distilling all my thoughts and feelings about something into a manageable number of words in, what feels like, the required timeframe. I'm not really a conversationalist, and am one of those people who think: 'I wish I said...' hours, sometimes days, and, truth be told on the odd occasion years after the event. Actually I don't often think that anymore, but for years I did. These days I just accept the way I am and continue the conversation in my head. This is probably where most of my fiction and poetry comes from, so I'm even beginning to embrace being this way now.

However, when time is short and verbal reactions are required I struggle. (I'm struggling now, to order my thoughts in a way that will make sense to you. I began to write this post at ten past nine (am) and it will undergo several rewrites* over the course of the day, as I come back and forth between it and all my other jobs, and bits of senselessness jump out at me. I'm unlikely to publish it until supper time, and it will still be less than half as effective as I'd like. That is, it won't say quite what I intend.) And what with all the interaction of blogs and other web based social networks, I often feel a need to say something before the opportunity is lost. I don't mean to suggest I feel under pressure, it's not quite that: I enjoy being part of the conversation, I want to continue, I want to fully engage for several reasons (I've learnt a lot, and have much more yet to learn, and, I guess, I feel I have something to add) and so I just don't want to let it slip.

But I must face it: I really ain't adding anything when I just say: 'I love that!' and move on. What am I doing? What do I hope to achieve when I do that? It seems to me that it's a rather pseudo-cheery-polite way of saying: 'Eryl wos 'ere!' done in the hope that I'm not forgotten, so that when, one sunny day, I have more time to actually add something I'll still be part of the crowd. It is possible though that this relentless loving will alienate the very people whose sphere I wish to remain in. And, I do mean something when I throw out the phrase, so it seems time to find a more effective way of communicating whatever that is.

So, back to my original question: 'Love has become my catchall word for... what?' Obviously it's slightly different each time.

In the case of the cuff treatment in a photo on The Sartorialist, I meant: 'I'm really not sure about the coat over all these luminous colours: I can't help thinking of a brown paper-bag stuffed with sherbet bombs. Also the coat is a little too reminiscent of removal men (and I'm thinking in particular about a comedy sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore here) to work with the rest of the look. Her hair, make-up, glasses and socks combine perfectly to reference the current 'Poetess' trend seen at several of the a/w shows last spring, and she makes me wish I was young enough not to look like a frump in tweed, but the coat seems to take the look from the library to the basement: it confuses (dulls) rather than illuminates. This is a jolly good effort though and the aspect of her look I find most impressive is the way she has folded, origami like, her sherbet coloured chiffon cuffs over those of the paper-bag brown coat, it reminds me of a Terry Frost painting.' Or something like that. It's taken me forty minutes to write that (and it's a bit too negative for my liking, I don't want to upset the poor girl) so you can understand why I don't have time to write considered comments on every blog I visit.

When I say I love cake what I actually mean is cake makes me happy. From making it to smelling, looking at, touching, and finally eating it, if it's good: fragrant from having been baked in a proper oven in a solid metal cake pan, springy, moist and either dense, like an Italian chocolate torte, or open textured with egg trapped air, it brings more than a little, if fleeting, spark of joy into my life. And this is true for many of your blog posts: from the photographs to the anecdotes to the descriptions of your own happy making events and finds. I say, 'I love this,' when something does give rise to that nice warm feeling of contentedness that love brings, if only for a while.

That's also what I meant when I said: 'I love graffiti!' Graffiti generally makes me happy, even the rubbish stuff. I have been know to spend far too long in bar loo cubicles because I was reading all about how Kit hearts Pongo and what a bitch Amy is. That anyone feels strongly enough to locate a pen, or scratching implement, and make marks on the laminate of a loo door, to me, shows they're alive. And that cheers me. As for those who risk their safety to spray paint motorway bridges with messages, regardless of the ugliness of their methods, technical skill, or artistry they always bring a smile to my face.

Here is some I came across in an alley on a recent trip to glasgow. I liked it so much I wanted to bring it home with me, so I made poor Bob hang about while I got my camera out and snapped happy:

This isn't, I know, graffiti. It's a window above I spotted as I was snapping, and something about it appeals.

So there you are: a meditation, of sorts, on my use of a cliché as a shortcut. In future I'll try to stop and think before I throw it at you and maybe throw something else instead. Thanks Jenny, for bringing me to my senses: the great contempt continues.

*Fuck it: I've now been at this for nearly four hours, and I still have: laundry to deal with, the house to clean, a pile of receipts to record on the business spreadsheet, supper to think about and make, the stuff for next week's seminar to read, and I haven't even cleaned my teeth yet. So, in order that I may visit at least a few of your sites today I'm going to publish this in its unrefined state: like crude oil I drop it on blogland's ocean floor in the hope someone else will clean it up.


Alesa Warcan said...

Tch... Crude oil indeed, more like an oil painting... One that just appeared somewhere on a wall on your way home but looks as if it had been there forever and noticing it makes your day.
Come to think of it graffiti sometimes feels like that to.

Elisabeth said...

Well I LOVE this post, these thoughts, Eryl, about your use of cliche and occasional tendency to reduce a positive response into the simple four letter word.

It's not such a bad word really, however much it may be over used.

I too hesitate every time I write the word love in the blogosphere, though not elsewhere.

Elsewhere when I use this word I trust it. In the blogosphere I fear, as you do Eryl, that it might be too much of a short cut calling card.

Even so, it's better than nothing, better than silence and better far than all those awful troll type messages that crop up from time to time in the blogosphere.

From time to time, it's worth coming up with another expression, but it is not a crime to LOVE something,as long as it's genuine, like I LOVE this post for its thoughtfulness, its erudition, its honesty and its generosity. Please keep loving whatever takes your fancy.

Love as a cliche is as good as the best graffiti.


Titus said...

Love this post!

You see, it can also do post-modern ironic too...

Back to be more considered later - like you, I am knee-deep in too many things you don't actually want to know about.

Linnhe Mara said...

Eryl, I sympathise. I find commenting on blogs or face-book pages difficult ( reminiscent of when you have something to add to a discussion, but someone hi-jacks it and it moves topic before you have a chance to make your remark, oooh the frustration!) You feel the need to contribute but time often doesn't allow. Think of your 'I love it' as a verbal, or written , nod, the kind you would give during a conversation while mulling over your response.

Rachel Fox said...

I love it when people try and clarify their words and actions and end up in more knots... partly because I do it all the time. Damned language!

savannah said...

i get it, sugar. xoxoxoxox

(of course, as i was reading the post, i was nodding my head in agreement, laughing at certain passages because i really did understand what you were saying. i was also, sort of formulating a thoughtful and considered response to such a studious examination and explanation.)

Pat said...

I 'love' the way you write - always have. And everything in the garden is usually 'lovely' with me. On my blog mostly I write the way I speak because I feel I'm chatting to friends. Occasionally I will be more circumspect - but not often.
I wouldn't like to think that you spent so much of your hard won free time honing and perfecting that you got tired of blogging. Promise you won't.

angryparsnip said...

I think I really do understand what your saying.
I use the word "love" so very often and have been trying to change it to other words but... sometimes it is how I feel to love the photo and wish you where there, the sentence that touches you, the idea that sparked another idea, or just the sheer joy of understanding what some one said...
I do understand the wanting to leave a comment on a post to say how much one enjoyed it and after all loving something is so much better than to feel hate.

cheers, parsnip
love savannah's comment !

The Weaver of Grass said...

Calm down and don't worry about it Eryl - we love you as you are - I think it is wrong to keep rewriting - let us see your first write is my motto - then it comes out exactly as you would speak. Yes I do agree that often when you speak you wish you had said something different, but I think blogging is all about speaking rather than writing - just my idea but instant writing makes it much more spontaneous I think.

Apropos of nothing much, did you know that three things never return - the spent arrow, the lost opportunity and the spoken word.

End of lesson for today.

Kim Ayres said...

I got a warm and positive feeling when reading this post but did have not the time nor energy to engage in a full review and critique. However, I wanted you to know that I read it and enjoyed the contents.

Or to summarise in 2 grammatical symbols placed together to create the illusion of an emotive expression...


Eryl said...

Alesa ~ thank you, that's a lovely thing to say.

Elizabeth ~ your comments, like your posts, are always thoughtful and erudite. I thank you for this one, it's nice to know others understand. This is one of the main reasons I blog which makes my reductionist tendencies all the more questionable.

I rather feel that overuse of any word dilutes its meaning, and impact, which turns it into wallpaper.

Titus ~ does that mean you don't love it?!

Linnhe ~ you've nailed it! You understand; being understood is the thing that makes me happiest of all, thank you.

Rachel ~ someone told me the other day that the Koreans have a word for that feeling you get when you're trying to explain something to someone and they just don't get it. If we had one it would be my most overused by a long way.

Savannah ~ you will understand, more than most, that 'no head-space or time for serious consideration' feeling right now. So I'm really grateful that you did take the time to demonstrate your understanding, thanks lady, XXX

Pat ~ thank you. You, evidently, are a natural at the elegant turn of phrase. Your writing communicates beautifully.

I don't really slave over my blog posts (not in the way I slave over my fiction and poetry which can take months, years even, to get right), if I'm not happy with them by suppertime I usually just bang them out anyway.

Cross my heart and hope to die, I won't be giving up blogging anytime soon, it's really the only way I get to chat to friends and I begin to miss it badly when I'm away for any length of time.

Eryl said...

Parsnip ~ you're back, hurrah! I was just taking photos of art made of paper for my next blog post, and naturally that included some of the gorgeous things you have sent me over the months. So you've been on my mind this afternoon. I hope you are well.

I knew you would understand. When you say you love something I know that's just exactly what you mean, X

Weaver ~ thank you. I understand what you say, but I am the sort of person who avoids conversation knowing that I make it torture for almost everyone. Honestly, people squirm as I stare into space trying, and failing, to find the words. My closest friends tend to finish my sentences for me.

With the blog I don't really rewrite, I just change the odd word (usually due to repetition) and sort out the errors of spelling, punctuation, and syntax. The ones I see, at least!

I will ponder on those non-returners, thank you.

Kim ~ so that's what that means!

Actually I might just copy and paste that paragraph wherever it seems to be required. Thanks!

Jane Moxey said...

Your blog is fascinating to me. How's that for a non-gushy sentiment? I'm pleased to hear that you will carry on writing it.

My pet peeve word is the seeming overuse of the word "Brilliant." I think it is a British thing. But then many good and descriptive words have morphed into slang. It's just laziness, I think, and perhaps our lives go so fast these days it's easier to use buzz words and catch-phrases to communicate quickly and efficiently! I think it's awesome that we have so many levels of communication to choose from, in both the spoken and the written word!

Titus said...

Came back to say more and then read Guru Weaver and will have to go away and ponder again.

And what Jane said.

Leni Qinan said...

This post is so full of enthusiasm that i just 'loved' it.

It's direct and clear: I LOVE IT!

In Spanish we have a number of ways to say that we some someone or something -ranging from delight to mad passion- and if there's one thing I like about English is it's clear and concise (provided that you're not understating!).

So yes, I know very well what you mean.

And now for something different: your lovely footnote at the end made me smile a lot.

This is what happens to those who write with passion and perfectionism: deprived from sleep as they are most times, they often leave their laundry too long in the washing machine. Don't ask me how do I know it, LOL.

Eryl said...

Jane ~ guilty! I use 'brilliant' all too often. I think you're right, it's very English, I remember people using it at school (which was a very long time ago) and it brings football commentary to mind too.

Fascinating is a good word, and lovely to be described thus, thank you.

Titus ~ one can tell you are an academic.

Leni ~ this being understood could go to my head.

I remember a friend telling me once that she could always tell a divorced man because they invariably smelled of stale washing. I had never thought I had anything in common with divorced men but, yes, I rushed my clothes into the machine this morning on waking (about 8, terribly late for me) and forgot to take them out again until early evening. They are now festering on the radiators. Lord knows when I'll get round to ironing them.

I don't need to ask you how you know it, X

Anonymous said...



Maggie May said...

i read a whole article once on the American use of the word love..and came away relatively unmoved. i mean in the line of it all, it's a lesser offense, if one at all.

Kass said...

How we order our words to form a precise meaning is always a challenge. I come away from your posts understanding and aligning with what you've said.

A lot of heart comes through in your unedited outpourings.

nick said...

A wonderful resumé of all your thought processes, Eryl. I guess we all make those detailed assessments of what we see and read but often just trot out a quick cliché for other people.

You work on a blog post for four hours? Hey, that's way too long Eryl, you must spend more time on the rest of your life! But I love (!) your final comment "Like crude oil I drop it on blogland's ocean floor in the hope someone else will clean it up." I think we all do a bit of that....

Eryl said...

Mago ~ thank you.

Maggie ~ I always find it interesting to hear/read how people use words. I am convinced by the argument that there's no such thing as bad language, only inappropriately used language. I guess any word used appropriately is fine, but I don't want to bore.

Kass ~ yes, the difficulty is choosing from the multitude the exact right words, the ones that fit the situation.

So nice to hear that you understand.

Reading over this post again this morning I find it sounds breathless, I could never do that intentionally!

Nick ~ thank you.

I take a long time to do everything, yet feel like I'm rushing all the time. I think I just get lost in my own head, can't seem to help it. This is why I can't deliver new posts more than about twice a week, tops.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm all embarassed by this unexpected brush with fame. I hope you don't think I was being critical, Eryl. I am just admiring of your positive enthusiasm for life, which is evident in all that you write, not just in your use of the words 'I love'.

I'm very interested in how you got to this impressive attitude via 'the hour of the great contempt', as you indicated in your reply to my comment.

All in all you seem a really great person to me. x

Mary Witzl said...

I love a lot of stuff too, including cake! If the loo is reasonably smell-free, I'm always interested to see what's written on the walls (if it's smelly, War & Peace could be up there and I don't care, I'm out of there). The women's toilets in San Francisco State University's humanities department had graffiti that was particularly absorbing.

Titus said...

My reflection: writing is thought. I actually write to think, and to find out what I actually think about things.
Still like Weaver's guru stuff though.

Eryl said...

Jenny ~ no, I didn't think you were being critical at all. You were simply making an honest observation which just happened to act like the planting of a seed. That seed, I'd say, grew into a rather fine, healthy plant for which I am very grateful.

I'm not sure if I am capable of explicating my experience of the hour of the great contempt, but it was probably about six months of utter self loathing followed by several years of examining and reevaluating all my beliefs, values, concepts, assumptions, etc. Until I was able to take complete responsibility for my own life and everything it contains. A state that is much more liberating than one could possibly imagine. It's much easier to see the good in things if you can see, and take ownership of, your own flaws. At least, this is how it seems to me at the moment.

Mary ~ I'm glad you love cake, I'm always slightly suspicious of people who don't, or say they don't.

I think you must win the prize for coolest toilet graffiti experience of any of my acquaintances.

Eryl said...

Titus ~ yes, I totally agree. It's only through writing that I know anything about my relationship with the rest of the world and how I feel about that. Though, it may be through reading what I've written, mmm...

Philip said...

I'm avoiding that word. Good writing as usual. I think what I like most about your writing is the way it flows like lyrics in a song. Each word seems in its place in an unforced sort of way. From your perspective you might draft, redraft, publish and be damned. From my perspective it's like a cup of jasmine tea that's come to just the right temperature.
Cousin Philip.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Late to the party, as usual. I'm still hung up on graffiti. Have you seen "Exit Through the Giftshop?" It's a documentary about Banksy. He was here in New York to promote it and left a few tags. Now, that's graffiti that I love. And love.

Eryl said...

Cousin Philip ~ thank you, I like the idea of prose flowing like song lyrics. It should do that I think, the sound of the words should carry the reader along, and aid understanding. So I feel rather thrilled that you think mine has something of that feel.

UB ~ fashionably late, which isn't really late at all. I haven't see 'Exit Through the Giftshop' but the title alone is enough to make me want to, so I will try and locate it. Have you seen the graffiti project at Kelburn Castle? I did a post on it about two years ago but the best way to see it is to go to their website (just google Kelburn Castle Ayrshire UK), it's completely fantastic.

I do understand your hang up regarding graffiti, it often seems like the teenage equivalent of a toddler screaming for attention until it's sick, which is rarely pleasant.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Eryl.I am very impressed by and interested in your hour of the great contempt experience.

I can understand you not wishing to dwell upon it, but if you were to write about it at length sometime, I'm sure it would a great account, and an inspiration to others who might do something similar. x

red-handed said...

You need to unpack that word, E. You need to think of all the other words that fall out of it, and then use them to have fun.

p.s. You still rock.

Eryl said...

Jenny ~ I did start to write a book on Nietzsche based on this experience, but I think it will be a life's work. Every now and again I jot down a little more but I can go for months without doing so. It's where my creative stuff comes from, so in a way I'm loath to exhaust it in one fell swoop. Maybe one day it will all come together, if it does I'll send it all over to you.

The experience itself was nothing special, the sort of thing lots of people have to deal with, but for some reason it made me ask, 'what is it about me that made this happen, and why am I reacting in this way?'

Red ~ you're right, that's exactly what I need to do, thank you.

The Pollinatrix said...

Well, first let me just say you are a wonderful writer and thinker.

Your comment about not being not being able to say exactly what you intend reminds me of Ed Harris' line in The Hours about how when you write "you always end up with so much less than what you started with."

I love graffiti too. I recently had a student (an artist) in my freshman English class write an absolutely amazing narrative about how he discovered and was liberated by graffiti, after becoming disillusioned with more mainstream art.

One of the best things I ever read in a bathroom stall: Someone had written "Men are pigs," and someone else had crossed it out and wrote underneath it, "Boys are pigs. Men are rare."

SoccerMom said...

I saw that stall!
Somebody had added a third line:
"Pigs are tasty... But you have to butcher them first."

Eryl said...

Polli ~ thank you, very much.

How wonderful it must have been to read that narrative, the idea of someone feeling liberated by anything fills me with joy!

I must watch The Hours again, or even read the book which has been on my unread pile for some time now.

Soccer Mom ~ hello! I think I might know just how the writer of that line felt, probably most of us do, at some time.

Kathryn Magendie said...

This post made me laugh and smile and ...well, I loved it *Laugh*! and I saw some of my own self in it too -- :0D

rochambeau said...

Hey Kitchen Bitch,
You're a terrific writer, who's is able to convey your thoughts with with ease! It is a pleasure to read your essays, as you seem to get your point across with a good mesure of irony and wit! Good writing takes time, like creating a good dessert.

Three cheers to you, for making me look at graffiti with new eyes.

From your sister in Cake Love!

Eryl said...

Kat ~ so happy to have made you smile. I guess we all use short-cuts at times, it's almost impossible not to.

Constance ~ you are right, doing anything well takes time, unless your a genius at that thing, and it still took time to get there.

I quoted you to my students the other day: they were overwhelmed by the task of analysing an extract from a Martin Luther King piece, and I was trying to show them how to takle it one section at a time, when I remembered your story about telling yourself "just chop the carrots..." and so on. So I said: "My friend Constance used to cook..." and told them what you told me. I think it was only then they began to understand: take it one sentence at a time.

Tomorrow, if I do nothing else, I am going to turn the black bananas in my fruit bowl into banana bread. I feel like I haven't baked a cake for ages! X

Scarlet Blue said...

I'm in awe of your honesty and your ability to slap your vulnerabilties across a page. I'm far too anal.
P.S At least you don't find everything 'Amaaaazing'.

SOFIA said...

у вас замечательный блог!))

Masia Mum said...

Reading your last post and noting your LOVE of Cakes [something I can definitely identify with, I am dropping you a note to say that the famous "Grandma Betty Honey Cake" recipe has now been found and I have put it on my blog today. Do give it a try, her eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren can't eat enough of it. Just a thought - how are you on chocolate? Personally it is up there with cake for me and I once saw a greetings card that said that there are two types of women -those who like chocolate and bitches!

Eryl said...

Scarls ~ you always seem pretty honest to me. X

Sofia ~ thank you so much for your kind Russian words.

Masia Mum ~ coming right over. I love chocolate too, glad to know I'm not really a bitch!