San Francisco, 23 September 2012

We left this morning for San Francisco, to visit our son. We were up early, and since it was a beautiful morning – the sky was a cloudless clear blue – we decided to walk to the station to catch the train to the airport. The walk took us past our local supermarket, the modest housing estates that cluster around it, past the smart office buildings along the Third Ring Road, and finally along a rough semi-constructed path that follows the highway out to the airport until the stairs to the station are reached. The last stretch of our walk reminded us that Beijing is still constructing itself. It is one of those pieces of land that get left behind in urban renewal projects, stuck between new constructions – in this case, the highway on one side, modern office buildings on the other – and are fast going feral. Weeds were growing in abundance along the side of the path and covering the construction rubble underfoot, rogue trees were beginning to push up through the cracks, the fencing along the path was rusting and bent. We picked our way along, weaving to avoid the commuters streaming in to work, with the suitcase stumbling behind us over the rough paving.

Suddenly, there, in the shade of the early morning sun, was a cluster of morning glories flowering on the fence. The plant itself is nothing much to write home about; it has the weak tendril-like stalk of a climbing plant and the leaves are a drear matte green. But the flowers were magnificent – a cool, dark violet colour, almost phosphorescent in its intensity. I’m guessing they were Ipomoea purpurea, the purple or common morning glory. We stopped for a minute to admire them, but we were in a hurry now and had to move on.

As I write this, my mind’s eye suddenly whirls off half a world away and I find myself walking down the main coast road south of Genova, just as it enters the village where we used to spend our summers when the children were young. I am next to the cemetery; the village dead have the best view, out over the coast to the distant promontory. It’s a beautiful summer morning. Down in the cleft where a creek runs off the hills behind me, the morning glories have run amok, covering and smothering everything. But the flowers are open, beautiful in the morning light, cool, dark, violet.

And my mind’s eye whirls off again, this time alighting in the town in Africa where I was born. More than fifty years have passed and the memory is fading. But I see a wall – is it in a park, in a garden? – covered in morning glories, glowing in the morning light, cool – dark – violet.



picture: http://georgeswebpage.com/almanac

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I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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