New York, 1 January 2013

My last post has brought back a memory from when I was a teenager. I went to a boarding school that was located some twenty miles from the nearest major train station, so at the beginning and end of each term buses would bring us to and from the station. The bus ride back to school at the beginning of the term was a staid affair, everyone quietly talking or just meditating. The bus ride back home at the end of term was an altogether more riotous event. Bawdy rugby songs were sung at high volume, starting from the back of the bus where the bad boys sat, and what in a different era were called “off-colour” jokes were retold loudly and with relish. This album cover conveys the general idea, although we did keep our clothes on.

rugby songs

One element of the journey home was that we would all wear the loudest possible ties. I should explain that while we did not wear uniforms as such at our school, sports jackets were de rigeur along with a tie. Not just any old tie; a black tie. All of us, all term, wore a black tie.


The only exceptions were school and house monitors as well as the sporty types who won their cricket, rugby or other colours for exceptional gamesmanship.  We had many theories about why we all had to wear ties of such a lugubrious colour; the one I remember has to do with commemorating the deaths of several boys in a fire decades ago in one of the school houses (no girls; this was a boys’ school).

Whatever the reason, on the last day of term we threw off that horrible black tie and marched onto the bus each with a tie louder and – given the times – more psychedelic than the last. These photos give an idea of the sudden blast of colour we offered each other:



Getting onto the bus was to take part in a fashion cat walk, with comments about each tie and loud cheers for the brightest. We all came back to school with a secret hoard of bright ties, from which we selected one to parade that last morning in front of our peers. And then off we went, singing our bawdy rugby songs.

What happened to my psychedelic ties? Gone, I think, with other mementos of my youth when my sister, tired of seeing me not collect that suitcase which I had asked her to store in her attic, threw it and its contents out.

suitcase in trash

So goes life.

Rugby songs album:
Suitcase in a trash can:

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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. Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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