Beijing, 28 January 2013

This morning, I walked along the opposite side of the canal to go to work. I wanted to see what someone had written into the snow that thinly covers the ice. I took a photo. Readers interested in seeing it are referred to the postscript I have just added to my post “Clear, Pure, Clean, Peaceful”.

It so happens that a path has been cleared in the snow next to the script, which carries to the other side of the canal. Many people take a short cut across the ice to the other side. I hesitated. Crossing across the canal would shorten my walk to the office somewhat. But crossing ice like that always makes me a little nervous. Decades ago, when I was fourteen, I had ventured out onto a frozen lake where the ice got progressively thinner from one side to the other. As I trotted across, the ice began to creak and crack ominously. I beat a hasty retreat and all was well, but sometimes – especially if I venture onto iced-up water bodies – the sound of that creaky-cracking comes back to me; stuff of nightmares. So I hesitated.

I finally decided it was alright and set off across the canal. The cleared ice was very transparent, although the view through it was bent and warped by the unevenness of the ice. As I looked down through the ice, I saw a multitude of bubbles, of all shapes and sizes, ghostly white, trapped in the ice. Perhaps it was the slight trepidation I felt as I walked over the ice, but suddenly it seemed to me that I was seeing the last bubbles of air exhaled by a host of people who had got trapped under the ice. I half expected to suddenly see the ethereal face of some drowned person looking up at me through the ice.

I reached the other side. Silliness … I shook the feeling off. But as I turned around to survey the canal, I remembered a shard of T.S. Eliot’s poem. The Wasteland.

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

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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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