Beijing, 9 April 2013

The thing about my current position is that it requires me to get involved in a lot of issues about which I know absolutely nothing, or close to it. In a previous post I described a trip to Dali, in the province of Yunnan, where I went to discuss with the local government what could be done to increase markets for the prefecture’s walnuts. I am an ignoramus when it comes to walnuts but I can read up on the topic and learn enough to sound intelligent for half an hour’s discussion. But this afternoon, at the request of our Legal Advisor, I attended a meeting about the regulation of internet domains. This was fated to be one of those meetings where I understand the single words that people are uttering but find that when they string the words together it turns into gibberish. Luckily, someone else was leading our group, and my role was principally to fill a chair.  So I let it all wash over me and allowed my mind to wander. For some reason, the organizers of the meeting had put a slide of a galaxy on the screen. It looked something like this:


I sat there as the meeting droned on, admiring the simple, pulsating symmetry of it all. It reminded me of a book I had bought in Vienna which was filled with photos of the Universe like this one.


Look at those towering clouds of intergalactic dust. Wonderful …

But actually, the Universe seen from Earth is just as nice. I mean, on a clear, cloudless, moonless night the Milky Way is absolutely lovely

milky way-2

Even simple stars can take your breath away. I remember a night on the shores of Lake Sevan in Armenia, where we were seeing what could be done to get the economy going again and the environment back in shape after the devastations wrought upon both by the central planning of the Soviet Union. We walked down to the lakeshore one night, and the sky looked like this:


The tragedy was that we could see the sky so clearly because the economy was bankrupt – no-one could afford electricity so there was no light pollution.

Well, that was a nice, relaxing daydream. Lord knows what I’ll write to the Legal Advisor tomorrow, when I report on the meeting.


Milky way:
Desert sky:

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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

2 thoughts on “STARRY, STARRY NIGHT”

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