21 April 2013

One of the funnier scenes for me in the film About a Boy is when the Boy kills a duck after he throws a loaf of bread, which his mother had baked, into the pond. Lord knows what ingredients she had used, but it had the density of a rock and thus the predictable effect when it hit the duck.

about a boy dead duck-1

I laughed loud and long, partly because it reminded me of when I was a boy. During my visits to my grandmother in London, one of her staple ideas for keeping me busy was to take me down to one of the ponds in Central London’s many parks to feed the ducks. She did this with most of her grandchildren who passed through London and kept a stash of stale bread for the purpose. And boy was it stale sometimes! If I’d been a duck I wouldn’t have touched it with the end of my webbed foot.

As I said, she took me to several parks in Central London. Hyde Park was a favourite with its Serpentine lake. Another was the lake in St. James’s Park. The nice thing about that lake was that it played host to many different types of ducks, some of them really beautiful. One of the most lovely was the mandarin duck:

mandarin duck-1

(I knew its name because the park authorities had thoughtfully placed plaques by the lake’s edge, right where little boys and girls threw stale bread to the ducks, which carried a picture of each type of duck along with its name).

I swore to myself that when I owned a duck pond, I would stock it with mandarin ducks. Well, I don’t own a duck pond – yet (hope springs eternal). But I do live by a pond-like body of water here in Beijing. So you can imagine my excitement when on Saturday I noticed a pair of mandarin ducks paddling peacefully along its surface.

Will they be there tomorrow, when I walk to work? Or will they have flown off to greener pastures? I really hope they’ll be there. Feeding them will be a great way to get rid of our stale bread.


They stayed! Here’s a photo of the male I took the other day, a month or so after writing this post. It’s not a great photo – actually, it’s a lousy photo – but the duck was careful in not coming too close (no doubt it sensed that it could quickly end up in a pot in a Chinese kitchen), but it is evidence of their continued presence.

duck on canal 001


“About a Boy” dead duck:

Mandarin duck:

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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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