Beijing, 15 November 2013

It often happens to me in China that when I’m writing something I feel a sudden hush around me, perhaps with a whispered comment or two. They have just noticed that I am writing with my left hand.


This habit of mine fascinates Chinese. As far as I can understand, left-handed writing is firmly and vigorously stamped out at school. The Chinese universally write with their right hand.


I guess it has to do with the fact that ink is still extensively used to write, and as all left-handers know writing with ink is a horror because of the constant risk of smudging as your hand travels across the paper.

left hand with smudged ink

But actually, I suspect any left-handedness is proscribed. For instance, all Chinese use their right hand to hold their chopsticks.

Chinese eating

Well, nearly all. I once sat next to a Chinese person who was eating with his left hand; I was very excited when I saw it.

And all Chinese golfers or tennis players seem to play with their right hand.

chinese golfer-boy

chinese tennis player-girl

I wonder if there is some sort of feng shui thing at work here – using your left hand brings bad luck or something. Typical anti-leftism …

As far as writing is concerned, it used to be the same in Europe. My paternal grandmother was born left-handed but was made to write with her right hand. So was my father. So was my brother, who is six years older than me. I went to the same school as him, but I suppose in the intervening six years there was a change in educational philosophies in the UK. I don’t know why, although my theory is that it was the spread of the ball-point pen that did it. This wonderful product eliminated the problem of smudging with fountain pens, so now it was possible for teachers to show more compassion for us left-handers. I take this opportunity to salute the Argentinian-Hungarian László Bíró, who invented the ballpoint in the 1930s.

Laszlo Biro

I hope he was given a special place in Heaven for letting me and millions of other left-handers write with serenity – at least until word processing came along and eliminated the need for either left handers or right handers to write by hand any more.

Often, when Chinese see me writing with my left hand, they tell me that left-handers are more intelligent. They’re just flattering me, but I accept the flattery gracefully. Anyway, it’s true. We left-handers know that we are more intelligent.


Left-hander: http://practicallycreative.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/left-handed.jpg [in http://marc3ll.squidoo.com/lefthandedperson%5D
Chinese child writing: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/x/child-writing-chinese-calligraphy-9088290.jpg [in http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/x/child-writing-chinese-calligraphy-9088290.jpg%5D
Left hand with smudged ink: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9s458Vjrl1roqiq1o1_500.png [in http://southpawscopic.tumblr.com/post/31716402201/image-persons-left-hand-smudged-all-over-with%5D
Chinese eating: http://factsanddetails.com/media/2/20080225-wedding%20beifan%2016tbegin-ea222.jpg [in http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat11/sub73/item149.html%5D
Chinese golfer: http://blogs.r.ftdata.co.uk/beyond-brics/files/2013/04/mas_guan-tianlang.jpg [in http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/04/17/driving-golf-in-china-citics-sponsorship-of-guan-just-the-start/?Authorised=false%5D
Chinese tennis player: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-08/13/xinsrc_30208051309386711607013.jpg [in http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-08/13/content_9243455_1.htm%5D
László Bíró http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Ladislao_Biro_Argentina_Circa_1978.JPG [in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%A1szl%C3%B3_B%C3%ADr%C3%B3%5D

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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

3 thoughts on “LEFTIE, AND PROUD OF IT”

  1. Hi, happens to see your post, I’m Chinese, my experience was much more horrible, my parents are all right-handed so are almost all my family members, I found I’m left-handed until I’m 20 when went abroad, been confused and frustrated most of my life, I guess it’s just because of the education, in the primary school or kindergarten, teachers only write with right hand, no body ever tells us there’s an option to use the other hand.. Anyway, I’m 21 now, been practicing left hand writing for nearly one year, hope one day I can master it. Have a good day:)


    1. Hi! Thanks for this comment. I really feel for you. I was just lucky to be young enough in Europe to escape this imposition by right-handers. I really hope you catch on writing with your left hand – in fact, I’m sure of it; your brain is basically wired to have you write with your left hand and will help you along. Enjoy life as a left-hander!


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