Nicholas Quirke was at the mercy of a series of technological issues on 3 April 2020, which didn’t resolve until well into the 4th. It was frustrating not be able to get his story out in time but he did not allow it to affect the plans he had for the day and once home and the photo download, and Faulty connection restored he set to his usual practice. He had planned another busy day and intended to go on a long ride but Friday started with the unexpected early delivery a new fridge which had originally been due at 2pm. Breakfast was delayed as the diminutive delivery man heaved the appliance around and into place. Once installed though it became apparent that there was a fault with the door which needed refitting. Peng had to go to work and arranged for a repair man from Panasonic to come and fix it. he would arrive at 11 so he had to put his intentions on hold and wait for the representative. He did arrives on time and Nicholas was astonished that this was resolved within hours of the delivery. If he were in UK it would be at least week before anyone could come and sort it out. He had lost his impetus for adventure with the delays and spent time preparing food for the evening. It had become apparent to him that he needed some appropriate shirts and had seen some in Muji and Uniqlo so he cycled to Joy City Mall in Xidan but despite the weight loss the shirts were still too small for his frame and he would need to order online. Disappointed he cycled further afield four some refreshment and found himself sitting in the familiar setting of The 1920 Art cafe, exactly 2 months on from his first visit to Beijing at the beginning of February. It was oddly also the day he had met Peng in person, although briefly and behind face masks in a hurried and somewhat paranoid exchange. it was hard to believe that he was now living in his home for the foreseeable future. He ordered an expensive Green tea and was relieved to discover that he remembered well how to drink from the cup that had caused him to scald himself previously. He sat for almost two hours with the continual generous refills. Before heading back to maker supper, and Red Lentil soup with mung beans and ShIitake Mushrooms. They then sat down to watch an engrossing and oddly disturbing film ‘Swallow’ before sleep beckoned
Nicholas Quirke was feeling a little footsore on 2 April 2020 and had decided to take it easy. His morning was very relaxed and included reading more of Mr Therouex’s travels through China and getting to grips with the concept of Tianxia he had been introduced to . All letters and packages were left at the neighbourhood front gate which meant when something had arrived either a a special trip was made to collect them or they were scooped up and carried back on the way home. During quarantine the neighbourhood officers had carried the delivery’s to the front door, since liberation day the privilege they had enjoyed was terminated and they had to fetch and carry the goods themselves. He was notified that some parcels had arrived and he made the trip out to the front gate to collect them. I was a really warm and sunny day and he realised that spending it in doors was a terrible waste of the clement weather and temperature and he decided that he would go for a ride to one of the oldest Teahouses in Beijing. He had passed The Lao SheTeahouse several times on the way to Beijing Fun and he headed off in the glorious sunshine to enjoy the delights of a Chinese tea ceremony. It was apparent as soon as he arrived, that this multi faceted Teahouse, it was also a restaurant and housed a Peking Opera Troupe, was closed. No Tea Ceremony for him. This of course was not a situation he was unfamiliar with and instead he headed the short distance to Quinmen Street Mall , which he had wanted to have a closer look at. The street, South of Tiananmen Square traversed a straight line down to The Temple of Heaven, which could be loomed ethereally in the distance. It was a very commercial and tourist driven area, it’s streets and shop facades redolent of antediluvian China and littered with sculptures depicting equally archaic Chinese people and rituals. He didn’t manage to find anywhere to have tea so once again he found himself at InWe in Beijing Fun having an Emerald green tea. he had an interesting dialogue with a friend from home when touched a nerve when he talked about the theory that COVID-19 is a Bioweapon developed by Chinese scientists and accidentally leaked from a Wuhan lab. Conspiracy theories often riled him; as Harvey could attest when he made the suggestion that 9/11 never happened and unleashed a torrent of abuse, and the implications that a plot to destroy the world with a flu like virus combined with HIV seemed a ludicrous one. Read: http://www.snopes.com ’Why you shouldn’t fall for the COVID-19 ’Bioweapon’ Conspiracy theory‘. It certainly enlivened his mind and gave him a lot to talk, indeed rant about. Back at home he made smoothies for supper and enjoyed a lively debate with the likeminded Peng on the subject before sleeping
Nicholas Quirke was celebrating the first of the month, April Fools day on 1 April 2020 with a visit to the massage hospital. His sciatica certainly was a lot better, there were still flares but the intensity of the pain was significantly reduced to a discomfort. As he cycled on the crisp, fresh morning his thoughts again turned to the worldwide crisis, where country upon country had closed its borders, the roads were quiet, skies mercifully free from air traffic and it occurred to him what good it must be doing to the planet right now with the Global stillness it was experiencing. He would have to look on line to see if there were any statistics. He had travelled to China by train not just for the adventure but to do his bit for the planet and somehow as he made his journey the world was stopping and the carbon footprint suddenly looked a lot more positive than it had at the year start. His consultation was in Room 16, which turned out to be an odd little annexe, not the salubrious setting he was used to It started as a lot soft,er than he was used to by now and the stretching out of his spine with a rhythmic rocking of his lower body felt like it was doing him a lot of good. But the doctor soon got the nerves jangling in his leg as he went straight Into the pain with his Weight and elbow Thinking that it could be the worst it could be, the final flourish was bouncing his full body weight on the pelvis. Odd as it seemed there was an almost instant quelling of any pain. Feeling buoyant, he returned to the apartment via a supermarket where once again he was lost in wonder at the variety and vibrancy of the fresh fruit and vegetables. The medication Peng had provided for him had numbed the soreness in his mouth and he was relieved to be able to eat for lunch. He felt he had over indulged and was glad that he had his Wednesday housekeeping routine to complete and the visiting another Park, Chaoygang or alternatively known as Sun Park. Which would walk off the excesses of his smoothie lunch, followed by some of the Tofu he had braised. and then fruit and nuts. After 2 days of barely eating his stomach had clearly shrivelled and setting of for the park feeling bloated was not ideal. It was an hours journey on subway and then a short bike ride when he passed some incredible modern architecture. which he wasn’t sure he liked, in fact he felt a little scared by it, though that was probably because it looked a little like the alien, but he found it very impressive. Sun park had a very different atmosphere from the tranquility of Beihai, this was clearly a fun park, though apart from kite flying, jogging and walking all the fun attractions were closed down. There was something extraordinarily fascinating about disused funfairs and he spent a long time enjoying the desolate nature of the rides disuse. He walked through the huge grounds, Beijing’s Central Park, heading slowly but surely towards the North gate where he would meet Peng and they would go out for supper. Even following the park signs he lost himself in the myriad of paths and time slipped away from him. By the time he was supposed to be meeting he was completely disorientated and Peng had to come to the rescue. They were eating at a trendy Health food restaurant, Tribe, in a smart shopping mall called Solana and after 3 hours of wandering he needed some sustenance. First they visited a Bakers where Peng could buy some unusual bread and then wandered through the quirky mall with a tropical theme and a replica of Piccadilly Circus’s Eros. The meal was delicious though the restaurant and food had a very cosmopolitan western style. Night had fallen by the time they left and the mall at night was lit up with illuminated air balloons. Peng had ordered a new fridge which was being delivered in the morning and once at home he was enlisted to help move the existing appliance to another room to make way for its replacement, then he discovered the one he had bought was too big and would not get through the doors! He cancelled and then ordered a new one. It was a surprisingly easy process and Nicholas thought about how difficult to manage that would be in the UK. The problems he had endured trying to cancel flights he had booked in the UK and was still not sure they had been cancelled or if he would get his money back were the irritating thoughts that sent him to his bed.
Nicholas Quirke was reflecting on his adventures on 31 March 2020, after reading that the British Government were providing charter flights for Britons stranded abroad. Of course, he felt far from stranded as every step he had taken since 12th January removed him from what he felt was for him a bleak outlook in the Uk after leaving Europe, and he had no intention at this time to return to a country already in the grip of the epidemic, to give up the relative freedom he was enjoying In this wonderful city. It was almost 3 months since he embarked on his latest odyssey but he had experienced so much, it seemed like a lot more time had passed, though the world had completely changed After his fast day, it was good to have something to placate his stomach, which was in riot by breakfast and a healthy detox Smoothie was just the thing he needed to give him some much needed energy. As he was going about his morning duties there was an unexpected visit from the the police and the neighbourhood officers. They wanted to know how long he was staying for, which information he was able to provide. The authorities are still very jumpy about foreigners, and it must be strange for them to understand why someone would stay when movement is restricted. They were trying to understand why and explaining he was hanging on till he could see more of China and the East, and not go home where at the moment Corona virus was rampant and his home was rented out, defeated them all and he was finally forced to get in touch with Peng. He naturally managed, once again, to put the world to rights and make a mild complaint to them at the same time for scaring his English friend. Not that Nicholas had been fazed by the disturbance, on the contrary it had been an intriguing situation to be in. Once his chores had been completed he had a tea, a snack and set of on the discovery he had set himself. Spring was in full flow, the trees in the neighbourhood were in bloom and the scent of honey and lilac filled the air and the famous Beihai Park lured him to its environs. Despite the overcast look to the day he was feeling a little over heated as he peddled to Jade Flower Island, the area of the Park open to the Public. He had to pay to get into the park, though a mere 5 Yuan, 60p and it was worth every penny. The park was stunning. Tress, and Magnolias and shrubs in bloom their scents filling the air. The views of the lake were beautiful and the island itself, with half glimpsed temples and and tableaux through trees and portals. Lava rock and stone steps opening onto images of trees and water and sweeping pillared walkways that hint at its imperial, languorous, indolent past. After a long walk and exploration he stopped at the gift shop, which also served tea and spotted a couple of hats he had his eye on but in the end, with the memory of his conversation with his sister and niece he purchased a pack of playing cards of emperors and concubines. His mouth was still sore and it made eating very difficult so he inadvertently found himself semi fasting again which meant supper for him was a smoothie as it was straight down the throat. Peng ordered some medication for him and hopefully the infection would be resolved. It had been a long day in the air and he was ready for bed when slumber called.
Nicholas Quirke was on his own again on 30 March 2020 as Peng set off to start another week at work. The previous week has been dominated by visits to the massage hospital and now that it felt as if his condition was improving he was cutting down on the treatment, which gave him more time to explore. He was keen to see the old observatory and even though he suspected it would be closed he planned his route. It looked very straightforward, taking him past one of his favourite sights, not just in Beijing, but possibly in the world, which made it it another reason to undertake the journey. First, he needed to do a little housework some laundry and catch up with correspondence. It was another warm day, though he noted that the smog had settled, not that he would leave the house without a mask anyway. It was a good cycle ride that took him beyond the confines of his usual routes. He found the site without any problems and discovered he was also right next to the broken rainbow arch which spanned Jianguomen Inner Avenue . It was disappointing, though not unexpected, that it was closed, though he could observe the instruments of the Beijing Ancient Observatory, one of the oldest stellar observation sites in the world, from a distance. It was built in 1442 and astoundingly operate entirely without telescope. There are eight original instruments for star-gazing that have survived since the Ming Dynasty installed and built the Observastory. It looked intriguing and he would defiantly return. The good thing for him was he had located it and understanding the layout of the city was an important part for him of adapting to life in Beijing. In addition he had some exercise. He needed some refreshment and a nearby mall provided a Teasure where he enjoyed a relaxing Pu-er Ripe tea and had a conversation with his brother and learning a little of London And Southwark lockdown life, before heading back to his base on the subway. Despite feeling weary as he had not eaten, he prepared food for the next day including a breakfast smoothie. He had a long Face to Face with his sister and niece and learned about coping with lockdown in Godalming. Perhaps as a result of the foods he had been eating he felt like he had an allergic reaction to something in his mouth, his tongue and the inside of his cheeks were sore and he had slightly swollen lip, though there was no visible signs of sores at all. He mouth-washed with salt water and little fed up with the growing list of minor ailments he was experiencing took to his bed.
Nicholas Quirke was a little disgusted on 29 march 2020 by the amount of food he had consumed the day before. Cake was not normally a part of his diet and he feared all the good he had done, regarding his weight may have been undone in the gluttony he had displayed. It was his clear intention to make sure he showed a little more restraint on his Sunday. His conation had a good start with a health bursting Smoothie and a bike ride to the Post Office. When Peng had said he would accompany him he had felt a little patronised, absolutely sure he could handle the postal service, but once they had arrived and it took 30 minutes even with a Chinese aide to get a card and parcel sent to England, he was more than grateful for the assistance. Peng was keen to visit another bakery to obtain more vegan deserts. Though he wanted too reject the thought of forcing another sweet down his gullet, Nicholas was really glad to have gone as he was charmed by the colours and variety of cakes, pastries and biscuits on offer. It reminded him of the discussion they’d had after the seeing ‘The Platform’ on food. It had given Nicholas a lot to think about. It had demonstrated an interesting insight into the perception the East has towards the West suggesting the complexity of the cuisine found a correlation in the depth and intricacy of the movies certain countries. Chinese, Korean, Spanish and french films were credited by him as having layers of meaning as indeed their food has layers of taste whereas American food and films were dismissed as simple minded and playful, and English Films plain and to the point like the cooking. It was an interesting theory and not one he felt particularly in the mood to argue but he was undoubtably in agreement that When it came to Vegan dining, the science of food, the variety of taste, was in China, infinitely more sophisticated than he was used to back at home. He had taken his Silver cross to be cleaned the previous weekend and whilst it had taken the black off the talisman, and had cost him nothing it had been left discoloured and a little distasteful. They rode a couple of miles to an another silversmiths in a mall. Having ascertained what the cross should look like she asked them to come back in 20 minutes. Peng was hungry as lunch had already passed by and they went in search of some snacks. At a supermarket he found a rice drink and some ‘Smelly Tofu’. Apparently a delicacy is a certain way of cooking Tofu, from Hunan Province where the Tofu is cooked in various spices and smells absolutely disgusting, so horrible that you should not speak to people afterwards as ones breath is so bad. This was mild, but it still smelt like he had walked into a toilet. And yes, it did actually taste delicious, though they’re was an after taste that felt a little rancid. When he then tried the rice drink with little bits of rice floating round in a pasty liquid looking like vomit, he again felt a little queasy but the taste was undoubtably very pleasant. When they collected the cross it had been finished superbly, it looked better than when he had actually collected it from its last cleaning by the original designer. He was very happy to be reunited with it. They decided to return home and have a proper take out lunch. Peng ordered a Spicy and mixed tofu and mushroom soup which was delicious. Once again thoughts of over eating crept into his mind and he was relieved when Peng suggested Gym time. He did a punishing 50 minutes on the treadmill then headed to the kitchen to prepare lunch for them next day and make some hummus and Guacamole. He finessed the letter he had written for his friends client and then made contact with Cole. It was another evening watching a movie and the Irish dark comedy Extra Ordinary was the fare for the evening. It was foolish and fun and exactly what was needed. They consumed the guacamole he had made and he vowed, after the indulgences and cake of the weekend to start the week with a fast.
Nicholas Quirke was starting the weekend with a traditional Chinese breakfast on 28 March 2020 of porridge; rice with mushroom and greens, fermented and marinaded tofu, jianbing and youtiao. It seemed a strange Mixture of food. Sweet, sour and plain, but it was very tasty. A sunny Saturday and their plans included setting up a bank card for Nicholas and visiting an area he’d had in his sights for a while known as 789 Art Zone. Every journey began with hopping on a bike and though it was a chilly morning he still felt the buzz of cycling in the brilliant sunshine to the subway station. The visit to the bank was not successful and it seemed like getting a debit card in China might be beyond the realms of reason. They reached 789 Art Zone and there was a lot to see, despite many of the establishments and galleries being shut, though he did have some fun wandering round a vintage shop toy shop. There were still very few people about and the cafes that were open must have been operating at a loss and desperate For business. Nicholas was introduced to bubble tea, a strawberry and jasmine, which was tasty but strange. Though there were several Vegan restaurants in the area but none were open to dine in and the closest that was open was in Guomao so they took a Didi To Vegan hut where the hostess, Sister Curry, met them on the street to bring them to Restaurant. It was a great space and the food was amazing, She had perfected a recipe to make fried egg which really was extraordinarily good. It was a long time since he had one, but the yolk could almost have been the real thing . She was very talkative and it turned out she was also in the film business as producer and screenwriter. They exchanged WeChat addresses and it felt good to have made a new friend, even though she conversed only in Chinese. She had a lot to say to Peng who laughed a lot and seemed to enjoy the conversation. Once they had left he heard the full story and, ‘Sister Curry’ was, what his friend Peter Lindeck would call, ‘Bat Shit Crazy’, One of her beliefs was that ET’s lived in and controlled Buckingham Palace and the Queen and that westerners drank the blood of young children, for longevity and also that the Corona Virus is man made. As he had sat there smiling and listening to the unintelligible words of what he thought was going top be positive and useful , its was unintelligible bullshit being spoken. They went for a walk along the river bank where he spotted a man, who appeared to be out with his daughter, armed with a rifle! They found a gelato for a chocolate and a mango sorbet and then visited a traditional patisserie that was founded in 1911, where Peng’s eccentric behaviour of examining the contents of every product in the store, to check for dairy, alarmed him and the staff. But there were numerous Vegan items that he was able to buy, to fuel his sweet tooth. At home they enjoyed the cakes and tea and then spent the evening watching a weird and intense Spanish horror, ‘The Platform’ which was a savage and brilliant analysis of society. Exhausted by all the strangeness and the day it was time to draw the blinds.