A Bit of a Mess.

Nicholas Quirke was back on his mission 2 February 2020, to locate and buy Facemasks, hand gel, wipes. He had a limited supply and was using a surgical mask underneath his pollution mask, hoping that this dual war against germs infiltrating his system would work as protection. He hoped not to regret going out into the city, but with so few people around he still felt strangely safe. He had never been one for crowds, and the deserted streets had a great appeal for him. The promised snow had fallen and though it clearly wasnt going to stay around, it did give a magical quality to the Hutong. He had decided to wear his GoPro attached to his chest. It seemed easier than having it on a selfie stick. When he finally saw the results and discovered he had inadvertently left it running for 90 mind blowingly dull minutes, it seemed to reflect the flavour off the day. When it should have been off it was on and when on it was off. Today though, his intentions were to conquer the subway and work out how to negotiate the lines. Despite what he had read, the subway seemed to make sense and a new confidence gave him energy. He had help from his new friend, Peng who directed him to a supermarket and was in fact going to meet him there, so armed with an apple map, he knew what steps to take. Firstly though he had to get a transit pass to give him the freedom to move around the city on any form of transport, including the bikes, with which he had always associated the city. After attempting a little Mandarin and finding he was not making himself understood, he resorted to mime with a litttle more luck. The station was empty except for the guards who checked his temperature and let him through. Passing through every checkpoint, thermal detector pointed at his head was a relief. Not that he had any symptoms of the virus, but with so many layers And thermals to beat the cold he seriously felt over heated and was convinced that the sauna like conditions underneath his anorak was going to result in immediate quarantine. He got on the right train going in the right direction, though once WiFi connection was lost he was a little adrift, and was delighted when he reached the station. He almost bounded with pride off the carriage, he located exit F and got to the entrance at exactly the appointed time. No Peng. No Supermarket in Sight and he was surprised to see the Temple Of Heaven lurking in the mist. After a few minutes he looked at the name of the station and realised he had got off a stop too early. Fortunately Peng had had the patience to wait for him and after hellos and introductions through gloves and face masks they went into the Supermarket. It was large but there were no masks, and no hand gel and only wipes for the bottom, though he did buy those as a safety measure Peng felt uneasy about being in the market, though it was by no means busy, and as soon as they both had purchased what was needed they left. Nicholas suggested a tea somewhere but being in a public place made Peng uncomfortable and they parted ways. Nicholas to walk back 5 kilometres to the hotel. Half way and feeling weary he found an interesting coffee house and stopped for a green tea. At some point during settling down he accidentally started his GoPro which recorded the whole of his visit. except of course, the moments he wanted to record. He did find though a moment where he tried to work out how to drink his tea and had to be helped by the waiter, who then persisted in topping him up every time the mug emptied. Nicholas finally discovered the power of ‘No’. and went on his way. Tired and eager to get some food as once again he had not eaten he got the subway to his local market and settled again for noodles and garlic peas. He also called in to Family Mart to get a drink and discovered they sold a crisp similar in style to Pringles, but Avocado & mustard and Beetroot & Coconut flavours. Come on Pringles, he thought, get creative and get these delicious snacks on the shelves of British stores. He caught up with the latest news on the Virus and was pleased to see that the consulates advice was still recommending staying safe and protected and leaving China if in the Hubei province or if feeling unsafe. He felt safe in Beijing if he was careful. He made his film even though it was poor and wrote his blog. He spoke with Wei who was now not coming to Beijing until Wednesday. He had felt abandoned when he had arrived in China but now he already felt a little settled and with more job opportunities arriving through the InterNations app, apartments, apparently readily available with friends and contacts growing, he was starting to feel this could work. He chatted an bit more with his new friend, messaged his tenant and contacted his sister to help get the electricians in. It had been a bit of a messy day and now it was time for another Avocado and Mustard crisp.


  1. Really interesting to get a first hand account of how it is in Beijing. The green tea demonstration could be useful for westerners visiting China!

  2. It really Is deserted Nick. What an extraordinarily rare opportunity to see the city like this. Bicycling practise too sounds like an option while streets not so heaving. Good for you. The snacks sound dainty, though I hope you find some proper fruit & veg soon so yr immune system is boosted by more than green tea! Sending love.

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