The lure of a garden

Nicholas Quirke was excited about his plans for 4 February 2020. Dominic had suggested that he take a look at Jingshan Park, which he had previously visited, but an empty park, appealed greatly and its chief feature, was that it was man made and constructed from the soil and debris of the foundations to the Forbidden city. It was such a bright and beautiful day that a 6km walk seemed truly alluring. Before setting of he awaited the arrival of Peng with a promised supply of goods for him. He was on his last surgical mask which meant that Peng’s delivery was a mission of mercy. He was touched by Peng’s desire to help him and was struck by the thought that as a newly arrived westerner in a country in a crisis , he was a man completely out of his milieu and as such, he welcomed the outstretched hand of friendship. Although they had physically met, briefly he was yet to actually sit and chat properly with Peng, other than texting or over the internet. He wanted to invite him for a cup of tea somewhere, but Mindful of Peng’s fears over the Coronavirus, he thanked his friend and said goodbye, safely stashing his new products in his hotel rooms safe for fear of it being purloined by a cleaner. The walk was a long one but it was a glorious day, and though he passed Godley and thought that he must eat a proper meal, he decided that he would go on his way back. Not only was it a fairly long distance, the park itself was a steep hill to be climbed so best to get the arduous part done before the treat. He did notice on his walk, that there seemed to be a few more people around that day. Perhaps it was the blue skies and peaceful city that was bringing the braver community out. Not that it was by any means busy, but his experience the previous day was that apart from a number of cars on the road the streets really were deserted. The moat round the Forbidden City was frozen and literally shimmered in the dazzling light. He looked out for the Tea Shop where he had been so hideously robbed in 2018 and fantasised about going in and challenging them, but, he couldn’t find it and a fight really did not match the aura of the day. He was pleased to see that the park was open and though he had to pay to get in it was a remarkably cheap 2 yuan, less than 20p. It was a lonely climb to the top, through bamboo and rock and he was surprised when he reached the summit to see at least a dozen other people up there. The view was spectacular, The Pavilions beautiful and just standing there looking at the whole deserted city of Beijing he felt a remarkable calm. He realised that it was nearly 2.30 and if he were to eat as well it was going to take him a long time to get back to the Hotel. So he set off but his feet started to hurt and his legs, not used to the long distances he was putting in, started to ache, so by the time the got to Godly, he didn’t want to eat, he just wanted to get back to the hotel. He called into the supermarket got a couple of Bananas and a drink, struggled through the Hutong and collapsed. Connected to WiFi again and looked at the messages he hadn’t seen. On the British expat page there was a new and urgent sounding message from the Consulate, now advising that British citizens leave China. This was a dramatic change of tone and disturbed Nicholas. This was very different from the details of how to stay healthy and had a truly ominous tone. He was going to have to do some rethinking. It didn’t take him long to decide to go to South Korea. He had already considered this option as he fancied taking a ferry across the China Sea, however , a leisurely journey through northern China and a sea trip was not acting quickly and responsibly. He looked at flights he looked at hotels and he looked at the opportunities that spending a month in Korea might afford him and when he balanced that against no opportunities and a closed city in Beijing to some freedom of movement there was barely an argument against. He had to tell Wei who was getting on a plane they next day to come back to Beijing that for now, China was on hold. He consulted Peng, He booked an outbound flight to Seoul for the 7th a return for the 3rd of March and a hotel for a week. He would decide on his South Korean trip when he was there in Seoul. He was so tired all he had to eat was a banana and some garlic peas before going to bed.


  1. Looking forward to South Korea, I’m happy about that, was starting to feel very concerned. Let’s hope you start eating proper meals soon! xxx

  2. I hope you have a drama free safe flight. They might feed you on the flight, peanuts at the very least. X

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