Nicholas Quirke was finally able to feel the earth beneath his feet and breathe in the sweet fresh air of a smog free Beijing on 15 March 2020. Leaving the apartment and actually seeing the hallway and stairs leading to the wider outside for the first time since he had arrived was an oddly emotional moment, though its intensity was somewhat dulled by having his arms filled with boxes of the goods Peng had bought and wanted to return and they were reminded that the cost of their freedom was the curtailment of the concierge bringing the delivery’s to the door., The impact of being in the open air may have been lessened by the hassle of hurrying for the delivery man but the reward was experiencing what had been, for decades, in his imagination, a highlight of Beijing life. He had always remembered seeing pictures of the city’s population in worker wear, en-masse, on bikes. no cars, and the images, which led to the Capital being known as “The Kingdom of Bicycles”, had given him an urge to cycle the boulevards of the immense flat municipality. He had been signed up by Peng to have access to the city bikes and had organised a 30 day pass, which meant he could use the bikes every day, for as long as he needed and the cost was a mere £2.20 for the entire period. If one needed an excuse to live in Beijing, then this had to be one of the benefits. when he had arrived in Beijing it had been cold and he was wrapped up in his arctic wear. Somehow, during the quarantine, Spring had happened and they set off with purpose on their bikes in a warm temperature, against a glorious blue sky. they got a refund on his transit card, as he could now access the subway through his Mi-fit, they checked out the location for his Monday appointment, wandered through the open show Hutongs, where he was treated to a sugary confection called an ‘ear’, saw ‘The peoples Theatre’ now a museum and witnessed how restaurants had adapted to the quarantine by selling their food on the street as takeaway rather than allowing people to dine in an enclosed public space. They walked part of the 4 mile journey to the restaurant, taking the opportunity to remove their masks and breathe in the Relatively safe air. Nicholas knew things must be good if his friend could be so cavalier, even if only momentarily. Then it was back on bikes to get to the smart restaurant in Beijing’s Manhattan, where they celebrated their liberty with an amazing meal in one of Beijing’s oldest established Vegan Restaurants. Peng took him to a bar where he could enjoy a classic cup of Oolong tea before they cycled to a smart mall where he could look in the apple store at a potential new Iphone. Nicholas was amazed by the amount of people on the streets. Here it seemed busy and bustling compared to his experience of the Abandoned city only 6 weeks earlier. The day of freedom had slipped by fairly quickly and they headed by subway back home. As he sat down and took stock of events, a new regulation that would put all International foreign visitors into government controlled Quarantine facilities which was a lucky escape for him, he received the news from home that his friend and colleague David Mounfield had passed away peacefully. Although he had been made aware the day before of his move to a Hospice, sitting on an underground train in Beijing was not how he had expected learn of his Friends death. It had been a privilege to know and work with this bold brave actor and comedian and stunned by the news he rifled through the memories he had of his long association with this beloved man.
What a lovely day for a bike ride. Must have felt amazing to be out and about breathing in the fresh air xx
Truly a lovely experience. I tried to do as much as I could
So pleased to read of your day out in Beijing which sounds wonderful…..congratulations on surviving quarantine with resilience and humour. Following everyday.
Thanks Suzy. No I need to adapt to being here.