Nicholas Quirke was astounded by what was happening in the world on 24 March 2020. It seemed a never ending litany of chaos. The reports of lockdowns, of the curtailment of liberty, of jobs and livelihoods lost, the deaths in Italy exceeding those of China were just some of the bizarre and terrifying events that overwhelmed him. He had enjoyed a long conversation with his former employer, Tamara from Blackwatch entertainment and her picture of what was happening in the UK was enlightening but left him feeling worried and concerned for friends and family that seemed a complete reversal of fortunes from the concerns his family had about his journey into the Far East. Seeing it for the first time from their perspective he could understand the worry breaching China’s borders held for them. Though once again he was truly grateful he was where he was, and not enduring the hardships the coming months might have for his family and friends. He was actually now in a safe harbour with desirable company and a slowly awakening city and outlook. The day ahead of him was almost a re-run of his previous meeting with his friend Justin,. He had planned to have lunch in a Vegan restaurant but out of the 3 locations they could go to 1 was closed, 1 only doing take away and the 3rd although open seemed to be too far out of the way for his friend to travel to, so they ended up meeting instead in the same Teahouse, It took so long trying to sort this out that he was late leaving, though he still rode a bike, and actually pelted his way there, past The forbidden city and Tiananmen Square and he wasn’t too late after all. The conversation revolved again around the life of his acquaintance and Nicholas started to feel a little distant and a little less interested as he was regaled with the same stories. They enjoyed a nice lunch in ‘Foodbowl’ through he didn’t have quite the variety he was expecting as he showed them the statement, in Mandarin, on the phone Peng had prepared for him to show restaurant owners declaring:- ‘
I am a vegan, please help confirm the food I ordered contains no animal, no seafood, no milk, no egg and no cheese. Thank you‘
And the menu suddenly shrank, as even the tofu dish had a sauce made from egg. A raw food salad with a simple oil and vinegar dressing suited him, except he did end up with it annoyingly splashing and staining his new jacket. He looked in a Bookshop for Riding The Iron Rooster, which is Paul Thereoux‘s account of his Journey by train to China when he too had decided he would Spend a year in China and indeed get there by train across Europe, it was not in their stock, but he was amused to find that their Contemporary fiction section pretty much covered the Penguin Classics range. . An hour, a walk and soybean hot milk later it was time to head home. They passed a famous photography studio where Chairman Mao and other leading members of the Communist Party had their official headshots taken. He was quite pleased that although he rarely used the subway for line 1 he did know that he could take it to Xidan and was now remembering stops on various lines. . He got off and cycled the rest of the way. His new phone had not worked as he expected and frustrated by its inadequacies, they reset and he had to load each app one by one, being unable to remember passwords caused some annoyance. His supper was very light as he was now in competition with Peng to see who could lose a certain amount of weight first. He was potentially tying himself to a week of housework, while Peng would need to live a completely vegan lifestyle for 2 weeks if he lost. Peng was very confident he would win. Nicholas would need some extreme measures, maybe a fasting day would help, to beat this competitive spirit.