Forbidden Pleasures

Nicholas Quirke was experiencing a frisson of excitement when he woke on 12 May 2020. Ever since he had found himself back in China one its most enigmatic and beautiful sights, museums, had been closed to the public due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures. Once again it was forbidden for the proletariat to breach its gates and enjoy the treasure of its views. He had passed Tiananmen gate and the fabled city that lay behind it on a regular basis and yearned for the opportunity to see the Immense squares, the palisades, the gardens, the palaces that lay within its fortress like boundaries. To experience once again the perfect symmetry of its design, to thrill to the eaves and lines, bathe in the richness and beauty of its colours and to immerse himself in its tumultuous imperial history. Finally with restrictions lifted for the labour day holiday the people were allowed to storm the portico to enter. This was his first opportunity and he could not have wished for a more perfect day with blue skies and temperatures soaring to 30 degrees. His euphoria seemed to be shared by several of his fellow bikers who greeted him as peddled along West Chang’an Avenue, with his sights set on the formidable Tiananmen Gate. Although he had to queue for 20 minutes for a health check, armed with his revived health kit it was a swift process and got him through the vast Meridian gate and he took the central arch, which was the path reserved for the Emperor. It was awe inspiring to be inside the City walls again and to absorb the splendour and immensity of the spaces created by the architects of the Ming and Quing dynasties who had built the imperial palace. He had forgotten how eloquent the names of the buildings were and as he stood surveying the sights of the opening he took in the 5 Inner Golden water bridges which led to the Gate of Supreme Harmony. He was immediately itching to do a drawing and after a thorough exploration he passed through the gate and onto the next layer and faced the Hall of Supreme Harmony which led to the Hall of Central Harmony and in the distance, the Hall of Preserving Harmoy. It did indeed produce a harmonious whole and it was here that he found a seat in the shade and attempted for an hour to render an image of the city in pencil. His pursuit drew a few onlookers who seemed to be very impressed with his feeble effort. He spent a total of 5 hours in the city, meeting two teachers Megan from Colorado and John from South Africa, a Chinese lady who had lived in London and encountered numerous young ladies dressed in costume and being photographed and he covered as much of the 180 acres, the 90 palaces (of Earthly Tranquility, of Celestial Favour, of Benevolent Tranquility, of Accumulated Purity, of Compassion and Tranquility, of Longevity and Health, of Great Brilliance), courtyards and gardens, that were open to the public, as he could before finding himself in front of the Mountain of Accumulated Elegance in the imperial gardens and calling it a day. He made his exit through the austere Gate of Divine Prowess and set off to find somewhere to eat. He could not find a bike and had to walk a fair distance on feet that had recived another punishing and by the time he located his transport he was too tired to go any furter and headed home where he immediately devoured wraps, biscuits and a smoothie. Too fatigued to do anything more he sat down with Peng to watch another horror movie, ’Sea Feaver’ before oblivion overwhelmed him.


  1. Fabulous day. Quite extraordinary. Why so many horror films? Is that Peng’s secret pleasure?

    1. You are quite right Grace it is one one of Peng’s pleasures. I am happy just watching anything with people acting. I did watch Maudie which I highly recommend. A really understated and touching true story. Xxx

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