Grand Canal

Nicholas Quirke was feeling his age when he woke on 6 June 2020 with neck ache and back ache and the thought of participating in the days planned activities filled him with dread. They were headed to the outskirts of Beijing to the banks of the Grand Canal which was Ming Dynasty construction under Emperor Zhou in Beijing and ends over a thousand miles away in Suzhou. They were going to cycle a circuit of about 30km of the canal. He didn’t want to disappoint and after some stretches and a breakfast of vegan Dim Sum and pies. They set off with a fold up a bike and the scooter Peng had bought. The heat was already making itself felt and Nicholas was relieved that by the time they had reached their destination the pain in his back had alleviated and little and getting on bike was the ordeal he expected it be. He had never ridden a bike with such small wheels before and had imagined it would be harder ride and an element of himself felt he looked foolish on it but with Peng scooting along the banks of the canal, the only adult amongst children on such a vehicle, he accepted his ride with humility. It was a lovely ride, though they encountered some trouble when they got to a bridge and had to find a way to get across. They found a dirt track, clearly an illegal path and got onto the huge bridge to cross the water only to find no way to get onto the banks the other side. They attempted a variety of ways until a construction worker, shocked to see a laoWei on the site, gave directions which lay a kilometre in the opposite direction. He was impressed by how much attention is given to the ‘Beautification’ of the spaces designated to the public, though was wary that you could not make your way into the mountains, along rivers etc, unless it was a specified area. This meant it was more difficult to find the privacy that some people like to enjoy themselves. And now that it was widely regarded that the virus had been eradicated from Chinas shores, people were out in droves and with face masks off in open air. It looked very like normal life other than that once again he seemed top be the only foreigner in the vicinity and was again getting attention and stares. Of course he was used to living in a multiracial society, and also moved by the force of feeling the death (after so many) was finally having around the world. He was sorry to not be adding his voice to the protesters, though he did in a small way recognise the powerlessness of Black people in a white society being so alien in a society that barely knows the meaning of Multiracial. 2020 was defiantly going to go down in the history books as a seismic moment of change in the course of human narrative. He felt strangely outside of the movement that was going on as he continued to soak up the sun and explore further and further the country he was domiciled in. Thus he loved the bike ride in the sun along the beautiful banks of a truly ancient man made waterway. They completed their circuit; with stops along the way for snacks, to take photographs, to laugh at an impossible to navigate cycle lane, a much needed ice lolly at a simulated port, past another impressive dam, and back to where they started. It was tiring work in the heat and they were hungry by the time they got back to the car. Peng had sourced an Indian which specialised in vegetarian dishes and they enjoyed a latte lunch in the mercifully cool and shady interior. The restaurant boasted views from the windows but for once he was content to sit out of the glare of the sun In the dim interior and let others enjoy the view. It was late afternoon bye the time they finished and they headed back to the apartment where Peng completed a Zwift pride ride and Nicholas, after having seen that he looked like he was in a clown wig, so defined was the sun’s effects on his visage after he removed his hat, evidenced chanted with a friend in the Philippines and updated his blog. Plans to watch a movie were abandoned as they changed the next day arrangements due to a mutual weariness and an early night and sleep was welcomed.


  1. What a marvellous day. Is Peng’s scooter motorised?! If not one calf is going to be twice the size. Your suntan boundary reminded me of the time when I was on holiday in Oman some years ago – I wore a swimming cap to bed to keep the aircon off my follicularly challenged head. When I went in to the breakfast lounge the following morning, I got a few stares as it looked as if I had had a full lobotomy!

    1. I wish I had seen that. I once drove to Derbyshire with Kate and I had a really bad cold and very sore nose. When we arrived at Chatsworth to park the attendant was laughing and so friendly. When I got out of the car my nose and cheeks were smeared with Sudafed cream. We had both forgotten I had done this.

  2. My goodness you must have been exhausted after all that. Your tan mark 🙈😂😂 xx

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