Red Scarf Park

Nicholas Quirke was ruminating on what a gorgeous ride through the city it was on 12 June 2020 as he made his way to Honglingin Park. The Sun was dazzling and the trees shimmering all shade of green and purple with even the huge, modern, monolithic architecture looking sleek and special in this extraordinary light and heat. it was a ravishing day. He had made an early start having tried to rest most of 11 June 2020 as his feet had felt so painful from the daily pounding he was giving them and aside from cycling to the Art Coffee Bar where he met his friend George, who he had encountered at some traffic lights at Tiananmen Square, for a tea, and then going to Joy City at Xidan to get Two of seven new cake creations for Peng, his day had been spent watching ‘The Two Popes’ having a foot bath, foot mask and home spun pedicure and wrestling further with the never ending ICloud sage. The day only worthy of mention for an especially tasty breakfast with his host, the lovely gifts of tea and a pen which George had bestowed on him, the purchase of a shirt and shorts in Zara at Joy City, for the sighting of a robust young man sleeping on the back of a Ban Che, a latter day rickshaw which was peddled by his ageing business partner; He could not resist taking a photograph which captured the cyclists disapproving look but the minute the photo was taken had burst in to spontaneous laughter, realising what Nicholas was capturing and the news that a case of COVID19 had been discovered in Beijing, the first in 53 days and that it emenated from Georges community. This sent Nicholas into a tailspin of panic and at home he showered and disinfected his clothes before enjoying a long conversation with son Harvey. Other than these things, the 11th was barely worth a mention. But the 12th was proving to be a very different story and not just because of the extreme heat. His parking expedition was to the The Red Scarf Park which had been built around a lake in 1958 and the relics of its Communist propoganda still littered the pathways and actually gave him a sense of being adrift in time. He had deliberatly dressed to echo the the look of the time and it caused comment and amusement with the locals who happily chatted as best they could and even if neither understood the other, the smiles and laugheter and poor mime conveyed it all. The odd thing was he encountered two other Laowai, in the the Park, takinmg a constitutional around the ecologically sound banks of the lake, both of whom he said hello and smiled at and both of whom turned away from his greeting! What was wrong with the Laowai here, was it considored bad form to be friendly with a foreign body? This was the second time he had tried to engage with a Westerner and the second time he had been ignored. If this is what he could expect from Laowai, no wonder the Chinese prefered their own company. It didnt affect his mood or his exploration of the park but he was dissapointed to see such an insular attitude prevailing. The heat was very humid and begining to overwhelm him, but Peng, despite having a farewell luncheon at work had sourced a nearby tea house which he peddled to. Business as usual meant that he had some difuclties locating the tea house, which he engaged several locals in trying to help him find. He was sure it wasnt the right spot but settled for a small tea bar offering cold fruit green teas someone directed him to and despite having a cooling tea he noticed that his limbs were wet from the humidity. Feeling sufficiantl.y cooled he got on a bike and set off home. When he spotted a photo opportunity he reached for his GoPro only to discover it wasnt in his bag. Had he left it in the cafe. He had to cycle back and as he did he realised with horror that he had left it, at least an hour beforehand in the baskert of the bike he had been riding. For sure it had gone. Mercifully, as he rode past the spot he had dismounted at earlier, there was the bike and there was the GoPro. Were people that honest or was he just very, very, very lucky! He cycled back to the railwaiy line, took photos and started the long ride home. By now the sun and heat were at their zenith and he could cycle no more he found a subway station and abandoned the heat for the airconditiong of line 1 to go back to Xidan and Joy City to get another couple of the new range cakes for Peng. It turns out this was a mistake at each station he basked in the cool breeze blasting in from the platforms but in between, in a face mask, he suffered. He grabbed the cakes and cycled home as quickly as possible to enjoy ice cold green tea and vanilla Oatly Vegan ice cream. The sun had been especially fierce and he was red faced and his neck felt burned. He had agreed to meet Peng at the hairdressers for another Haircut but was reluctant to go, looking like he had a clown wig on. To try and compensate for the sharp difference he smeared himself with aloe and then sun cream before heading out again. They had their haircut at Mode and the owner introduced himself and the staff were all watching and intrigued. A head massage was given when he had his hair washed and then the cut after careful explanations and a picture from Peng was perfect and did not leave him looking like a chimp. Afterwards they went to the outside bar they went to last time and had noodles again. Fortunately there was a gentle breeze and the humidity of the day seemed to have lifted. A walk home, a shower and then bed.


  1. How very disappointing that the Laowai didn’t have the common courtesy to acknowledge your greeting. Nice hair, looking fresh! xx

  2. Well it seems that the people of Bejing had no interest in taking your valuable Gopro. Very honourable. Although I have to say that in England if I lose something I invariably go back and manage to retrieve it; even when it has been money. It is bettet to have faith in people’s good nature. X

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