Nicholas Quirke remembered his first of the month ritual when he woke on 1 July 2020 and messaged his sons immediately, making sure they got a virtual, if not physical Pinch and punch. It was also Peng’s first day in his new job, as well as the 4 month anniversary of his arrival in Beijing on the 1 March. It was hard to believe that he had spent so long in the city which he was now beginning to think of as home, though as always his thoughts were on further travel and it now looked like the outbreak in Beijing was under control and he could start to prepare for the planned trip he had to postpone. One of the key requirements now of travel in China, if you were coming from Beijing, was to have a nucleic acid test to demonstrate you were free of the virus. His mission for the day was to find a hospital where the test could be done and relatively quickly. He checked on the WeChat group ‘Safe and Sane’ and discovered the research, that day, of a guy, Jay who was leaving Beijing who had identified a hospital which was charging 120 Yuan (£13) rather than 600 which he noticed other expats were paying. The hospital was a couple of Km away and he was happy to get back on a bike and attempt to get the test. Miraculously the process was extremely quick and simple, the only hinderance being his lack of understanding of Mandarin and it was trail and error of showing bits of documentation and using google translate. He had to register at the hospital first and was given a card, before heading to the testing area which, thankfully, mercifully was empty he was directed to a booth, sat down, had a swab shoved down his throat which was momentarily painful and sent on his way. the whole process less than 25 minutes. The results would be available within 24 hours. He mentally made a note to learn specific words and questions in Mandarin to ensure he did not have to waste time in future being bewildered by the information that was required. ‘What is your phone number?’. ‘Where do you live?’. ‘What is your date of Birth?’ Etc. Pleased with himself for having accomplished this first step he stopped at the now familiar Tea House ‘1920’ for refreshment and to further research his new travel plans. Once he was back at the apartment Peng assisted him with getting a flight to Shanghai and unbelievably was able to book a ticket for 220 yuan. He added a hotel booking and assuming his test would be negative his travel was now guaranteed. Having completed these tasks, they headed out for vegan Pizza at Gung Ho in Tai Koo Li. He was feeling very hungry and thirsty and as well as a pizza, they shared Sweet potato chips and a Vegan Chicken Burger and ordered a beer. When he asked if the the beer was vegan there was some confusion as they said all beers were vegan and he had to explain that fish bladders were used to clarify some beers. He was not in the mood to be argumentative and let it pass, enjoying instead the western style repast they treated themselves to. The day had also heralded 2 potential job prospects, a one off essay writing challenge on Cookery which he accepted and a English online coaching role. Neither would bring in lots of money, but it was a start. When he got home he was involved in an online chat with the English school and a couple of potential clients. It was an interesting discussion on the role of LVMH in fashion and was an indicator of the type of work he would be expected to be involved in. He had already set up a TikTok account to endeavour to develop his credentials with the students. It was past 11.30 by the time he got to bed and he would have expected a calm nights sleep but he woke several times and eventually at 5.30 am woke with a start On 2 June 2020 from a dream where he had sliced off his features in one piece with a large sharp knife. It had not caused him any pain other than confusion about how it would fit back on his face without the join showing. It was like having a mask, but the mask was his face. He would have to analyse carefully what this might mean. Nicholas had eaten to excess the past couple of days and It was smoothie for breakfast, he cleaned the flat, made smoothie for lunch and in a repeat of the previous day made his way to the Beijing Friendship Hospital to collect his results. It was again another simple process where he went to the reception, handed over his receipt and they gave him a reference number which he took to a machine, scanned it in and his results were printed out for him. A blissfully simple procedure. He was, of course, delighted too that he was negative and there were no signs of the virus in his bloodstream. It required another celebration tea at 1920, where he sat and took the opportunity to start the essay he had agreed to write. He made up an asparagus and pea soup for their supper and was delighted by the outcome and decided to write the recipe down to make it again. It was film night again and they watched Ordinary lives which was a depressing tale of a couple dealing with a breast cancer Diagnosis, with Liam Nessom and the brilliant Lesley Manville. It was another miserable tale to go sleep on and it was hard to cheer himself up, but some tomfoolery and blog writing did the trick and he finally gave himself up to the night.