Nicholas Quirke was looking forward to a day of rest on 16 August 2020 and was not expecting it to evolve into a few day of inertia which it had turned into by the 19th. I wasn’t that he hadn’t engaged in some activity, but the modicum of effort that he put in to the days was minimal and meant that he gave himself time to catch up and gather himself and all his thoughts. There was also some admin that needed sorting out, especially since his tenant had advised that he would be leaving meaning Nicholas needed to find someone else, which from China was going to prove a little difficult. He spent his Sunday virtually comatose, sleeping, watching ‘Mythic Quest‘ ironing and eating. In the evening they watched ‘Project Power’ a high octane thriller with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Jamie Foxx which was still not enough to keep him from sleeping. His Monday slipped into a similar state of lethargy till they went out for supper in Xidan which was followed by an iced black grass jelly. After walking home they sat down to watch ‘Moffie’, an intense drama of cruelty, bigotry and racism in the National Service in 1980’s South Africa. It was a draining watch and tired he went to bed. Which brought him into Tuesday; a day it had been decided that to combat the immense food intake whilst he had been away would be a purely liquid diet of Smoothie and Asparagus soup, saw him feeling a little more active. Regardless of threatened rain he cycled out to Beijing Fun to enjoy a tea and to do some writing. He found a space under an umbrella and enjoyed the scenes of socialising around him. When it started to rain he made space under the awning for a table of three guys who ended up so close he could see what was happening on the game one of them was playing on his phone. The rain persisted and as it was getting late and he had an umbrella he decided to walk back through the Hutong’s, one of which, Liulichang, turned out to be one of Beijing’s traditional old quarters and a street, district, fascinatingly devoted to antiques, paper, calligraphy and art materials with easily the largest, broad paint brush he had ever seen for sale in one store. Its name dated back to the Ming Dynasty when a glaze factory, producing tiles for the Palaces and Temples was in operation and it became a favoured haunt for writers, painters and calligraphers, who not only met there but would write poetry, compline and purchase books and paint and it became one of the most cultural centres in the City. It was a long walk and as the rain eased he decided to cycle the rest of the way through the narrow twisting alleyways. Not a good move as his wheels skidded on the wet surfaces and he found himself and his belongings on the floor. He had come down hard on his knee breaking the skin and grazing himself. He appeared a desultory figure picking himself up, feeling sorrowful and somewhat offended that none of the standers by, the lookers on, did anything to help till a young man he had cycled past picked up his bike for him and then, with bloodied wounded knee, he remounted and cycled the short distance home. After cleaning up his injury he made a smoothie for supper and they watched the end of ‘Moffie’ before retiring for the night. To address the weight gain on his travels he had planned a day of fasting on Wednesday but when he mounted the scales he was actually slightly lighter than he had been before he had embarked on his tour. This was good news but the fast for both himself and Peng went ahead. He combated the desire for food by watching a movie in the morning, a film by one of his favourite Chinese directors, Zhang Yimou; ‘Coming Home’ a heartbreaking beautiful film about the personal consequences and costs of the Cultural Revolution. From 2014, he was surprised it had escaped his attention. He had discussed the Kung Fu historical epics and political compromises that Zhang had turned to and looked for spin on party politics in the film he was watching, but other than a no winners ending, he felt it offered a scathing attack on the cruel, hateful policies of the Gang of Four, Mao and the Cultural Revolution and must be an uncomfortable watch for anyone who had been party to the atrocities and damage to human lives this period in China’s history illustrated. He felt weak from the lack of food and lacking in attention. he found himself disturbing Peng’s work who also was suffering from the lack of energy. Somehow the day drifted by without him doing anything and it was a relief when after 24 hours he enjoyed a smoothie and Red Bean ice Lolly as they watched first a rather poor Spanish thriller, ‘Adios’ and then the gripping Russian Sci-Fi Drama, ‘Sputnik’. Hi thoughts turned to his weight loss and hoped to see the benefits in the morning as he climbed into his bed.


  1. Oh Nick! Hope the knee is OK, and I’m sorry, I had to have a little giggle that you managed to film it 😂 xx

Leave a Reply