Wake Up Call

Nicholas Quirke was made aware of how precarious his position is on 14 September 2020. He was living on borrowed time in China and the government were not going to be allowing a traveller to stay indefinitely no matter how desperate the figures were looking in the UK. and it was going to require more than just a visit and a smile to extend his stay further. He had to visit the Exit/Entry office to extend his permission to stay and it seemed the process was much more rigorous than he had previously experienced. The officers wanted documentation that he had not previously had to provide and what he thought would be a short 20 minute exercise turned into a 2 hour marathon and he needed enlist Peng’s assistance to get some information from the internet on flight availabilities and costs. This situation also alerted him to the matter of money. Without regular income he could not continue indiscriminately to live in China and travel and if it meant going home how was he going survive. With his flat rented out he would have no where to live and probably nowhere to work. He had felt sublimely fortunate to be on the journey he was on but he sensed the tide of fortune shifting and he was going to really need some focused thought to keep the train rolling. He felt very unsettled by the experience in the office, even though they had granted him another month in the country, and he needed to relax. He found a vegan restaurant in the Hutong near the Lama Temple and he ordered a tea and treated himself to a carrot cake. He enjoyed the surroundings and allowed himself to recover from what had seemed like an ordeal. He took the opportunity to wander the Hutong and enjoy more of the sights in a less crowded setting than he had experienced the day before. He was, perhaps wrongly, fascinated by an open window with a cage of guinea pigs and a dwarf reclining voluptuously on cushions drinking tea. He took a photograph and filmed the sight though he felt a little uneasy doing both as it seemed unhealthily voyeuristic . The photo was from a distance and not actually vey good and oddly the video was completely blank so he was right too have reservations and the universe had rewarded his prurience appropriately. He visited a few more shops in search of a small token for Peng who was to be celebrating a significant birthday on the 19th before following the exact same route they had taken the night before. When he got in his mind was focussed on preparing their supper, which after the lunch of his homemade asparagus soup with fresh flat noodles was a light green smoothie. He only needed to lose 1 more kilo before he would win the next weight loss competition and keeping the dishes fat free was paramount to him. Finalising the letting of his flat, dealing with the pipe leak, insurance and paperwork for his friend took his mind off his immediate future in China and by the time they sat down to watch the supremely ridiculous ’Babysitter 2’, he felt relaxed and accepting that what will be will be. Be prepared, be more careful and find alternatives were the ‘wake up’ thoughts he as he drifted into a sleep.


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