Nicholas Quirke was having one of those days on 21 September 2020 where his day beginning plans dwindled into a puddle of unfulfilment. Of the list of tasks he had set himself, from packing for his next trip which, was starting on Saturday, to attending the Flag-Lowering ceremony in Tian’anmen Square to catching up on ’Lovecraft Country‘, his new television series addiction he achieved virtually nothing. And he could not even pinpoint exactly what he had done with day and why it had so easily slipped from his grasp. The only identifiable achievements were talking with his sister, to organise another plumbers visit to his flat, watching 1 hour of ‘Lovecraft’ and watching a chilling film in the evening, ‘The Paramedic’ a tale of obsession and revenge. This meant that when he woke on the morning of 22 September 2020 he was determined to have a full and fruitful day and for definite it would include the renowned daily flag lowering ritual. Getting into Tian’anmen Square was always problematic for him and the police inevitably spent ages scouring his documentation but first he stopped for tea at Teasure in APM and started to put together a CV which another teaching agency had asked for. As he was close to the Peoples’s Theatre of Beijing, he decided to call by and see if there were any productions on and if tickets might be available. The theatre was reopening on Thursday and it turned out his visit coincided with a visitors day and they took him into the theatre and also showed him the bookshop. There were two scheduled performances and to his horror they were fully booked for they run. He was advised to try in the morning to get any returns. He made his way to Tian’anmen Square and joined the throng trying to get through the gates. As he anticipated there was a hold up, but surprisingly it was now a short and succinct one, though he was slightly irritated when the policeman, having ascertained that he had been in China since February, told him to keep his passport with him at all times and to remember to register at the police station the next day when he had got his passport. Once he was through the check point he made his way to the grounds of the Imperiasl Ancestral Temple, in the grounds of which he had preciously executed a drawing. On this visit the actual temple was now open for viewing, which served as a trigger for him to revisit the temples in Beijing that had been closed due to Covid-19. Although it was built in 1420, during the Ming Dynasty, it had only been open to the people since Mao officially designated it a public park in 1950. One of the features on the day he was visiting was an exhibition of Goldfish which, he enjoyed wandering through and in particular discovering the oddest looking fish he had seen covered in bubbles. Apparently it was wise to arrive early for a good vantage point and although the ceremony was not till sundown, at 18.12, by 16.45 he had secured himself a perfect spot from where he could photograph and film the proceedings. He experienced a moment of alarm when the people who had queued up beside him suddenly disappeared and he asked a policeman why and was annoyed, peeved to discover that where he had camped out was not allowed and everyone had to be behind another fence a 100 metres from where he was. This put him at the back and he suddenly felt the whole exercise was pointless. The waiting though still provided some excitement as a few people wanted his photograph with them and he witnessed a woman being arrested as she broke through a fence rather than walk all the way round. He was actually surprised by the amount of people who had turned up to attend the ceremony, which was quite impressive, full of pomp, with a battalion of soldiers, some in blue uniform some in white, marching in synchronised step from Tian’anmen Gate to the flagpole. He thought he could hear the faint strains of music as they lowered the Red Flag. but he really was too far to hear or see anything clearly but he felt it ceremonial as it was, it was not as exciting as the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, with its parade on horseback. The authorities had allowed only one gate to be opened and so it took a while for the crowds to make their way out. He was pleased that he had managed to see the event and now all he had to do was to find a time to witness the Flag Raising Ceremony. At home it was another movie night and they watched a quirky Scottish film ‘Get Duked’, a comic horror around the Duke of Edinburgh award. Relieved at having spent his time well, he went to sleep making plans for the next day.


  1. Those fish are so funny, look like they’ve been blown up! Shame about the perfect spot being a no go area x

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