Days go By

Nicholas Quirke was feeling the days going by on 17 November 2020 as the sense of routine that comes with employment took hold. He had needed to have some income and was grateful that the opportunity to do some teaching had come his way, but the sense of being hemmed in and keeping to a schedule had seriously hampered his spontaneity and at his desire to get out and make the most of the city while he still had the privilege of living in Beijing. This meant that on Sunday, 15 November, when he rose early to make sure he got in breakfast before going to the school to teach, he made sure he had arrangements to meet Peng after the lesson. They planned lunch and a few errands. He taught the class how to play Hangman and they got very excited which meant it progressed better than the previous week. He met Peng on his way to Tai Koo Li and once they settled down for lunch the talk turned to how they would celebrate his birthday the following weekend. Somehow the conversation got out of control culminating in a short verbal spat. He couldn’t help but think he would come badly out of the exchange and chose to remain mute, thus the Thai Curry was eaten in silence and other than collecting the coffee the afternoon plans were abandoned. Fortunately sulking was not a part of his psyche and once he had talked his friend into watching a movie, or two, the touching Georgian drama ‘And then we Danced’ and ‘Spell’ a preposterous, but fun ‘Misery’ style thriller, they returned to the topic in a calmer and understanding fashion. He was relived to be welcoming sleep without an antagonistic atmosphere to shape his dreams. He drifted through Monday, watching tv and eating until it was time for him to go to work. The days were now dull and a permanent chill had permeated the city. The heating in the apartments had now been turned on and from the warmth of the flat he was able to look at the grey metropolis and think about the many personas he had now witnessed Beijing in. His lesson with the girls went well and he headed swiftly home as he had an online lesson with Han which involved Role Play and a discussion about Tea Drinking. There was only time to watch the final episode of ‘Ratched’ before sleep beckoned him in. It was an eerie world that greeted him on the morning of the 17th. The effect of the heating going on all over Northern China had caused a smog and draped the landscape in a grey wet mist. A total of 54 cities issued pollution warnings which, are in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region or the Fenwei Plain which includes parts of Shaanxi, Shanxi and Henan provinces were all put on orange alert, the second-most severe warnings. The alerts coincide with the beginning of the winter heating season in the country’s north, as well as an industrial comeback in the wake of suspended work earlier this year amid the domestic Covid-19. This was serious and he would have to revert wearing an additional face mask, especially as he had arrange to go out in the afternoon to the movies. The venue he was going to, now fondly referred to at ‘the fighting cinema’, since witnessing a brawl in the middle of a film, was local and cheap, only 35 yuan and was screening a film, ‘Find Your Voice’ about a programme to help kids from a deprived background in HongKong by taking part in a choir. Surprisingly the film was terrible, which might account for the fact that he was the only person in the cinema. It was so saccharine he felt a little sick, though he did find a tear rolling down his cheek at the expected finale. He bought some rose cake from Holiland on his way home. He did some preparation for his class the next day and after a smoothie supper sat down to watch ‘Greenland’. Just as he was getting into the story, Peng discovered he was meant to be in a meeting with his German bosses and the film was put on hold. It gave him an opportunity to continue wrestling with downloading from his GoPro which had suddenly stopped functioning properly. The issue was not resolved, but he was closer to solving the problem by the time he went to sleep.

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