Post Haste

Nicholas Quirke was thankful on 26 November 2020 for so much he didn’t know where to begin as he dragged himself out of bed on the cold cold Beijing morning. He made a start by thanking Peng and the Chinese government for his extended stay in the Middle Kingdom. He was also thankful to be waking up with an agenda for the day which involved getting out into the biting chill air. H was aware that were a couple of birthdays on the horizon and he would need to get a couple of card sent out. This meant a visit to the the post office which, as always proved to be a time consuming challenge. Somehow, he always managed to get himself into some sort of trouble and with no idea what was going on, and only the words “Wo Bu Mungbai’ and a shrug to hand hiss visit on the 26th was no different. It didn’t help either when some locals tried to be helpful, someone was going to have to wait longer and lose out. On occasions he loved the sense of lawlessness that often accompanied transactions and daily life in China but in a Post Office queue the jostling, pushing and and the sense of short fuses all around was dissembling and it never helped when the locals were muttering under their breath. To be honest he would himself be fairly irritated if a foreigner in the UK was to be given preferential treatment, though he was hard pressed to imagine a scenario where that might happen in his homeland, and being bossed around, pushed in front of and moaned at was a fair price to pay for his laowai privilege. But even this did not shorten the wait as the workers slowly went about about their work, randomly assisting those who might shout at them and cause a fuss. This of course was how he saw things. His lack of comprehension of the language and his frequent misunderstanding of the use of tone in Mandarin may have been misleading. There was, however, no mistaking the disgust and intolerant mumbling when she discovered he had broken the glue stick. It was a very odd feature of the Postal service that the contents of the envelope, package had to be examined and he was therefore bewildered by the customers in front of him who had their letters, parcels torn open and sent away to rewrite them, it was his fourth visit and he had learned his lesson. He felt a certain relief as it meant he got served sooner but when he was almost at the end of his transaction, the offenders returned and demanded to be served rather than go to the back of the queue and he had to wait again. It was also a peculiarity of the service that no matter when he posted his missives they generally resulted in the late delivery of his thoughtfulness. This strange bureaucratic cavorting which, bought him out in a light sweat went on for nearly an hour and it was a relief to get out into the biting cold sun. He was making a third attempt to visit the Niujie Mosque which, had been shut on his first visit and then closing when he arrived for his second endeavour, there was no such obstruction this day and he was able to explore the oldest mosque in Beijing dating from 996 and reconstructed in the Ming dynasty. The temple boasts a mixture of Islamic and Han Chinese cultural and architectural influences. From the outside, its appearance is traditional Chinese and on the inside has blend of Islamic Persian calligraphy and Chinese design. It is also home to some important cultural relics including an upright tablet of an emperor’s decree proclaimed in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty and a copper cauldron of 1702 for cooking meat congee. It was an educational visit and a cold one and he cycled home for lunch. Peng was still working from home and as he was giving a zoom presentation to an online conference of the federation of Librarians in the the Phillipines, he thought t best to make himself scarce and so he went to InWe at Beijing fun to work on the script. Night had fallen while he was working and the Hutong had a sense of magic about them as he cycled back home. It’s was a relief to be back in the warmth and relaxing on the sofa to watch the pleasantly scary ‘Come Play’, which he had a sense of having seen a similar story about a character from a story making it into the corporeal world. It was a mild horror and there would definitely not be any nightmares once he surrendered to his nights sleep.

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