The Memory of Hutong

Nicholas Quirke was beginning another day conversing with a family member on 19 December 2020 this time with his sister who was living in limbo while waiting for the purchase of their new home to complete. It was a positive start to his day which he was going to be spending on his own as Peng was attending a friends birthday lunch. He took the time to send birthday wishes to Eileen and his friend Conor as well as starting to plan for his Christmas card. He had decided to visit another temple located near to where Peng was dining and they would meet for tea afterwards. After a morning doing some work for his friend Larayne he sets of on his journey took him to Gangqumen Nei station. Most of the subway stations had panoramas on the walls which always came with a description and as he was exiting the station he was particularly attracted to this mural with its vintage images of hutongs and people at work and play. As is often his experience, the temple appeared to be closed but he followed his instinct and entered the glass doors of the neighbouring building. The decor was definitely of a Buddhist design but it had a modern and rarified ambience which was not one he had come recognise amongst ancient temples that littered the capital. It turned out to be a hotel affiliated to the temple which was indeed shut and he was not going to be able to visit the Qing Dynasty relic. Fortunately across the road there was a coffee and tea house which had a uniquely western flavour to it. Indeed, once he was seated he identified a laowai sitting in state and educating the Chinese youth. As always he enjoyed the opportunity to people watch and was amused by the polite dance around cultures, protocol and festivities that went on with the parents and the tutor. It was a relaxing environment and when he was eventually joined by Peng they ended up staying a lot longer than he had expected. Nicholas had a busy day on Sunday ahead of him and they decided to head home and have a light supper and relax with another movie which they decided would be the cheesy looking ‘Last Christmas’ which proved to be as soppy, contrived and cloying as he expected. However, he was definitely not immune to its sentimentality and even though its denouement echoed an intelligent, really touching and lovely play he had seen at Hampstead; ‘ I and You’ which had also featured one of ‘Game of Thrones’ stars, he enjoyed the experience. It was undemanding and the perfect fare to shut ones eyes on the day to.

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