A Conspicuous Year Etched on the Heart.

Nicholas Quirke was infuriated with himself on 28 February 2021 when having cycled to the subway station in the drizzle, survived an rear death experience with a reckless taxi, passed through security and stood on the platform only to discover he had left the umbrella he had bought with him in the bicycle basket. He rushed back outside to discover the bike and umbrella were gone. He had lost an item and wasted money on paying for a journey he didn’t take. The expletives that ran through his head regarding his misfortune were endless and unprintable. He was on his way to work and the wanton squandering of time and money continued to bother him on the journey and even into his lesson with Chloe which for the first time was face to face and thankfully not on line after the last debacle. Fortunately his mood lifted by the time he left work as today they were marking a particularly important anniversary. In 2020 he had arrived back in Beijing on 29 February as it was a leap year the month was a day longer and he would have to wait another 3 years to honour the occasion on the exact day and they had chosen to commemorate on the 28th instead. A day when he had actually departed from Japan and enjoyed a a night’s stopover in Seoul. It felt like an important occasion and paying another visit to the only 3 Michelin star vegetarian restaurant in the world for afternoon tea gave it the required gravitas. He had set his heart on spending a year living in China and discovering its landscapes, people and history and when he had arrived he had no expectations as to how this might be achieved. He had certainly not expected that the short term accommodation he had been offered would become his home for the following 12 Months. His travel Visa required him to leave China every 3 months and in the climate of fear surrounding COVID 19 he had not anticipated his visit to last. Circumstances around the globe and in the UK contrived to keep him here and apart from 14 days quarantine on his arrival, his stay which, had been unbroken, he had enjoyed a fair amount of liberty. Over the four seasons he had resided in China he had been to twenty cities in seventeen provinces, climbed the Great Wall, journeyed round Qinghai Lake, stayed incognito in an area forbidden to foreigners, travelled by car, train, boat and plane and discovered along the journey the relics, temples, restaurants, malls, parks , cinemas, theatres, Galleries museums and tearooms the vast country and especially of Beijing. He had mastered the subway and traversed the roads of numerous cities throughout China on foot and bike. He had participated in a host of Chinese celebrations, made numerous friends, become a teacher and a scriptwriter. Virtually every day he had made a film, written a diary and taken photographs recording his movements, sights and experiences. Above all, none of this would have been possible without the wonderful company, patience, warmth and kindness of the beautiful spirit that is Guo Peng. It was a year deeply etched in his heart and celebrating in the most expensive restaurant he had been in, dining on vegan cakes and drinking Aged Pu’er tea was definitely a kind of icing. They reflected over dinner on the year and the many experiences he and they had enjoyed. Needless to say the afternoon tea was exquisite in every way, from the delicacies they consumed and the service, to the overall atmosphere. It was sheer pleasure which was a good thing to take home with them as Peng had another move planned for the evening and to his surprise he found himself once more shifting furniture around. It wasn’t too taxing but it required physical exertion and watching an undemanding comedy horror, ‘Bloody Hell’ was a fun and undemanding end to the day and the year. As he prepared for a good nights sleep his thoughts drifted to what the year ahead would hold, with the promise of more teaching and with a home provided for him it looked like there could stroll be many nights of slumber in the Orient ahead.

Leave a Reply