The Guo’s, The Wu’s, The Yang’s, Wang’s and a Ke.

Nicholas Quirke was replete by the end of the day on 6 March 2021 and was relieved that he had successfully navigated another dinner with a predominantly Chinese speaking family. He was never concerned about being out of his depth but there was a low level of anxiety every time he was cast adrift amongst foreign speakers worrying that they would find him dull or difficult as he could not be very communicative. Fortunately there were no such issues as Peng’s cousin Jieyu and his wife, Cui could both understand English and with Peng to translate he was never completely lost. His smattering of Mandarin was also helpful and he recognised certain words and phrases and always knew when the conversation was about him. Everyone made him feel at home and Lianzhuang, Peng’s father was at pains to make him feel included. They all liked the cards he had written for them and Quihui, Peng’s mother had put photos on the wider family WeChat, though the painstaking effort at the calligraphy was described as ‘like a child’s’. Cui’s mother called her on FaceTime and he was introduced to another family group in Shenzhen and the children, who had never seen a foreigner were particularly fascinated and he laughed out loud when one of them said “Yi Yi” meaning grandfather. It was another amazing spread prepared by Peng’s mum and she nd pulled out a tour-de-force with what he could only describe as toffee sweet potato. He did stop the conversation with the revelation that he had been to the Drum Tower and seen the drumming display which none of them had ever done and they were amazed by the film footage he showed them. The cousins immediately said they were going to go the next weekend. He was feeling ridiculously smug that he had introduced Beijingers to a Beijing delight. The lunch finished with a photo session and he was honoured to discover that Quihui was going to put one of the photos on the wall. He now felt he was almost family particularly when there were discussions about what his Chinese name should be. He had already decided that his surname, which always comes first in China, would be Ke, pronounced Kur but there were now further options for his first name for consideration and he would have to give it more thought. They went for afternoon tea in a chic little cafe which, was very nice but the chairs were too uncomfortable for him. He was not in the mood for a dark thriller and was looking forward to something lighthearted to watch but as the credits rolled on ‘Blood on Her Name’ he allowed himself to enjoy the frustrating ride. And as sure as the film entertained sleep immediately followed.

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