A Long Deep Breath

Nicholas Quirke was taking a long deep breath on 11 March 2021. Iit was another day when he had to go to the Exit/Entry Bureau to apply for an extension to his Visa. The borrowed time he was living on had to finish and with the vaccines now available and the situation improving in the UK it felt like the loan was coming to an end. It was a faint hearted Nicholas who set off for another appointment with the administration. He had run out of passport photos and when he was getting the required digital photograph taken he asked for some to be printed he was given eight for the equivalent of £3 which felt like a bargain, even if he did look completely bald. Every page of his submission was reviewed and a feeling of doom started to settle and he took a long deep breath, prepared for the worst when the officer leaned ominously forward said “I can only give you 30 days”, in an apologetic tone. “Oh! Ok” Nicholas replied, “Xie Xie” and exhaled. He had another month. Next trip and visits to the theatre could go ahead and he could get more teaching done. He was meeting Peng in a new cafe near the Temple of Heaven and jumped on a bike, the weight of worry lifted and cycled to the next railway station. A small squad of soldiers were on the platform and he was amazed to see them board and stand on the train in perfect formation he couldn’t help but film and photograph. They looked so resplendent in their uniforms he would miss seeing the soldiers stationed at the subway exit and entrances when the CCP meeting finished that day. The cafe turned out to be in small mall located at the end of the road his hotel was in when he had arrived in January 2020 but it had been closed due to Covid and he had not had the opportunity to see it before and it was with a twinge of nostalgia for his virgin Beijing self that he scanned his health kit and entered. The shops were mostly full of antiques with Mao and Maoist memorabilia and the cafe, with a Uruguayan owner was with its tributes to Cuba and Che Guevara a perfect complement. He was now struggling to download films and photographs as 425 days of video and pictures had eaten upon all his I cloud storage with 40,000 plus images and 20,000 videos, and he was unable to make films and create galleries. His time was now taken up trying to make space on his I pad for the new data and this meant combing through the existing material and stripping it of duplicates and any wasted footage. It was a very time consuming activity and by the time they left he had barely made a difference and his Blog was going to have to wait. It had made him think that maybe the time had come to call it a day, but now he had been given more time and with more to discover of China and the discipline of diarising the journey for his own purposes gave him the enthusiasm to solve the problem even though there was a short term hiccup. The evening entertainment was a historical drama from Korea ‘The Swordsman’ a and though it didn’t have the flair of Ang Lee or Zhang Yimou’s foray’s into epic action its dense plot and action sequences proved to be fun and satisfying. With his head whirling with swords, the outrages of the Qing in Korea and the prospect of another 5 weeks China he went to sleep. 

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