A Time to Breathe

Nicholas Quirke was the proud owner of a new GoPro 8 on 9 April 2021. His Hero 7 model had been returned for repairs but it seemed they could not fix it and were going to replace it but they no longer stocked the 7 and they didn’t know when they would get one. They would refund him the cost and he could purchase at extra but minimal cost the Hero 8 with an improved and better design. Impatient with the quality of the Hero 5 he was using it seemed a bargain and it came with an extra battery, a charging case and an SD card. For the same cost as the camera. The brand new upgraded camera arrived and held him up from making an early start. For such a small item the box it arrived in was huge, he actually thought it had not been delivered as none of the parcels received that day looked like it contained his small new device. Some frozen foods, a mountain of avocados and when he got to the container which looked like it could house a small television he was astounded to find a slim box and an additional gift of a skateboarding GoProing JD (The equivalent of Amazon) logo to add to his shelf of shame collection. It made him feel a little better about his impending visit. With 15 months in China under his belt it felt like his time had run out. When he arrived at the office it was exceptionally busy and he had to wait quite a while and by the time he handed his paperwork over to the tired looking officer he was bracing himself for a refusal. The paperwork was given a cursory glance. “How long do you want?” He was surprisingly asked. “I think my visa only allows me 30 days” He answered cautiously and rather puzzled “1 month or two months“. “Well two months would suit me but……… ”It doesn’t matter” its two months. He imagined the sight of his friend Dee in Bristol whooping with delight at this turn of events. “Xie Xie” he kept muttering, not quite able to believe his fortune. Not only would his tentative plans for May be able to go ahead but any plans for June too and he would be spared another visit to the office until June itself. He reminded himself that this could be his final last gasp and that he may indeed have to be homeward bound after 18 months away. Feeling astonished by his visit to the Exit/Entry Bureau he made his way to Veggie table to meet Peng for lunch and excited to be the bearer of good news. In a playful mood and employing his stagnant acting skills he imparted his fortune with a sigh and said he had some seriously bad news. “You are stuck with me for another 2 months”. His practical joke was not appreciated and a frosty atmosphere briefly settled on the celebration. He had a delicious plate of falafel, a rouge dish of soup was served and the mood lifted. They went for afternoon tea where he worked and tried to get up to date on his blog. At home he prepared himself for another movie night and was engrossed by the haunting and compelling Holocaust story, ‘Persian Letters’ which was based on true events and charted the dehumanisation of the Jews by the Nazis and their senseless cruelty and brutality. It provoked a long and deep conversation on how it would be possible to treat people like vermin. It seemed a timely story to absorb as accusations raged across international news of China’s persecution of the Uighur people. During his travels and these had bought him him into cities with large Uighur populations, where Mosques proliferated and there was no sense of fear or persecution, he had only ever seen China’s minorities celebrated. Undoubtably there was no smoke without fire but they had watched a BBC report which had taken a China TV report on the area and offered it as proof of genocide and rape. The programme they used footage from had the official China TV logo all over it and in it the officers accused of trying to force a young woman into labour were in fact offering her a way out of a forced marriage and life in a city. The report continued beyond the scenes the BBC had shown and the young woman talked about how happy she was living in the city and glad she had escaped from the Uirghur ‘Traditions’ of forced marriage. He was well aware that this too was an ‘angle’ and open to interpretation and he in no way condoned any actions that persecuted people . Though there may well be work camps he hadn’t seen the evidence but he did feel some of the outrage caused to his friends by the poor journalism involved in the British report and he also hoped that everyone gave some thought to human rights outrages over the world , of the British soldiers that raped women in Iraq, the ongoing torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging, and religious persecution committed by U.S. forces at Guantánamo Bay were two that came to mind. It was with a heavy heart that he slept that night.


  1. Great to hear you have another 2 months! Sorry I’ve fallen so behind with your updates, I thought I better start with the most recent! x

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