Pandemic Passport

Nicholas Quirke was feeling the date of departure advance at an alarming pace on 4 August 2021 and his day was one of final administrative acts. He was having to travel across the purlieus of Beijing and his first destination to get a UK approved COVID-19 test was at the UFH hospital in the Chaoyang district. This was a 50 minute subway ride which gave him plenty of time to ruminate on the sense of loss he was experiencing. It was fortunately a sunny though uncomfortably hot day. He found the hospital easily and did not have long to wait before, for the second time that week a swab was stuck down his throat. To enter the UK he needed to have a test that was in English and taken within 3 days of travelling which, made his previous test void. He was near the 798 art Park and thought about a visit, but as he had to pickup his health passport from the other side of the city he felt his time would be better spent cycling the 9km across the city and absorbing a final view from the bike of his erstwhile home. He enjoyed the ride immensely and he felt the air cooler as he peddled through the highways and byways recognising place he had visited. Unfortunately as he approached his destination he failed to notice that his fat fingers had somehow disturbed the map and he ended up on a 4 km detour and one that as he was really starting to feel tired from the cycling he could have done without. It was too early to get the passport and he had located a nearby tea house in an underground mall. It was a deliciously cool atmosphere to sit and work in and though he has planned to get to the Travel Centre for two it was three pm before he left. Due to having been in Shanghai 12 days previously there was a commotion at the entrance as they were not going to let him in. Fortunately he had bought his test certificate with him and he was finally passed through . He didn’t know if it would be useful but it was better to have a formal record beyond the certificate he had as proof of his test. He still had an errand to run in Wangfujing street and though it was a further 12 km cycle to the restaurant where he was meeting Peng for supper he would need to make another detour as his journey took him past Wudaoying Hutong and he could not resist stopping for a vegan ice cream. He made a second stop at the Lego shop where he had intended to buy a farewell present for Peng of Lego roses but unfortunately they had sold out. He was a little early when he got to the restaurant and it was shut and he sat on the steps to wait for Peng and the staff to arrive. He loved the Sheng goa that they made and he loved the sharing of a dish in this way, it was definitely something he would miss on his return. The film they watched was a deeply felt film that highlights how the pressures of society in China have forced generations of LGBTQ to hide behind the norm of family. The film is as oblique as the lives lived in secret and in the shadows . Echoes of his own experience gave the film added resonance but for anyone the quiet yet oddly theatrical film touches a sense of humanity on a deep level. His penultimate day had passed successfully and a good sleep was needed to take him into his final busy day.

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