The Banquet is Over

Nicholas Quirke was walking on home soil for the first time in 18 months on 7 August 2021 and the Chinese platitude ‘there is no banquet without a finish’ played through his mind. He had been at a feast that had lasted 572 day and he had gorged himself on the orient and he was in fact stuffed. He would be digesting the repast he had been on for quite some time. The plane had landed nearly an hour early 4.45 am and as he made his way effortlessly through security and baggage collection he realised that there would be no one to greet him as he passed through into the arrivals lounge. He managed to contact his sister who was collecting him and he waited in a Cafe Nero for her. He was excited to be able to order in plain English and felt a moments irritation, similar to the Chinese failure to understand his request for ‘Green Tea’ in Mandarin when they looked at him in incomprehension when he asked if any of the cakes were Vegan. It was finally established what he was asking for and they weren’t. He contacted Peng to announce his safe arrival and didn’t have long to wait before his first reunion with a family member. He had to quarantine for 10 days and his sister had kindly offered to house him. The weather was appalling, the rain was a torrential and not un-similar to what he had been experiencing in Beijing. During his time overseas she had moved to a new home in the country and it was an added excitement to see the new country house emerge out of the rain. Health and safety first and he showered, changed and took a Lateral flow test which, though it made him gag he was pleased to see was negative. He was shown around the property and contacted played cards, ate lunch remembered just how silly he could be and began the process of adapting to being back in the UK and the end of the odyssey. Though he would see many people after his imposed isolation was ended it was going to be a while before he could thank, individually everyone who followed his exploits through his blog an social media. The contact from home, knowing friends and family were with him on the journey had helped to make him feel safe in what he sometimes felt was a wild and confusing place. Every message gave him a sense of his roots and there were many people he wanted to see and thank personally for their support. He would have to wait for those, but he hoped they would know how grateful he was for their interest and contact. Unable to break with tradition and trying to manage his jet lag he stayed awake as long as possible and watched a film, ‘Georgetown’ with Kate and Peter but despite the compelling story line he couldn’t keep his eyes open and had to go to bed and sleep though once he was between the sheets the drowsy numbness failed to take him over and he endured a disrupted night.


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