Nicholas Quirke was tired as he boarded the train to Frankfurt at Brussels Midi station first thing in the morning. He had not slept well in the mediocre hotel. His room which had looked pleasant on the website, though comfortable was actually a little shabby and he felt he had paid a lot for what was supposed to be a bargain. A couple of cramp attacks woke him in the night and he hoped that these were just related to the excessive activity that had led up to his departure and not something of a more sinister nature that would consistently trouble him on this venture. It would be fair to say Nicholas had a somewhat theatrical view of life, and taking trains across Europe possessed the drama of a story he wanted to be part of. His mission for the day was to get to Prague and this was going to take 4 trains, changing in Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Cheb and finally Praha. He imagined a quaint sometimes dramatic vista through the Rhineland with encounters akin to those Michael Kitchen had endured in ‘‘Caught on a Train’, but no Fearsome Dowager in the form of Peggy Ashcroft for him. The seats On the ICE trains were narrow and as he typed and tried to work on his I pad not only was the promised WiFi woefully inadequate but the spread from the passenger next to him really began to irritate him. He put it down to his fatigue and instead tried to sit and enjoy the views he had from his restricted view seat. As well as blocking his view the seat was broken and Annoyingly kept sliding forward. He worried slightly that the trains wouldn’t be running on time as on checking the itinerary he only had 20 minutes to get his connection from Nuremberg to Cheb and only 10 minutes to get his train to Prague. Still it was nearly 12 hours of travel for £27 and to travel such a distance for such a cost really bought out the accountant in him. The scenery was lacking somewhat in excitement on the 3 hour journey to Frankfurt, but once he had changed trains there and found himself headed to Nuremberg, scene of Nazi War Crime trials, he found more out the dirty window to interest him. Safely on the platform waiting for his next train to arrive and amusing himself by attempting to capture the haunted look of a Nazi war criminal he did not register that there was a last minute change to the platform for the Cheb train and he watched in horror as the train on the opposite platform fired up and left the station even though the platform he was on still showed the train departing from there. He took solace in the fact that he was not the only victim of this change, Nicholas found the information booth and DB rearranged his itinerary only this time he had just 5 minutes between getting off at Schwandorf and getting on his Prague Train. At least he got to glimpse more of Nuerumberg  than he had expected and fancied he was looking at the prison where the captured Nazis were held. Sadly, as he boarded his next train dusk was setting and the landscape started to change and what had been fairly recognisable views, towns and architecture took on a more Bavarian hue redolent of scenes from a fairy tale. He was feeling agitated by the late arrival of the train into Schwandorf and was not looking forward to his back breaking bolt with his suitcases to his Praha train. He made it in the 4 minutes and was quietly delighted when he saw his train which was not of the high speed anonymous variety he had originally been booked onto but was an old style compartment train. And for the first time on his journey he chatted with someone on the train, not a dowager but a young man who had surprisingly been to Brighton. Marcus left him at kolm and he had he compartment all to himself to watch the German and Czech landscape at night pass by. Tired and suffering a little from his sciatic nerve trouble he took a taxi from the station to the hotel and realised how ripped off he had been but nis Botel, how cute was that. He took a walk along the river got some water and comestibles and retired to bed.

Nicholas Quirke was amazed by the prescience of his Horoscope for 12 January 2020. “Your mind is on the world at large in a very profound way…. The moon is in your house of Foreign affairs, bringing a global matter related to your life to a point of completion or fulfilment”. He read this, having put the relentless and punishing clearance of his flat behind him, as he set off with Kate and Cole to London to begin his journey to the East. He was ‘shaking the dust of this crummy little town of his feet‘ and doing one for George Bailey. The relief he felt at having put an end to the all consuming stress of letting his flat had lifted his spirits for the first time in weeks and a euphoria descended as he set of with Cole to leave his car with his sister. Nicholas gave pause to thank his car for setting him off on the route he was pursuing. He loved a road trip and driving to China had enormous appeal but as soon as that thought existed he had dismissed it, as an image of himself trying to find his way across Europe and out of Siberia loomed large in his imagination and with his organisational skills he felt he certainly would perish. A train journey though, that was Epic.  After Kate had given him a medical kit to cover every eventuality she drove them to London in a light hearted and fun mood, though Nicholas introduced a moment of sobriety when he handed the paperwork for his funeral arrangements and his last will and Testament to his sister for safe keeping in his absence, and of course, in the event of some terrible misadventure. It was not a thought that went down with his offspring or sibling but they bounced back from the gloom and found some hilarity in their drive, They stopped off in Stoke Newington to drop off some of the detritus from vacating his home with Harvey and Grace and then onto St Pancras for him to catch the 17.19 EuroStar to Brussels. It was a swift goodbye as he was ushered through bob the Eurostar officials and he held as tightly onto his sons as his emotions, though he really felt overwhelmed knowing it might be a year, maybe less or maybe more before he saw them and his family In the flesh again. Boarding Eurostar was like taking a flight and it seemed a long wait. He was aware of how heavy his suitcase was and vowed to repack when he got to his hotel. It’s was already 8 by the time he arrived and after fulfilling his promise and ridding himself of some accoutrements A shower and bed to prepare for the next leg Of his journey.

Nicholas Quirke was not taking it easy on the final day in his home, town, the Uk. Like most, he found moving house a stressful enterprise and as he surveyed the wreckage of his home he wondered how, after saying he would never move again he was wilfully moving himself out. The letting of his property was finally complete and though it was a Relief and a weight ofF his mind, he felt annoyed that circumstances had bought him so close to the day of departure before being resolved. However, there was still no rest. He did meet with Cathie for a final tea in Nero’s and he must have transmitted his anxiety as she offered to come and help him and what a blessing it was that she did. Without her calm presence and help he didn’t think he would get it completed. Nicholas was panicking about the state he would leave the flat in and as he fussed about the curtains in the living room, the simple solution, as Penny had also identified was, take them down. There were pots and pans and plates, draws still with tat and soft furnishings, damaged paintwork, clothes And bedding all to be sorted and by the time she had left there was only some heavy stuff to be hidden away and Cole was going to be around to help with that. All hard work Han been punishing on his fingers, leaving hard and calloused and the irritation peaked For him when the skin on his thumb split and bled. Another trip to the dump and they took a well deserved break from the work in the Rotunda where he was delighted to see Lulu for another farewell. Cathie left Nicholas in a calmer mood. And as he paused the clear out And concentrated on doing some more packing for his travels he realised he had been so obsessed with getting A tenant and working on making the flat ready for his tenant he had forgotten that this was all to enable him to have an adventure across the world and for a moment he allowed himself to feel a buzz of excitement at the journey he would be waking to on Sunday. Six months of planning were coming to fruition and the achievement slightly overwhelmed him. But Cole appeared and he began the relentless pace of work to complete the task. Stripped down to their underwear and shirts they finished the decorating, though from the results, neither should pursue a career in that profession. A takeaway from ‘What the Pitta’ and a movie ‘The Sugarland Express’ bought a satisfying close his final day in the UK

Nicholas Quirke was deeply entrenched in preparing his flat to let it out from decorating to clearing out his overwhelming amount of possessions. He had so many books and DVD’s that were stored in cupboards and he was taking the opportunity to clear out his accumulated clutter. He was loath to part with any Shelf of Shame items though he was ok with divesting himself of some treasured furniture including his beloved Edwardian desk which was a 21st birthday present. He was exhusting himself storing his stuff in attics in garages and going to the dump. It was liberating saying goodbye to his many possessions yet less liberating saying goodbye to friends and family. As well as the exodus of his belongings and a final haircut from Milo, his last few days had been conducting a few farewells before his departure. Nicholas had also fitted in a days work in London with his friend Larayne and they had attended a very Powerful exhibition ‘Forgotten Victims’ at the Wiener Holocaust Library detailing the Nazi Genocide of over 500,000 Roma and Sinti people. She had also given him a yellow jasper crystal for travelling which had already travelled to many places. He was glad to get th opportunity to say goodbye to Terry, Rory and Cathie, who had provided him with some tasty comestibles, and to his mother who threw a small farewell party, Bruce, Steven, Peta, Richard and Eileen. It all felt very surreal; fond farewells and an empty home. With only 1 day before Nicholas’s departure, panic and exhaustion overtook him and he went straight to sleep.

Nicholas Quirke was unraveling a typical mess that he had made in his scheduling on 7th January 2020. He was expecting delivery of a cooker at some point in the morning and at 10am he was also expecting to conduct a viewing of his flat, attend a pharmacy appointment for his inoculations and meet a friend. He felt quite pained to see that he had made a familiar blunder as it took some skillful rearranging and fortune to solve. He enlisted Cole’s support to come and wait for the delivery, managed to shift the prospective tenant to an earlier time and his friend to later. It transpired that it was an unnecessary concern as the delivery men turned up at 8.45. Nicholas’s admin faux pas was resolved by the efficiency of Curry’s ‘Know How’ team who really went above and beyond in sorting out his cooker problem. As they left, a potential tenant appeared to view his increasingly empty home and he had a positive vibe from them. This still meant he had to face the horror of inoculations. As Nicholas sat in the waiting room of the pharmacy the image of large needles penetrating his skin, served to put him on edge and his conversation with the technician was slightly hysterical as he described his upcoming adventures. With some clever combinations of vaccines he only needed 2 injections which surprisingly did not hurt, though post the experience he did feel like he had been punched in the upper arm. Felling high spirited now that the ordeal was behind him he was able to meet and say a goodbye to his friend Zak who could not refrain from taking a final photograph. The remainder of the day was spent packing and decorating and and emptying his flat. The preparations for his long absence paid off as he had an offer on the flat and could finally start to rest easily as he would have some income while he was away. An episode of Dr Who sent him to sleep.,

Nicholas Quirke was awake in the early hours of the morning on 6 January 2020 and found himself reviewing the last minute administration that going away needed; cancelling utilities, applying for SORN on his car, as well as the paperwork his procrastination had caused him, organising insurance were all incredibly frustrating, expensive and time consuming. Adding to his administration was his last gasp attempts before he departed to rent out his flat. Constantly cleaning and decorating for viewings were a drain on his time and energy. He was going to have to make sure he worked through his list and diligently completed them all. It felt like it had been a herculean task to book his travel and arrange Visas and he was relieved that the drama of that had at least had been finalised, though he did feel the need to keep going over the itinerary to make sure he was not going to be left stranded along the journey. Despite the early start Nicholas still managed to leave late for the garage in Peacehaven where a repair to his car was being made. It was a moment of relaxation from the whirlwind of his mind to have to wait for the car to be fixed and he enjoyed the opportunity to look at some of the sights he would enjoy on his trip. It was also a convenient opportunity for him to drop off some plants with his Mother, for her to tend in his absence, before heading home to show more potential tenants round his increasingly empty home. With the business of his day completed he could relax and look forward to his evening in London at his brother Michael’s exhibition. Though it had been a relatively bright day, when he came to leave he needed to pick Richard and Eileen up from their home as a torrential downpour started. The rain made it a difficult drive but it was good to have the company of friends, though their presence did not curtail his abuse of the inefficiencies of the other drivers. It was the last time he would see his brother before he set off on the year long odyssey to China and though he enjoyed the exhibition and their talk in the Coach and horses afterwards, it was tinged with a hint of melancholy. Nicholas got everyone home safely and finished his day feeling another step closer to achieving his goals.

Nicholas Quirke was riding a roller coaster on 3rd January 2020 and though it was a metaphorical one, the sensation of veering between confidence and terror had taken hold. Ever since he had conceived the idea in 2019 that he would embark on a year away in a foreign land his plans had shifted and changed. What started as making theatre in Melbourne became teaching English in China, TIL he discovered he was too old to teach in China, and then adapted his plans to the point he was now embarking on a new Third Age Odyssey with absolutely no idea what awaited him the other side. He was clearing out his flat to rent and setting off on a new adventure with only 7 days left to finalise arrangements. As a result, over the past few weeks it had not been uncommon for him to wake suddenly in the night with overwhelming feelings of fear. Not for the adventure that’ lies ahead but for the tasks yet to be completed to get him to St Pancras at 17.20 on 12th January 2020. He joked about taking a gap year but he felt the mechanics of taking off in later life surpassed the carefree bonhomie of youth. Sorting out a home to rent out was a responsibility way beyond his imagining when he conceived the notion. ‘Talking the talk’ and Waslking the walk’ was not an easy route to navigate. Still, every day he was completing tasks and every item completed gave him a confidence that counteracted the terror of those that came to haunt him in the night. Therefore, showing a potential tenant round his apartment and receiving positive feedback first thing in the morning gave him a start to the day that filled him with pep and optimism. He was also driving to London to collect his passport from the Chinese Visa Centre and had coerced his son Cole into accompanying him. Nicholas was dropping off some items for his eldest son Harvey in Stoke Newington. His plan was then to drive to Godalming to see his sister Kate For a game of cards. Every moment in the company of his family and friends would feed the long months he had without them. With his spirits high the day passed smoothly and he even got a view of the station from which his Journey to China would begin. It felt he was climbing the tracks of the roller coaster, brimming with rising euphoria. He knew though that it would not be long before he would be filled with the thrilling horror again as the carriage took its deep dive downwards