Nicholas Quirke was ruminating on what a gorgeous ride through the city it was on 12 June 2020 as he made his way to Honglingin Park. The Sun was dazzling and the trees shimmering all shade of green and purple with even the huge, modern, monolithic architecture looking sleek and special in this extraordinary light and heat. it was a ravishing day. He had made an early start having tried to rest most of 11 June 2020 as his feet had felt so painful from the daily pounding he was giving them and aside from cycling to the Art Coffee Bar where he met his friend George, who he had encountered at some traffic lights at Tiananmen Square, for a tea, and then going to Joy City at Xidan to get Two of seven new cake creations for Peng, his day had been spent watching ‘The Two Popes’ having a foot bath, foot mask and home spun pedicure and wrestling further with the never ending ICloud sage. The day only worthy of mention for an especially tasty breakfast with his host, the lovely gifts of tea and a pen which George had bestowed on him, the purchase of a shirt and shorts in Zara at Joy City, for the sighting of a robust young man sleeping on the back of a Ban Che, a latter day rickshaw which was peddled by his ageing business partner; He could not resist taking a photograph which captured the cyclists disapproving look but the minute the photo was taken had burst in to spontaneous laughter, realising what Nicholas was capturing and the news that a case of COVID19 had been discovered in Beijing, the first in 53 days and that it emenated from Georges community. This sent Nicholas into a tailspin of panic and at home he showered and disinfected his clothes before enjoying a long conversation with son Harvey. Other than these things, the 11th was barely worth a mention. But the 12th was proving to be a very different story and not just because of the extreme heat. His parking expedition was to the The Red Scarf Park which had been built around a lake in 1958 and the relics of its Communist propoganda still littered the pathways and actually gave him a sense of being adrift in time. He had deliberatly dressed to echo the the look of the time and it caused comment and amusement with the locals who happily chatted as best they could and even if neither understood the other, the smiles and laugheter and poor mime conveyed it all. The odd thing was he encountered two other Laowai, in the the Park, takinmg a constitutional around the ecologically sound banks of the lake, both of whom he said hello and smiled at and both of whom turned away from his greeting! What was wrong with the Laowai here, was it considored bad form to be friendly with a foreign body? This was the second time he had tried to engage with a Westerner and the second time he had been ignored. If this is what he could expect from Laowai, no wonder the Chinese prefered their own company. It didnt affect his mood or his exploration of the park but he was dissapointed to see such an insular attitude prevailing. The heat was very humid and begining to overwhelm him, but Peng, despite having a farewell luncheon at work had sourced a nearby tea house which he peddled to. Business as usual meant that he had some difuclties locating the tea house, which he engaged several locals in trying to help him find. He was sure it wasnt the right spot but settled for a small tea bar offering cold fruit green teas someone directed him to and despite having a cooling tea he noticed that his limbs were wet from the humidity. Feeling sufficiantl.y cooled he got on a bike and set off home. When he spotted a photo opportunity he reached for his GoPro only to discover it wasnt in his bag. Had he left it in the cafe. He had to cycle back and as he did he realised with horror that he had left it, at least an hour beforehand in the baskert of the bike he had been riding. For sure it had gone. Mercifully, as he rode past the spot he had dismounted at earlier, there was the bike and there was the GoPro. Were people that honest or was he just very, very, very lucky! He cycled back to the railwaiy line, took photos and started the long ride home. By now the sun and heat were at their zenith and he could cycle no more he found a subway station and abandoned the heat for the airconditiong of line 1 to go back to Xidan and Joy City to get another couple of the new range cakes for Peng. It turns out this was a mistake at each station he basked in the cool breeze blasting in from the platforms but in between, in a face mask, he suffered. He grabbed the cakes and cycled home as quickly as possible to enjoy ice cold green tea and vanilla Oatly Vegan ice cream. The sun had been especially fierce and he was red faced and his neck felt burned. He had agreed to meet Peng at the hairdressers for another Haircut but was reluctant to go, looking like he had a clown wig on. To try and compensate for the sharp difference he smeared himself with aloe and then sun cream before heading out again. They had their haircut at Mode and the owner introduced himself and the staff were all watching and intrigued. A head massage was given when he had his hair washed and then the cut after careful explanations and a picture from Peng was perfect and did not leave him looking like a chimp. Afterwards they went to the outside bar they went to last time and had noodles again. Fortunately there was a gentle breeze and the humidity of the day seemed to have lifted. A walk home, a shower and then bed.
Nicholas Quirke was anxious to spend some part of 10 June 2020 talking with his sister Kate who was celebrating her birthday that day. A merry hour was passed getting up to date and having a quality chat. This was at 9am uk time which was 4pm in China though most of the day had been spent trying to get a short film about quarantine downloaded from ICloud, which was still not working properly and telling him he had no storage left when he clearly had a lot. Apple had been clear that the servers in China were unreliable and he would have to suck it up and hope for the best. Thus he was looking forward to an evening out with Peng and even more because after 3 previous attempts he was finally going to be allowed into the Lotus market, which now Hutong restrictions had been lifted meant he could now go deep into the area of historic Beijing homes that been remodelled to be an cultural area of restaurants and bars on the banks of the romantic Shichahai river. He encountered The Kite flyers, the street musicians, who had grown into a full blown orchestra with singer, Erhu’s percussion with gongs and cymbals, but most exciting of all he passed through the gate temperature checked and into a zone of tranquil beauty of a balmy summer evening. He met up with Peng who was anxious to eat and as Vegan dining seemed impossible to find they settled for a bagel and for Nicholas a pear tea. InHe found some Ghost signs and a post office that had been operating since 1896. Dusk was falling as they strolled leisurely Along the banks which added to the beauty of the scene and as they walked they saw bar after bar was now open with live entertainment in them, which was wonderful to see performers able to practice their craft again, They saw fishermen, guys sporting ‘Mankini’s’, locals sitting out talking enjoying the new found freedom and mood. It was idyllic and they dragged out the evening with a walk through the Hutongs to Ping-Anli and the subway. It was late when they got home and once they had completed the washing ritual the day ended with a sleep.
Nicholas Quirke was informed that Lao wai’s could now go to the National museum, he had attempted to visit previously when the doors opened for the first time after restrictions had been imposed but due to his foreigner status he was prohibited but now, on 9 June 2020 was the first time he would be permitted to enter this huge halllowed space on the corner of Tiananmen Square. He had not managed to achieve much on 8 June 2020, as he was supposed to be meeting a friend for tea but they cancelled him and he had an appointment with Apple Genius to try and resolve his iPad, ICloud isues which were starting to really bug him. The appointment took a long time and nothing was sorted out as they too seemed to have a problem with the ICloud server. This took up much of his time on the 8th, and he decided to consign the day to the the rubbish bin, with the only positive items being the purchase of some navy blue linen shorts from Muji, contact from his friend Penny Parker, with whom he was going to revive his podcast and a message from Eileen who paid in a tax rebate check for him. This left him time to focus on Museum. He still needed to go along on the day, and he would have to breach the security to get him into Tiananmen Square from where he could get an on the day ticket. The ticket was free, all the exhibitions were free and though he knew he could return he still managed to spend 5 hours on his feet studying in detail the exhibits, and this did not include the 45 minutes it took him to get through security, with the police being extraordinarily vigilant and repeatedly going over his paperwork. An alarm bell rang and he hoped that he would not have this problem extending his travel visa at the end of July. Once he was inside it was clear that the propaganda machine was well and truly oiled. The sculptures that were scattered around the vast, cavernous central hall were studies of courage, forbearance and morality. They were, without doubt, objects of great beauty but the political messages to the Chinese people is crystal clear. The major exhibition, Ancient China, it immense halls guarded by a towering sculpture of Confucious, guides us through early mans history and through the 3500 years of Chinese Civilisations written history. It is a remarkable Fascinating journey though there does seem to be a certain amount of stagnation with nothing changing for centuries. What really took him by surprise was the sighting of a jade shroud which he realised he had seen decades before, and indelibly printed into his memory, in the 70s when he went with the school and his brother to London to the Victoria and Albert to see an Exhibition of Chinese Treasures. He believed he still had the postcard. Many of the exhibits were full of character and charm and beauty and he found it almost impossible not to photograph everything he saw. He had an iced tea in the cafe before taking in the Road to Rejuvenation.This was a history lesson in the appalling acts of barbarism conducted in the name of the British Empire and he could think of a few more statues that needed to be toppled for honouring, senseless destruction and opportunism. Give back the Elgin marbles, strip bare the British museum of its plunder. The journey through late 19th Century China, the death throes of the Dynastic System and the road to Mao’s China and beyond was an equally thrilling and engaging experience, though it had its challenges as aside from the room descriptions everything was in Chinese, and the had to use an app to translate some of the exhibits. He couldn’t do this for every picture and he may have missed some important issues but he got the gist, though he was conscious that there may have been a little glossing over some of the excesses of Mao’s reign in particular he didn’t see much that dwelt on the famines of the Great Leap Forward or the destructions of The Cultural Revolution, he spotted a picture relating to the Gang off Four but did not see much about their malign influence. Of course the development of China and its opening up to the influences of the west, the 2008 Olympic were celebrated and heralded and by the time he left he felt submerged in history and utterly exhausted. It was a quiet evening thought he did Zoom with Penny and recorded a test Podcast for a new broadcast on his experience in China, ‘From Lockdown to Liberty in the Land of the Red Dragon’. Feeling inspired he went to bed.
Nicholas Quirke was plundering the history of the Ming Dynasty with the fervour and tenacity of a religious zealot and his objective on 7 May 2020 was leading him even deeper into the world of the dead Emperors when he and Peng went to foothills of Tianshou mountain where there are 13 mausoleum sites though only 3 of them open to the public. Not only had he just visited the Ming tomb in Nanjing but he had visited the underground burial chambers of Emperor Dingling at this location in 2018 and this time his sights were on the Emperor Changling’s tomb. He had always been fond o f a mausoleum and he reimbursed his trip to Malaysia with his sister, where they had communed with dead and had felt a little threatened. Of course the road to the tombs would not be complete without a visit to the sacred path, the highway to heaven, which had actually originally been established in the Han Dynasty, and this was the first stop they made once they were beyond the boundaries of the city. It had been an early start to avoid the traffic and crowds and it was already apparent by 8am that it was going to be another scorching day. The sacred Path, lined with 400 year old carved animals, mythical beasts, generals and officials looked amazing in the blue, cloudless skies and the 800m walk was peaceful, very beautiful and each of the statues, 36 in total, represent an omen, provide protection for the spirit of the Emperor and even display personality traits. in particular, the camel with its slightly amused smile, all, of course, have theirs eyes facing downward. The path would take them 4 miles along the road to the Changling Mausoleum which in the heat seemed to onerous a task and as it was largely on the road they drove to the next tomb location. The site, built in 1409 for Emperor Zhu Di was the first of the sole graveyards to be constructed and has been maintained for 600 years. Its major feature is the wooden pavilion in the middle of the site which is truly magnificent, it boasted a display of jade ornaments, the value of which was the equivalent of numerous towns, the collection, however, was clearly deemed to be too precious for these uncertain times as the cabinets were mostly empty apart from some clothes and headwear. Two memorable moments for Nicholas was the sighting, by Peng, of a woman in a ‘facekini’, basically a mask leaving only lips and eyes revealed. And he spotted a photograph of Mao Zedong reading in exactly the spot where the photograph was taken. The surroundings seemingly unchanged since then. On the drive back to the city Peng took them past the Beijing reservoir, which though it was closed due to the Virus, they stopped to look at and still seemed to attract a number of visitors with street vendors creating a small fruit market. It was a spectacular setting in the mountains and it was a shame they did not get the opportunity to explore further. Their route back into the city took them near Ikea and as Peng wanted a new shower curtain and duvet cover they stopped and enjoyed some of their vegan range for a late lunch. He was once again the subject of shifty glances and bold stares, particularly from children, and he continued to be struck by the lack of multiculturalism in China, despite them shopping in a European store. Peng had to drop off his ID with a car dealer as he needed to arrange to have his number plate transferred from the old car to the new Honda Elysian he was now driving. This was an interesting feature of Chinese automobile administration where number plates had to be purchased and transferred to each vehicle. He had a temporary number plate in the window until the new registration had been completed. They dropped of the car which was kept at Peng’s parents as it was free Parking got the subway home and watched ‘Bad Education’ and engrossing tale of fraud with Hugh Jackman and Alison Jenney. Thoughts of his finances crossed his mind and thus troubled, he went to sleep.
Nicholas Quirke was feeling his age when he woke on 6 June 2020 with neck ache and back ache and the thought of participating in the days planned activities filled him with dread. They were headed to the outskirts of Beijing to the banks of the Grand Canal which was Ming Dynasty construction under Emperor Zhou in Beijing and ends over a thousand miles away in Suzhou. They were going to cycle a circuit of about 30km of the canal. He didn’t want to disappoint and after some stretches and a breakfast of vegan Dim Sum and pies. They set off with a fold up a bike and the scooter Peng had bought. The heat was already making itself felt and Nicholas was relieved that by the time they had reached their destination the pain in his back had alleviated and little and getting on bike was the ordeal he expected it be. He had never ridden a bike with such small wheels before and had imagined it would be harder ride and an element of himself felt he looked foolish on it but with Peng scooting along the banks of the canal, the only adult amongst children on such a vehicle, he accepted his ride with humility. It was a lovely ride, though they encountered some trouble when they got to a bridge and had to find a way to get across. They found a dirt track, clearly an illegal path and got onto the huge bridge to cross the water only to find no way to get onto the banks the other side. They attempted a variety of ways until a construction worker, shocked to see a laoWei on the site, gave directions which lay a kilometre in the opposite direction. He was impressed by how much attention is given to the ‘Beautification’ of the spaces designated to the public, though was wary that you could not make your way into the mountains, along rivers etc, unless it was a specified area. This meant it was more difficult to find the privacy that some people like to enjoy themselves. And now that it was widely regarded that the virus had been eradicated from Chinas shores, people were out in droves and with face masks off in open air. It looked very like normal life other than that once again he seemed top be the only foreigner in the vicinity and was again getting attention and stares. Of course he was used to living in a multiracial society, and also moved by the force of feeling the death (after so many) was finally having around the world. He was sorry to not be adding his voice to the protesters, though he did in a small way recognise the powerlessness of Black people in a white society being so alien in a society that barely knows the meaning of Multiracial. 2020 was defiantly going to go down in the history books as a seismic moment of change in the course of human narrative. He felt strangely outside of the movement that was going on as he continued to soak up the sun and explore further and further the country he was domiciled in. Thus he loved the bike ride in the sun along the beautiful banks of a truly ancient man made waterway. They completed their circuit; with stops along the way for snacks, to take photographs, to laugh at an impossible to navigate cycle lane, a much needed ice lolly at a simulated port, past another impressive dam, and back to where they started. It was tiring work in the heat and they were hungry by the time they got back to the car. Peng had sourced an Indian which specialised in vegetarian dishes and they enjoyed a latte lunch in the mercifully cool and shady interior. The restaurant boasted views from the windows but for once he was content to sit out of the glare of the sun In the dim interior and let others enjoy the view. It was late afternoon bye the time they finished and they headed back to the apartment where Peng completed a Zwift pride ride and Nicholas, after having seen that he looked like he was in a clown wig, so defined was the sun’s effects on his visage after he removed his hat, evidenced chanted with a friend in the Philippines and updated his blog. Plans to watch a movie were abandoned as they changed the next day arrangements due to a mutual weariness and an early night and sleep was welcomed.
Nicholas Quirke was annoyed that the glasses he bought just before he left the UK in January had broken on 4 June 2020. He was given instructions and directions by Peng to a place where he could get some decent glasses cheaply, which would give him a ride and also get him to an area famed for its antique markets. It was a cycle South East which was not an area he had explored much and was annoyed with himself when he found he had not put the memory card back in his go pro which meant to do any filming he had to use his phone. He was was pleased though to discover a new route and see some of the roads he had not travelled. He passed the Temple of Heaven and again cycled past the road where his original hotel had been. He had developed a fondness for the area he had got to know in they depth of winter and was amazed that 6 months later he was still here and feeling at home in the city which had then been an alien playground. The heat was again really intense and by the time he reached the footbridge that would take him across the carriageway to his destination he was wet from the humidity and feeling rather uncomfortable. There was no doubt that he was in the right area as he spotted from the bridge a building with a large pair of spectacles clinging to it. What astounded him was discovering that Beijing actually has an entire mall covering 6 floors completely, totally dedicated to the selling of eyeglasses and eyglass accoutrements. This made looking for the right frames very difficult, particularly as he was one of a few customers roaming the facility and they all were looking beadily at him ready to pounce when he entered their establishment. He found quite a few he liked and there were even a couple that were completely impractical but sated centric tastes. He made a list of the ones he liked and would return on Saturday with Peng in tow to negotiate. He had spent to much time there and was starting to feel very dry and went in search of the Antique Mall which had a tea rooms. Along the way he was a delighted to discover the sight Of a host of Hollyhocks, usually reserved for the English countryside But thriving here on the side of a busy carriageway. Sadly the tea house was closed but he did enjoy looking at some of the expensive nicknacks on display In the parts of the market that were open.§§ The temperature had soared and he was reluctant again to pedal back in the oppressive heat and walked instead to the subway and even though it required a change of line he took the train back arriving back in the neighborhood at exactly the same time as Peng. Despite feeling weary, after supper, when for desert he ate the most Chinese of fruits, Lychee for the first time since being in China, Peng was in his minimalist mode again and was reorganising the kitchen getting Nicholas involved in the space creation. It. Looked lighter and was much more to his likening. It seemed to him that he had achieved very little during the day, but he was nonetheless ready for sleep by the end of the day.
Nicholas Quirke was distracted by a number of possibilities on 5 June 2020 and it took him a while to decide what his day would entail. He would get in a bike and explore, but final destination was unknown. Peng was collecting his new car and Nicholas was keen to join him for a ride, but he also wanted to get some reading done and do some work on a CV as the possibility of a teaching job was looming. They worked out a route through the city that would take him to another park In the southern outskirts, and this time a park dedicated to sport. The days temperature was soaring again and as he had never functioned too well in extreme heat there was an element of him that felt like staying indoors and nurturing his usual pallid features but he got on the bike and prepared to cycle the 9 miles to his eventual destination. It wasn’t longe before he was feeling relieved that he had embarked on this journey it was another area he had really experienced for himself and once again the huge highways, the immense buildings gave him a sense of wonder and slight fear which he decided he really rather liked. The unknown really did give him a buzz. When he arrived at his first destination he had to cross the highway via one of their footbridges which unusually seemed really shoddy and there were Electrical leads and wires everywhere. I honour of Peta and he ‘uninstaresting’ photo feed he started to snap some pictures. Her realised that the bridge was being remodelled and the wires and extension leads were the result of the work and workers which gave the enterprise a ‘Do it Yourself’ feel which was rather charming. The park was a little disappointing and though it promoted sport and healthy endeavour the only area that was populated, and that was mostly by old timers like himself, was the table tennis. There had been a restriction on team sports and swimming which still had not been lifted. The good news was that day Included the alert level in Beijing being dropped to 3. There would be no more temperature checks, Hutong could open and it was said by the middle of June Cinemas could start to reopen and theatres start producing again. This would open up a whole new world for him. The heat made him feel very dry and he advanced to his next location to a nearby tea shop in a mall. He arrived at the location his map sent him to and it seemed very run down and unappealing. He went into the building he was directed to and it seemed to be a plumber suppliers. He asked where the Teahouse was and got completely blank stares. He was clearly not a familiar sight in this part of town. He was lost again! He re checked the online map and it gave him somewhere completely different. He cycled to the mall and once again was in area where there were several large malls and his mind told him that it was not feasible that all the malls could function and survive, English towns had one mall and they barely got by. He tracked down the bookstore where the cafe was and once again he noticed that places in Beijing all had English slogans on the walls, which was good for him as they seemed delighted to have a Lao Wei customer. He got a message from Peng that he was on his way And met him on the road to begin the remainder of the cycle to pick up the car and have supper. He had a near death experience on one of the back streets And was relived once they got to their destination in one piece. It was a really smart car and Peng enjoyed playing with the controls and features of the vehicle. They drove to a mall where they were going to eat, but first Peng purchased a scooter! The food was good but one of the dishes came with tiny little sea creatures in it which he accidentally ate a small portion and felt sick for the rest of the meal. It was quite late by the time they got back and it was clearly time call it a day to hit the sack.
Nicholas Quirke was certain that now was the right time to be visiting the Summer Palace on 3 June 2020. The temperature was in the 30’s and he could enjoy the experience as the Imperial family did, in the torpid heat and blue sunshine. It was a 10 mile cycle ride from the apartment and he took the cycle slowly in the blazing sunshine. Beijing was probably the most futuristic looking city he had ever been in with its huge extravagant architecture, monolithic towers that echoed the immense mountain ranges he had travelled through and there was something a little bit scary about being adrift in such foreign and daunting landscape. Nothing made him feel quite so small or lost but with his trusty GPS maps even the scary territory he peddled through was viewed with a new confidence. On the flip side, nothing made him feel quite so comfortable with his surroundings as the journey through the Imperial landscapes and palaces. Had he lived a former life here he wondered, though a previous visit explained the familiarity he felt. It was good to see the Palace in the season which the royal family used it and equally good was that he was viewing it on his own terms, not with a guide, working to a time agenda which meant that he could take his time and experience and examine the beauty of the almost perfect environment the ancient Chinese had created. With breathtaking views of the lake and the mountains, a gentle breeze drifting across the water it was the most idyllic place to be. He remembered the steep climb up to the temple which was perhaps not wise to negotiate on such a hot day, and momentarily resented that the temples he visited often seemed to be close to the skies and heavens. Sadly the palace theatre, the largest surviving example of its type was shut and he didn’t have the opportunity to examine this stunning building which could be glimpsed the rough closed doors and above high walls. Everything about then palace breathed peace and luxury and indolence, it really was exquisite. He wandered through the 728 metres of the Long Gallery, a magnificently designed and painted feature that is also the longest corridor in Chinese classic gardens. He was of course attracting attention as the only Lao Wei in the grounds again with many families actually being bold enough to talk to him even if all they could say was ‘Hello’ and try and shake his hand. The heat really was starting to be oppressive and he doubted his ability to cycle the 10 miles back to the apartment and it was a very easy decision to take the subway which to his delight was actually Line 4 and meant he did not have to change and took him all the way to Caishikou. A simple and easy evening lay ahead with another movie before bed.
Nicholas Quirke was reviewing his options for the day on 2 June 20202, once he had posted Happy Birthdays to his erstwhile Daughter in Law, Grace and his friend Emily and he decided he would cycle, do a little parking experiment with his updated GoPro con ‘steadicam’ and sit in a tea house and catch up with his blog which had got out of synch again. This resolve was severely hampered by a complete failure of the internet. Nothing worked. Even Siri could not tell him the temperature Which felt very, very hot. After trying all the obvious checks and nothing happened he contacted Peng who called his provider who did a check and discovered there was an ‘abnormal fibreoptical’ which meant they needed to send an engineer round. As a result he had to wait in and neither could he do any work as there was no internet when the engineer arrived and solved the problem. Out of synch with the blog and now himself he decided to test his GoPro and despite the heat headed out to the Lotus Market at Shichahai and attempt for a third time to experience what had been known for its Beijing snack bars and antiques stalls. The traffic had been erratic and his journey there and back was hampered by cars parked in the bike lanes and obstructing the flow of cycles. This was good, he believed, for his experiment with the camera. He had cycled the 4.5 miles there only to discover it was still shut and all he could do was look at the Shichahai river and its banks and observe the locals, flying kites, playing music and courting. He had experienced this slice of life before and charming as it was the lure was going into the lotus market. He lingered for thirty minutes and then headed home. He was not sure, was it the heat, had the exertions of the weekend caught up with him but he was overwhelmed with fatigue again and after supper all he could do was sit and watch another movie which was an alien invasion story set in the 1950’s. It had its charm but it was all talk and very little action and it was ultimately preparing him for bed where he headed the moment it had finished.
Nicholas Quirke was informed that 1 June 2020 was international Childhood day. A day to celebrate ones own, ones family and those enjoying the privilege right now and it seemed right, if wrong, to spend some time in a pursuit only children now, without any conscience, can enjoy. He allowed himself to be talked into cycling the 5 miles to the Beijing Zoo, which, aside from the unusual and extravagant stone carved entry gates, boasted a Giant Panda enclosure. The experience of the Zoo, lovely space though it was , and the sound of the children’s glee at seeing the unusual and strange animals was a lovely sound, left him firmly of the belief that removing animals from their natural habitat, caging animals was wrong. Many of the exhibits had been born in the zoo and hadn’t known what it was to live in the wild, but ‘Oh’, he thought, ‘imagine being in a room and a yard for eternity’ The boredom, the monotony of life, enlivened only by the familiar and unfamiliar faces that watch you going about your daily unimaginably tedious routine. No building homes here for these beasts. Being stared at and talked about was something he was starting to understand as numerous families stared and observed the ‘Lao Wei’ in their midst. Nicholas felt like he was one of the animals who had gone rouge and moving amongst the humans in a harmless way. He had to admit there was an element of fun in seeing the Pandas, who like most of the animals had wilted and lay lazily in the sun and their expansive enclosure, created in honour of the 2008 Olympic Games was a beautiful home, and he particularly enjoyed seeing the messages engraved in clay tiles from children around the globe with their pleas for peace and unity; touching reads in world immobilised by a virus, in anger over the brutal and ignorant treatment of blacks in America and where Pride month is needed to bring attention to gender, a world slowly dividing in fear. The highlight of his tour, was his encounter with a randy Lion and his lioness, he was amused to see that none of the onlookers hurried their children away, though he would like to have understood the explanations parents gave to the young innocents. He hadn’t realised how tired he was as he peddled back home, mercifully, once again arriving before the storm and heavy rain began it’s tempest. Though they tried to watch a film it’s wasn’t long before the weight of his eyelids became to much to keep open and he was dragged into sleep.