Hospitality has been one of the hardest hit businesses in Covid. In the before times, we were a steadily growing business, and took the plunge expanding to a second Chinese-focussed hotel, Victoria House.

Early covid was kind to us: after the initial lockdown, China was much more open than the rest of the world. From the Delta wave onwards in late 2021 China increasingly closed its doors to cross-provincial travel, especially to anyone working in schools or families with a child in school.

Despite our best efforts, local busy bodies were enthusiastic to grasp any opportunity to turn outsiders away, their only motivation being fear of reprisals should a covid case slip through on their watch.

In the quiet days that followed, I enjoyed cycling the hills to fill my time and work on my gut. This is of course, a tremendous luxury to have as well as good way to clear my head. This is the best way to find the quiet, interesting and unusual places as far off the beaten track as it’s possible to be.

Chancing upon a temple in the hills, I went back a few days later with the family as chance for a day out. Impressively, this was not a window into the past of China’s previous glory, but a current temple serving the community. At the end of the year, its common to wish for the new. Never knowingly known for my spirituality, the chance to hope for a different direction in China did not completely pass me by and Peter thought lighting candles was brilliant. Its the done thing to pay a contribution and light a candle as you would in a Western church.

In the car on the way out, my phone pinged. China was opening finally. Zero Covid was over. Im willing to entertain the possibility it was not our donation, candles and good wishes which spurred Beijing to abandon their endless lockdowns, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt either.

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