Ancient tradition in China required the donning of a long black robe (similar to an academic gown) whenever the emperor visited. Every day during my imprisonment I was on standby for this eventuality. Meanwhile I joined in with the activities as best I could despite my inability to speak a word of the language of my ‘hosts’. I soon became very adept at sign language.
On the day that the emperor came calling I rushed upstairs to the newly-painted black and green bedroom to root out my robe. I knew I would be in big trouble if I were not appropriately dressed. Seated on the bed, AF watched me. I then returned back downstairs again to greet the honoured guest. He didn’t actually speak to me. Instead I explained to one of his minders by means of hand gestures that I had travelled far to visit this ancient land.
Later I somehow managed to escape the compound of the house. I wandered along the edge of a lake where I came across some other foreigners who had decided that they actually wanted to visit China.
Further along my route it became obvious that I had breached the border. Here there were many more westerners, and all the signage was in English. I noticed a banner for a talk on fishing by Tom Forrest. This confused me: did they mean the Archers actor Bob Arnold, who played Tom Forrest? If so, wasn’t he dead?
Of course, by now, all I really wanted was to be reunited with my darling TPR. I wandered the streets and bars looking for him. Eventually I saw him come into a restaurant. He’d put on a bit of weight during my absence, but this was definitely him in his chinos and blue shirt.
When he sat down at a table I did the same opposite him. He looked so sad on his own, and I couldn’t understand why he was not delighted to see me. It was only then that I realised that my long time away had rendered me invisible. From now on although I would be able to see TPR, he would have no idea of my presence. We would never spend any time together as a couple again. Effectively I had disappeared from his life and he was now a widower, left to face the rest of his life on his own.