My wife met me off the overnight train from Beijing. ‘It’s been ages,’ she said. ‘Let’s go and have breakfast somewhere.’ How nice, I thought. But breakfast was slow – spun-out slow – and she kept looking at her watch. And when breakfast turned into a boat trip, and a boat trip became a shopping expedition, I began to tire. I was still wearing the clothes I’d slept in, and I hadn’t seen our three-year-old daughter for a week. Then the truth came out: I wasn’t allowed home until lunchtime. Liu Hong’s mother had read that the Sars virus can live for four hours on clothes and bags. I was lucky: a couple of weeks later it became clear that the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 24 hours.
The full text of this diary is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.