|A bicycle drawn by Rosalind Bliss|
on the front of Ten Poems About Bicycles
Bicycles have a special resonance for me as my parents met when my mother, cycling rapidly round a roundabout, ran into my father while he was crossing the road. Fortunately there was less traffic in those days, and neither was hurt, but the incident has acquired legendary status in the family history, along with the heroic exploits of my mother’s father. For almost 20 years he cycled around 20 miles to work, and around 20 miles back home (no M4 in : even during WW2 he continued to ride to work, undeterred by bombs or blackout. Then he moved to Ireland and spent the next decade or so defying all obstacles as he negotiated gravity-defying hills and boulder-strewn tracks.
|The composer Edward Elgar w|
as an enthusiastic cyclist.
The booklet races into action with ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, in which the protagonist regrets turning away his good old horse in favour of a bicycle. His hair-raising ride on the machine (which made me laugh aloud) comes to an inglorious end when:
“It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then, as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek,
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man’s Creek.”
Wheel Fever, by Connie Bensley, where a cyclist’s mishaps prove expensive – and very painful – also made me smile. But there are sad poems, like James Roderick Burns’ Boy on a Bicycle, where the chain driving the wheels around is contrasted against the ‘snarl of barbed wire’ trapping the fallen body on a WWI battlefield.
|A wooden cycle is mentioned in Wheel Fever.,|
but I doubt it looked like this human-propelled
model made in Germany around 1820.
“I wish – but then, we are what we are.
I drive with two hands, walk with both feet
Firmly planted on sensible ground. And
I’ve got you. You can ride with no hands.”
|Women's cycling bloomers were |
considered outrageous in the
alte 19th and early 20th centuries.
“A spider bought a bicycle
And had it painted black
He started off along the road
With an earwig on his back.
He sent the pedals round so fast
He travelled all the day
Then he took the earwig off
And put the bike away.”
Nonsense? Yes, I suppose it is, but it seems to captures the joy of cycling, something which is also encapsulated in a haiku written by Coney and printed on the back page (reproduced from www.bikeforums.net), although this final poem carries a warning:
“The wind behind me
Water bottle is my friend
Watch that taxi door.”
By the way, if you've never come across Candlestick Press (I hadn't), it's a small independent company, based in Nottingham, which operates on 'green' principles. It produce a range of 'Instead of a Card' poetry pamphlets (including this one) on subjects as diverse as cats, dogs, gardens, tea, puddings and love. They each come with a matching envelope and bookmark and can be found at http://www.candlestickpress.co.uk/ .