Cycling week

‘I try and accept that I am a snail, but try also to acknowledge and be pleased with myself on any sort of movement forward (given that I am a snail)’ —text message from Catherine Vidler

Some of Cath’s ‘wings’ in progress, June 2019


Rode to work. Grey sky, grey road, blue underpants on the road. Was cheered by the underpants. Also, plenty of dogs seen on this ride. The tan miniature dachshund always looks at me with an expression of great intensity, which I appreciate.

In the early afternoon, I had to ride down the Terrace because I was doing a talk on RNZ with Jesse Mulligan. I was very nervous and took terrible deep jaggedy breaths as I zoomed down Salamanca and the Terrace. Hands and feet quivery with dread. Should I have walked? It’s bad to be nervous on a bicycle. Overshot RNZ and had to turn around and ride back up the hill. Locked bike to a fence and went to buy coffee, which I have no memory of drinking but suddenly I had an empty cup in my hand.

This is a cycling blog so I have no comment about that interview.

Afterwards, stinking of fear sweat – the worst-smelling of the sweats – I discovered I’d lost my key for my bike lock. Disaster! Nothing for it but to leave my bike chained to fence. Strode back to work. Walked home. Got spare key. Walked all the way back to RNZ in a sweaty fervour. As I approached my bike, I imagined that it was glad to see me – that maybe it had been worried. Do other people sometimes think this about their bikes?

Rode home up the grind of a rush-hour Terrace, then up Salamanca and into the great sandwiching of Kelburn Pde. With the construction site at the top, there are temporary orange markers in the middle of the road, so cars overtaking have no room to pass, though they pass anyway.

Riding up into Highbury in the dark, I put both front lights on and went slowly. Saw a spider running along the road. Rain started to fall.

The rain was strange – it felt almost dry, soft, drops far apart. I thought it felt a bit like matchsticks falling. I let myself think about my friend Cath, who died yesterday. She had cancer but I had thought she would keep going. She lived in Sydney and our friendship was in emails, phone calls, poems and pictures, and text messages. ‘My anxiety is intense,’ she wrote once, ‘but there are other feelings in the mix – like happiness sending this msg to you.’


Rode to work and rode home in some sort of drizzle. I think I have no particular memory of either of these rides. I wasn’t paying much attention to anything beyond immediate sensations, like wind on face and in ears. Even cars passing too closely didn’t bother me much. The new green jacket is doing fine in this level of rain though it has not been tested in heavy rain.

A sky from Cath


I’ve lost my way :: the sky is greyly :: 

slight smears upon the looking glass :: 

this separation from the daily 

trajectory :: it comes :: it pass- 

es :: where are you :: sweet jacaranda 

shedding of blossom :: sea & sand are 

making their own map over there ::

or closer still :: this charged-up air 

alights upon my naked flesh :: so 

briefly tender ::

from ‘a small leaf’, Catherine Vidler, Blackbox Manifold 29


A two-ride day. Rode in early, up Raroa. I appreciated my front lights.

I think this Thursday was the most Thursday I’ve ever known a day of the week to be. It was like Thursday concentrate, Thursday paste. The mugginess in the air struck me as extremely Thursday. The way cars accelerated past with a kind of aggressive weariness, also Thursday. A slightly grindy Thursday feeling in my pedals, telling me I need to clean the chain.

Rode home after work in a big silvery fog. Moana felt steeper than ever but at the same time I sort of floated up it. Passed a cat just sitting casually on the road, staring up at a long grassy bank. I stopped to say hello and it came hurrying over.

Where are the other cyclists?

I need to wash my helmet – it’s been years.


Today was a four-ride day. Rode to work in air like a heated swimming pool. Need to pump up back tyre again. Nearly all of this week’s rides have been lacking in much detail: as I roll along, my bike feels smaller than ever inside an enormous churn and I simply let myself be carried by it.

Rode into town at lunchtime. I think I enjoyed this ride. Was wearing a top with giant red sleeves that ripple in the slipstream, which I like to think act as a kind of warning to cars, like – is this anything? – a phantasmal poison frog with its stripy red back.

I am thinking about Cath a lot and in all of today’s rides I was thinking especially about the ‘wings’ she made – little intricate, infinitely evolving digital artworks, many of which were eventually published as a book by Cordite. I love this introduction by Amelia Dale about the wings, how they evoke infinite shapes – ‘stars, nebulae, galaxies, galaxy clusters’. But also ‘cells or viruses reproducing and mutating.’

It is funny that Cath had a sense of herself as ‘a snail’ – inching forwards slowly, and in hiding. Maybe that was true in one way. But she was also these wings – constantly on the move, flaring open and closed, shimmering and rising and falling and hovering. Looking at the wings and thinking about her creation of them is very comforting to me, as they seem infinite.

‘It’s raining here this morning – I will do some work today – I hope you are cosy and having a good day’

About ashleighlou

Person, usually on bike
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3 Responses to Cycling week

  1. I love your posts. I’m excited when I find th

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bonnie Dewart says:

    So sad and moving. Loss of a dear friend emerges through the rides. Her artwork reveals a sort of whimsical mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

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