Cycling through Cellu
The weather has not proven to be a friend to the fair weather cyclist this weekend, wind chill has led to substitution of pedal turning to a bit of dog walking. However as I relaxed with a glass of wine and indulged in my new Saturday night obsession, the splendid Danish TV series, Borgen, I reflected that one of the most attractive things about our heroine Birgitte Nyborg is that she, along with Katrine is a cyclist – though there is now for Birgitte a worrying use of official cars. Thinking back there are many other bicycling memories littering my film and tv back catalogue. One of my earliest film memories is of watching The Bicycle Thief with my father – even now the mere mention of the film brings back the heartbreaking emotion and despair of the father and son and I can hardly bear to watch it again. Then there is the odious Miss Gulch in one of my all time favourites, the Wizard of Oz, whilst I still cheer every time I see Toto escaping her clutches I find that I am now coveting the basket!
When I was deciding on the type of bike I wanted to purchase last year I kept telling people I wanted something resembling those ridden by the heroines of the French Resistance in every war film I ever watched, not to mention television series from Moonstrike (give yourself a pat on the back if you remember that one!) to Secret Army and anything else in between. Though I did, in the end get the bike I wanted, it is not quite the correct vintage but compromises had to be made to make sure it had the gears to get me up our East Lancashire hills – though I am still working on my physical abilities to do that.
There is that unforgettable scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which defines that movie and tags it as more fluffy romance rather the hard-edged violence tinged chase genre it really is, and we will ever be allowed to forget the iconic ET cycling across the moon. More recently I watched the excellent Made in Dagenham with its memorable scenes of the women cycling to work en masse representing their independence, strength and solidarity.
There are countless other examples and I am sure everyone will have their own memories, however I am struck by how many of mine link the portrayal of strong brave women with the bicycle, yes there may be Miss Gulch and a myriad of forgettable characters, but for every one of them there is a Charlotte Gray or Birgitte Nyborg. Fictional characters they may be but they represent a long tradition of amazing women bicycle riders stretching from the Suffragettes to the Olympians of today, and we should never forget that fiction reflects reality.