Sophia Pemberly


Sophia Pemberly

Sophia Pemberly, author of the witty and truculent In Literature as in Life, (scheduled for release in 2015) admits that she is as much of a WASP as one can be without actually having blood relations in the order Hymenoptera, suborder Apocrita. She attended two of the Seven Sisters and taught medieval literature at several others before retiring a few years ago. She is, among other things, an avid – if picturesque – cyclist. But we'll let her introduce herself....

From In Literature as in Life :

I carbo-load as a continual lifechoice, not as an occasional race preparation.

I don’t wear latex, or whatever it is they call the brightly colored coating that is skimmed over the body of the contemporary cyclist in the name of aerodynamic performance. I don’t ride doubled over, studying my toe clips glinting in the sun while I count my spinning cadence. And I don’t own fancy cycling shoes that somehow clip onto three hundred dollar pedals and force you to walk on your heels when you’re disengaged from your machine. Now that I’m permanently out of the academic skirt and jacket, I wear old khaki slacks with my right pant leg folded into my right sock, and canvas sneakers or ankle-high riding boots, and, while I dislike it intensely, a helmet of foam and white plastic. I’ve never been bucked off my bicycle and occasionally wonder exactly how much use the egg on my head would be to my medulla, cortex, and cerebellum in an accident. The helmet might, I suppose, in a catastrophic spill, bucket my errant brain cells, making shorter work of clean-up by the highway department, and while it’s certainly useful, I doubt if much advertising ink will ever be spilled noting that particular benefit.

I ride as I hope I have gone through life: upright and facing forward at an immoderately moderate pace. My bicycle is a glossy old black three-speed, what used to be called a step-through English Racer. For more than two decades, it’s been almost impossible to get parts for it, especially for the cranky shift arrangement and the dynamo arrangement that powers the front and back lights, so I rarely downshift and carefully plan my travels to avoid more hill than I can handle seated, and anything past dusk. The bike, whom I call Sir Walter, has a few chips in the paint, and I’m on my second chain, sixth set of tubes, and fourth wicker basket, but the Brooks saddle is finally comfortable, the ride reliable, and for me, sufficiently decorous.

You might have seen Sir Walter and me anytime over the past forty-plus years, our basket loaded with books, wheeling through the brick and stone campuses of two continents. If you gave us a thought, it was for the refreshing anachronism we presented: the throw-back image of a verry, parfit, gentil hors and his composedly virginal, skirted lady.

 


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