A bicycle is a vehicle consisting of a light frame mounted on two wire-spoked wheels, a seat, and handlebars. If we can’t feel confident in how we come to understand bicycles, then we can’t be confident about anything.

YEAR: 2009
RUNTIME: 14:00
VOICE: Judy Fisher, Craig Walker



  • Daddy?

– Yes pumpkin?

– Can you tell me about… the sun?

– Certainly, darling. The sun is a pump. But it is a very distant pump, and in order to understand it, we study similar things that are closer, like the heart.

Heart cell rhythm depends on the opening and closing of a complex series of valves on the cell membrane, called ion channels. Some valves let certain ions like potassium flow out, others let different ions like sodium flow in. When a heart cell beats, sodium channels open allowing a rapid in-rush of sodium ions. This depolarizes the membrane. Then there is a release of potassium to the outside of the cell, which re-polarizes the cell membrane, preparing it for the next pulse. …and that’s what makes the heart beat.

  • Daddy?

– Yes Darling?

– Can you tell me about old buildings, and modern landscapes?

– Alright, sweetheart. All the world’s remaining palaces and industrial buildings have been converted into beautifully restored museums and restaurants.

Some show traditional collections, while others favour more audacious works.

Many serve hot and tasty take-away sandwiches.

You will find a multi-space eatery for anything from a coffee and croissant for breakfast to a filling meal in the brasserie upstairs. Images of Pierre Batchef can often be found on the wall. You’ll be tempted by the pastry spirals, pizza slices and cakes at any bakery or patisserie.

Launderettes don’t exist in the Western sense.

The telephone system is efficient and modern.

It’s a good idea to travel first class. In addition to being more comfortable, it improves your chances of getting a seat.

You can’t drive fast. If the speed limits don’t slow you down, the many potholes definitely will.

  • Mommy?

– Yes…?

– Can you tell me about dogs and eels?

– Dogs and eels are very secretive, pumpkin, and not well understood. They’re known to hold the following 6 beliefs:

  1. It’s best to seek the good life, in much the same way that humans scan for
  2. universal principles through tiny peepholes;
  3. It’s better if the carpets are thicker, and the days and afternoons a little softer on the feet;
  4. It’s better to have profanity at dinner than Henry Kissinger;
  5. It’s good that the thoughts and feelings that give shape to wicked actions outweigh those which attract the attention of urban psychologists;
  6. It’s good that vocabularies expand with each new wave of foreign invaders;
  7. It’s pointless to have an aversion to fireworks, hate carnivals, or dislike going round and round.

·       Daddy?

– Yes sweetie?

– Can you tell me about love, and evolution?

– (chuckles) It’s normal to be confused by the rival claims of wish-fulfillment and memory, pumpkin.

Memory and wish-fulfillment chase each other around and around, until you can’t tell which is which.

That’s why none of us really shares a culture with anyone else.

If you don’t go to university, you won’t get a good job.

  • Mommy?

– Yes?

Can you tell me about liquids, and arithmetic?

– Certainly, darling. While you’re alive, arithmetic is dry and reliable, but it can unexpectedly transform into a capricious liquid.

When it first appears you find yourself gripped by a strong, moist feeling.

Like mercury, it expands with passion;

Like water circling the drain, it spins stories of treachery and deceit;

It multiplies and divides, overflowing its containers, oozing into drainage drums, where it is boiled into an ashen mash, collected in an endless lagoon, then slowly drained through huge industrial sieves, poured into segregated mixing vats, further distilled in backrouvian buckets, where it is finally mixed with erbium salts before being dispensed into long, thoughtless pipes, which meander across the vast, brackish expanses of a long-forgotten reservoir.

  • Daddy?

– Yes?

– Can you tell me why bicycles are… so … upsetting?

– Sure pumpkin. Bicycles are clocks, and belong to the same class of things as calendars and rotary drills. They have an innate pulse, which synchronizes the natural forces to which they’re linked, and which also serves to aid navigation. They hold beliefs about veering and swerving which steer their natural rotations into cool, open spaces.  But always be skeptical, pumpkin. Make use of bicycles by all means, but never, ever believe in them.

  • It’s time for bed, darling.

– Can you tell me a story… about the war, and about the natural state of things?

– Sure, kitten. Let’s see. I remember one time…

– …and can you number the sentences for me?

– Certainly, darling.

  1. …the neighbour’s child captured my wallet, and pressed it through a hole

in the Mexican restaurant.

  1. Tarpaulins were lashed to the sidewalls to offset parades.
  2. Ladders were wedged against the slabs.
  3. Up to date persons patrolled the perimeter, looking for shapes.
  4. Manufacturers dropped their secret correspondence into glass pails.
  5. Rain water coiled in, and was collected in corrugated tin cropulets.
  6. A private wind swept down from the high plateau, bringing illiteracy, and


  1. Horses lit fires on the edge of the beach, while butterflies caught the light

in a flash of eyelashes.

  1. The night air clattered like schoolgirls, while snow slowly piled up against

the door.

  1. One lonely man became two, and the clouds parted.
  2. Tall athletes twisted numerous dowels into receptacles, then left, leaving

behind empty jars.

  1. Trains were drained of water, and bolted to plywood slats.
  2. Machines were lined with nylon sheets, and equipment was coiled with


  1. Remote fishing villages were measured for touch.
  2. A handshake took less time than it takes for a man in a bank to turn and


  1. Troublemakers arrived wearing shoes.
  2. Thieves worked in units of three.
  3. Hot water flowed freely through the streets.
  4. Dogs felt dizzy, and fell over.
  5. Words mated behind the bushes, then ate their young.
  6. It was going to be a long conflict, interrupted by the occasional seafood


  1. A wheelbarrow was broken down into parts, then given to James to weigh.
  2. Everyone walked to the monastery wearing gloves and carrying ornaments, except

babies, who concealed financial documents in their flipside pouches.

  1. A bag of communist trusseks was the only thing that remained.
  2. A Jedi knight grabbed them off the shelf without warning, and fled into the


  1. It was a case of mistaken identity, and before long the rain came down like


  1. An entrepreneur appeared out of the mist, clutching a blue mechanism.
  2. They tried to reason with him, but his brain was smooth, and water


  1. I took a minute to write down my thoughts, and review my beliefs.
  2. I found them to be uncommonly graceful, and made of words.
  3. Skilled craftsmen arrived, and hammered them into alphabetical order.
  1. And now the horses were back, bringing with them all the Anglo Saxons

they could carry.

  1. Labour obligations were transformed into money payments, and all spelling

bees were suspended.

  1. Those who could updated their vaccination certificates, while the oligarchy

studied the flight patterns of migrating birds.

  1. The candles died out, leaving me feeling breathless and alone.
  2. Scapegoats folded blankets, and sat on chairs.
  3. Lists, records, accounts, catalogs, and inventories were compiled in disadvantaged rural areas, and stored in cylinders.
  4. Shovels were wrapped in tin foil for good luck.
  5. Ducks appeared on the horizon, and sought refuge in caves.
  6. Albert’s observations didn’t mean a thing anymore.
  7. City dwellers carried metaphors like bags of soiled clothing.
  8. A piece of paper appeared under the door.
  9. The language was abstract, using words with Latin roots, in order to prevent the reader from forming mental images. Hmmm. There must be a war on, I thought.
  10. Sacrifices were being tested for firmness and resiliency.
  11. People lowered their umbrellas to hide their faces.
  12. Obscene paintings were used to insulate the soldier’s barracks.
  13. I tightened up my cowardice, and stuffed my personal effects with straw.
  14. The root meanings of words disappeared from hospital corridors.
  15. A team of financial consultants observed animals in their natural habitat.
  16. Others headed for the rowboats, while the rest gazed with curiosity and wonder at the headlights of incoming spaceships.
  17. Several childhood friends were bunched together like asparagus, cracking jokes, while the police took their fingerprints.
  18. All dictionary purchases were temporarily suspended.
  19. Old men set fire to billboards, and threw them into holes.
  20. Essential knobs were tweaked by experts.
  21. Novelists poked sharpened poles into the openings of machines.
  22. Someone found the aspirins, and named each one after an asteroid.
  23. All knick-knacks were collected, numbered, and were provided with numbers.
  24. Cardboard boxes were requisitioned for those who cried.
  25. Everyone’s opinions were carefully recorded, and stored in hotel lobbies.
  26. Those who could still stand removed their shoes, and placed them in a straight line along the back of the beach.
  27. Foreigners gathered in vacant wind tunnels to sing together.
  28. The horses returned with more firewood. “Pay us what we’re worth,” theysaid, “and we promise we won’t say a word.”
  29. A group of dull children made music with wicker baskets and fish hooks.
  30. Adjectives became an unaffordable luxury.