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The dream that we’ve been this week, conceived a couple of years ago, was to bike the length of the Rail Trail, carrying everything we need to stop and perform our poems in some of the old historic halls along the way. So, E-bikes, then. Not because we felt the need, the need for speed, but because we travelled with all that we needed. Trailers, amp, mic, all the cords, books, beer, Butt Butter and a coffee plunger. Also, clothes, for pedalling and shows.
In this particular dream, the wearer of the mirrored aviators is Laura Williamson, who dreamed the idea. Annabel Wilson and I were the wingpeople. The three of us have poemed, toured and dreamed together for about a decade now, so we’ve got the shorthand of old friends on new adventures. Which is a beautiful thing.
As dreams do, this one changed in the dreaming. We had dreams of a celebratory extension, taking the train into Otepoti. But the Taieri Gorge train is no more for now. And as we cycled, through the hail, side by side with a paddocked, galloping pony, towards Middlemarch, it felt like the end of the line in more ways than one and it is sad and a shame to not have that historic connection. Thinking about that train’s survival while riding alongside disused tracks that became histories in our lifetimes makes for the sort of ache that Butt Butter cannot fix.
Another dream changer along the way has been Covid, of course, and then there was the genius and terrifying idea from Laura of the Aviators that we should get a film crew involved in the tour. Genius because if more of these halls and tracks are going to be a thing of the past, we want, at least, their stories. And terrifying because cameras near me while I’m trying to do usual everyday things like hang upside down on big station gates.
I don’t watch reality TV but after five days with The Film Crew (they are in capitals because that is their name, which I like because it means they do what it says on the tin, and in fact so much more besides) I am convinced that every part of my life is worth documenting. My ego is writing cheques my body can’t cash and I am a little surprised there is nobody with a flash black lens in my face as I sit and type this under whiteout Middlemarch skies.
I mean, it was amazing. We had roller derby radio names. We had all the cheese rolls. We had a ride in a Tesla with an award-winning writer and a heirloom casserole dish. We had beers stood for us after shows in the generous hospitable way of country hotels.
And we found, as always, so many more stories along the way. Example. We learned about Hannah Hayes, who left her nine children under the care of 12-year-old eldest daughter Ernestine for three months to head out on a single-speed bike with no suspension, no electric assist and no Butt Butter, to sell her husband’s rabbit-poisoning invention around the local farms. I wanted to stop everything immediately and spend months researching this story but we were in the ‘‘be it’’ phase of the dream, and so on we went. And on we go.