Flann O’Brien bikes

It can quite easy to attribute human characteristics to the most unlikely objects. Some houses seem to smile, others glare down on passersby like Victorian beadles judging the undeserving poor.

Bicycles somehow lend themselves to this anthropomorphism quite readily. I haven’t given my bike a name, but Andrew Sykes’ bike is called Reggie, and even has its (his?) own Twitter account.

But I did read Flann O’Brien’s books at a susceptible age, and sometimes there are bikes that seem to confirm his theories. In case your own education has somehow omitted his writing, here’s a taste:

“The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles…when a man lets things go so far that he is more than half a bicycle, you will not see him so much because he spends a lot of his time leaning with one elbow on walls or standing propped by one foot at kerbstones.”
― Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

So when I saw this bicycle, apparently loitering on a corner, riderless, I naturally started to wonder. Because of course the bicycles are also half man…


Whereas this one is evidently just waiting to enter through that door, oh so casually, and have a cup of tea.


And this one must be ridden by an acrobatic type.

Up in the Air

Whereas this one radiates confidence and positivity.

Ready For Action


10 thoughts on “Flann O’Brien bikes

  1. Very well observed, Isobel. And this was London, not Ireland! Extraordinary. I loved that book.

    I have found myself leaning against walls sometimes… What can this mean??

  2. Bicycles and man. Bicycle with a twitter account. Wow. I would like to think that I’m the bike ready for action, often at an edge, ready to jump where adventure abounds. Beautiful and fun post! Thanks.

  3. Love it! Great excerpt from that wonderful writer. And your photos are perfect!
    The Secret Scripture is all about places where I live. Heartbreaking and unputdownable – the best of Irish literature about an era that is thankfully past. When it was derelict, my husband did a series of rather lovely monoprints and paintings of the wonderful building that used to be the mental hospital. He also found some interesting old ledgers abandoned inside that listed supplies bought in and used – from cigarettes to turf. It is now a swishy hotel. Haven’t read On Canaan’s Side.

  4. The Secret Scripture is such a beautiful book, dealing with a history most ignore. I think I have read all his novels, and given many copies of The Secret Scripture as gifts. On Canaan’s Side reprises the story of Willy Dunne’s family. Read it. You shan’t be disappointed.
    Now tell me you enjoy some lightweight stuff in the form of Anne Dunlop’s Pineapple Tart!

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