Sheila Roberts


It's the 1901 photograph of me that's most admired by sentimental fanciers of Boer War Heroes, one where I'm standing behind my pushbike, left hand holding the handlebars, right hand steadying the saddle. My legs are straddled and there's a jaunty twist to my hips. I look off to the left, my head turned away from the handlebars. My head is at a different angle from my torso, and my legs on a different plane from my body, exactly as if I'd been posed by, say, Michelangelo. My stance emphasizes my readiness to leap onto the saddle and pedal away -spy, scout, courier, and gadfly to the Tommies. Antjie Theron, my brother's great-granddaughter and the Researcher in this case, is one such sentimental fancier. She pours over the deteriorating picture, and I pour with her, my presence at her shoulder a vague odour of bicycle-chain and sweaty leather, an odour she loves, for she too has ridden bicycles all her life and at fifty has strong legs.



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