Emily never meant to be a cycle courier. She planned to earn her living using her mind rather than her legs. She thought it’d be a useful stopgap while searching for a ‘real’ job. Today, six years on, she’s still pedalling. ‘It’s my most enduring love affair; the career that’s shaped my life, made me what I am, and entirely derailed any hope of a normal existence.’
As she flies through the streets of the capital, dancing with the traffic, Chappell records the pain and pleasure – both mental and physical – of life on wheels: the hurtling, dangerous missions; the ebb and flow of seasonal work; the moments of fear and freedom, anger and exhaustion; the camaraderie of the courier tribe and its idiosyncratic characters; the conflict and harmony between bicycle and road, body and mind.
At the same time it is a hymn to London; its changing skyline, its chaos and interconnectedness: ‘the unlikeliest street corners will have some tattered threads of memory fluttering from them like a flag… It’s almost as if the memories have overflowed from my head and scattered themselves about the city. Some parts of my life I can recall simply by thinking of them; others I think I’d remember better if I went back to a certain part of London and plucked them up from the tree I’d hung them from, or retraced them from the park bench I’d scratched them on, or snatched them up as they blew around in circles in an alleyway like a discarded carrier bag’. This is a book about discovery and belonging, connection and memory, choosing life’s uncharted course and the delicious sensation of just riding.
Emily Chappell studied at Cambridge and SOAS, and since 2008 has worked as a cycle courier in London. Her writing has featured in the Guardian and in 2012 she won Travel Blogger of the Year at the British Travel Press Awards, and a Jupiter’s Traveller Award from the Ted Simon Foundation.
Talk starts at 7.30pm. If you want to eat first, please come down in plenty of time as you won’t be able to take food upstairs.
Entry by advance booking only, through Eventbrite. Please don’t come down if you haven’t booked a ticket, as we have limited capacity.