The secret location of the anarchists’ energy

Feroxity's (punk metal band) lead singer at Sticky Mike's Frog Bar on 19th November 2014

Feroxity’s lead screamer

Spied me darting about over the last few weeks, scurrying here and there? Startled by my strange, shabby clothes? I’ve been undercover, in the outlandish world of the anarchists. To boldly go where clergymen sometimes go, into a community of politically motivated individuals.

We know what makes anarchists’ tick. But we don’t know where they get their famous energy from? In embarrassingly small numbers they can close motorways, occupy power stations, throw legendary parties which everyone later claims they attended and apparently threaten the very fabric of capitalism.

Now clearly lying around in bed all day long, being a dolie scrounger has got to help. But counterpointed against that is the cannabis consumption, which is apt to make one completely fekking lazy; so I am reliably informed.

So into their world I went. To find a communion populated by frighteningly knowledgeable individuals, who knew exactly the enormity of the task facing them. But it didn’t faze them. Weeks of intricate conversations about everything under the sun indicated many of them did not wish to create a permanent state of anarchy to live in, as a model for civil society.

Instead they only wished to create moments of anarchy, then to step into that blessed dawn. That’s bound to be an inspirational experience, I surmised. Actually achieving your political ideals from time to time. Across the centuries. How many others could claim their long history of success? It did not matter that not everyone is involved, when anarchists of this persuasion kicked off. They were.

But even allowing for this carry on to become addictive and thus appear to provide the get-up-and-get-stuck-in factor, it did not completely explain the phenomena. What about all the other anarchists? The ones who want to turn the world into some sort of scheme according to their ideological principle? They also go out and campaign hard, leaflet, organise meetings, events, parties and tend to be full members of their communities. What about them?

The answer, I discovered, after months of painstaking work, lies in their spiritual recharging system. Ostensibly billed as “music” gigs, they are anything but, as the video above reveals. Although admittedly my phone’s microphone couldn’t cope with the volume levels. A week ago today, I was at that vegan anarchist punk rock gig. It was much the same sort of thing as last time. Though no actual audience punch up this time, thank God.

A hundred or so souls packed into a basement below a pub quiz at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar. I heard two anarchist preachers. The first, not a word, just his visceral power, blasted through what I suspect was for him an unnecessary sound system. The second, the extraordinary and estimable Dick Lucas, fronting the Subhumans. Sermonising between ‘tunes’, his political and cultural analysis of our world was more coherent than any politician’s. Tell it like is Dick, we thought. Tell us what we already know. And loudly. Give us, this day, our daily rage.

Probing where the sun don’t shine

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of boffins at the European Space Agency (c) 14th November 2014

European Space Agency boffins in action

Yesterday I warned mad scientists everywhere to hesitate before launching probes into heaven, lest they offend The Lord God Almighty. Today He showed his anger by messing up the Philae lander on Comet 67P. It stayed in darkness. Mission Control at the European Space Agency has been scrambling in the last few hours of their toy’s battery life to dream up how to move to the sunshine. What part of this don’t they understand? If God wanted there to be light on a certain crater on that distant lump of rock and ice, he would have simply said, “Let there be light.” He did not. Instead he chose a landing site certain to crush the mission and all the atheistic hopes that rose with it.

The earth-bound boffins see only their gravitational solutions. They use formulae to explain how their robot did not land where they intended. They say the thing bounced off the comet, twice, and then landed somewhere unintended because the comet had continued to rotate during the bounces. No-one questions this point of view because if the maths got the washing machine all that way with any degree of accuracy, then maths must explain all. “It’s Newton, innit?” said one of the switch flickers when he wasn’t throwing his hat in the air, whooping and generally being a lifelong virgin. But Newton believed in God! They don’t like to talk about that.

Let’s look at the plain facts. Humans live on Planet Earth, which is a mostly harmless blue green planet on the outer arm of our galaxy. God lives in Heaven, which is everything above and outside the atmosphere of Planet Earth. God is all powerful, all knowing and all round brilliant at everything. He even has a prophetic grip on the future. Therefore, He knew that his most unruly of creations ~ mankind ~ would one day attempt to land a kitchen appliance on this particular comet. So he chose the comet’s spin and poor gravity and general hopelessness as a landing site. And he chose to ensure that our probe landed in a dark shitty hole.

Yet still the Tefal brigade are scratching their bonces and attempting outlandish calculations on how to walk the static machine into a sunnier spot. (Two duvet covers and a fast spin cycle ought to do the trick.) Which part of His Plan do they not understand? They’ve had a lucky escape. The Lord has snuffed out their little game without much ceremony. It could have been so much worse.

We must all write letters to white haired crazy science loons and beg them to stop offending God. He does have form for being nasty to those who upset him. Just look what he did to the Egyptians. More to the point, check out what happened to the dinosaurs. The mind boggles at what they must have done to upset The Lord so badly that he exterminated them. With a comet!

Dropping a cosmic clanger!

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Michael Angelo's Sistine Chapel painting of Adam and God with the addition of the Phaeli probe (c) 13th November 2014

Oh look, a badger?!

Am I the only Archbishop in Christendom troubled by the implications of today’s news from the world of science? Surely some other leading theologians wish the mad scientists, who have landed a washing machine on a comet, had consulted us first?

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of God (c) 17th June 2014

Nasty piece of work

What on earth were they thinking? It’s obvious we have a vengeful God. We know this because (a) it says so in the Bible and (b) look at all the shitty things that so-called Nature does to us. All that crap can’t have happened by accident. When there’s an obvious conclusion to draw, don’t go off looking for some complex explanation that needs microscopes or telescopes to understand. That way only leads to madness or confusion, or both.

The world has gone completely mad. Only the other day, the Pope in Rome was claiming that there are likely to be other worlds in the Universe with life on them just like ours! He’s way out of line. Clearly, as a Catholic, his job is to deny everything. Otherwise, where’s the space for us Anglicans to show off our liberal credentials by having rational discussions? Also, he’s not even waited until some apparently irrefutable evidence presented itself. He’s leapfrogging ahead of science. Well out of order.

Meanwhile, I remain utterly baffled why we went to all that trouble to send a washing machine to the comet? Sure, the astronauts who went to the lunar surface all reported that Moon dust was a bugger to get out of your clothes. But we haven’t sent any humans this time. All that money wasted on sending a standard kitchen appliance. Why? If one more person says something like, “Because it is there…” I swear I’ll go and get the bloody thing back myself.

Clearly, if the Lord God Almighty had wanted us to put 1950s laundry technology on comets, he’d had placed them a lot closer to home. Whilst we mustn’t imagine for a moment that we can know the mind of God, we can be pretty sure even he wouldn’t want us to be time wasting on the monumental scale that this enterprise has taken. Ten years in the spin cycle before getting to the destination.

Believe you me, this will have upset Him big time. I’m no prophet. I cannot predict what the consequences will be. But they will be worse than your humble servant having a few holes blown in his clerical garments. Considerable worse. It’ll probably go tit for tat. Perhaps he’ll throw a washing machine back at us. I bet His aim will be better.

Meanwhile, the time-space continuum has been warped out of shape. Pictures from the comet landing first arrived in 1969, much to the delight of all the children in my generation. Little did we know that the dodgy pink woollen puppets were actually God’s other children on another world, laughing at our domestic servitude? What am I saying?! Jesus, we beseech you. Save us from science ~ before we learn what we cannot forget!

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of The Clangers (c) 13th November 2014

Artist’s impression of 67P

The view from a clergy stand at Lewes Bonfire

The Lewes Bonfire Bishops' First Breakfast, photographed and (c) by Roz Bassford-South, reproduced with her generous permission

The Lewes Bonfire Bishops’ First Breakfast. Photograph by Roz Bassford-South.

Being Archbishop of Southover is a tough brief. All year round my congregation presses cake and beer into my hands, to absolve their later sins against me. I’ve worked the roughest street corners, with the nastiest of criminals and been in the thick of it in the most anarchic public protestations imaginable. But nothing compares to Lewes Bonfire. Each clergy prays for deliverance. This year we all came together, for the first time ever, to discuss survival tactics, swap stories and sit down to breakfast on 4th November.

Southover Bonfire Society at Lewes Town War Memorial. Photograph reproduced with the generous permission of and (c) Ian Cumming.

Southover Bonfire Society at Lewes Town War Memorial. Photograph by Ian Cumming.

I was incredibly nervous. On the morning of 5th November, my stomach was knotted up into a tight ball of anguish. I think I was worried that I would not be able to make myself heard over the din. Also, at the back of my mind and creeping ever forward as we marched down the hill, was the unsubtle message we’d received from Cliffe Bonfire Society. They  promised a surprise for us when we marked the boundary between the parishes of Cliffe and Southover. That boundary is subject to the inevitable rivalry. We say it is on the middle of the bridge, they say it is on our side of the bridge. I’m pleased to report that the surprise turned out to be a welcoming committee and the boundary was properly marked according to Southover’s cartographic wishes.

Southover Church, 5th November 2014. Photograph reproduced with the generous permission of and (c) Ian Cumming.

Southover Church, 5th November 2014. Photograph by Ian Cumming.

My final public speaking was at Southover Church, at our own memorial service, out on the streets. My job was to introduce the visiting vicar, whose job seems to be considerably easier than mine.

Southover Bonfire Society fire site procession 2014. Photograph reproduced with the generous permission of and (c) Ian Cumming.

Advance! Photograph by Ian Cumming.

The Archbishop of Southover, processing to his clergy stand in Southover. Photograph reproduced with the generous permission of and (c) Ian Cumming.

Processing to my clergy stand. Photograph by Ian Cumming.

By the time we advanced towards our private fire site, I had nearly lost my voice. It is difficult to shout across crowds with all that smoke around. No matter, I had brought my megaphone this year! Nothing would stop my supplicants from being able to hear my sermonising, no matter how hard they tried!

Southover Bonfire Society clergy taking a direct hit. Photograph reproduced with the generous permission of and (c) James McCauley.

Photograph by James McCauley.

That’s one of my clergymen taking a direct hit. Here’s one of his legs afterwards. It gives you an idea of what we go through.

A clergyman's knee, after Southover Bonfire Society's sermon on 5th November 2014

A clergyman’s knee

Using a megaphone to address my congregation whilst wearing ear plugs was tricky. Afterwards a parishioner said they heard me saying, “We can feel your love.” A remark they seemed to find incredibly funny. I know they love us really, they just have difficulty showing it in any recognisable manner.

I give the sermon and get hell fire and brimstone in return. Photograph reproduced with the generous permission of and (c) Ian Cumming.

Sermonising in hell fire. Photograph by
Ian Cumming.

When it was all over we were all still standing. We looked down upon our flock with renewed respect.

View from Southover Bonfire Society's clergy stand in 2014. Photograph reproduced with the generous permission of and (c) Ian Cumming.

The view from on high. Photograph by Ian Cumming.

Many thanks to the photographers who have given their generous permission to reproduce their images: Roz Bassford-South, Ian Cumming and James McCauley.

Confessions of a professional photobomber

Scrapper Duncan's mashup cartoon of the Elgin Marbles and his colleague photobomber in cartoon form, armed with a fork

Walking the fork

Back in the last years of the twentieth century, I was a professional photobomber. Now that an authoritative dictionary has officially recognised the word, polite society suddenly sees it as a recent thing. However, those of us who quietly carried out our guerilla art haven’t yet needed a name for our fun.

Myself and a good friend, whom I’ll just call PN, used to loiter in certain galleries in the British Museum. We chose rooms which held stolen iconic objects from countries rich enough to send endless streams of tourists to be photographed beside them. Two in particular provided especially rich pickings: the room with the Rosetta Stone and the room with the Elgin Marbles.

We took it in turns to be the photobomber and the photographer. Making out like we didn’t know each other, one would position himself where a tourist would likely ask to be photographed alongside their national treasures. If that was me, I would smile broadly, say that I would be delighted and distract them whilst PN got into position. They would pose, I would line them up, offer to take a couple of shots and then snap away.

Remember this was in the days before digital photography. The tourists would have to wait until they got home before seeing their photographs. Kids, can you even imagine that? The very concept of waiting for anything seems to have disappeared. Is that word even still in the dictionary?

With the Rosetta Stone, PN would pose in the background as if he were walking like an Egyptian. He was much better at this than I was. So good that the first few times I couldn’t control my mirth and the game was spoiled. But I learnt to master my emotions and we became a highly skilled team. Hundreds of tourists will have gone home and then asked the question, “WTF?!!” Long before that phrase made it into the official pantheon of words.

Being unable to carry off the Egyptian walk so successfully, my preferred technique was just to pick my nose or stick my tongue out or make some other inappropriate gesture. After we’d photobombed three hundred or so tourists, we got banned from that room. No matter, there were plenty of other worthy objects of our attention.

The Elgin Marbles was a tougher intellectual brief. Knowing that they had been  damaged during misguided restoration using kitchen forks, the photographer would point the camera so that only the tops of the tourists’ heads would appear and the photobomber would be poking a fork above them from behind. How many of them would get the joke back home, I cannot not say. Quite a few didn’t appreciate our sense of humour at the time. There were a handful of ugly incidents.

Eventually, we got banned from the entire museum. The staff said that was simpler than having to deal with us. “It might be art,” said their top boss, “so take it to an art gallery.

Nevill Juvenile’s Archbishop is a classy ecclesiastical act

Scrapper Duncan's photograph of the Nevill Bonfire Clergy Stand on Saturday 18th October 2014 (c) 20th October 2014

Nevill Clergy Stand 2014

This is the Archbishop of Nevill Juvenile Bonfire Society (on the left) and her hapless clergyman (on the right). Atop a hill in high wind, they made a good target for the faithful, assembled in their congregation, last Saturday night. For reasons that my regular readers and everyone in Lewes will easily understand, I cannot bring myself to join in with the condemnation visited upon them. Instead, I restricted myself to studying their technique.

In so doing I marvelled at their lady Archbishop’s elegance. (Sorry, I don’t know her name.) She had already ascended the stand by the time I made it to the top of the hill. My own congregation, whom I had in modest part lent out to her for the evening, reported that she seemed to struggle a little with the steps up the scaffold. I believe she was a founding member of her Society in 1958 and has been its Archbishop ever since. Once up, she was in her element. Nimble footed, elegant and very able, we admired her ecclesiastical class. I’m looking forward to paying my compliments in person at the first ever Bishop’s Breakfast, on 4th November.

Her clergyman clutched a domestic fire guard to his face throughout the whole sermon. I assume that was for comedic value because he was very well protected. Unlike his boss, he was dolled up in cumbersome heavy duty gardening gloves. Behind the fire guard, his eyes hid behind safety goggles of some sort. Various people suggested that I might ape this new technique. Amusing though it was, I will refrain. Nevill has mastered the art of the comic clergy. Southover is much more serious. If it was actually for his personal protection, I am sympathetic to his plight. Last year his costume was shredded, so voluminous and accurate were their parishioners’ protests.

Be under no mistake of judgment, being a bonfire archbishop is no easy brief. The Commander in Chief of Cliffe Bonfire Society recently explained the mischief my counterpart in her ranks suffers. I left that meeting a very shaken man and comforted myself by pacing out the sides of a massive field in darkness, with a former clergyman by my side. Whatever he was talking about that night, I have no idea. I was in private prayer.

Whilst I do have a lot to say (Have you noticed?), I’d like to hear your ideas for what should be included in my sermon this year. Although Southover Bonfire Society has lost its fire site, I expect to be sermonising from somewhere. Details will be posted here, as and when appropriate.

No topic is too big or too small, I’ll do personal requests, I’ll do it for money and, ladies, it doesn’t have to be money. Luckily, for me, the basic morality of a bonfire bishop is somewhat unconventional. So pop your thoughts into the comment box and do make sure to keep them short because I’m the essayist here!

I’d rather be homeless than sleep with Thatcher

Scrapper Duncan's cartoon of Margaret Thatcher

Rarely seen in public after leaving the House of Commons, Thatcher claimed £535,000 in state handouts for “Public Duties”

When I was a pupil barrister and chair of London’s Free Representation Unit (FRU) I got to all know various privileged people. All sorts of people passed through the doors of that estimable charity. Some of them were fellow travellers but, for the most part, they were merely ticking boxes on their curriculum vitae. They had no more interest in actively pursuing social justice than the Tony Blair had in the redistribution of wealth. Incidentally, both the Blairs were former members of FRU.

One night I was at work late in the office, studying for a case I was due to fight in a few days time. It was nearly midnight and time to catch the last tube train home. Suddenly I discovered that I had left my keys at home and was locked out. I phoned to see if anyone was in but the phone was usually left on silent to avoid disturbing the karma. Chances were that my hippy landlord was still in, stirring some lentils in the cockroach infested kitchen of my tower block but he could equally have been running around naked on Primrose Hill.

Another fellow in the FRU office offered to put me up for the night. Let’s call him M. I didn’t know M very well. He’d made much effort to befriend me. I didn’t really click with him but he didn’t seem to grasp that and carried on as if we were becoming pals. It was one of those tricky working relationships with which we are all very familiar. It was a kind offer and made me immediately think I had been too judgmental, so I accepted with much gratitude. Having previously been not only homeless but actually a rough sleeper in London, I didn’t want to return to the streets.

Like me, he also lived on the Isle of Dogs. Unlike me, he lived in a posh modern flat at the Southern end of the Island. We caught an Eastern bound train and headed off home. I recall chatting a bit, with him apparently fascinated about the life I had left behind. I had spent the first five years out of University working the streets as a Showman. Very similar to being a barrister really.

At his flat, he made me some toast and then showed me to his spare room. I had actually never met anyone of his age ~ he was in his early twenties ~ who could afford to maintain a spare room. I had been expecting a sofa. However, the real shock came when he opened the door. Above the bed was a giant poster of Margaret Thatcher! “I can’t sleep in a house with that on the wall!

I retreated to the hall, collected my coat, picked up my bag and wished him goodnight. He ran out into the street after me. “I could take it down, I didn’t realise it would be a problem…” He was pleading now. Looking back, I don’t which of us was more pathetic. I went back to the streets.

The many faces of Scrapper

Scrapper Duncan's passport photograph aged 14 (c) 13th October 2014

Scrapper Duncan, at 14 years’ old.

During my recent and final personal property purge of 2014, I found a cache of photographs of me throughout the ages. This collection cannot be described as complete. No-one can stop their personal images appearing on governmental and corporate facial recognition systems. Everything we’ve ever emailed, everything accidentally automatically uploaded when we’ve bought a new phone, ever photograph every shared by anyone through WasteBook et cetera, it’s all there in massive searchable archives. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Scrapper Duncan's photograph at 19 years' old (c) 13th October 2014

Scrapper Duncan, aged 19 years’ old

So here’s me posting a few old prints, which the authorities may want to add to their collection. My HP scanner went on strike this morning and suddenly wouldn’t co-operate with Ubuntu any more. These are all photographs of photographs. Somehow, given their age, that seems more appropriate.

Scrapper Duncan's photograph, aged 19.5 (c) 13th October 2014

Scrapper Duncan, aged nineteen and a half

Those first two photographs were taken when I was still living in the bosom of my family. I hadn’t yet been given the chance to try to look old and worn out. Why is that so permanently fashionable amongst the young? This third one shows the beginning of my surly attitude. It comes from the brink of me leaving my parental home. I’m still gelling my hair, like the good fashion conscious punk that I wanted to be but I’m definitely getting ready to face the world. Those were horrible, hopeless times to grow up in, thanks to Thatcherism. The most promoted social value was greed and our TV screens were filled with conflict. Much like today.

Scrapper Duncan's photograph at 20 years' old, after he had joined a non-cutting-of-hair-pact (c) 13th October 2014

Scrapper Duncan, 20 years’ old

I think this is the most embarrassing self-portrait that I own. Yet I have a special fondness for it. I am twenty years’ old and have, for some time, been honouring a pact I made with my university friends never to cut my hair again. The friendships which came with that puerile bonding exercise proved to be equally fickle. In fact, I was the first man out of the deal. Long unwashed hair didn’t suit me. When I shaved it off, the liberation was ecstatic. I jumped around from my ankles to the ceiling, until a door frame got in the way and I was knocked out.

Scrapper Duncan's photograph at the age of 26

Scrapper Duncan, 26 years’ old

Here’s me after five years of working the street as a Showman. I’m through with The Soft Years as I like to call them. They’ve taken their toll. I’ve seen a little of the rough side of life and forgotten how to sign my own name. It was time to re-educate myself. So I bit the bullet, spat it out and signed up for a law conversion course, with a view to becoming a barrister. This is how I looked on the day I walked through the doors of Sussex University, to study CPE.

Scrapper Duncan, aged 29, in the High Holborn Office of London's Free Representation Unit

Scrapper Duncan, 29 years’ old

Three years later, I’ve smartened up considerably. This is me in the High Holborn office of London’s legendary Free Representation Unit. I was the charity’s secretary when this photograph was taken. Incredibly, we were trying to take a publicity shot. It was an early attempt to crack the problem of how to photograph office workers looking interesting. A problem which portrait photographers have long since abandoned trying to solve. I’m being shown a piece of archaic technology ~ a pen.

Photograph of Scrapper Duncan, aged 31 years' old

Scrapper Duncan, 31 years’ old

I’ll end this parade of shame with my final self-portrait of the twentieth century. I think photo booth picture was paid for so that I could buy a London Underground travel card. I’m practising as a barrister, just. The short journey to respectability seemed very long at the time. It had been hard but I’ve still got a full head of hair. And issues with my hairstyle. So much for growing up, eh?

Snow overshoes transform winter urban walking

Scrapper Duncan's photograph of his snow overshoes with spikes (c) 13th October 2014

Get spiked!

This is my final blog post on shoes. A few weeks ago I asked my twitter followers to guess how many pairs of footwear I owned at that point in time. I gave one clue: it was an infeasibly large number for a man. Incredibly, there was very little interest in this guessing game. I tried to whip up some extra enthusiasm a few days ago but only received facetious replies. The answer, for those of you too shy to reply, is ten and a half.

No pair is incomplete. The overshoes above I’m counting as a half pair on the grounds that they cannot be worn without another pair of shoes. They are designed to slip on over the top of other shoes. Protuding from the yellow circles are little metal spikes, which stick into and grip snow and ice. In fact, these spikes make me more sure footed than I am in the height of summer.

My (now ex-)wife discovered the merits of snow overshoes in one particularly bad winter when she was reduced to crossing a road on all fours. Brighton was caught out by the severest frost imaginable. As bad luck would have it, the Tory council had scrimped on rock salt for the roads and pavements because of the previous decade’s mild winters. Everything came to a standstill, except the people hanging on for their dear lives by the scaffolding at the top of Church Street. Whilst my wife was on her knees, a man ran past him. She called out an exclamation to take care. He stopped, returned and pointed out his advantage ~ the very things pictured above.

I never run anywhere, except when I’m wearing these. Last time I wore them, I overtook a young Mum and her toddler, who were struggling up one of Patcham’s steepest streets. “Look at that man go!” said the toddler. “He must be like a super hero with special magic powers.” I didn’t dare turn around, lest she was disappointed that I could not help them. Instead, I quickened my pace and ran away. Hopefully, in the kid’s imagination, to aid someone more stricken than they were.

The trick is to buy snow overshoes on Ebay in the height of a very hot summer. That’s the way to get the best deal on them. Remember to remove them when you turn up with provisions at your elderly neighbour’s house though, otherwise you’ll mark their inlaid wooden floor. Assuming you live in Sussex, that is, where posh floors seem to be necessary for social cohesion. Or something.

Although I had ten and a half pairs of shoes when I began this series of blog posts, I have cut the collection down to size. Dare I ask you guess how many pairs I have retained?

Hard soles for soft feet

Scrapper Duncan's photograph of his cleated cycling shoes (c) 13th October 2014

Cleat and tidy

These shoes are my current favourite footwear. Non-cyclists should note the metal cleat placed directly below where the ball of my feet sit. This locks into the SPD pedals on my bicycle. It’s the modern version of the old toe clip. It’s easier to use and much more efficient, even if left on the relatively loose default factory setting. Instead of just converting muscle power into downward thrusts, with these shoes and their corresponding pedals almost all of every revolution becomes useful progress. If only political radicals could make the same claim!

They improve your cycling efficiency by a factor of 50%. If that sounds like one of those astonishing claims which is simply too good to be true, consider the evidence. Before I got them, there were certain hills which I could not manage more than two thirds of. On the very first occasion I wore them, without any extra training, I completed these hills. The final third ought to have been the hardest part, so that’s a brutal test. Yet I completed them with the same level of muscle ache as I had formerly managed the bottom third.

By the way, if you think that means the cleated system provides a 33% gain, you need to check your mathematical knowledge. Clearly, the gain is half again of what I could manage before. Whilst we’re fact checking, I should mention that shoes like this are not actually called cleated. Confusingly, they are called clipless. That’s because they are better using old school toe clips.

The only downside to them is that it is easy to forget you are wearing them and locked in. This means that you can fail to disengage in time, even though it is ridiculously easy to do. The humiliation of slowly falling off your bicycle sideways and then being apparently unable to stand up because you are attached to it is a marvel for motorists, apparently. When you’ve done this once or twice, you don’t ever do it again.

Aside from the extra power capture, you’ll be wondering what it feels like to ride with them? Well, you know how any machine which you use regularly starts to feel like an extension of your body? That’s as true for a bicycle as it is for an industrial sander or whatever. With clipless pedals and shoes, it is you that feels like an extension of the bicycle! You ride with much more confidence, with a surer footing.

I cannot praise this footwear and respective pair of pedals purchase enough. It cost me a week’s dole money (£70), money which I could scarcely afford to fritter. It was no leap of faith for me, I had used them before, when a rode a recumbent. The fact is that I will never again ride on conventional pedals. What a massive waste of effort that is!