Every now and again – and I mean every now and again, it’s not like I’m constantly self analysing or anything – I wonder why I do it. Why do I enter long events? Why do I plough a lonely furrow, through driving rain and sleet and ‘orribleness, on some harsh, desolate, windswept mountain top? I mean…..I don’t have to. I’m not paid to do it or anything. I could put my feet up. Watch Corry. Quaff a can of John Smiths. Eat pork pies. Read Anglers mail (and I have nothing against Anglers mail per se). But I don’t . Then, sat in the Plan café in Morgan arcade (Great food. Better coffee). I read why I do it. I read why I’ve always done it and will continue to do so while the rain falls in Wales (and it always does). All my thoughts were swept up and dropped on the page like a scoop of chips from the chippy.
Look. I never owned a pair of slippers in my life. Now, I f**kin’ need them. I got these ones in Clery’s. They’re alright. They’re grand. But I never wanted them. I never wanted to be a man who wore slippers. I always liked the feel of the house under my feet. Get into a pair of slippers and you’re f**ked; you’re life is over. That’s what I’ve always felt. Since I was a teenager and my father got a pair from our granny and he put them on, sat down in his chair in the corner and never got up again. I mean, he did get up. He went to work, went to the kitchen and up to the jacks. But that was it: he was old. It got to the point where he wouldn’t say hello when he came from work. He wouldn’t acknowledge the family, my mother, until after his feet were safe in his slippers.
Slippers. They are the source of my fear. Slippers and all that go with them. The sitting about. The tabloid newspaper. ‘Dad’s’ armchair. Match of the day. An unhealthy amusement at ‘Last of the summer wine‘. Slippers represent the most slippery of slopes. You only get one crack of the whip after all. While there’s blood in my veins, wheels on my bike and a North wind blowing, I’d rather be sodden, cold and knackered, than warm, comfortable and dozing.
The weather this weekend – in the words of Roddy Doyle – will probably be sh*te. Yeah? Well? So what? See you on the hill.
Excerpt from the short story ‘The Slave’ by Roddy Doyle. For reasons to avoid slippers, please see below.
(Why avoiding slippers is better in pictures. Top to bottom: Matt’s impressive wheeling in the wet. Cardiff Cycle festival poster. Evelyn in the Forest of Dean. Me and Jules on Mull (Jules is the purposeful one). Lancashire cobbles. Assynt descent (courtesy of Rapha).