The Track is Always Smoother…

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I love roller derby. I think most of the people I know love it too; but there comes a point when you have to step back from it, look at it for what it is, and think about whether the ‘roller derby til I die’ mantra might be a little unfair on you.

I have been skating for just over one year. Although I’m no Kamikaze Kitten, I can go pretty fast and get low. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and I’m proud of what my fellow skaters have achieved, but the thing I’m most proud of is the thing that I also feel a bit guilty about: my attitude towards the game.

As with any sport, there have been ups and downs in the time that I’ve been training with Croydon Roller Derby. Ligaments have made peculiar popping sounds; I’ve been made to do Infinite Jammer with a dreadful hangover. I’ve gone to training with the sudden, sad death of a friend on my mind. I’ve put my skates on after a six –hour tattoo session. I’m not trying to say that I’m particularly hardcore – I’m not – but there has been one, singular reason that I haven’t let the peaks and troughs of derby affect me in the same way that other things have.

It’s just a game.

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I do feel like I’m missing out a bit on the ‘derby is life’ attitude. I know women who eat, sleep and breathe roller derby, who spend every moment of their free time on skates; and who consequently beat themselves up because of how much they love it. Roller derby has given them a kind of freedom and power and, understandably, they want to feel like they are doing justice to this wonderful sport. I wish I had that conviction, but although I love derby, it isn’t my whole life, and I don’t feel I owe it any more than I’m giving it. Derby has made me happier, and healthier, but is hasn’t saved me.

Derby is certainly part of life. I spend a lot of time training, and thinking about skating, and meeting up with the other skaters – I LOVE bouting, and hearing the question “will you jam next?”, and losing sucks and winning rocks, but it has never given me a sleepless night. It has never made me cry and I’ve never felt that I’m not good enough for it. It’s a game, and because I haven’t made it my life, it has never stopped being fun. It’s like alcohol – small amounts now and then make me feel awesome, but if I drank constantly, I’d be drained and sick and I probably wouldn’t love it. There you go. Roller derby = beer.

I love waking up late, having coffee in bed and watching Adventure Time on my laptop a lot more than I love going to the gym. I know I SHOULD go, but I don’t feel like a massive failure when I don’t. I tree-trunksworry about the future – I worry that I’ll be stuck working in a bar for the rest of my life while my personal dreams and ambitions float just out of reach. Yes, occasionally I worry that I should glue my left toe-stop on because it keeps coming out. More often, I wonder whether there will ever be enough in my savings to travel around America.

Here’s a corny anecdote about fencing. When I did fencing, I let the sport consume me. The social aspect and all the drama that went with it; the pressure of the competitions; and the constant fear of not being good enough hindering my performance. I spent stupid amounts of money on kit, thinking that better equipment would make me a better fencer. I loved fencing so much that I grew to resent it for not loving me back, because there was always someone better, someone faster, and that someone didn’t love it as much as I did, and that meant that their victories against me were unfair. A couple of years on, I realise how ridiculous that was.

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Fencing, the be-all and end-all of my existence for two or three years, is a sport where two people in white gimpsuits hop around poking each other with blunted swords.

Roller derby,  my favourite pastime and the basis of much of my social life, is a sport where women put on rollerskates and whizz around in an oval shape trying to hit each other. It’s kind of funny when you think about it.

You think Betty Crocker flipped a table every time she burnt a sponge? The sport that you play is not an entity – it is a pastime. It is a series of movements and tactics and skills that you assimilate into your lifestyle. You are what you do, so you are the sport. There will always be someone better than you – someone who has been skating for years and years, who never takes their skates off and who has the most up-to-date gear – but that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to do the sport.

You don’t need to beat yourself up, derby girl.  It’s just a game.

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The Horniman Museum, scribblings and Fresh Meat Tryouts!

My lovely friend Robyn came to visit this weekend. She was here to try out for the Croydon Roller Derby Fresh Meat programme, but the clever git has also been a runner on a TV show!

Robyn is an animator, and pretty much the nicest and most talented person I know. We’ve been friends for around eighteen years, from our halcyon days pretending to be Mice With Swords (we got through a lot of Redwall) right through to the discovery of boys and the misery of the graduate job market. On this occasion, we ended up going to the Horniman museum…

Taxidermy at its weirdest.

I met an owl and was too starstruck to say hi.

Robyn and her new boyfriend.

And we found some bees too.

See?

We also drank three bottles of wine between the two of us, and had a rowdy game of Cards Against Humanity (my little brother won, because he’s a deviant) followed by an evil hangover and lots of skating.

Croydon Roller Derby held its Fresh Meat trials on Sunday, and we had a great turnout – there were even a couple of familiar faces in the paceline! There were a few people there who had skated before, some hoping to transfer from other leagues, and others who had never even put on a pair of rollerskates. Riot Squad and Vice Squad, our A and B teams respectively, are playing against Milton Keynes Roller Derby this coming weekend… which means I need to stop eating biscuits and do some press ups. I’ve found that Tabata high intensity workouts are good – they’re usually under an hour but there’s enough in there to make you really knackered. (A note to the derby contingent – I am far too poor to afford gym membership, but the FitnessBlender workouts on YouTube are fantastic – highly recommend ’em!)

I’ve also started making use of this beautiful sketchbook I was given for my birthday! The first one is me completely ‘borrowing’ Angelique Houtkamp’s style…

And this is a little sad Saint Sinead O’Connor I spent far too long on.

Yes, I know. John Singer Sargent I am not, but it’s a start.

I also finally, finally saw Frozen. I know it gets a lot of comparisons to Tangled, but I think I actually preferred it to Tangled… it’s got a great little curveball at the end, and I’m happy that there seem to be so many films popping up at the moment with the sentiment “boys: they’re not that important” rather than “be skinny, get married, profit.” Even the talking snowman wasn’t as irritating as I thought he would be.

The week ahead promises adventures with the Portuguese, and a Max Richter concert followed by carrying a watermelon around a party with a man dressed as Patrick Swayze (it’s 80s-themed, and I got carried away with notions of making a huge Falcor costume for Ed before realising that Dirty Dancing was probably easier). I’ll also be trying to stay motivated in the eternal hunt for a job that doesn’t require me to sell Jagerbombs.

Hurrah!

Friday Favourites! #1

It has been a productive week! I decorated the flat, did lots of roller derby, cooed over the cheap mushrooms and sausages you can get in tucked-away bits of Brighton, filled out some job applications and worked stupid hours at the pub. So here are some things I’ve been appreciating of late!

At the moment I’m completely obsessed with Louise Brooks. I also love these tattoos by Angelique Houtkamp – I want to visit her in Amsterdam and get some new ink for my collection.

Angelique Houtkamp

Look at this beautiful roller derby one!

http://www.salonserpent.com/angelique.html

I wonder if I could combine the two and ask her to do a Louise Brooks traditional-style tattoo…

This is a cat I met on Ed’s road… I think he’s generally just known as Friendly Cat. A relative of Overly Affectionate Ginger maybe?

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I really want this, but I’m pretty certain I’d be fired for wearing it.

http://www.lookhuman.com/

This man is my hero. I don’t say that lightly, but the amount of effort…

Also… is it bad that I actually quite like that song? It makes me think of massive 80s power ballads.

I picked up one of these lovely little cone lights for £3 at IKEA (Ed had never been to IKEA. It was like taking a toddler to Disneyland.)

I’ve been making more little tulip pendants! If you’d like one, take a looksie here.

instagram.com/ohnolilyrae

I’ve also signed up for two courses… one’s a mouse workshop at the London Taxidermy Academy (I’m just soppy when it comes to animals, dead or alive) and the other is a storybook-writing course. I was a bit sceptical of the website, as it has SCAAAAM! written all over it, but it was £14 on Groupon so what the heckins.

Hope you all had a splendid week!