Category Archives: Roller Derby

The Slerby Dump.

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Remember how a little while ago I wrote a blog on not letting roller derby get you down, because it’s just a game, etc?

Print it out, set fire to it. Let us never speak of it again.

I’m in the middle of a horrible roller derby slump. I feel like I’ve peaked, having skated for eighteen months. I love jamming most of all but in the past few months every time I’ve been knocked off and bridged back, or I didn’t get lead, or been sent to the box, I question my resolve and my ability. I watch other jammers jump apexes and inspire cheers and hoots from the bench, and I see our team get stronger and stronger with every game they win, and yes I’m happy and excited. Roller derby is not a game for individuals, you must play as a team. But god damn, it feels as if I’m actually getting worse. My ego hurts.

I felt completely invincible a few months ago, when I considered myself a strong, reliable jammer. If we were stuck I knew I could always rack a few points up. Perhaps it’s because we’re playing bigger, stronger teams than we ever have before, but these days I feel like the spare dick at a wedding.

“So-and-so is going to be an amazing power-jammer”, “Miss Thing is quickly becoming one of our top skaters”, and so on. It is pathetic to feel envious of people you love and yet I do. Every jam I’m not picked for gives me this cold, vinegary feeling in my gut; like I’ve swallowed a huge pickled onion. An onion pickled in piss. And others have told me, and I have told myself, that this is a phase. Everyone goes through the derby slump – it’s like puberty again, because you go off for a mini-weep in the toilets a lot and get bad skin and compare yourself to your friends. Every tiny nit-pick about your own performance blooms into a full-grown insecurity it becomes impossible to ignore. But it’s just a phase.

I whinged to my coach recently that I felt like I was getting worse in training. He explained that I was looking at it wrong – I wasn’t getting worse, the team was getting better. Our walls were becoming impenetrable, and as a skater who has jammed a lot for my team in the past year, this was really exciting. That helped a lot – I realised that, yes, I’d been putting in a LOT of work, but I wasn’t the only one. It was a nice big slice of perspective.

But – and this is important – the work-rate of others does not depreciate your own. The biggest thing to realise when you are caught in the swamp of uncertainty is that telling yourself that you suck doesn’t help. When you are ill, you either take medicine that helps you to feel better, or you just suck it up and ride it out.

When you are in the derby slump, your medicine is your own kindness.

Watching my team-mates glide through a pack, the tiny voice in my head (which for some reason sounds like Brittany Murphy) says ‘I’m useless, everyone knows I’m a shit jammer, I’m faking it’, and – one of my own personal favourites – ‘I’m riding on the coat-tails of being good in Fresh Meat and now I’m playing it for real and I’m not ready.’

Brittany Murphy is chatting nonsense and here’s why. Say you’ve got a cold. Do you stand outside in winter in a wet jumper rubbing shit all over yourself? No, because that’s insane. It’ll also make your cold worse. If your self-doubt is a cold, then fuelling your self-doubt with Brittany Murphy’s smack-talk about being a failure is exactly like rubbing shit all over yourself. You don’t get rid of a cold by adding to it and you don’t get better at roller derby by telling yourself you suck.

Instead of comparing myself to other skaters, and pulling out my own eyelashes wishing for the strength of ten Mighty Mighty Bashes, I’m trying very hard to remember that no two skaters are ever the same. Everyone has their good points and bad points. Some are great at juking, others at jumping – some are very strong and some are very brainy. You might not be the strongest or the fastest or the best at throwing hits but you know you serve a purpose somehow – you just have to keep working and find out what it is. To everyone else, it’s obvious. You wouldn’t be there otherwise.

Feeling like you’re shit at something you’re passionate about is horrible. But as long as you’re still doing it, and you keep trying to push your way through that seemingly impenetrable wall of I’m-not-good-enough though it might take weeks and months, you cannot say that you have failed. And you’ll climb out of the derby slump, realise that while you were freaking out about being rubbish you’d actually been getting kind of great, and eventually you’ll wonder what the hell you were worried about to begin with. And we’ll all live happily ever after. The end!

Ideas for a Roller Derby Valentine’s Day

We’re halfway through February. Not only does this indicate that we’re nearly at the end of a miserable rainy winter, it means that in a few weeks’ time we’ll be able to skate outdoors again, eat grilled meat and drink in beer gardens.

Oh, also it’s Valentine’s Day on Friday.

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If you are the kind of person for whom Valentine’s Day is just a repulsive celebration of forced sentimentality and hackneyed satin-covered doe-eyed ‘feelings’, then great. Join the masses. If, instead, Valentine’s Day means microwaving a roast dinner for one, then that’s great too. In its own way.

But what if you kind of, you know, want to celebrate your affections for a derby person? After all, the definition of a ‘partner’ is someone who you fart in front of, share chips with, and occasionally hump (if you’ve been good.) Somehow, it seems only fair to go along with Valentine’s Day for SOME of the ride – if only to let your person know that you don’t mind how bad they smell after training. Here are some ‘romantic’ ideas to help you get down with a roller derby Valentine’s Day.

  1. Wash each other’s pads
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Everyone has their own post-derby fragrance. Somehow your own doesn’t seem too bad, but the warm-parmesan-and-raw-meat smell of your loved one’s wristguards can be a truly testing experience – and washing someone else’s is a pure and beautiful act of love. Put on a respirator if you have to, and get some tongs. Quickly and without  vomiting, stuff gaskets, elbow pads, wristguards, and the squishy bit inside their knee-pads into a pillowcase. Tie a knot in the top so the pads don’t infect everything else in there. Wash as many times as it needs and hang those not-so-pungent articles out to dry. If you can get through this, your relationship will survive anything.

2. Scare them with home-made sex toys.

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No-one really knows what to say when presented with a translucent vibrating shape. Generally sex toys are a bit expensive, a bit naff and a bit overrated – and the amount of pressure on the recipient of the rampant rabbit to act pleased and not slightly unnerved is unfair. But why settle for a shadow of uneasiness on their face when you could have A HOME-MADE MASK OF TERROR? Duct tape a cheese-grater to a pair of pants, or draw a pair of tits on a toy dinosaur. Fix a maniacal grin to your face as they unwrap it, and bingo. Instant gratification.

3. Groupon vouchers

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Every day I’m bombarded with Groupon offers for things like ‘romantic escapes to Cornwall’, ‘dinner for two at a three star restaurant in Hastings’ and ‘500 edible roses’, etc. Traditional romantic gestures through Groupon smack of insincerity and desperation, but let’s not be unfair on Groupon. It is a treasure trove of cheap gifts. Instead of trudging to Cornwall in the rain, where you’ll be too grumpy to do anything, Groupon instead offers:

Laser Lipolysis, only £59!

Driving lessons! £15!

£40 towards plant products!

An MOT for £19!

An online accounting course, £60!

 4. Sexy lingerie… sort of

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Your average derby girl will spurn a lacy Ann Summers thong in favour of comfy spandex knickers. For men, it can be the opposite, but it depends who you’re dating. To be honest, the pH level of the sweat that trickles down into your blocker’s butt-crack means that pretty girly underwear will dissolve like a Berocca, so sexy underwear is not the way forward. Instead, I recommend butt padding. Nothing says ‘you’re alright by me’ like a well-protected coccyx.

5. Write them a song

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If you’re musical, you might want to put two rubber bands over a Tupperware for a makeshift guitar and write a song about how much you love your sentient flesh accessory. It has to rhyme, you have to sing, and you are only allowed to use five different words. Record it, or give them a post-coital performance. For example:

In the key of C:

Baby, we got a bath

Bath, got a we baby

Got a we baby bath

Baby bath got a we

(Repeat until single)

Have a successful Friday.

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!