Sunday 1st September 2013 the sunset above Stockport was glorious. The few clouds remaining skulked along the last patches of blue; reluctant to scar the purple, pink, orange sky party. The traffic lights held me at red (at ‘The Pyramid Roundabout’) for far too long, as if they were savouring coordinating with the heavens. I didn’t even mind, I got to look for longer, to own the moment. So radiant was the sunset, that I temporarily forgot that Mat had managed to pinch, punch me that morning for the 3rd month in a row.
Sunday 1st September 2013 was also, coincidentally, the first time I went to actual roller derby practise.
It is with bitter regret I admit, that as I pulled across the roundabout with enough speed to turn my knuckles white and tilt my very bedraggled Saxo unnervingly, (still in the clutches of Derby exhilaration) a profound melancholy settled on me. I just felt really old. It won’t be the last time I think it, but it felt somehow worse on the back of such good feelings, I just keep wondering, how is it that I am still looking for things to be good at, and worse, for things to make me feel content?
But, the more immediate source of woe, I should have listened to the girls when they said, the earlier I started Sunday training the better. See, Sunday was amazing, (nowhere near as scary as I imagined) but it’s taken nearly 4 months for me to even see what derby’s all about! The change of pace and attitude is palpable and I am not only lacking certain skills, I’m also not fit enough. And I’ve only just found out. BOOOOOOOOOO. I’ve allowed myself to be ignorant about exactly how to achieve what is quickly becoming the thing I most want to tick off this flippin’ list!
Turns out reading the rules for Roller Derby on Wikipedia does not ensure you actually understand them. At all. In fact, reading them and constantly asking questions about them and even being told them before I started my first attempt at following them, still didn’t ensure I got them.
If you’re as unacquainted as me, here’s an idiot’s guide:
- There are 2 teams on a track, each team consists of 5 people (4 blockers and a jammer)
- The team scores points when the jammer laps the other team.
- Blockers are kinda offensive and defensive at the same time! Offensive mode = aiming to knock other jammer down or force her out of the track (so she has to come back in behind you all to start the very tiring assault all over again) Defensive mode = stopping your jammer being knocked down by the other team but also clearing space for her to get past other team’s blockers and score points (generally done by trickery)
‘Knowing’ all this I’m only loosely paying attention as we split into teams, thinking more about what happens if I can’t keep up, as my team are wearing bibs this shouldn’t matter. Oh, wait, the bibs smell too much for the girls to put them on, they are tucking them into their shorts while all (here begins my problem) all of the girls crush into a line. I have no idea where to stand and Mooks is shouting, “5 seconds” and my pondering on why she’s giving us so little time only costs me more of it. Sam, my team captain, is yelling, “over here!” and “look where you’re standing!” and “look where their jammer is!” and I can sense her frustration but it doesn’t make me understand any better so I simply move closer to her and then further away again like I’m in a bad sketch show, eliciting no satisfaction wherever I seem to go. Completely flummoxed, my nervous laugh is kicking in and I actually blurt, “who’s on our team?” but it gets lost with the whistle and the whole pack is moving. Turns out, other jammer is right behind me and I allow her to pass, smiling as I think she’s on our team! This happens another twice before I realise (because of an audible groan from someone whose bib I can actually see)
In brief, that 2 minutes is possibly the most confused I’ve ever been in my whole life. I also fell over, really hard, because of all the banging against other people’s skates; on the plus side, I got up really quickly and it didn’t actually hurt so I’ve shaken that fear! (However, back to the sad feeling I got later, my immediate reaction on righting myself was to look for a pair of eyes that had seen and were as happy as I was for my achievement. I don’t know who I was expecting to see, my Mum?! Nobody was looking and it didn’t make me feel bad in the slightest, but it’s still annoying I’m looking for approval even on the derby track, in a training session, I think I need a brain transplant!)
Georgia. I’m going to place a disproportionate amount of blame on her for my bumbling display. To sum her up, Georgia is a wily derby player, but, she’s also a natural teacher: relaxed, warm, forthright (“Where are your crossovers?” A devilish shadow interrupting my internal dialogue when I’m just skating around warming up! “Crossovers?” and when my playing of the deaf card fails to deter her, “Kelly! Crossover!”) she’s also confident and funny as fuck. She teases me all the time but it comes from such a good, and frankly deserving, place that it bounces off me. BUT, as I said, she’s wily. So, when I’m in full derby panic mode about 5 seconds in, Georgia is skating next to me, wittering instructions that I follow, not answering questions I’m muttering like, “what should I be doing?” because she’s, in my head at least, too busy being amazing and making up for me being like a deadweight on a drowning person. The catch is, as I’m sure you’ve guessed when not under the high level of stress I was, Georgia, who I trust implicitly, was not on my team.
I mentioned this to her later, as seriously, I thought it was all on me, but she grinned like a kid who’s just snatched the last sweet and stuffed it in her mouth, and with a perfect balance of sugary sweetness and gleeful laughter she chimed, “It’s not my fault if you want to follow me”. To be honest, her assertion is true and I’m still not sure if she meant to do it, but I’m leaning more that way.
Round 2: My naive assumption that both teams will start at a different point vanquished, this time I knew what I was doing: ascertained who our jammer was before getting into position, purposefully got myself near opposition blockers and Georgia was actually on my team. It was a far better 2 minutes! I managed to get in Kinders way (other jammer) at least 2 more times than she managed to sneak past me and I loved every strange second of being in the ‘pack’.
When it came to reviewing both rounds, I tried to apologise to Sam for my complete idiocy during the first go and, to my horror of horrors, this got lost in a torrent of shouts at Sam for her always, being ‘like that’ and ‘shouting’ (irony) and I’m still unsure as to whether this annoyed her or not and whether she realised me being sorry had nothing to do with her shouting, it had everything to do with me being clueless and letting the whole team down. For once, I wasn’t being sarcastic! Maybe, I need to work on my humble pie voice?!
Next step? Well, I have 3 more weeks of Sunday sessions to get good enough to still attend them; students will be back by then and team training can hardly be slowed down by goofs unable to identify their own team, as the season will be starting. Better get my skates on. (Had to be done!)
I also need to invest in my very own pair of skates. Weirdly, to achieve this you need to try on lots of styles (most of the girls at Arcadia wear hockey skates rather than derby ones) but you can’t really do this as it’s nearly all online ordering, so I have to try on different ones from the girls each week instead, despite the fact only one of them has the same size feet as me! Really helps with the balance issues I’ve got.
In my head, my skates should look like this:
Sadly, I will need to pick around performance and they’ll probably look more like this:
Also, if I do make the team, I’m going to be reborn as Kelamity. It’s more fitting to my style than Baby Blitz. Unfortunately.