Monday

So tomorrow is Monday. We’ll get to work and colleagues will ask if we’ve had a good weekend. I hope you’ll all be able to say “yes” with a big smile on your face.

I’ve had an ace weekend! Friday night and Saturday was PS4 and the Lego Movie with my son. Today was Skateful Dead practice and it was one of the best sessions we’ve had in a while.

The last two weeks have been a combination of low attendance and frustration. Today was a tonic. Coach Gillie was back, Carly was reffing and there were nine of us on track. Most of the session was blocker work. Chris brought some drills with him so we started with those, developing them over the next two and a half hours. Of course, for blocking drills you need jammers. Lawrence and I jammed for much of the session, and I did okay. Loads of good work from everyone. Richie was back with us for the second week – he puts in some solid hits. Or newest skater Jim did some excellent work too. I got called for cutting a few times – thanks Carly – important to know about these in training.

A break towards the end for endurance – yeah! Then a recap on some drills that we’ve been working on over the past few weeks. Queen of the track to finish off.

Buzzing! :-)

Frustration

I found training this weekend particularly frustrating.

Coach Gillie couldn’t make it due to a (non-derby related) injury, but she took the time share the weeks plan with a few of us. Much of the session was reinforcement of the drills we covered last week. (Though it was fresh for many as, you may recall, there were only four of us last week.)

Attendance was better this week, eight skating plus Carly our ref. She was also wearing Gillie’s coaching hat; plenty for her to do. I also noted that everyone managed to find either a black or white top or even both!

I found that I quickly got cross with myself. When I was blocking our walls felt scrappy and the jammer got though too easily. Yet when jamming I seemed to get stuck behind the wall. I often managed to scatter a few from the wall, but we have a few players who are very quick and they recycled and stopped me. I was trying not to be cross, at least not to be outwardly cross, but I failed it seems. Lawrence picked up on it and asked what was up – he’s a love.

I was pleased later in the day when our captain posted a few “You Should be Watching More Roller Derby” clips to our Facebook group. Perhaps he also felt that the walls needed to be better?

This evening I found time to watch more derby and read Mutch Mayhem’s WFTDA profile which has made be feel inspired again. I just need to figure out how to sleep now!

 

four

Last Sunday was our first training session of the new year. It was quiet. Very quiet. There were only 4 of us skating, and Gillie our coach.

Sometimes low attendance sessions can be odd, but this one was great. We did loads of work on blocking, with both forward and backward walls. I found that my backward blocking wasn’t horrendously bad. We also managed to fit in endurance. Given so few of us we all worked pretty much non-stop for the full two and a half hours. Two rounds of “queen of the track” just about finished us all off, and I managed to win the second round!

I tried to do 27 in 5 anti-derby direction at the end, but only managed 24.

A tip of the hat to Phil, Simon and Matt for their hard work and Gillie for adapting your plans so effectively. I’m hoping tomorrow’s (today’s) practice will be better attended.

Targets

Here are my targets* for 2015

  • To work harder on my physical fitness in order to improve at roller derby
  • To use both film and digital cameras for frequently to widen the scope of my photography
  • To improve my programming skills, in particular the use of tests, Groovy and Grails

Okay, that’s the summary, you can stop reading now, below I just expand these.

Fitness (Roller Derby)

I’ve set six month targets here, so by the end of June I’d like to be able to achieve the following.

  • Ten single leg squats on either leg
  • 40 press ups in two minutes
  • Run 10k in 45 minutes

Photography

The only time I find to use my DSLR is when photographing Roller Derby. I barely use my X100 or my film cameras. Aims here are for the year.

  • Use a camera at least once a fortnight for subjects other than roller derby
  • Use my film cameras often enough to develop a film every two months

Programming (Work/Android)

I program at work but also at home on Android apps. Improving my skills in Groovy and Grails will naturally happen, but I’d like to accelerate that progress. We test all of the time at work, but I don’t use coded tests for my Android apps. From this then.

  • In the next six months, to be asked to present a topic to the team
  • In the next six months, introduce written tests for my Android apps

* There are many opinions on making new year resolutions. I consider it a useful marker against which to measure progress.

Twenty Fourteen

Facebook has, of course, offered to compile a set of images that is supposed to represent a review of the past year. I have passed on that golden opportunity. I offer you, dear reader, a more thoughtful version.

Last Christmas I was suffering the pain of a herniated disc. Such pain that I played “lying down” charades with the children as it was the only way I could find relief. It was a bloody awful Christmas and in January I declared that I would be quitting roller derby. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there. But derby friends immediately came to my rescue and said that I should still be involved, NSOing or refereeing. Well, with hind sight, “being involved” was never really going to stay that way. In mid February I saw an MSK specialist who reassured me.

By March I was back on track. I was at back at practice, though taking it careful. I also took out a year gym membership, to build core strength to better support by back and hopefully prevent repeat injury. I’d been encouraged to swim to help my back but I found that it made my back hurt – I don’t do front crawl, which is what I should have been doing. I also found that fitting in swim and gym was consuming a fair bit of my free time.

A long weekend around my birthday in April gave me time to think, and skate lots. The atmosphere at work had changed substantially and not in a good way. These two strands in my life seemed to be saying that I needed to kick myself in the arse if I expected change. So I set my mind to improve my fitness level and to find a new job. Shit!

May saw Skateful Dead’s third co-ed scrim. I wasn’t skating by then, though I note that the training session at the end of the month was particularly good. By the end of May I had found a new job. I started at the end of June, so had a month read up on the technology I’d be using. I was too busy to write, though did manage to fit in some derby photography, which included a trip up to Scotland with Hull’s Angels.

My new place of work is Bradford, so the commute is half the time. Some flexibility in start/finish times also helps greatly with the trains. I clearly recall going for a run one fine evening and bumping into Leeds commuters arriving on the late train that I used to get. That extra free time has allowed me to fit in gym sessions after work and still get home at a reasonable time. The job is going really well. I finished my first project in reasonable time and it’s been well received. The current project involves phased releases as it’s pretty big. I getting to use some agile programming techniques and they are working well. Very happy at work now.

August was the Men’s European Derby Championship, held in Newcastle. But for me the bigger event was our co-ed scrim. I felt that I was safe to play and I loved it. I got to skate with some amazing skaters including four from HARD, some from LRD and a few from Scotland who happened to be in Newcastle but nipped down for the scrim. It was a confidence booster that I feel everyone needs from time to time.

Over the summer holiday we (The Skateful Dead) seem to ‘lose’ a few regulars. They haven’t moved on to skate with other teams, they’ve just become too busy to make it to training. One session there were just four of us. Numbers seem to have improved recently, last week we had ten – enough to scrim. Gillie, our coach, and Phil, one of our skaters got married in October. They also took time off to prepare for that. We managed without, as you do, but a coach is an important person on the team.

In September I had opportunity to get on my aggressive (in-line) skates again. A group, which seems to be led by LRD skaters, had arranged a “skaters only” session at The Works in Leeds. It’s an indoor skate park. I’ve been there three or four times now and I’ve found that it’s really helping with my jumping and transitions. I highly recommend giving it a go.

During September/October I had a row of five weekends where I was doing something “derby” every weekend. The biggest of these was a trip over to Dublin with HARD. Crazy flight times, little sleep, grumpy photographer and a jolly minibus trip. All the fun!

After the flurry of activity, November seemed quiet. I managed to get some development time in on my Penalty Timer app, incorporating changes that became apparent during use. I was excited by the prospect of Christmas too, and put my tree up at the end of November.

December brought a well attended Skateful Dead co-ed in which I took part, followed by a trip over to Hull. Photography for both the A and B teams then the HARD Christmas party. A really good start to the Christmas period.

Photography

It is also little over a year since I first did photos for Hull’s Angels, covering a closed scrim against The Crucibelles. Since then I’ve been over to Hull quite a few times, down to Nottingham, up to Scotland and even over to Ireland. The journey to Scotland was pivotal in my getting to know them better. We travelled by coach from/to Hull, so plenty of time to chat/listen to chatter. Dublin too was so lovely. I felt very much part of the team there. I’ve covered eleven games/events with the Angels this year and a handful of others in amongst. Looking at data from my camera I see that in over the past twelve months I’ve taken over 28,500 photos

Thank you

There are too many people to thank individually for all the lovely things that have happened this year. I do though want to name a few whose actions and support have drawn me further into the derby community and made the year such fun. First, Carly and Lawrence for not letting me quit in January when that’s all I wanted to do. Second, Danni, Julia and Abi for getting/keeping me involved with Hull’s Angels through which I’ve met many skaters and travelled more than ever.

So much love for the roller derby community!

Christmas Angels

Last Sunday I was in my ‘tog role with Hulls Angels. We had two home games, HARD B vs Barnsley Black Heart Rollers then HARD vs Team Metal Legs.
I received a lovely welcome from so many people, not just the Angels but others too. I got to meet Martha Scarkill in real life, looking amazing with black goth lips. I had quite a long chat with Peacock too, one of the rockstars in roller derby.

Martha ScarkillHARD B vs Barnsley Black Heart Rollers

I think this was the first time that I’ve seen the B team play. The teams were evenly matched, the score remaining close through out the game and the lead changing often.
In trying to get at least one photo of all of the players (it doesn’t always happen) I occasionally notice patterns in play. I was particularly impressed by Harmony Havoc’s level of work as a blocker – non-stop! The final score was HARD B 103 to Black Hearts 113.

HARD vs Team Metal Legs

EspionageThis was always going to be a difficult game to call. A well drilled HARD against a collection of top skaters. Team Metal Legs is made up of players who have suffered serious injuries (through playing derby I believe) but have worked through them to play again. They are both experienced players and they don’t quit. From the start Metal Legs were strong and maintained a small lead up to half time. I wondered if HARD would come back in the second half, but Metal Legs extended their lead. The game finished HARD 133 to Metal Legs 211.

I spotted some really good recycling by Dane-ish and beautiful track clearance by Dr Blockson. Dolly Dimps played (in both games) with such determination; in one of the jams she was getting pounded by TML but just kept on jumping up and trying again. Good work!

I feel that I say this every time, but it’s worth repeating. The friendly banter on track between players of both teams is a joy to witness. During time outs especially there are hugs and laughter. When the whistle blows the game faces go on, as they should, but skaters care for each other. I noted that Jo Mean got a good hit on an opposing skater but when the jam finished to found her and made sure that she was okay :-)

PARTY!

From the arena I walked on to Union Mash Up for the HARD Christmas party. Arriving early with Stab and Dave (who doesn’t have a derby name!) and helped set up. Great venue, we were upstairs, with our own music which wasn’t so too loud. Perfect when you want to talk derby. Got to catch up with Jenna, who’s now skating with HARD. Italian food from the place next door, good food and generous portions. Then it was Secret Santa. I’d sat out of this as it’s difficult to buy for people unless you know them. At the end however I found that I was the centre of attention. Pixel Vixen presented me with a present and card from HARD! A Very Secret Santa, most unexpected but a wonderful surprise, thank you all so much!

I’d dug out an old Christmas quiz (from 2008) and was pleased that people took part. Very impressed that one of the teams got all of the music questions right (Holly Sheet). A tie for first place, a bottle of wine each. Some dancing there (not me, I don’t dance) before a handful heading back in to town. I found myself at Propaganda. Before too long Iron Giant had dragged everyone, myself included, on to the dance floor – she may be small but she’s crazy strong. Some good tunes and then we decided to have a little bit of a play on the pole (dancing) to the side of the room. Didn’t make a complete tit of myself, so it was all good :-)

It’s just a short walk from there to Trinity Hostel, which is looking great.

An excellent weekend.

Catch Up

Hello, it’s been a while.

It seems that the last time I posted was way back in October. I find time now to post from the train heading over to Hull – yes, I’m over to see the lovely HARD Angels play, and then on to the Christmas party this evening :-)

Training

I don’t have my training notes with me, though from memory turn out has been reasonable in the weeks since the very poor showing in October. In Gillie’s absense Carly and Chris have done a sterling job coming up with sessions. Gillie returned (married) a few weeks ago and it’s great to have her back. It seems that she and I the only ones who are keen on endurance drills! I do have note that perhaps three weeks ago I actually was last man standing at Queen of the Track. First time that’s ever happened; I usually get taken out with a sneak attack whilst engaging someone else. Then two weeks ago I managed to knock Buckingham Malice down whilst we were scrimming. (This is devalued somewhat though as he was extremely hung over, having had to step outside half way through the session to throw up. Oops!) One of our newer skaters, Matt (AKA The Beast) has made good progress and passed his mins. Well deserved as he turns out to all of the sessions and works hard throughout. This enabled him to take part in our Christmas co-ed scrimmage yesterday.

Christmas Brawl

Our co-ed scrimmage yesterday was a wonderful success. The previous event was on the same weekend of the Mens Euros up in Newcastle and we struggled with attendance. This one was over subscribed, though late cancellations allowed us to invite those on the reserves list.

I was on Team White (Snow would have been a better name) and I ended up as captain. A moment of panic until I realised that Chris was the captain of Team Black (Coal??) and Carly was head ref – so working with friends :-) I felt a little nervous, as I do at these events, though with no need. It was good to see Tony O and Tony A on my team – both started with Skateful Dead, so it was like “old times”. Of note on Team Black were Slam C Nesbitt and Feral Fairy. I’ve never been on track with Slam but those that know him will know that he is something of a legend and an absolute gent. I’ve only been on track once with Feral – playing Queen of the Track at the end of a fresh meat session over in Manchester when I first started in Derby.

The first half passed so quickly, the whistle confusing many who though it was a time out or something. Jammer was by rotation to those that wanted it. I jammed during the game and also in the last jam, suffering a cut track penalty (my only penalty) but also scoring a point :-)

All those skating did so with level heads and the sense of fun that we aim for. We also had a good crew of NSOs and referees. Thank you all for making it such an enjoyable event – YOU ROLL!

Weekend Off*

This weekend was my first weekend “off” derby. One doesn’t really take time off from derby. I had offered my NSO services to Leeds Roller Dolls, but wasn’t required. I’ve met some of the LRD players at The Works, so wanted to go and support them. I decided that I’d go and watch them.

chart of score by jamIt felt very odd just watching a game. I set about tracking the score jam by jam. The scores were even until jam 9 when RIPunzel scored 15 points for Leeds. From then they led until the eleventh jam in period 2. As can be seen from the chart, both teams had periods when they didn’t score for a couple of jams in a row. Jam 13 and 14 in period 2 were power jams for Leeds. Skatewell Tart racked up 25 points in one of them. I did also note that she is an awesome blocker.

I think I noted that three players fouled out, I believe Tinchy Slider (Central City) was the first to go, followed by Rigs and El Nasser for Leeds.

Also of note:

  • Central City have some lovely merch. I got a T-shirt, regular pin badges and an enamel badge
  • The Futsal floor was not very sticky. The edge rope was frequently dislodged by skaters, more so than with other halls
  • Futsal have a policy of no food and drink being brought in by spectators. They were running bag checks on the door

The second game was Whip-Its vs Central City B. However, the break between games I was asked if I could NSO. Penalty box timing it was then.

It was a very enjoyable event. One final thing that made me smile was El Nasser standing on the rope whilst I was helping take up the track. Thanks El :-)

Training

Training today was quite well attended, eight blokes and Carly too. It was good to have Baker back on skates. He was “taking it easy” though still managed 35 (is that even possible) in 5 and played very well.

Lots of useful drills throughout, big thanks to Carly and Buckingham for keeping the session moving along. There was time at the end for me to try my clockwise skating. This week I managed 26.5 in 5. I’ll nail 27 soon I hope :-)

We also discussed sessions and events up to the end of the year. We are hoping to have another co-ed scrim before Christmas and a roller disco near to Christmas. I’ll share dates when they’re confirmed.

So another skatey weekend under the belt :-)

Bridge?

Last week was, I think, the worst turnout that we’ve ever had at training! Just four of us on skates, including Carly our ref. Baker was there too, though not skating as he’s injured himself. (A non-skating injury!) Good to see you Baker, missing you on track, get well soon :-)

With so few there we couldn’t stick to the training programme and a scrim was obviously out of the question. Fortunately Matt wanted to work on his minimums so that’s what we did.

It was the first time out for me in my new knee pads. Knee falls were enormous fun as the pads are way more slippery than my old ones. I could slide for ages! We also had lots of time to practice our own skills and time for some messing around too. I’ve been working on jumping two foot translations. I’ve found that going to the skate park at The Works has made me more confident about jumping. I’ve always liked to keep my skates on the floor.

Matt did really well. He ticked off his 27 in 5 with style, hits he’s always been comfortable with and falls are easy. Well done Matt!

At the end of the session I did 24 in 5 clockwise, which I was pleased with, 27 very soon I hope.

The Works

On Monday evening I made it over to The Works again. This was an extra “skaters only” that Ashleigh had organised for Gemma (I believe, as she is moving away from Leeds soon). This too was low numbers, though it was expected. Discussion in the Fraternity of Rogue Skaters group had concluded that a monthly meet would be best. I highly recommend it, next one is 27 October if you can make it.

I got chatting to a young Italian skater who could grind and jump. He wasn’t afraid to point out what I was doing wrong. He’s studying in Bradford so we got the same train back that way. There were a few other new faces there, all good for increasing numbers. It was good to see Sam (Flame) – she’s very confident on the ramps/pipes but also very encouraging of others :-)

My achievement was to jump flat top of a block with ramps. I’d like to be able to grind, but that’s going to take some work I think.

Dublin

Last weekend Hulls Angels were playing the Dublin B team over in Ireland. I tagged along to do my photos thing.

The adventure started on Friday. In order to keep travel costs to a minimum I had booked cheap flights. Going out from Manchester at 11pm on Friday and returning at 6.20am on Sunday. The total cost of the flights was just over £20, the same that I paid for train tickets to get me to the airport! Once in Dublin I’d be staying in a hostel.

I spent Friday in school doing governor stuff then had the evening to get myself packed and check over my camera gear. I was travelling very light, just a small camera bag and a shoulder bag.

The journey to the airport started a little before 8pm, giving me plenty of time to check in. I was pleased to bump in to Dave and Morgan and Nuke 9t (who played for Scotland) in the bar. It’s always reassuring when your travelling to be with friends. The flight to Dublin was fine, but someone mistook Morgan’s bag for theirs and took it from the carousel! Dave said that I should just get on while they stayed and sorted out the missing case. The bus service to the town centre is good and I made it to the hostel for 2am.

I’m not familiar with hostels, but the bloke on reception was very helpful. I asked about security, for my camera. “There’s a cage under the bed. Do you have a padlock?” No, I didn’t, and he didn’t have any spare. There was a safe deposit box, but that sounded a bit OTT. I was sharing the room with three others. He said that usually there weren’t any problems with the small rooms. He checked his computer. “It’s three Germans in there with you”. ” Ha, that’s fine then” I said. I consider them very trustworthy. I snook in to bed and tried to get some sleep.

The 6.40 alarm wasn’t particularly welcome, but the minibus to the leisure centre was booked for 8.30 from a different part of town. Dublin is a beautiful city, bustling with life and some very impressive buildings. The sun was just up as a I walked along the Leiffy to meet the others.

The drive south the Greystones didn’t take too long, with a slight detour to pick up a few of the team on the way. It’s a lovely leisure centre, nice seating and a small café area just outside the sports hall. The track had already been laid, so time to check the light and say hello to the ref crew.

Cake and merch stalls started to spring up, spectators arrived and other photographers.
All of the photographers I’ve ever met have been friendly. Unfortunately it wasn’t so this time. There are often two boxes marked inside the track for photographers to stand in. This keeps them out of the way of the referees, NSOs and flying skaters. This guy was stood in one of the boxes with a pro camera/lens, so I went to have a chat with him. From the outset he was rude, asking what ISO I was using then telling me that was no good. And my lens was no good either. And he had a “press pass” so he’d be staying in the box cause he “had to get photos”. No amount of jolly banter worked on him. Then he asked how long a “match lasted”. He was shocked when I answered 60 minutes. Frustrated I went and asked Abi if she had a contact at Dublin RD so we clarify the situation. She did and we spoke to them. They sorted it out straight away, much to my relief. I shared the inside of the track with various togs during the day and it worked very well. Mr Obnoxious got bored I think and left after the co-ed scrim, missing the Ireland-Scotland game and the DRD-Newcastle game.

DRDB-HARD-14AIn the Dublin B/Angels game Dublin took an early lead and looked like they would run away with it. But HARD fought back and and towards the end held the lead. Dublin nipped it back, the game ending at 165 to 164. Very exciting. (The card right shows the score against jam with HARD in green.)

The co-ed scrim followed and was another close game. Bravehearts took it 126 to Celtic Warriors 121.

The third game was Ireland Men’s Roller Derby taking on Power of Scotland. Manic. One of the NSOs was worried about skaters crashing into the middle of the track so I was very politely asked to move outside. Ireland took the win, though I don’t recall the score. (Better than 155 against 94, which was the score with almost 9 minutes to go.)

We had to leave half way through the last game, Dublin vs Newcastle, but they did draw the raffle (early for us I think) before we left. We did rather well, I’d never won anything in a raffle but picked up a bottle of red wine this time. Dane-ish won a bottle of champagne, Rollosapien won two prizes. The mini bus driver, Valentine, was a star. He had a corkscrew and plastic glasses. We opened the wines and shared them out on the journey back. It was just like our trip back from Dundee earlier in the year :-)

The after party was at Thomas House, a bit of a win for me as it is just around the corner from the hostel. I started with a pint of Guiness, well, you have to in Dublin, and got talking to a handful of skaters, Abnorman amongst them. I also got to have a jolly good chat with Whippy and her friends. Lovely people. I hit the sack at around midnight I think, with my alarm set for 4am.

The journey back was with many of HARD, though it was a quiet affair, I imagine we were all tired. I was back home before 10am, which seemed very strange. Time for a sleep before Skateful Dead practice.

What an amazing weekend!