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.

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!

Scotland

Hull's Angels Roller Derby in AberdeenThis weekend I had the privilege to travel up to Scotland With Hull’s Angels Roller Dames as one of their photographers. They had two games lined up, Granite City Roller Girls in Aberdeen on Saturday then Dundee’s Silvery Tayzers on Sunday.

Both games were close!

Granite City

We travelled up to Aberdeen on the Friday, a nine hour journey by coach. It was sunny and the banter on the great. Some of the team played “guess who”, others read, slept or watched videos on their tablet. We got there at around 10pm, so just time for a very quick drink before everyone retired for the day.

Aberdeen is a beautiful city, made more so by the wonderful weather. I was up and out early with my camera. The beach was just a 20 minute walk away, though I wondered on along the docks to try and get some photos of the ships. I was out for about two and half hours arriving back just in time to have breakfast with the others. We had the morning to explore the city before piling back into the coach to drive to the sports hall. This, it turned out, overlooks the sea and was just a little further on than I’d walked that morning.

Jammer on JammerThe game started around 3pm. Claud Apart took lead in the first jam and scored 25 points. Nice one!

(My impression of games that I’ve photographed for the Angels is that they always win. The last one that I saw was a massive win by over 500 points. So perhaps this game would be more of the same?)

HARD continued to lead through the first half, though it became apparent that this wasn’t going to be an easy game. By half time Granite City had 82 against HARD 85.

HARD CakeThe second half was more of the same. HARD where, I think, always ahead, but never by a comfortable margin. Right up to the final whistle the game could have gone either way.

The final score was 166 Granite City to 177 Hull’s Angels – a hard fought game, one that was nerve racking to watch.

The after party was great, the Granite City team made a beautiful cake!

Silvery Tayzers

After another night in Aberdeen we set off for Dundee at 10.30am, just a good hour down the road. The game was at DISC, which whilst a little dated seems like a really good indoor sports venue. We had plenty of time to buy merchandise and raffle tickets before first whistle at 2pm.

Again HARD took the lead from the start, but the Silvery Tayzers were never far behind. Hull lead all the way through the first half but occasional penalties gave Dundee power jams allowing them to catch up. The half time score was Hull 92 to Dundee 85!

After the break the Angels came out fighting and (from memory) took lead in the first two jams. But then the Tayzers knuckled down caught and passed them, eeking out a lead that the Angels seemed unable to close. The penalties were racking up on both sides, Iron Giant fouled out, shortly followed by [#89] the Tayzer’s captain.

Both teams were having to fight for every point. With just 11 seconds on the clock it was Tayzers 173 to Angels 163. The Angels called a time out to enable one more jam. Claud was put on to jam for HARD and give it her all, got lead and got a scoring pass. Then another. The jam ended with the score board showing 177 to 173, but the Tayzers had scored points and the jam ref indicated 4 points. It was a draw at 177 points each!!

But there are no draws in roller derby though. The scores were double checked and found to be accurate and so the head referee called for another 2 minute jam.

The tension in the room was unbearable! D-Mac took to the track to jam against Crazily Insanne for the Tayzers. D-Mac got through first and powered round for a scoring pass. Insanne also got a few scoring passes before the HARD blockers shut her down. D-Mac went through again, and again and again, again, again again! Then the whistle blew. HARD had won! The final score was HARD 207 to Dundee 189. What a way for a game to end! There were tears all round, myself included.

The lessons to take away from this? 1, team work and 2, never give up!

HARD – I love you! Thank you for a wonderful weekend :-)