First of all a big virtual good luck wish to all the skaters bouting in London today from all the Blitz Dames. There are a load of Dames coming down to support, and many who wish they were with us. It's going to be awesome!
Though how I'm supposed to sit on the floor and cheer with a rink rashed and bruised behind from Thursday's practice, I don't know. ;-)
But the main event in the Boot Camp today is some words from one of our newest skaters to make it into the advanced pack. A little piece our gobby Australian (her words) Blow Up Betty has been working on for a while, to express how being a part of BB*DD and the roller derby world has made her feel. If you're a proud dame, or even just a proud member of the rollerhood, it might bring a little tear to your eye. Or am I getting soppy in my old age?
Notes From A Newbie - Betty Speaks:
It’s not too often that one can pinpoint those moments in their life that definitively change them, but I am lucky. So incredibly lucky. Because in the last 3 and a half months I’ve had several of those moments, and I can remember them all like it was yesterday.
I walked into my first Blitz Dames induction day in early February 2009. An ex-pat Aussie here on a study exchange looking for a surrogate family, I had always wanted to try roller derby at home in Adelaide but had never had the time to do so. Halfway across the world, and in Birmingham with no friends or family to distract me, I had nothing to lose. Super keen to get on skates, I arrived at Erdington for newbie practice really early, immediately striking up a conversation with the soon-to-be Bitchy the Killer, and someone who I am proud to call my closest friend and ally on and off the track. The arrival of the rest of the Dames and other newbies like myself bought many smiles, jokes, gossip, catch-ups and the general camaraderie that only females tend to understand when around each other. After cracking a joke at my expense and acquiring the nickname of ‘Skippy’ (for obvious reasons) I got walked through the basics by Bitter Sweet and Saintly Sin. A marginal background in street skating gave me more confidence than my ability warranted, but once thrown into the main pack, instinct takes over. Being on skates and going fast feels so good. I’m hooked.
Fast forward two months, and I’m on the verge of passing basic skills thanks largely due to my ‘derby mum,’ Union Jack-U-Up, a fantastic teacher and a skater who embodies the fearlessness I crave. I’ve developed a healthy little competition with Bitchy, and taken a liking to Friday night casual skates with Rip Lashes, Lornatik, Tekila Rose and Kiki Kasplat amongst others at a random hall in the middle of the sticks. Long car trips and longer conversations on and off the track with Lashes makes me realise that I’m not just acquiring teammates, but making friends. The homesickness subsides with the thought of Fridays and Saturdays, and my time spent in the gym during the week all goes towards cracking into advanced training. Off the track, the girls are becoming used to the cocky, gobby Aussie that always makes her presence in the room known. I’ve never been able to hide the fact that I am an extroverted, opinionated, attention-seeking, honest and loyal woman – here I don’t have to. I’ve finally found a place where I fit, and it’s with all the other misfits. And we’re the coolest of the bunch.
By April, I’ve cracked basic skills, and Bitchy and I are into advanced training on Thursday nights. Violet Attack, Sleazy Rider, Bee Sting, Diabolous Rutilius and Victoria Cross are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of making me eat track. Hilda Blizzhard doesn’t even threaten me verbally – just a death stare and a smile to let me know I’m about to cop it. I’m just hoping I stay upright. Justine Credible is reassuring me that it will be okay – she’ll spend the trip home still reassuring me, and in the end I won’t care, because Guns ‘n Roses will be cranking and at that moment, singing and head banging will become more important than a few bruises I acquired from the floor or a wayward hip-bone. Off the track, I’m immersed in derby life with derby mates – whether it’s comparing fundraising events, helping Cross make awesome uniforms for intra-league bouts, spending hours on bout programmes, getting my arse whooped at quiz nights, strutting my stuff on the karaoke mic, attending art exhibitions or enjoying a quiet bevvy in the garden at Subside with whoever is around. I’ve managed to come over here with nothing and construct a life for myself, which fills me with a sense of pride, and overwhelming gratitude for the Dames. Our Dames. And now my Dames too.
I don’t ever like to speculate on the future, however, I know that my time here (for now) is limited. I know that, if I want to debut with the Dames before I leave, it’s going to take many practices, much more falling and a whole heap of advice and encouragement from anyone who’ll give it. And I’m going to lap it up. And it’s going to be a whole lot of fun on the way. I want to skate out in the khaki green, I want all of the effort I’ve put in to be eclipsed by that moment. Most of all, I want to show my non-derby friends (including my Aussie mates scattered around the UK) why I spend so much time on the track with these wonderful women, and how happy I am to have found a family.
Why am I so grateful for the last 3 and a half months? I think it’s because I’ve been given the room to form my own opinions about myself and those I surround myself with. The reputation of the Dames precedes them. Never have I met a team that so polarizes opinion – you either love them or you hate them. I fail to see why you would do the latter. Roller derby is a sport of dominant, opinionated women – this is why we are all so attracted to it. What I have learnt is that things get tough and stressful, but at the end of the day all animosity is left on the track. The Dames train hard, play harder and party hardest. Hatchets are slowly being buried by the vanguard, and UK roller derby will be stronger for it. The Dames will meet anyone on the track whatever their circumstances, and I have come to admire this spirit and belief in the team and the khaki green. I’ve come to be a part of it. The last few months have been a privilege – my privilege. There are previous blog posts that break down bouts play by play, that talk of the spoils of partying and impending road trips. For me, the last few months have been all about the people. Not only have I had the chance to learn a new skill, increase my fitness and discover a new passion, but I’ve also had the chance to get to know some fantastic people who I am proud to call my dear friends and teammates. Roller derby is an amazing sport, but it is the people I have met along this journey that have made it that much sweeter.
Once a dame, always a dame…Love Skip xoxo
Lovely words. Now will you stop hitting me on the helmet please, Betty?