Good news: Fresh Meat is done!
Bad news: Fresh Meat is done.
For those of you new to this: for the last three months, I've been skating with the London Rockin' Rollers (LRR) on their Fresh Meat programme: a training course for those who want to learn roller derby. (You can read my first and second derby diary if you want; the second explains what roller derby is.)
It's been brutal. I started with good intentions: going to the gym, doing my squat training, skating outside of practice. But life got in the way and the trek to the open skate sessions in Dalston or Bermondsey from outside of London on a week night proved too long and sweaty. I'd tell myself I'd squat next week and never did, and went to the pub instead of the gym.
But! I got better. I nailed T-stops (stopping with your feet in a L- or T-shape) and learned the art of sticky skating (skating without taking your feet off the ground). I can do jumps and I can take people out on track. I started not knowing how to do any of these things, so that's something. I'm almost badass.
We have fun, sometimes we fall over each other like dominoes, but everyone is so supportive and encouraging
We've been doing our final assessments for the last two weeks, which, for some teams, can mean passing minimum requirements set by the WFDTA, but for LRR, it means trying everything to the best of your ability and being safe. If it means you fall over, that's fine, as long you as fall safely or get back up and try again. Fresh Meat can then move onto wreck league, which is a mixed ability session where you can have fun playing roller derby in a not-so competitive environment and, hopefully, keep getting better and better.
I've come to know and love training with the girls on this programme. We have fun, sometimes we fall over each other like dominoes, but everyone is so supportive and encouraging. We all smell horrific after each session but we're all improving each week and we're all in it together. After a while, the smell is something you come to accept will not leave. No matter how many times you scrub your kit.
So it makes me very sad to think that the next two weeks – where we put all we've learnt into game mode in our first scrimmage – will be the last time I train with these girls, because I am moving to Berlin.
I AM MOVING TO BERLIN.
I cannot tell you how long I have wanted to write those words. It feels strange writing it on the internet and making it permanent but that's what it is: it's real and it's happening and I'm so excited and nervous and ready.
You need to not give a shit and be okay with looking like an idiot – and only sometimes feeling like a hero
I've also signed onto the newbie programme with the team in Berlin: Bear City Roller Derby (BCRD). I've been watching their games (like this one) and speaking to some of the team already, who are all so welcoming. These girls look fierce and wild and hella fun. Their newbie programme is six months (LRR was three), so by the end of it essentially I will be slamming some serious butt.
I'll also be living 10 minutes from Tempelhofer Feld (at least for the first month) – a former airport turned public park, where they've kept some of the landing strips WHICH MEANS smooth, lush tarmac for skates. I've been following @junikorndesign and @oumi_janta on Instagram – both roller girls in Berlin who not only own the most beautiful skates but seem to dance on them rather than flail, like me.
I started training with LRR to make friends, learn a new sport, get a butt bruise, be fitter. I've done all this and more. I've fallen in love with a sport I haven't even played yet but that is undoubtedly one of the toughest out there. You need stamina and strength and discipline. You need to not give a shit and be okay with looking like an idiot – and only sometimes feeling like a hero.
I think there's something to be said about a sport that is inclusive of everyone, no matter your size or shape. The LRR team walked (and skated) in London Pride this weekend and it's an important part of what roller derby stands for: love, acceptance, diversity. I couldn't be prouder of having trained with some of the most talented and nicest and dedicated athletes in the world.
I'm telling you: once you go derby, you never go back.