Roller Derby and the Case of the Shameless Request For Money

This post does exactly what it says on the tin. I’m gonna be talking about roller derby. And I’m gonna ask you for some of that sweet sweet cash.

What we’re doing

My derby team, the East Coast Cyclones, are doing something seriously awesome this month. We’re hosting our very first national derby tournament- which also just so happens to be the first of its kind in the country. The Queen Bee Tournament is Ireland’s first competition for establishing teams and B-teams.

I know. Kind of a big deal.

Why would you do that?

Why would we put ourselves through organising a tournament? Why an establishing/B-teams tournament?

You see, derby has kind-of exploded in Ireland in the last couple of years. While there are a few teams that have been around since as far back as 2008 (I’m lookin’ at you, Cork Firebirds and Dublin Roller Derby), most of us popped up in the past two years or so. Loads of us have just started playing actual games in the past year. And while we love watching the established A teams kick ass on the track (and oh gawd do they kick ass), we want in on the action too. The derby action.

So we’re hosting a tournament for the rest of us.

But, like, aren’t you guys like.. less good? Why would I support less-good?

It’s true. There are skaters in this country (especially on those A teams) who could destroy the likes of myself in a matter of nanoseconds. At least, there are right now. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t put on a good show and fight some hardass derby. We’ve all been training our butts off and, let me tell you, the standard of derby in the newer teams in Ireland has gone through the roof in the last few months. It’s going to be a hell of a show.

Also? There’s nothing like watching a tournament with teams that are pretty darn well matched to each other. The Queen Bee is up for grabs and I have no idea where it’s gonna go.

How awesome is that, like?

You mentioned a small matter of cash? Money, dollars, euros, pounds? That kind of thing?

Doing this kind of thing is expensive. Pricey. Not cheap. And a small-town derby team like the Cyclones? We’re not exactly rolling in cash. We’ve got halls to rent, tape to buy, mile-high stacks of sandwiches to make, and a million other tiny things that add up to a hefty chuck of currency to make this happen.

So we’re gonna do what we always do. We’re gonna skate.

Tomorrow evening, we’re taking to the Bray Promenade for a 10-mile sponsored skate to help fund the tournament. We’re gonna skate our bums off! And in return, all we’d like are your sweet, delicious donations.

Do us a favour? Click on the picture below and throw a coupla quid our way, won’t ya? And if you haven’t the cash (I know the feeling!), give us a share and get your loaded friends to support us. G’wan. Do it for the derby.


Sometimes I Think I’m Ugly: Body image and making better feminisms.

I do feminism.

I do feminism. I really do believe that the personal and political are inextricably linked, and I try to live in a way that takes that into account.

I believe in body positivity. I believe- I know– that all different kinds of bodies can be beautiful. I mean, there’s people of many shapes and sizes who I’ve found hot as hell in my time, and I’m just one person with one reasonably-narrow set of preferences. Bung in the rest of the world, and you’ve got a hell of a lot of people appreciating just about any kind of physique you can imagine.

I believe in appreciating our bodies for what they can do, not just what they look like. I know that this can be problematic in its own way- especially given our ableist views on what that means- but one of the things I’ve grown to love in the last year and a half is seeing my body as a tool for learning, developing and doing. Bodies aren’t just for looking at. They’re how we interact with the world around us, and that is incredible.

I believe in the understanding that even though health, abilities, competition and joy are far more positive reasons to exercise than looks, they still don’t apply to everyone. Nobody owes anyone else prettiness or fitness. We get to set our own priorities based on our own circumstances, abilities and desires, and they’re nobody’s business but our own.

I think that the very idea of “everyone’s beautiful” has its own problems, because so fucking what if you’re not beautiful? So what if you’re not symmetrical and skinny and young and whatever the hell beautiful is supposed to be these days. It doesn’t make you less important. Or less interesting. I want to get the hell away from the idea that there’s one thing- one anything– that everyone needs to be. Unless that one thing is just plain respectful and kind.

I believe that the ways society tears us down are toxic. We live in a constant state of negative marking- not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not fit enough, not rich enough. We can never be enough, and that destroys our enjoyment of all the things that we are. I want to be part of a different discourse to that.

And yet..

The rest lives over at the Tea Cosy’s new home!

Women’s Sports are Boring

If I had 50c for every time I heard someone say that men’s sports are just more interesting that women’s? I’d have the world’s fanciest pair of custom skates, a wall of wheels for every occasion, and a whole new wardrobe full of that fancy workout gear made of space-age fabrics with go-faster stripes. And maybe even a pony.

Women’s sports aren’t interesting? Y’know, whenever I hear someone say that a sport is less interesting to watch when women play it, I mentally file them away as someone who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about athleticism, skill, teamwork or dedication and who’s just into sports as a way to… damn, now I’m trying to think of a non-ciscentric way to say “wave their dicks around” and I’ve got nothin. (Anyone wanna help me out there?)

Sports are interesting or they’re not, and different types of bodies playing the same sport makes it MORE interesting, not less.

Continued over at the Tea Cosy’s new home! 

First Derby-versary!

Today marks exactly one year since my first ever roller derby fresh meat training session. A whole year! Only a year? Derby feels like something I’ve been doing forever, and it feels like something I just started yesterday. It feels like it showed up, swept me off my feet (literally), and I’ve never been the same since. I’m a substantially more bruised and aching human being since a year and a day ago. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

I have derby training this evening. These days, I train three evenings a week with Bray’s own East Coast Cyclones, and normally spend another evening working on my skating skills to cheesy 90s music at the roller disco. That’s four days a week that I skate, and every single time I still have butterflies. Packing up my gear, making sure I have everything, and heading out the door to training may be something I do every second day- but every time, I walk out that door feeling that glorious mix of excitement and nerves. I never, ever know how it’s going to be. I know that it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be intense, and I hope that there are going to be moments where it feels right and I know what I’m doing, and I know that there are going to be more when I feel exhausted and hurt like hell. And I know that it’s going to be worth it.

And that’s just the training sessions.

When I put it like that, I feel like I need to defend what I love so much about derby. It hurts, it’s hard, it’s exhausting, I’ve seen a lot of people injure themselves doing it. I mean, I like that I’ve gotten this far in life without ever having broken a bone. I’d rather like to be able to say that again this time next year, y’know? I can’t say I haven’t thought long and hard about whether this is worth it, and whether it’ll be worth it if I really manage to hurt myself doing it. Every single time, though, the answer is yes. Because in spite of- or maybe because of- how tough it is to play this game and the risks I take to do it, something about it just won’t let go.

Derby is fun in a way that nothing else I’ve ever done can match. I don’t think that means it has to be that way for everyone, by the way- I know people who find skating dull as dishwater who rhapsodise about things I shudder to imagine, like trapezes or running or climbing or sports in fields with balls in. Or people who’ve never found a sport they find joy in, who find their unmatched fun somewhere completely different.

It’s all good, but for me? There’s never been anything as fun as roller derby. From the first moment I put on a pair of skates in Spin roller disco almost two years ago and tottered around the floor, I know that I loved to skate. From the first derby bout I saw, a couple of weeks later, I wanted to give it a go. I never thought I actually would or could, though. To be honest with you, it wasn’t until about halfway through my first bout (last month!) that I realised that this is a thing that I really can do.

And that’s, I guess, why I love it. Derby, for me, is that mix of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, the most physically tough things I’ve ever done, some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met (and I get to be one of them! How flippin’ cool is that?!). It’s learning every day that I can do more than I thought I could. It’s clever, it’s strong, it’s sneaky. It’s hitting your friends for fun, and it’s so much more than that. It’s packing my skates and gear with me every time I go anywhere, popping an email over to the local team and rocking on over to their training. It’s carrying around with me every day that you never know what you can do until you give it a go.

And, yeah, it’s butterflies in my tummy three times a week, every week, and that’s one hell of a thing to be able to say about anything.

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Happy 2014!

They say you should start as you mean to go on. If that’s the case, I mean to spend 2014 in my pyjamas, bundled up in bed with my laptop and a mug of really nice coffee, with a cat headbutting me for attention. I think I could deal with that, although to be honest it’d really eat into my derby training schedule.

You know what it’s like when you read over last year’s resolutions and wish like hell that you’d lived up to them? Last year I made some damn good resolutions. They were so good, in fact, that I’ve even kept one or two of them up through the entire year- and that without having actually remembered what they were, or even that I’d made them in the first place.

Y’know what’s interesting? In the areas where I kept up those New Year’s Resolutions, things have been getting better and better. And the areas where I didn’t? Those are the places in my life that are more likely to be running through my mind when I’m staring at the ceiling at 3am.

That’s not surprising, though. As I said in my New Year’s video last year, the resolutions weren’t about the things that grown-ups are supposed to do, or what we’re supposed to care about. They were about “the things that changed my life, in 2012, from being unbearable to being wonderful, reminding myself what those are, and doing more of that”.

Here is, by the way, what I resolved this time last year:
1. Write like a motherfucker
2. Blog: draw, film, interview, pictures! Because I like making stuff. And I (still) want to learn to draw.
3. Make all the lists.
4. Roller skate. To quote me last year: “Roller skating is like.. flying. Except I’m scared of heights, so it’s better than that”
5. Use my words, stay in the moment, be open to love and opportunity, be willing to say no, and always search for joy.

Where I’ve let those things go, so has that sense of joy. But where I’ve done them? Oh, those are the places where things have gotten better than I could ever have imagined.

This year has been a mixed one. I haven’t written as much as I’d like, but I am proud of some of the things I have written and I’m grateful for all of the people I’ve met and opportunities I’ve found through this little blog. Thank you for the recognition at last year’s GALAs. Thank you, my wonderful readers, for sending me off to a conference this summer- that was brilliant, even if I did, er, skip out on the last hour to go to training. Thank you for commenting and sharing. Thank you to every one of you who’s come up to me in person or reached out to get in touch. Seriously, you guys, you know I get such a kick out of that, right?

I still haven’t learned to draw- although in the past month I’ve recruited an artist friend to help me learn, and we have delightful drawing lessons over tea and Malteasers where I, at the very least, get better at the theory of the thing.

As for the fourth item.. I thought I loved wheelyboots, but I had no idea how much better that could get. Also, how much better I could get. How head-over-heels (sometimes literally) I would be a year on for skating derby. How derby would fill me, not with the sense that I was the best at anything, but with the quiet confidence that I am better than I was, that I will be better than I am, and that working every day is worth it. Also, that no matter how loud you think you’re shouting (or how low you think you are), you could probably do with giving it a bit more welly. And, of course, derby introduced me to a couple of hundred (at least!) people who I just can’t get enough of. Yer all bloody brilliant, and I’m still pinching myself that I get to hang out with you lot.

This year? I don’t have much to add to the list, aside from writing it down this time instead of leaving it on YouTube. Cheesy or not, I find lists work best when I stick ‘em to my wall. My bedroom wall. Right where I can see them all the time.

Here’s my (slightly edited) list this time ‘round:

  1. Write like a motherfucker.
    • is your friend. Use it daily.
    • Twice a month at least, put up something different: draw, film, photos, interviews, recipes.
  2. Roller skate.
    • Attend training, even when you feel godawful, unless you’re physically incapable. You have never regretted this.
    • Offskates training
    • One day off per week. Take it.
  3. Make lists.
    • On paper. Where I can see them.
    • With realistic dates and times.
  4. Go for what I want to do
    • It is not up to me to decide whether I’m good enough. What is up to me to decide is whether it’s something I want or not, and whether to give it my best shot.
  5. Answer my goddamn emails.
  6. Use my words, stay in the moment, be open to love and opportunity, be willing to say no, and always, always search for joy.

Mostly that last bit.

Whatever you love, whatever your life looks like right now and what you hope for next year, I wish you an abundance of joy in 2014.

Derby Names and Alter Egos

Remember how on Monday I said I would have really liked to waffle on about roller derby for a bit, but ended up dismantling some antichoice arguments instead? Today we’re going the other way ’round. Yeah, the government finally announced that we’re getting a referendum on marriage equality the year after next. I could talk about that, and I’m sure we’d have an interesting and productive discussion, at the end of which we all agree that equality is good, and waiting another year and a half isn’t. So let’s pretend that’s done, shall we, and talk about something fun?


Can’t we just skip all that? Can’t we just be talking about derby now?

Let’s talk Derby Names

I love derby names. I’d say that they were one of my favourite things about the sport, if I weren’t so head-over-heels with skating fast, hittin’ people, taking hits and staying up, damnit, those fleeting seconds when I’m on the track and I actually have the faintest idea what’s going on, that moment when I get my jammer through the pack, and- oh yes- that moment when I am the jammer that just got through the pack and I see the ref signalling lead right next to me. When that jammer is behind my butt and she isn’t going anywhere. Oh, and new wheels. And freshly-washed pads. And the four (hopefully!) women on the track who’ve got my back. And the five I’m pitting my nascent wits and my skills against. And how much I love becoming stronger, faster and smarter skater. And… let’s just say that there’s another post or six to be dedicated to things I love about derby.

If it weren’t for all of those things, derby names would be one of my favourite things about derby. Always clever and often nerdy, I never fail to get a kick out of reading through a team’s lineup. And they serve a practical purpose too- creating a division between the mundanities of our everyday lives and this sport where we can be strong and aggressive women who take what we want, never, ever ask permission, and (literally) knock over anyone who dares to get in our way or try to get past us. It’s all part of the ritual- strapping on your pads, tying your laces and checking your toe stops, you put away your responsibilities and let out (what you hope is!) a clean, focused predator. Fuck, yeah.

I love derby names. I love changing into my derby gear. I love crossing the boundaries between real life and track. I just wish that this wasn’t such a cliche.

Derby Skater In Shocking Having-A-Real-Life Revelation

I’ve seen a few derby documentaries. Scratch that- I’ve seen a lot of derby documentaries. I love ’em. Love seeing how much this sport means to the women who play it around the world. Love watching them train and play and hearing them talk about what their teams and bouts and training are like. What can I say? I’m kinda in love with this game, and any chance to get to add to my (long) list of derby crushes is a chance I’ll snap up in a heartbeat. And while I love a derby documentary, and I love learning more about the different lives of the women who skate, I’m not in love with how derby names are portrayed.

Tell me if you haven’t heard this one many times before. It goes like this: “By day, she’s a mother/student/doctor/accountant/engineer/programmer/PA/etcetcetc. But by night, this everyday lady becomes something extraordinary: InsertCleverDerbyNameHere from SkatingLeague”. And then it talks about her alternate lives as if they were totally different things. Sometimes they go further, with voiceovers asking things like “would you believe that BadassMcSkatesAlot is a regular person who does ordinary things in the daytime?”

Well, yes. Of course she is. How do you think she affords those skates? I’m sure she’d love to devote herself fulltime to skating, but, for the moment at least, nobody’s getting paid to play. It’s the opposite, in fact- we pay for the privilege. We buy all of our gear, pay our membership dues, and volunteer our time to keep our leagues going.

That’s not surprising. What is surprising is.. well, that anyone thinks that it is. Sure, I think that roller derby is the best damn sport on the planet. I’m sure that people devoted to a different sport- from football to hurling to tennis to synchronised swimming- feels the same way about what they do. And the vast majority of them have day jobs, too.

Why is it considered weird that BadassMcSkatesAlot does regular-person things? It is because derby is new and different? Or is it because full-contact women’s sports are rare, and it’s simply not expected that everyday women might want to let their hair down for a few hours a week and knock some people over? Is it, perhaps, that that is considered subversive in a way that a bunch of guys knockin’ each other over in a rugby game isn’t? It is related to the aesthetic of roller derby- which is all about celebrating and playing with the artifice and decoration that women are expected to engage in every day, and making it something powerful and ours? Is it just another rehashing of the tired old Strong Female Character cliche? Or is it just that some people who make documentaries and reports are a bit lazy and inclined to grab an easy take on something, run with it, and then call it a day before popping out for a couple of pints?

That’s not to say that the day/night trope is always a terrible thing, though. This London Roller Girls promo, which pretty much relies on that, is brilliant. It takes the day/night thing and turns it on its head- we start off at work. I also love that it shows Vagablonde actually checking her gear (although I’m a bit mystified as to why she puts on her skates and pads before her makeup..). Safety first, y’all! Either that, or it could just be that I love everything LRG do, ever.

Here’s why it bothers me so much, though: while derby is different from our day jobs, the things we learn from derby stay with us throughout our lives. Yeah, I put away my gear and go back to my everyday life after training. Of course I do. But- and yeah, this is gonna sound cheesy- I’m not the same person I was before I skated. Derby taught me that I’m stronger than I think I am. It taught me that asking permission is overrated and sometimes you’ve just gotta take what you want- and that about 7 or 8 seconds later, you’ve gotta do it again. Derby taught me to not be scared of screwing up or looking ridiculous- that you need to fall over a couple of hundred times before you learn a new skill, that there will be people watching you fall, that you won’t always fall small and gracefully, and that throwing yourself into it anyway is the only way to be amazing. Derby taught me to open my mouth, shout out when I need a hand, listen to the people around me, and if you fuck up? There’s another chance to do better speeding ’round the track to meet you in, oh, a couple of seconds- so hustle, damnit. And derby taught me to get up off my ass and do something now, even if it isn’t perfect, before I lose my chance. (I also, er, learn an awful lot on a regular basis about sitting in a box and keeping my mouth shut for two minutes that I’m pretty sure last several years but the less said about that the better, amirite?)

I love derby names. They’re funny, they’re clever, and there’s something delicious about calling your teammates by their favourite puns every day. I love how the simultaneously create a separate derby world where different rules apply, and give us something to live up to and carry around with us. And while they’re fun for spectators and fans too, at the end of the day, our derby names are ours.


Change is Afoot, and I Go Hiking

You may have noticed (I certainly did) that things have been a little quiet around here for the past few weeks. I’ve been distracted both by important things- sorting myself out with places to work and live after this month- and by even more important things- diving headfirst (sometimes literally) into roller derby fresh meat, exploring Dublin and surrounds on my new bike, and perfecting my brownie recipe. That last one is mainly important directly after the first two, by the way.

Because I’ve been delightfully successful in all of these, some changes are afoot! Since I’ll be spending a bunch of hours every week at work (hurrah!), I’ll have less time to devote to posting here. I’ve decided to keep to a schedule of two sizeable posts per week, since that leaves me plenty of time to go to work, fall off my roller skates, and post 100s of pics of my bruises all over Tumblr.  What this means is, of course, that there’ll be plenty of space for guest posters! I’ve loved everyone’s guest posts over the past month or so. I’ll be out scouring the country for people with interesting things to say. Beware the gleam in my eye when I hear you expounding on your favourite topic in my presence. You have about 2 minutes to get out of there before I start haranguing you for articles.

Now that that’s out of the way? Have a bunch of pretty pictures of a ‘nice quiet walk in the countryside’ I went on last week, courtesy of Shortish walk, they said. Easy, they said. More mud than you have ever seen in your life, they conveniently omitted. Good thing the views outshone the mud, many times over.



That tall thing on the left? Steeper than it looks. Definitely steeper than it looked.





Derby Girls and Godless Universes

A couple of things I’ve been writing elsewhere this week:

The Fresh Meat Frontier

I don’t know about you, but I was intrigued. As if it were tailor-made to tempt a beanbag-bound nerdlady like myself to pop Captain Picard on pause, put down the caramel coated rice cakes and leave the house to try out this unfamiliar thing called ‘physical exercise’.

A bunch of emails and several months of skating around the park and the roller disco later, me and my sparkly-laced quads ventured into the first session of what’s slightly-terrifyingly called Fresh Meat training with the Dublin Roller Girls. To say I was intimidated walking in the door is an understatement.

And for something completely different:

Atheism and Me: Living in a Godless Universe

We all live in the same universe.

That’s it. We all live in the same world. And this is not a world where when we die, the atheists poof out of existence and the theists hang out in their respective afterlives/reincarnations/whathaveyou. If that were the case then I assure you I’d be founding the Order Of The Excellent Afterlife myself. This isn’t a world where believing hard enough makes gods exist for you but not for me. Conversely, if there is a god or gods out there, then no amount of my disbelief will make them not exist.

Hope you enjoy! And while you’re there, do go check out some of the things my fellow Gaelickers and Spirituality Irelanders are talking about. Over at Gaelick this week there’s tons of conversations going on about equal marriage, as well as an interesting perspective on the right to offend. At Spirituality Ireland, there has, of course, been a bit of a palaver over the Pope‘s resignation. Danny also talks touchingly about what being a New Age Godparent means to him, and Rania updates us on the new Patriarch of Antioch and All the East.

And before I go, have a super-cute video from way back when Sh*t XYZ Say was a thing. NSFW for n0rty words:

Happy reading!