My Big Fat Gypsy Derby Diary (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of blogs by Bath Roller Derby's S'Mac Down Angel; one of our team mates who's currently touring the UK in a campervan, training with derby teams all over the country and generally having a massive adventure! Jealous? Us?! Massively! 
– Hell Cat

Advance warning: I'm assuming that the majority of people reading this will be Bath Roller Derby people, so there will inevitably be some ‘in jokes’ or reference to our players in this (apologies to anyone whose head this goes over!)  

OK, so what am I doing? I'm going to live as a roller derby gypsy for a few weeks! Why am I doing a blog? Well, I didn’t plan to but almost everyone I told about this trip suggested I should ‘blog it’ – I have been totally overwhelmed by the amazing responses I've had, and people’s encouraging words and support.  

Why am I doing this? Why the hell not?! It wasn’t like I woke one day and thought "Gypsy world please" – it had been bubbling under the surface for a long time. I don’t want to completely expose myself on this, but let's just say it’s been a pretty hairy 12-18 months.  Don’t get me wrong, I obviously have had plenty of happy and amazingly fun times too but over all it’s been quite challenging for so many different reasons – some personal, some professional, some private, some just generally, some health related (health one mainly being the ankle break/dislocation and recovery period). And things got particularly tough in this last 6 months. PLEASE don't think this is a sob story. I'm just providing explanation to part of the motivation to do this whole thing.
All in all, I’d reached a point where I just wanted to change things and I was unable to do this with a totally stressed out and cluttered mind.  I knew I needed to get away but I didn’t know how or what or when.  Then the idea was created (how it was created I’ll come onto in a bit) and here I am now.  As already stated, please don’t read any of the above as a sob story. I know every one has their personal challenges. I just reached a stage I couldn’t carry on doing what I was doing for a million reasons. So here I am; this is step one to sorting it. I am normally positive, high energy and it's fair to say have a big personality with a strong mind, hence why being this way felt wrong… very wrong!

 How did this idea arise?

Let's keep this simple. After Kerri Kon Karnage's birthday party I stayed with Foxy, her 20 million dogs (well, 3 on that occasion - but it felt like 20 million) and of course my lovely ‘derby wife’ Ali V! (For the avoidance of doubt to anyone who doesn’t know derby; we all have a derby wife in the team – I guess this signifies someone you really connect with when you first start Fresh Meat and then kinda buddy up with as you both progress from fresh meat to league players.  It doesn't mean I've suddenly become a lesbian and am actually now married to a woman! My ‘Derby wife’ has two lovely kids and is happily married to a man!)

As I was saying - we were sat on Foxy’s back step; hungover, supping on a brew and I was just quite simply miserable. I discussed this with both Ali and Foxy and we start brain storming what the options are to change my situation / job / what to do / what I want in the future blah blah blah.  As a random idea it kind of got chucked out there i.e. to just spin off in the van and tour loads of other derby teams and involve a bit of music as well.  All of a sudden a light bulb went on. I could afford to have a bit of time off work, I love derby, I could go see old friends, I could get a cheap ‘van guitar’ and not mind if it got scratched or roughed up a bit.

That night I could hardly sleep for excitement and for the first time in months and months I felt positive about something. (This blog is beginning to make me sounds like a right negative moron  – I’m not, not by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m normally told how much energy I have which is why feeling so permanently deflated was so painful to accept).  I immediately started planning how I was going to do this, what Id need to do in order to make it happen and so on.  A few days later I resigned from work – such an out of character thing to do for me; but it was a good decision. 

The job wasn’t as fulfilling as I expected it to be; nice colleagues and all but it just wasn’t as I imagined and wasn’t something I wanted to continue doing for 8 hours a day, five days a week. Not to mention the 4+ hour commute each day was just killing me. I was getting up at the crack of dawn each day, getting back late each day and more importantly any personal life like seeing friends etc had gone out the window. I’d get back, eat and go to bed. I'd try to get to derby training as much as I could but that always meant 4 or 5 hours sleep before getting up again. So, resigning was a big thing. Every since then I’ve been creating my up and coming diary – studying the locations of the UK, booking in camp sites etc to build this bad boy.  

It was amazing how much it affected the plan if I got ‘one’ day out in terms of a training day, a day I've booked a campsite or the order in which I did things, it totally messed up the rest of the activities I’d arranged in the days after. So it took a lot of planning, a lot of emails and here I am sat here writing this blog before I leave and can hardly believe it’s all come together and actually happening!

Some Thank Yous 

Before I start ‘blogging’ I feel the necessity to drop in some particular thank yous!

Firstly to the person who created Roller Derby - I don’t know who you are but you effin' rock and I love you!

To the other dude who created guitars!  You rock an’ all! 

To all Bath Roller Derby team.  you have been the most reliable and consistent thing for me in the last 14 months and I can’t thank you enough. Each and every one of you are ace and I can’t find a bad word to say about the club and the team dynamics.  I absolutely love it! It brings a lot more to me than ‘just derby’ (although that is awesome of course) but the social time we spend as a team as well is awesome! Very unique!
Ali V
Where do I start with you, Mrs? OK, from the start you’ve been utterly hilarious and awesome. You bring so much more to the squad than skating. Everyone loves you and I’m the lucky one to say I’m your derby wife! What I love about you is you make my cheeks ache with laugher, yet you know when to switch it on to be serious. You’ve offered great advice and been awesome from day one of knowing you, but especially of late and I can’t thank you enough. You even came over to my house to help me plan my route and book campsites etc. You did come up with a genius idea of staying in a hostel in Liverpool as there were no near by campsites! That was at the end of your 2.5 hours at mine though.  You’d driven all the way from Bath (and as per we just ended up nattering about rubbish and laughing) I'm glad I didn’t follow all your suggestions though – if it’d have been solely up to you by the end of the night, I’d have been booked into a Liverpudlian naturist campsite, I'd have had a date with a 4 ft 1 man and an annual membership to unlimited access to every museum and derelict church in the UK. This is maybe where we differ ever so slightly! But it's the thought that counts and you’d come out your way to help!  Anyway, jokes aside, you have been a great support and backing me 100% in this.  You’ve been awesome, thanks.

Thank you for being the funniest, wine-drinking, slim but ridiculously strong, most inspiring player ever.  You were a huuuuge part of me deciding to make this trip happen.  In fact I think it may have been you who originally ‘chucked the idea out there’.  Thanks so much.  Your non stop support, encouragement and random texts have been awesome and very much appreciated.  Thank you for having me spontaneously over at your house with your cute boy and your 20 million dogs! I love it there it’s so calming and chilled! You’re ace, thanks for everything throughout this recent period. Blaze bright girl! You know what I mean by that!

Ahhh my train buddy.  I will miss seeing you each morning.  

I always liked Kerri, but its fair to say I didn’t know Kerri amazingly well before I started working in London, and it turned out we got the same train every day to work (and sometimes home again).  During this time I would each morning hog the seat next to me and tell anyone that tried to sit down in it “it was taken” (even if that led to a few awkward moments with the angriest men in Europe). 

Anyway if any of you don’t know Kerri too well – get to know this South African chick – she is totally tops!  She’s funny, dry, direct, honest, ambitious, spiritual and an all-round good cookie!  Kerri and I laughed (and cried) together and had put the world to rights a few times too.  One day heading home, Kerri got on the train and I'm not too proud to admit I'd been sat there crying my eyes out. I was so exhausted and sick of the daily commute to London, there were other private things happening as well, but mainly during that specific spell I'd just gone though a break up. At the fear of sounding utterly dramatic let's just say on this occasion I couldn’t hold it together... and I especially hate being upset in public! I thought OMG this is going to be so embarrassing. I was hiding behind my hair and had a tissue pinned to my mouth so none could hear me!  Kerri took one look at me and knew!  She didn’t make a fuss, she didn’t draw attention to us, she didn’t say anything, she calmly sat down like normal, put her bag on the floor and lent across and gave me a big hug! It was handled so well that I couldn’t have suggested an improved approach if I tried - thank you Kerri!

That little tale is a bit embarrassing to be open about BUT it really captures Kerri’s lovely side yet ability to judge a situation so well and so quickly!  Shortly after this Kerri once said to me “you won’t be able to work anything out with a stressed mind.  Stop thinking, stop planning, stop working things out - just put it out there to the universe and it will take care of you”  I thought she was going utterly mad at first – but I think I got what she meant.  So I followed that advice… and it was good advice. I stopped trying to fix things and just rolled with it. Things suddenly DID seem to be just working themselves out without even trying... when I’d spent months trying to make things happen that weren’t working! :)  

Finally when we got our last train ride together (my last day at work) Kerri rocked up with a bag of ‘derby tour essentials’ - a mug (with a dog on it – yay!) arnica cream for my bruises, shower gel, tooth paste, hot chocolate, tea, haribos, red bull, chap stick, a car freshener for my stinky pads, anti inflammatory pain killers, a card and a little home made mini banner saying “derby tour” on it (or something like that)!  My jaw pretty much hit the ground.  It was so sweet and thoughtful. I told Kerri Id save the haribos till I went away but I have to be honest theres only one bag left!  Sorry! I have no will power around haribos!  

Either way I’m going to miss you dude - you’ve been great to hang out with and good luck with everything your end we discussed too!

Steg / Isy / Cat

You’ve all been great with supporting and helping me prepare for this – whether it just be nice words, being excited for me, providing millions of derby contacts I could tap into around the UK, sending me links of derby clubs and recommending who I should contact it's all been great and invaluable help. Cat also your help with Apple Mac as I'm useless and helping me with posting this blog! This tour meant me having 4 weeks or so away from training, but given the nature of this trip you’ve all been very cool and supportive about it so thank you!

Finally I’d like to thank 'Funkey Muuunnnkey' 

For agreeing to accompany me on my travels and give me someone to chat to when I’m spending hours of solitary time in the van driving all over the UK.

All in all Im blessed to have such amazing friends!

Ok not long before I leave - still things to pack and sort but almost there.  Eeeeeeek! Laters skaters! xx

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