WFTDA International Playoffs: My D2 Wichita Picks

If you’re not watching footage, you should be and if you’re already watching footage, then you should be watching more.

There’s never enough footage and until quite recently I could brag I’d watched 95% of the games stored on the WFTDA archive. In fact, one glance at my YouTube history and you’d quickly realise I use YouTube for nothing more than searching for obscure roller derby and the most talked about games.

Division Two is a relatively new level of roller derby for me, as like most Brits I’d previously only watched to see the European teams smashing it up.

But this year I’m committed to watching as much of the WFTDA feed as possible, especially because I paid approx £70 for the privilege. BUT also because I signed myself in for the UltraCompetitive league on Fantasy Derby, with some of the world’s favourite London-based skaters… I look practically unambitious compared to the crowd below.

fantasy roller derby game

Unlike me you might have had more raucous weekend plans (sub in “a life”), and as a result may have missed some of the Division Two play. So below I’ve listed out two games I think are a must watch, and a couple of reasons why. A warning, the final scores are included, as are the winners. So there are spoilers, but if you like watching great roller derby again and again then maybe you’ll enjoy knowing the ending…

 

— Nashville Rollergirls vs Tucson Roller Derby —

Okay I admit it that this was the first game of the tournament I got to watch, so I may doing an injustice to the two games that came before this. BUUUUTTTT I did hear the announcers say they were largely blow-outs, and I don’t want to recommend any one-sided games.

Nashville vs Tucson took place on the first day of D2 Wichita, and was the third game of the day and the tournament. Nashville came into the tournament as third seed and Tucson was sixth, so I don’t think you’d have been critiqued on making a judgement call on who was going to win.

However, the game unfolded quite differently to how everybody (maybe just me) imagined and the gameplay and strategy on display was for the most part closely matched.

Early on it looked like the game was Nashville’s but after a lead change, Tucson led with varying margins for most of the game. In fact, it seemed for a while that only Nasville’s Lady Fury was capable of breaking through the Tucson defence to score points, which looked like a great source of frustration for Nashville and Lady Fury. Understandable really with the rumours that Nashville would be losing nine of its charter to retirement at the end of this year and the announcer confirmed departure of Lady Fury at the end of the weekend.

By the last quarter of the bout (yeah bout, what of it?!) was Tucson’s to lose. Which, unfortunately, they did.

With Lady Fury out for Nashville from a big and high hit on the jam line, it genuinely looked like Tucson had this in the bag, but a series of jammer and blocker penalties, poor clock management and some excellent defence from the Nashville blockers saw Music City take the lead in the closing jams.

Far from a bracket upset with the third seed clinching the win this game was still a differential killer and definitely worth a watch (if only the second half).

Final Score: 152 – 149 to Nashville

Seeds entering the tournament:

Nashville Rollergirls – 3

Tucson Roller Derby – 6

Finishing position in the tournament:

Nashville Rollergirls – 4th

Tucson Roller Derby – 7th

 

— Houston Roller Derby vs Boulder County Bombers —

If this game was one thing, it was close. If I could give it another adjective, it’d be hitty.

The game started out quite formation heavy with many iterations of braced three walls and a dedicated offence. Expectantly, this created some long periods of play without a lead jammer. But as the game progressed each team became more desperate and hungry for the win and as a result the game became more individual, contact-heavy and demonstrative of solo skill.

Yet none of the above is the reason why I’m recommending that you watch this game. Nope.

I recommend watching this game (spoiler incoming), which was the 5th/6th position playoff because you’ll see the Boulder County Bombers, the 8th seed in Division Two Wichita, come from behind at halftime to beat the second seed, Houston Roller Derby.

THAT’S RIGHT – Boulder County Bombers usurped Houston for fifth place, and what’s more they did it all in the last fifteen minutes of the second half. If ever I thought there was a game to drink to, game 15 of the Divison Two Wichita International Playoffs was it.  The amount of lead changes would have made even the most seasoned derby drinker drunk as a skunk.

Final Score: 184 – 181 to Boulder County

Seeds entering the tournament:

Houston Roller Derby – 2

Boulder County Bombers – 8

Finishing position in the tournament:

Houston Roller Derby – 6th

Boulder County Bombers – 5th

 

All-in-all I think the Division Two Wichita International Playoffs were a tournament categorised by surprises and upsets. Of course there were blow-outs, but surely we can all expect that at any level of play now in roller derby? The game of jostling for position is always going to have its ebbs and flows of epic growth and mammoth come-downs.

But what was really surprising in this tournament was just how different the final tournament positions were from the start; out of all 10 teams, only two remained in the same seed.

If you have a favourite game of D2 Wichita please let me know.

WFTDA D2 Wichita Roller Derby

Bracket from WFTDA

Prufrock: A Central Coffee Shop

It feels like an age since I blogged about London’s Best Coffee shops, and that’s probably because it is. Needless to say in my absenteeism I didn’t stop visiting the coffee houses of London or go caffeine-free, I simply was lacking the time and the photographs to blog about it (my camera memory was wiped).

So after a short hiatus I’m continuing my mission to try out new coffee shops and test the best of what London has to offer (mostly as stated in this list).

Next on the list is the Farringdon based coffee shop Prufrock that is listed in Time Out as one of the best coffee shops in Central London.

About five minutes from Farringdon Station, on Leather Lane, Prufrock stands in a back street, competing against a handful of other coffee shops with somewhat unusual opening hours as they appeared to be closed mid-Saturday afternoon.

The shop, painted in white, contrasts against the overwhelming grey of the street, and the blue logo hints at the colour scheme to come.

Central London Coffee Shop

The shop is large, unnecessarily so for a quiet Saturday. But the street outside hosts a market on a Sunday, and is centrally based so one can only assume the shop is a hive of activity Monday to Friday too.

Chris and I did not struggle to find a seat, choosing one of the benches backing onto the wall that is quirkily decorated with spoons. I like this touch – although the spoons are relatively recent ranging from the early noughties, it gives me nostalgia of the old 70s spoons my Gran collected and stored in a jewellery box.

Prufrock Coffee Decorations

Call me unseasoned in coffee ordering, or perhaps still a little jetlagged but Prufrock’s seemed to lack a clear place to order – instead there were just a handful of baristas stood around one coffee machine, making or supervising the production of one drink.

They were friendly nevertheless and spoke to me over the machine for my order.

Prufrock doesn’t seem to serve lattes, which as you might be aware has been my benchmark-test-drink. Instead they serve “espressos with milk”. Aside from the literality this strikes me as borderline pretentious – but we went with it anyways and ordered two espressos with milk.

Prufrock Latte

Barista Coffee Bar

The baristas took their time, which I’m not opposed too. I’d rather a well-served drink than a rushed, over milky, burnt “espresso with milk”, but that did result in my drink being much cooler than Chris’. In fact, mine was just above room temperature, where Chris’ was deliciously warm. I don’t believe this is a mark of inconsistency but it did mean I had to drink my coffee with speed.

The milk seems to mask the smoothness of the espresso that you normally find in a latte. ~ Chris

The atmosphere in Prufrock was pretty sombre. I’ve already mentioned it was pretty quiet, a victim of its location on a Saturday afternoon. But the general chatter of those in there was minimal, with most people staring at their phones or on laptops.

I’m not opposed to this and I actually think it’s a sign of being comfortable by the punters that drink there. But it did lead to Chris and I having a quiet conversation as to not disturb the soft indie music playing throughout the shop and those people using this quiet time for productive things.

Unfortunately, the people to the side of me did not have the same consideration and instead chose to speak VERY loudly about politics and to quote, “that whatsit report”.

 

— So would I return to Prufrock’s? —

Probably not, but not because of the coffee.

Generally, there is no reason for me to visit Farringdon, and to do so is a reasonable commute. Prufrocks, although a great coffee shop, is not pull enough for me to visit Farringdon. However if you’re in the area I’d recommend popping by for a good coffee (but maybe ask for it a little hotter just to be sure).

 

— Prufrock’s Summary —

Things that count in their favour:

  • Good coffee
  • Plenty of seating
  • Decoration
  • Water on tap
  • Good music
  • Friendly staff
  • Free wifi
  • Barista lessons

Things that count against it:

  • Limited outdoor seating (London though)
  • Location

If you’ve visited Prufrock (either at their Farringdon location, or before they closed in Shoreditch) let me know! Or if you have a coffee shop recommendation please comment! Or why not stare at my photos of coffee here?

Exploring Calgary

If you know me in person, follow me on Instagram or happen to know anything about my roller derby exploits then it’s likely you already know that I went on a not so average adventure to Calgary last month, to support and spectate England Men’s Roller Derby at the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup.

There really are no words that describe the feeling of watching your long-term partner and little brother represent their country and I imagine there are few things that can make somebody feel that proud.

Roller Derby World Cup

Photo by John Hesse

I could probably talk about the world cup for hours, and at some point might bore your eyes by discussing it at great length on here, but for now I really want to talk about being in Calgary and the areas that are close by. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL but also there is a thing as too much roller derby and I reached that around the first day of Rollercon.

If you’d ask me for a list of places I’d like to visit before I went on my roller derby travel adventure I wouldn’t have said Calgary, and to be honest I still wouldn’t say it is one of my top places to visit.

ONE. Because I’ve been there.

TWO. Because it’s much like the equivalent of visiting Lincoln but in Canada and without the history.

But that doesn’t mean that I had a horrid time – in fact quite far from it, and if you’re ever in that part of the world then I would give Calgary as a city a C+, should visit.

As this was my first trip to North America I can safely say I was entirely unprepared, despite the tips and tricks told to me by Smack, Kitty and Juke Boxx – seasoned roller derby travellers.

There’s something amazing about how vast Calgary is. 

Firstly, you definitely need a car in Calgary because the distance that your eyes can see is really deceptive. Calgary, although slightly hilly, is actually pretty vast and flat and that means you can see a lot, and often that ‘lot’ is far away in the distance.

Calgary

There are some methods of public transport, mostly the C-train, but as this basically has two lines and they are both very straight and I *think* run parallel to the McLeod Trail, it’s quite a walk to get to one and there’s often a walk on the other side to get to where you want to be. But it is cheap with a 90-minute pass costing 3.15$

Secondly, be savvy about where you buy your food from. Of course, the ideal is that you eat out for every meal and there’s plenty of choice meaning a varied diet, but the reality is actually quite far from that. In Calgary there are a lot of cheap chicken wings, meat with a side of meat and that delightful additive, high fructose corn syrup. In fact, the corn syrup shit was in the first thing I picked up (coleslaw) in Walmart. After that we searched for a supermarket that was much more concerned about what’s in its food (Coop).

Canadian Sign

Thirdly, I think I’m spoilt by London. There is something amazing about how vast Calgary is and the space between the buildings is incredible and so very different from London. BUUUUT – the city centre isn’t really a centre, and the shops are all hidden in air-conditioned shopping centres that have sky walks in between them. There felt like a lack of spirit and also a lack of transition from one cultural centre to another. There were also fewer people, which is probably the reason for the lack of buzz.

I did happen to find the “hipster” area of Calgary though, much to my joy. I did this solo-travelling, leaving Giggity at England training and catching the C-train in by my lonesome. So if you’re ever in Calgary and looking for fresh food, crop tops or a great coffee, 17th Avenue is your place to be.

 

— 17th Avenue —

You can get to 17th Avenue by getting off at the Victoria Stampede stop on the C-Train, you then just need to head left and you should be on the long and clearly marked 17th Avenue. If you do visit 17th Avenue by car, you can park on one of the side streets for a small parking fee till 6pm, and thereafter it should be free (make sure you read the signs).

Down this Avenue there are so many places to stop, shop and eat. At night it also seems to become a hub of activity with many of the seemingly quiet places by daytime turning into cool bars and live music hubs.

I’d personally recommend stopping at The Ox and Angela for food. It’s a dimly lit Tapas restaurant with its own garden and amazingly friendly staff. Sharing with another couple we ordered two tapas dishes each and each one was perfectly served and a mixture of fresh, rich flavours. I’d particular recommend the roast beetroot and mushrooms on sourdough bread, but the cold Mediterranean veg was also so tasty. In our whole stay I think this was the only meal I managed to eat completely vegetarian for.

There are also an abundance of coffee shops on 17th Avenue, which you can probably tell I was extremely happy about. But if I had to take my pick I’d recommend Philosafy coffee shop. Cooley decorated in wood, black and gold the coffee here was smooth, warm and reasonably priced. My only reservation is that their smallest size is probably the largest coffee I’ve sipped in a long time. But with friendly staff, air conditioning, natural light and plenty of seating this was my favourite coffee shop of the whole trip.

Best Coffee Shop in Calgary

The final place I’d recommend just on 17th Avenue is Central Memorial Park. A small but perfectly maintained park, this little gem houses water fountains and the sounds of children’s laughter. Sitting there, bathing in the sun felt great and I really felt like I was hiding away among natives. I did perhaps give away my foreign nature when I took my shoes off and ran in the fountains though… I’ve also heard rumours they do a night market there on alternating weeks, unfortunately my trip didn’t coincide with any of their dates.

The Fountains in Central Memorial Park

— Other things to do in the Calgary area —

Coming soon:

Sky Luge, Banff National Park and Chinook!

 

PS. Don’t forget that tax isn’t included on any price tag in Calgary (and I think the whole of Canada) they add it on when you pay. Look for GST on your reciept.

PPS. Tipping is a BIG thing.