• How to deal with the choices of London

  • England Roller Derby

  • A recluse’s take on Rollercon

  • WFTDA International Playoffs: My D2 Wichita Picks

How to deal with the choices of London

The whole experience of moving to London is pretty bloomin’ exciting and overwhelming for your brain. At least, it was exciting and overwhelming for me.

Not to the point of crying with happiness/fear. But in a way that makes you marvel at the adventure you’ve embarked upon, and the change you’ve made to your life.

London can be, and is for me, an intimidating spectacle, that has a wealth of opportunity (cliché, vom), encourages frustration and mild irritation, and provides so many sights for the eyes.

The surprises rarely stop when you live in London, which is a stark contrast to Lincoln, a beautiful city that is also very sleepy. A less than positive example would be in Lincoln I very rarely used public transport and I was never once coughed on while waiting for said public transport. Before moving to London, I’d never saw somebody trim their nails on a train before either.

However, it isn’t these sights I’m referring too when I talk about the sensory overload of London.

Instead, I’m talking to the abundance of choice and decisions that London presents to you on a daily basis.

The Shard London

Without much thought I can list three examples of times I’ve been boggled by choice, ranging from which southbound platform to wait at in Camden tube station, to which shop to go into in Oxford Street and the resulting choice between items of clothing that come in each shop. I decided to get some awesome Trend Suspenders, while I was shopping.

Let me be clear that only one of the above examples has led me to stand still with pensiveness (obviously the shopping).

So I’ve been living in London for nine months now.

The extent of the sensory overload is less over time. Maybe I’ve become dulled to London living, but I don’t think so. Instead, I think I’ve just found ways to cope with the abundant choice of London, its places to eat, places to shop, methods of transport and breathtaking views.

Here is how I deal (somewhat) with the sensory overload that London offers.

Have a loose plan before I step out of the door.

I don’t want to kill spontaneity (see my last point), but I’ve found one of the best ways to manage the choice of London is to have a loose plan before I take a step out of the door.

Sounds obvious, maybe. But I used to be able to step out of my door, drive or walk in the direction of the centre of town and call a friend/find a friend/chill out in my favourite coffee shop.

The centre of London is huge. And actually there are about 100,000 ways I can get into the centre of London, and, at least, half of them are going to be affected by line delays or road works or overcrowding.

The sheer size of London also makes making plans with friends difficult. We all have favourite places, different tastes and a north/south London divide.

A loose plan (usually city mapped in some way), means I’ve probably done a little bit of research on the area of London I want to go to. It also probably means I’ve made a loose choice ahead of being caught up in the London rush.

Take a second, and step out of the London rush.

Part of the sensory overload comes from being caught up in the 24/7 rush that is London. Walking out of Oxford Street you are bustled off the tube, up the escalator, through the ticket barriers and up the stairs. When is your time to think?

What about when you’re walking down a borough’s main street, and you’re presented with five pubs and another dozen food places. In my borough alone there are six breakfast/brunch cafes.

Taking a second, stepping out of the bustle. Resting your mind from the adverts, lights, performers and sales will really make your mind re-engage with your thoughts, rather than the shows around you.

Oxford Street London

I genuinely find everything becomes clearer.

BUT – make sure you don’t just stop mid-corridor, doorway, left-hand side of an escalator or at a ticket barrier because you will be hated… And I don’t condone that type of behaviour.

Ask myself if I really want it.

This one applies to food and clothes equally.

I’ve walked out of the Topshop on Oxford Street, and H & M, because there was too much choice. I have eaten at Tortilla for lunch because I couldn’t choose between the other options.

Maybe I’m not daring enough to chuck myself into a new experience, but I prefer to blame indecisiveness and too much choice.

So now, shortly after I’ve taken my second to reflect on what I’m thinking and my surroundings I ask myself. Do I really want what I’m about to buy? Do I really fancy eating/wearing it? Or would I prefer something else? What was my loose plan when I stepped out of the door?

Of course, sometimes I still don’t have an answer. But 80% of the time it helps, and it saves me money too.

Allow myself to be carried away occasionally.

Finally, sometimes just stop thinking, watching, choosing and allow yourself to be carried away.

Last Saturday night, my loose plan took me to Shoreditch. I was with Chris, so we didn’t rush. We took the time to think about whether we were hungry, or wanted coffee, or where we were heading too once we got out of the tube station.

We were nearly carried away into thinking we need to eat, walking through BoxPark.

Visiting Shoreditch London

Choices of London

But ultimately we didn’t (because we didn’t want to). But we did embrace spontaneity by trying the Cereal Killer Café and by witnessing a rave/protest and kind of half joining in and walking around parts of London we’d never been too before.

England Roller Derby

Have you ever had that thought, when you really want something and you think, just for a moment, that you might get it? The butterfly inducing feeling, where for a second you let your mind wander into the realms of what it might be like to achieve that thing you desire.

There was a moment just after the second cut in the second round of England national squad try outs that I let myself feel like that. That I let the tight-lock, anxiety-avoiding, focused wall I’d built to try and get through try outs drop, and my belly, my heart and my head all paused for a second to marvel at purely being at that stage and that close to being a member of the England Roller Derby Training Squad.

Being part of England Roller Derby has been a big focus of mine, and I imagine hundreds of other skaters, for quite some time.  Why not strive to reach it? But honestly, I never really thought I’d make it.

England roller derby second tryout

Courtesy of Roller Derby On Film

Taking part in the first round of England try outs felt cathartic to me. The last time the try outs had happened I couldn’t walk, let alone skate and it’s always been sore point for me that I never physically got to try out; that I never really understood what it felt, where I was and how far I needed to go.

Taking my skates off after the first round, which was on one of the hottest days of the year, I felt dehydrated, bruised, frustrated, elated and strong. Not strong because I thought I was better than those around me, or that I’d performed well, but strong because I’d completed what I previously had been unable to do.

It felt great and I hoped that I would make the next round but I was also weary that this was so much further than I’d managed last time, that maybe this time round wasn’t for me.

The reality of the second try out, when I received the confirmation email that I’d made the next round, didn’t hit me. It felt like I was watching somebody else receive the email, plan their journey and thinking about their plan to stay focused.

It was only until a couple of days before that I really registered what would be going on. That in a couple of days I’d be skating with the nation’s best skaters. I’d be bracing, hitting, stopping the nation’s best jammers and blockers and trying to prove that I deserved to be at least training with them.

Oh and that during the day there would also be two mid-session cuts. When that reality hit, it hit hard.

Helping hand in roller derby

Photo courtesy of Roller Derby On Film

Of course, it was hard not to be nervous and no matter how tightly-locked I kept my wandering mind, I was affected by the impressiveness of the situation. A room full of the best and a room full of the determined.

The first time a cut happened my body tingled with nerves. I’d been on the other side, cutting male skaters from the England Men’s National Squad just the year before. I knew the rational, but that didn’t make the prospect of being cut any less sour or disappointing.

The second time I was so sure I was gone and was genuinely shocked when I wasn’t.

The final part of scrim felt like a reward for making it so far. Getting my ass kicked, my body bruised and my mind cleared by the fast-paced, physical and intense pace.

While I’m a long way off from making any charter, from playing in the logo, or in the world cup. I am one step closer. And with that step I thought I’d take some time to fully acknowledge just how shocked I am to be there. How amazed I am to have made it and how I’ve genuinely loved the feeling of shock, surprise and excitement every time something “englandy” happens.

england roller derby training squad world cup 2018

A recluse’s take on Rollercon

I really wish I had enjoyed Rollercon. I really wanted to enjoy Rollercon.

But I didn’t.

While the whole premise of it is incredible – skaters from all over the world travelling to one location to take part in fun games, try a banked track and be coached by some of the world’s best skaters, the reality of it for me was socially awkward interactions, dehydration and skating at the worst personal level I’d achieved since my fresh meat course. Oh and a complete stranger’s thumb in my mouth.

I blame myself for some of it. I took my new skates, complete with new plates and toe stops, which on the one hand made me look like I was a pro at just rolling also made me look like I had never practiced a day of any stops in my entire life. I realised this as I saw a guy I’d never met extremely reluctantly hand me a pivot panty, like I was a first time skater in an a-team game, pretending. The shame.

Roller derby at rollercon

Photo courtesy of Illbilly

I’d also just spent most of a year’s savings flying to Calgary to watch the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup, and spent too little time drinking coffee and exploring, and way too much time waiting for Giggity to finish leadership meetings and smelling man sweat. Roller derby and I were not on speaking terms by the end of that trip, let alone in love enough to spend another part of the holiday smelling sweat and watching MORE of it.

Oh and then there’s the whole new people thing and my first interactions with the amazingly different culture that is America. This was a shock, mostly because I realised just how truly British I am.

Quite simply, I found Rollercon intimidating and not where I wanted to be, for all the above reasons and because I also personally, really struggled with the big mix in skill level and the unpredictability to people’s playing style – it turns out I really like skating with folks I know and if you’re that type of skater then I guess Rollercon really isn’t for you.

Of course it’s not all bad. If, unlike me, you are going with a larger group of you all excited to skate – or perhaps you join a group of like-minded souls and pre-plan that you’re going to meet at Rollercon, then I guess you’d be fine. But Gigs and I travelled with another couple (Tom A Hawke and Razzo) and out of the four of us, only one of us was really into playing any games that week (I’m looking at you Tom). This meant there was a lot of oddly timed games, pad smell in our hotel room and no drive to take part in everything. In fact, after three half an hour games I pulled out of the rest, rested my body like I should have been doing with my off-season and explored Las Vegas and watched other people play YET MORE ROLLER DERBY.

I also ruined the Las Vegas part of my holiday I think, by immediately landing from Canada hiring a car with my friends and driving across Arizona to see the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. THAT WAS INCREDIBLE and absolutely NOTHING in Las Vegas was ever going to top that.

That being said, once I took the pressure off myself to make games or to try and skate with roller derby’s a-listers I enjoyed myself a little more and it actually started to feel like a holiday. Las Vegas became more enticing, even despite it being expensive.

Couple walking through las vegas hotel

—Highlights of Rollercon 2016—

  • The Black and Blue Ball and people’s interpretation of clothes
  • The glorious air con
  • Watching Brits on the banked track
  • Doing a pick up mixed black vs white mixed scrim with 8 of us playing
  • VR vs Caulksaulkers (squad goals on both fronts)
  • Watching gigs awkwardly dance in the half-time of Magic Mike vs Chippendales

—Lowpoints of Rollercon 2016—

  • Half an hour games
  • Only taking my brand new skate set-up
  • Missing Drag Kings and Drag Queens
  • Big skill level mix
  • The jetlag on the way back