I’m not going to start at the beginning.
There’s going to come a point when this love affair ends, because I know it’s impossible to sustain this level of passion. Right now my fellow hatchlings and I are at the heady can’t-eat-can’t-sleep infatuation phase of our relationship with roller derby. It can do no wrong. From the moment my secondhand skates arrived, packed up with a little note signed “derby love” I was hooked. I woke up in the middle of the night at the weekend, rolled over, grabbed my phone and looked up “how to do backwards crossovers” on YouTube. My partner didn’t even stir. Nor does he bat an eyelid when I hurtle out the door at 8am on a Saturday for the 60 mile round trip I drive to the draughty village hall, where I happily submit to 120 minutes of derby-based torture.
Every second sentence I say contains the words skate, wheels, or minimums. I spend hours every week thinking about our training sessions. We come home to ignored pets, bemused children, and neglected partners, then conduct the modern version of the post-game team hot tub – debriefing via Facebook on our phones in the bath.
It’s not that I want it to end: I wish I’d found derby when I was ten years younger. My thirty year old self could have done with an infusion of the guts and humour and bravery that characterises every team member I’ve met. But knowing there’s a time limit, that the intense emotional and physical demands that the sport requires can’t be sustained indefinitely, gives me an extra edge. I might be twice the age of some of the girls on our team but I’m going to bloody well skate hard and turn left and catch them if it kills me. And chasing the amazing derby butts is incentive in itself: nobody’s invented booty shorts emblazoned with “You want a bum like this? Skate harder” but it’s only a matter of time.
So for now I’m going to treasure every stiff-legged morning, every extra second I add to my (frankly hopeless) planking record, every bruise and crashing fall and moment of hysterical laughter with my team mates. I’ve never been a team player. I hated PE at school. But this passionate affair with roller derby is the stuff 80 year old reminiscences are made of.