This is Roller Derby

At the very crack of dawn on Sunday morning I am up and cycling to town, I see no one, arriving at Peterborough train station I don’t have to queue to get a ticket or fight for a seat, it’s starting to feel a little post apocalyptic, but no, this is the start of my first day of roller derby training.


My new years resolution this year was to try new sports activities, things I have always wanted to try, however the main reason I haven’t done this before is that Peterborough just doesn’t have a wide range of alternative exercise options, it’s great for rowing and running and cycling and has all the normal clubs rugby, football etc. but when it comes to something just a little bit different, nothing.


So to try roller derby, I must travel, the nearest club to me is in Cambridge* and I managed to get a ticket for their fresh meat course (this is the roller derby term for beginners) despite, as I understand it an unprecedented demand for tickets.


So here I am on a two-hour train ride to Cambridge via Hitchin, a trip which takes 30mins by car and 45 by direct train, however apparently no one wants to go to Cambridge before 1pm on a Sunday so Hitchin it is.


I did wonder if perhaps Hitchin have a roller derby team but the husband informs me it is quite small and so all ten people who live there would need to play and thus quite unlikely.

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However as I struggle around in the dark for the plus points of this situation I reflect that I can at least blog about my experiences, catch up on my reading and on an apparently empty train and perhaps do an early morning core session, living the dream and planking between the luggage racks.


Before I get to the bit on skates let’s talk a little more about kit, roller derby requires quite a bit of kit and I have Double Threat Skates to thank for getting me kitted up.


Naturally the first thing you need is skates, I spent a good deal of my childhood and teenage years on skates but the little I remember about buying skates is quite useless for roller derby, I remember buying skates a size larger than your shoes (I guess this might just have been mum aiming for maximum value) however for roller derby your skates need to be super snug, not cut your circulation off snug but damn pretty close, to ensure your skates are snug rather than just too small you need to stand for a few minutes in them and see if you can still feel your feet, this is enormous fun when you haven’t been on skates for years in the middle of a room full of pros, however I discovered a trick, using a skate tool you can adjust your wheels so they don’t move, ha! Once you have found the right level of snugness, enough to ensure your feet don’t move around when you skate you are ready for pads…


One other thing I should say, skates make your feet look really small, tiny even, you want small (looking) feet wear skate! They also make you almost a foot taller, this is obvious but I forgot and I love being taller without the heels bit. Bonus.


Padding; Again very different from my early skating years when my mum would tape nappies to the bits I may fall on, it’s all quite high-tech in comparison. You need wrist, elbow and knee pads, wrist supports will stop you braking your wrist if you fall, but if you fall badly you will just break your arm a little higher up, I am told, you can’t say they aren’t honest.


Also you know shoes before corset? (when costuming put your shoes on before you lace up your corset or you will struggle to get them on without help) well skates before wrist pads; wrist pads make your hands nearly useless so they go on last and come off first, only when I said “oh like shoes before corset” I just got a funny look…


Knees: I went for the biggest knee pads I could scrimmage, I like my knees and apparently I’m going to fall on them a lot, there are a lot of straps involved in my knee pads, four? And they all need to be tight enough that you can’t just pull the pads off, my shins need to fend for themselves no stealing the knee pads!


Elbow pads: the knee and elbow pads keep your arms in a bent position, it’s very odd but I’m sure it works out once you are skating…


Apparently I have quite small arms, as I had to go down a size from the first pads I tried on, gutted is not the word, all that work and my gun show is disappointing at best, size SMALL 😦 sigh.


One more thing about pads, they have a left and right: I foresee this being one of the most challenging aspects of the sport for me…


Helmet! Skid lid, this is much more hardcore then my cycle helmet which can only take one crack before it needs replacing, this helmet can be dropped multiple times an take up to three proper crashes before I needs replacing, lets hope the same can be said about me, I restrained myself when it came to colour going for shiny black rather than sliver glitter-ball, no need to make any more of a fool of myself than necessary. Perhaps if I make it to being good…


I have also brought a mouth guard, I’m not sure that I will need it for the non contact bits but, hey ho, you get to chose a colour, I went for red, grrraahhh! I am warned they are a pain in the arse to shape, oh SUCH fun awaits!


Wheels: you can buy different wheels for different surfaces, one thing I remember from my former roller skating days is being told we can not skate outside then skate on our community centre wood floor as it will ruin it, skating little stones into it, apparently a lot of venues dislike people skating as they worry about the floor, however roller skate are not any more damaging then any other indoor gym activity. That’s all good and well but if I’m going to get any practice in during the week I’m going to have to face up the fact this will have to be done outside, as I don’t have access to any suitable indoor spaces near my house, but I am surrounded by parks with paths, the main reason I need to change my wheels for this is to make it a nicer ride, outdoor wheels are softer and make the going less bumpy. To change my wheels I need a skate tool, this is the rigger jigger/ multi tool of the skate world, gosh I do love new tools, anyways…


Carrying all this kit even a short distance I am struck by the weight of it all, it’s going to be quite hard work just to move in it. Once I have it all on (not correctly to start with I had to stop and swap my wrist guards which I swore I had on currently dispute the fact they are marked with left and right and these markings did not correspond to my hands) the moment of truth came, I had to get up and skate, ideally without immediately falling over, that was quite scary it has been a good ten years since I last did this, however I did quite well, going round in little circles trying to improve my technique, pushing out to the sides not back (ten and two) bending my legs so if I fell it would be towards onto the pads.


Naturally sooner or later I was going to fall over, I did so twice, once for no good reason, straight onto my arse, oh my poor coccyx, the second time, in front of everyone while trying to purposely fall forward on both knees, I again for no good reason feel back again but this time I took on board the advice from the last fall and choose an acre cheek to landed on, less painful, but not really what I was meant to be doing.


We had a go a few different skills, gliding on one leg, falling on to our knees that sort of thing, I wasn’t the best, but I wasn’t the worst, it was hard work and after two hours I had a proper bead on (I was sweaty) but I loved it, I literally crawled back home, stopping only to stuff my face, I arrived home, had a bath, made a lot of pained noises then went to bed at 3:30 in the afternoon. However when I woke up and hour or so later the husband had cooked tea so I might try that trick again!


I have spent the rest of the week paying for falling on my arse, I’m sure It didn’t used to take this long to recover from falling on my arse…it has much more crumble zone now, but it is higher off the ground… however nothing will stop me from returning next week, I literally can’t wait ( My tailbone would like to point out that it can and will wait.)


* turns out Borderline Brawlers are based just down the rod from me in Stamford, but no matter, its not like it’s a two hour trip to Cambridge on a Sunday morning…


The life of the bicycle launch

It’s been a long time since my last post and many cycling related things have happened, including me taking part in my first road race, in which I didn’t finish very high, but I didn’t fall off, or crash and I did finish, so moving swiftly on…

This post is about the launch of The life of the bicycle film made by Clapham Film Unit with Herne Hill Velodrome and The Science Museum, funded by the Heritage lottery’s All Our Stories programme

The launch was at The Science Museum, most of the cyclists involved cycled to the screening from the velodrome. I had a morning meeting so missed cycling through a torrential downpour, I did however arrive just in time for the post ride flapjack…

I was also able to see the Bicycle tour exhibition, including many of the bikes I was able to study for the project.

Find out more about the exhibition here;


Anyway on to the film!

It’s a really interesting film, I love they way its cuts between the vastly different stories all linked by cycling. I was very lucky to have three largeish bits in it which I will now share with you (although you should try and see whole the film!)

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The first part was filmed at the end of the day, but works really well as the start of my story, it shows me enjoying my own private velodrome, huffing and puffing and gushing about how much I love cycling.

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I am wearing my modern cycling clothing, summer kit, and it was COLD (We filmed in April this year)

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You can see the two problems I suffered with throughout filming here, cold hands and near blindness, do too a lack of sunglasses on a very sunny day. I always wear sunglasses, on and off the bike as my eyes are super light sensitive, and big attracting grit etc, but sunglasses didn’t work for the film and you can tell I can’t really see, plus my eyes were watering all day. Thank goodness for my cycling cap!

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You can see I pulled my arm warmers right down and rolled my fingers under the palms of my hands sandwiching them between me and my cork (conducts heat) handle bars, all without realising what I was doing and thinking about how strange it would look on film.

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A couple of people still came up to me after the screening to ask way I wasn’t wearing gloves. The truth is at this stage I didn’t own cycling gloves and the fluffy woolly pink gloves I had with me did not really look the part. I had no idea what I was doing till I watched the film, it must have been towards the end of a take! Charlotte was quick to wrap me up as soon as we stopped cycling, but I am a cold blooded person and thus cold all of the time.

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The second part of the film is me in my 1940s kit, I want to show you the way the film cuts to it

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It starts with race footage like this…FAST

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And then cuts to me, not quite as blurry, but you try cycling in original 1940s sandals, bits kept falling off and I had to keep stitching them back together.

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We filmed this first, I was pleased it was a sunny day, I had a hand knitted 1940s cardie, but I was clearly feeling brave as I took that off before we started filming.

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I had to get used to cycling on the slopes of the velodrome wearing this, which was quite good fun…

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This footage was filmed on a old camera, with old film, sorry, I forget the technical terms, But this give the lovely old school colour.

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this was the one time I looked at the camera you can see how much I am suffering from the sun, as I have pirate face.

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Being a costume designer as well as wearing original shoes I also have original 1940s silk stockings, the dress which is cut in line with war time guidance on fabric wastage is not very full and not perhaps not fully suited to cycling.

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The dress kept slowly riding up my legs, not wanting to spoil the flow I waited to readjusting my dress in-between takes, some of which were quite long.

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This meant, yes I was a proper old school Cambridge cyclist, showed my stocking tops. This description is based on my past interviews with women who cycled in Cambridge in the 1950s and 1960s. I was not wolf whistled (as my interviewees often were) but my stocking tops might have inspired my streaker?

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The footage of me creaking and wobbling round the track with my legs out cuts to this…

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Again FAST and skillful!

My third part in the film starts with a tease…whatever is she wearing now?

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before slowly giving away my final costume

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Why I’m wearing my full Edwardian cycling costume of course! (apart from that hat which I picked up from M&S on route, but sssshhh don’t tell anyone!)

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This is how the vintage black and white film footage came out…

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Bear in mind I have the full costume on, including the corset which needed to be laced up to enable me to do the jacket up, was made for a model smaller than me and on top of it all I had to cycle round the velodrome, at least I wasn’t cold!

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Also you will remember from my post about filming this, this was the part of the shoot in which I got streaked, just imagine a nude dude running behind my right shoulder…I think I did quite a good job of keeping a straight face really, and I didn’t pass out, even when I was in stitches laughing.

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Thank you so much to everyone involved, especially Charlotte who talked me in front of the camera. I loved every moment of it!

Find out more about The life of the bicycle here;

see more of my stills from the film here;

In the beginning there was stabilisers

In the beginning there was stabilisers…

When I was first asked to be involved in The Clapham Film Units and the friends of Herme Hill velodromes Film, The life of the bicycle I asked my mum to dig out a picture of me on my bike as a tot.

After much rummaging mum said that there weren’t any, apparently “you never showed much interest” great, thanks mum, that will really go down well on a film about enthusiastic cyclists. She went to tell me she had some pictures of my younger sister learning to ride her bike (yes plural) so much for being the prodigal first child, looks like I was just the warm up act

Anyway the hunt continued after it was confirmed that yes, my sister would rather stab herself repeatedly in the face with a Biro than so much as acknowledge the existence of the bicycle*

Then after we had all give up hope, quite expectantly mum came up with this, in a friends photo album, which I have been instructed to take good care of, lord knows why its suddenly important now!

This picture was taken when I was about 6 or 7ish, outside my grandads house, which was over the road from my own childhood home, I am on my first bike, it was already quite the antique having shown most of the family’s post war children the ropes.

the picture is out of focus, well its not, if you look to the right, the plant claiming frame is nice and sharp…

I am wearing my classic look of 1940s inspired 1980s floral Laura Ashley type smocked dress over a t-shirt, with very 1980s pinky white tights and sandals, I had quite a few of those dresses, its not too dissimilar to what I wear now really

I look happy, in a poesy sort of way but then I still have my stabilisers, I don’t remember having this picture taken but I do remember the day my grandad removed my stabilisers and I discover that riding a bike was in fact impossible

I just didn’t get balance, much to the bewilderment of my sporty parents, even much, much later aged 10+ I was regularly cycling into lampposts, as soon as I noticed them I could not stop myself from cycling into them, I fell off a lot, I dont remember having a cycle helmet, which quite explains quite a lot. My younger sister had one, which she worn on her bike handlebars, which explains even more…

When I look at my happy little face now all I think of is the shock that will soon follow and the next tenish years of trying to get the hang of the whole two wheel thing

Anyhow much, much, much later, here I am covered in bruises and scabs, still learning, still getting back on. Quake with fear lampposts

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* I’m hoping its a stage, do people still go through “stages” in their mid 20’s?

It never gets easier, you just go faster.

It never gets easier, you just go faster. – Greg LeMond

Day 30, I made it, in one piece, even if that piece is a little bruised, scratched and stuck back together, this isn’t really cyclings fault, I wasn’t built to be a Concours model, or I would have had some inbuilt spacial awareness and balance.

Today involved the normal cycle to the train station, Cambridge again, 4 and a bit hours of laser-cutting later and its back to the boro and over to the cottage to complete a funding app, over a beer, as is becoming the tradition, then off again to the rowing club to drink tea and hunt round for the thing that’s making the club house smell so nasty, before home, which on reflection smells quite fresh, even if it does resemble a stage from a production of lord of the flies.

I have been trying to work out if I should carry on this blog after today, not everyday, that’s mad, just when I have something intresting to say relating to Cycling. I continued to debate this into the 1st of May, until a reserved an email offering me an exciting cycling related opportunity, so that’s it, the blog carrys on

365 day cycling pledge? Bit much? Ok fine…





To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain

To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain….at cycling’s core lies painScott Martin

Day 29, which also happens to be a Monday, new week and meetings about new projects

Last night him-indoors and I watched a film called Premium Rush, unlike some of the other cycling themed films we have watched this was quite a high budget affair

‘In Manhattan, a bike messenger picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city”

Or so it said on the tin, Its really quite good…

The main character’s bike is quite a lot like Frank-n-fixie

“I like to ride. Fixed gear. No brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to, either”

Its all about the speed, the risk, the skill and you would have to be completely mad, but it makes you want to ride…fast

Its a good film, I dont think I’ll convert to “runnin’ reds and killin’ peds” thou


This morning I found myself very late for my train, so on heading off I said to Frank, I need to be at the train station, yesterday, lets go! and off we sped

I like to ride, fixed gear, some brakes, could stop, but it would take me ages to get going again…so ideally I don’t want to

I made the train, out of breath and really for anything…which I needed to be

My day didn’t get any less rushed and it had lost of weird planned for me

I spend the morning sitting in a heritage meeting for someone else, in a theatre, while all around me the Rocky Horror show was being set up

I may just be a sweet transvestite…but I’m one who knows how to compete the correct permission forms for oral history interviews…

So after a super quick snack-lunch I’m off to a swimming pool, representing a football club, to talk about cycling, confused!

The meeting was all bout the Tour de France coming to Cambridge in 2014 and I’m already excited and so pleased to be involved, It was also a great opportunity to meet Representatives from the many different cycling clubs across Cambridge and to find out more about cycling events both locally and nationally.

I wore suitable socks…

Thanks to a canceled train I was super late coming back to Peterborough and thus my Monday night circuits class, which I am very much in need of participating in, the result of which was:

A, I had to get changed into my gym kit in a stinky train loo…again…Superman has to change in public loos less than me

B, I had to run off the train, jump on frank, instruct him I need to be at the gym, like yesterday, pedal like mad, before storming into the class, knackered, which I managed in 8 minutes, which is quite good, when you factor in locking and unlocking Frank and looking for my trainers…

Fast-ish and getting faster

Gosh today is going to hurt tomorrow…Hello pain, my old friend


Wisely, and slow. They stumble that cycle fast.

Its Sunday, and all rowing and coxing has been forsaken for a bike ride.

A motley crew of cyclists meet at the rowing club, five girls (Me, Ella, Annabell, Charlotte and Anna, who is late as normal even thou she lives closest) plus Captain America, who is a boy, so he can’t join in, but he does escort us to the ride, demonstrating all the proper cycling signals en-route, but it’s quite hard to focus on these important facts when he’s dressed as a cycling superhero.

Charlotte takes great pride in beating us the start, it becomes quite clear quite early on ( i.e. before we even start) that we are not really the target auidence for this ride, which is aimed at beginners

The guide was very keen to help but insistent she needed to be in front the whole time and so the pace was a little slower than we are used to


Here we are cycling past the rowing lake, we are all following the leader, as NO overtaking was allowed

Plus lots of stopping for comfort breaks, going through brakes, discussing routes, crossing roads…


We never did over taken the jogger on the left, poor chap


I tried to take a few pictures en-route, until I nearly crashed into Ella…

We made up a few games to keep it interesting… slow games, under ten miles per hour games

Lowest gear racing was quite good fun, as was Flintstones racing, think how Fred and Barney power their cars…


Despite it being a little on the slow side we had fun, it was quite of like a long chat on wheels, oh the random topics we discussed…

There are already plans afoot for more rides


Ella put some slap on “in case I took pictures for my blog” looking sexy Ella 😉


But not quite as sexy as me, with my central hair curl!?

The real reason we all went was Ella’s flapjack

MMMMMHHHH Flapjack, Ella’s a great cook


And of course some tea was in order



Looks like Charlotte’s already coming up with a cunning plan for more cycling madness, Yikes!

Or perhaps that’s just her flapjack face…

But why is the rum gone?

Picture this

My alarm goes off

Bleep, Bleep, Bleep, Bleep…

Getting up is going to require commitment, so lets go in strong, rah, yeh! lets do this…

I swing my leg out of bed, biff! toes hits wardrobe, Hard

Ouch! Thump, I have now fallen out of bed, clutching my toe

The husband sits up, looks at me waling on the floor and says, “I’ll go switch the alarm off”

My poor toe is bloody and hurts a lot, walking is near impossible so rowing is out, oh bugger this is going to make me look soooo bad, soooo lightweight.

After some time the toe stops bleeding and I start to limp around. I both brake and fix myself I lot, so I don’t normally need a doctor to tell me if somethings broken, I know what I have broken feels like, the toes not broken, just bloody and bruised and the nails busted up quite badly, but that’s just a super glue and nail varnish job, no problem.

Well toe, I’m going to give you 24 hours to fix or I shall cut you off old school Tour de France style* as I want to go cycling tomorrow.

And then there’s Frank, he’s still in town, I spend the morning being good and resting, then by lunch time I very slowing force my toe into socks and boots and limp the three miles to town, I’m dressed like….  well I’m not sure what you call this look, sports leggings with those go faster stripes, a new Romantic /pirate shirt and a classic 1970’s men’s jumper with a hat with animal ears.

Who cares, this is Peterborough and town is filled with POSH fans heading to the football in animal onesies. Why? Isn’t your mascot a bloke in a top hat and tails ringing a bell? Why not put your wedding suits on? Middle aged balding football fans in onesies, eeh God.

Frankie’s not been stolen (I know, I was shocked too…) and I try cycling home, on wheels, is better than on feet or toe, so that’s good news.

I spend the afternoon trying to over look the smell of gone off eggs and get on with this blogging business, while him-indoors makes scale models of Peterborough, as you do.

I try to be good and rest to that means no cleaning or tidying right? being about to find stuff is so overrated.

* see for more toe chopping madness