Peer pressure is a wonderful thing…
Peer pressure is a wonderful thing…
The last month has been an interesting one. Certainly a lot has happened over Easter that has got me thinking about my long-term career prospects and even short-term goals.
To start with, the University has started an ‘Operational Review’ seemingly in an attempt to stifle research efforts and reduce the student experience all in the name of short-term cost-savings. My two cents is that the university should be investing in better marketing to entice new undergraduate students to Surrey instead of the other top universities with with we now compete due to increased entry requirements. But what do I know, every time students are ‘spoken down to’ regarding the changes, dumbing down information with meaningless metaphors and simply saying ‘don’t worry your little heads about it, let the adults work it out’. Frankly, it’s pathetic.
Moving on to something more exciting and positive, Emily and I went on a boating weekend in March. Just the two of us in the fresh midlands countryside gave us time to relax and get away from all the stress of operational reviews, thesis reports and conference deadlines. Life in the slow lane for 48 hours. It was bliss. To say I’m looking forward to this summer’s marathon boat trip to Bristol would be an understatement.
Back to PhD life again, and it was time for my thesis review at the end of March. This is a new report you have to write for your 2-year milestone. It caused much argument and debate between my supervisor and I for a good many weeks, resulting in a stale-mate where neither of us are happy with the outcome. I’m still unsure about what to do about this, but thankfully the head of department has been very helpful in moving things along, albeit with me still carrying more than a teaspoon full of scepticism. Alas.
I’ve been taking more of an interest in my personal fitness again. Stuart and I are still going climbing on a weekly basis and hoping to transcend to new heights by taking our skills outdoors very soon. I’ve been keenly going to weekly Roller Derby sessions, and went to cheer on the girls team in a game in Coventry a few weeks back.
By far my biggest achievement recently has been playing in my first Roller Derby game! It was a men’s rookie game made up of guys from various teams around the country. Playing with people I’d never met before in front of a crowd (containing my parents!) could be described as being “thown in at the deep end”, but Emily had made me a sign saying “BRING THE POWER” and I managed to score 14 points for my team! It was a great learning experience and I’m now eagerly awaiting my next chance to play.
If that wasn’t enough fitness news, I’m attempting Tough Mudder on Saturday. I say attempting because it’s a 12-mile military-style obstacle course and I’ve done next to no training. Should be a laugh. I might die.
I’ve written a few times about playing Roller Derby, but I’ve not had any pictures to share with you… until now!
Hannah Fleming came to our practice session last week and took some great photos of us all, so I thought I’d share them with you guys so you can see that I actually do a thing!
In the last 6 months I’ve managed to get myself involved in 3 weekly activities: garden society, roller derby and climbing. I’m really enjoying not only having a structure to my week, but also having regular social activities that feel far more productive that just sitting in the pub. Especially after a boring or stressful day it’s really rewarding to have a couple hours doing something different… and I probably couldn’t have picked three more varied activities.
Monday – Garden Soc
Next week marks the re-start of our weekly Garden Society meetings after our winter hiatus. We start back with a potluck event – inviting members to bring a dish to share along to the social, creating a kind of crowd-sourced tapas evening.
Last weekend we continued work in the polytunnel, reusing old pallet wood to make planting bed borders. It’s such a productive way of spending some of your weekend and it always makes me feel more relaxed when I get back to it on Monday morning.
Spring is fast approaching and there’s lots to look forward to. The last few months have seen the garden transformed from a plot of dying grass and weeds to a bed of sprouting onions!
Tuesday – Roller Derby
I started playing roller derby in May last year after the boys team organised a skate-a-marathon fundraiser around Goodwood racetrack. I had such an amazing time and everyone was so friendly that I knew I had to stick around.
Since then I’ve been attending weekly practice sessions and a couple months ago passed my minimum skills test in order to play on the actual team! I’m absolutely loving the challenge, and there’s nothing better to let out steam than smashing into a few people on roller skates. Hopefully this year I’ll get the chance to play in an official game.
Wednesday – Climbing
I’ve been climbing on and off now since I started university, but recently it’s had a revival of sorts. Mainly spurred on by my officemate Stu starting to climb, I’ve been going rather religiously for the last 8 months. We’ve even started lead climbing – essentially when you clip the rope to the wall as you climb up often resulting in some hairy moments where you’re frantically trying to clip in before you lose your hold and fall 8ft to your last clip. It’s really bought back the challenge and excitement that I felt when I first started climbing 6 years ago.
This year I’d like to go on more outdoor trips as well as upping my top rope grade from a 6b to a 7a.
In an ideal world I’d also like to do more swimming, especially in the mornings, as it’s proved really good before – but hey, it’s all just a matter of time.
So I lied about there being more Paris photos. I’ve been having a pretty crazy week catching up with work and life after gallivanting in Paris all last week. Did I say gallivant? I meant work. Yea, work.
On Wednesday evening I skipped the fireworks to practice Roller Derby instead. And I’m glad I did… I’ve now demonstrated all the skills necessary to join the boys team! 46 ‘minimum skills’ such as skating backwards, various stops, hitting techniques, weaving on skates, etc. need to be assessed and passed before any skater can join the team, mainly for safety reasons more than anything else. After 6 months of sessions I feel far more confident on skates and I’m stoked to play my first game some time next year!
Paris photos are coming, I promise…
Recently I’ve been introduced to the weird of wonderful sport of Roller Derby. Roller Derby is basically a contact sport played on roller skates. It involves two teams of five skating around a track, scoring points by lapping the opposing team’s skaters. Only one skater from each team can actually score points, called ‘jammers’. The other skaters try and help their jammer get through while holding up the other team’s jammer, these skaters are called ‘blockers’.
I saw my first game last October when Emily invited a few of us to watch the Surrey Roller Girls play a ’bout’ (that’s what the games are called). This is us eating bourbons and trying to follow what on earth was going on. As usual Will and I turned up wearing the same clothes.
I really enjoyed watching all the action, and I was surprised just how far some of the girls went flying off the track after being hit. It was certainly more violent than I was expecting! At that time I had no interest in actually participating, mainly because I’ve never been interested in team sports since the humiliations of secondary school PE.
Roller derby is predominantly a woman’s game, but there is a men’s league and in the last 12 months Surrey has formed a men’s team called the Surrey Jammerwockies. In order to raise money for the new team, the boys were asking for sponsorship to skate a marathon. The marathon consisted of 11 laps around the Goodwood racetrack as part of a track day called South Coast Roll – where the track is reserved for roller skating for a whole day.
Emily asked me if I was interested in giving the marathon a go and I jumped at the chance! My brother used to play roller hockey and ice hockey when I was younger so I’ve always been interested in roller-blading and ice skating, and this looked like so much fun!
I bought some second hand skates and borrowed some pads from the team and off I went! It was awesome! I haven’t had so much fun while simultaneously getting so many blisters in my life! I loved just having the freedom to skate as fast as I could with so much space, something you could never do in an ice rink.
I went to a few roller derby training sessions in the two weeks leading up to the marathon, just to get used to skating again and build my confidence, but I ended up really enjoying the game-play aspect of the sessions as well. In other words, I got hooked.
The speed, agility and strength needed in order to compete is so interesting to me, but the one aspect that encouraged me to come back every week was the spirit of the boys in the team. I never liked team sports in Secondary School, not because I was lazy, but because it was driven by egos and alpha-males.
I never liked the “shower-room banter” or lad-like culture that surrounded sports like hockey, football and rugby. And I had no reason to believe that Men’s Roller Derby was any different, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Maybe it goes back to the fact that Roller Derby is predominantly a female sport, but the attitude of the guys in the team was so welcoming and friendly, without any bullshit, that I can’t believe I even thought it would be different. There’s no ‘initiation’, no fresh-meat inferiority and no disrespect.
Now I’m regularly attending the boys sessions and hoping to compete in my first game before the end of the year. I really enjoy the skating and taking on a new challenge. It’s building my fitness and introducing me to a whole group of new, like-minded people. I love it and would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt out of place in other team sports.
Until next Thursday,