Growing up : Christmas Edition

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Let’s make one thing clear. I am a Christmas person.

For one thing – my name is Holly. Christmas points right there! My birthday is the 7th January so I guess it makes sense that my name was Christmassy with the time of year – also my dad loves Red Dwarf which first aired two years before I was born (I admit.. it is weird when you think that Holly was originally a male computer interface..)

Many people around my age are talking about growing up and growing out of Christmas, this is strange for me because I do love Christmas, I’m not obsessed with Christmas, not that girl that’s in all the Christmas films but I do genuinely love and enjoy Christmas. I am not religious so I guess if you want to be critical and work on technicalities it isn’t a holiday that I should celebrate, but then again if you want to work on technicalities – Pagans had the holiday first and even then it is loosely based on a Roman festival “Saturnalia” (Dec 17). Now all of this may not be exactly right, but it is roughly right… I’ll let you discuss amongst yourselves.  

For me, Christmas is special because it really roots itself in my love of family and being thankful. Family means a lot to me, and Christmas is one of the few times family members really make an effort to see each other and be happy and enjoy themselves. (I think the majority will agree, the only time we really see family members outside of your immediate family – weddings or funerals. And the odd Christening.) Yes as you get older the magic sometimes wears off, you go from being young and excited about presents to noticing the stress and tempers flaring between older family members – but generally it is a season where you do enjoy being together and are happy. I think that is a big part of Christmas joy – I recently read a story about some rich guy who gave his air miles away to people who really needed them, to families who couldn’t afford for long distance relatives to be with them and soldiers who wanted to be at home with their families regardless of the holiday. I hear many people saying it is about giving and many of those people assuming this means presents – yes the presents are nice, but giving yourself to other people, giving your time and love means so much more.

I guess all this prompted me to write this all out, my feelings about Christmas, why I love it, and why I just haven’t grown out of it!

I usually get excited around the 25th November when I realise that it is only a month til Christmas. As a child I only really knew Christmas was coming when the advent calendars came out, MamaCidal used to get me up and ready for school, school uniform, teeth and breakfast before I was allowed to have my chocolate treat before I left the house. This has been fairly consistent to this day, there are odd days I instead have my chocolate when I get home, the odd days when I get up, get dressed, teeth and breakfast but the dogs decide which way the morning goes! This year I have two calendars! Lucky me! I have a The Snowman Thorntons courtesy of MamaLinda and a Malteasers calendar courtesy of The Man. This year I decided to treat the Man and bought him the Star Wars lego advent calendar – which is £22!!! But it is money well spent when I get to see the smile on his face when he opens the door and gets to build a character or ship.

Christmas eve – excitement central. Our Santa sacks hung carefully on our doorknobs with our names on so Santa would know he had the right one, our “Christmas” outfits laid out ready so we could get downstairs quicker, so much to do and so much going on. We would have spent weeks thinking about what we wanted to put in our letters to Santa, making sure we had carrots and mince pies in for Santa and his Reindeer. Now obviously the Santa thing is one of the few things that has changed as I have grown up and became another role I played for my younger siblings as I got older (alongside the tooth fairy which I am sorry parents around the world – it can actually be pretty disgusting!) We would fight the need to go to sleep and eventually wake up to find the mince pies and carrots were gone and the tree was close to bursting! I have grown up with a pretty continuous routine on Christmas day. Wake up, get excited and wake the parents up – which I am proud to say I have done for the past 23 years – I have what I affectionately call “Christmas pants” – these are a range of boy boxers which have Christmas detailing and phrases on the elastic (the only reason I ever venture into Primark…!!). Upon putting on Christmas pants, the “Christmas song” and accompanying “Christmas dance” take place. I have always been in a good habit thanks to MamaCidal and PapaCidal to make sure I have breakfast before I open any presents – when I was younger and much more excited we were allowed to open one before breakfast, but just because it was Christmas it didn’t mean I could skip breakfast or not brush my teeth!! After the presents were all opened, MamaCidal would sit with me, Bear and BroCidal to make a list of family members and friends we were going to send “Thank you” notes to, we made this list by keeping the tags of presents and it really taught us all from an early age to be thankful. My grandparents on PapaCidals side would always come over and after saying hello and telling them about all the exciting thing we had received, MamaCidal and GranCidal would start with Christmas dinner, at this point PapaCidal and GrandadCidal would go to the pub. Christmas day is one of the few days our local pub would let children in and would be monitored allowed only to drink fizzy pop, juice or water (which makes sense) – as the oldest I was always allowed to go with them, gradually BroCidal was allowed to come along and more recently the whole family has gone and then come back to finish cooking dinner.

Now… the deadly Christmas dinner which wipes out families in one foul swoop. More food than anyone would ever be able to eat which really looking at it as I’ve gotten older is kind of sad when you consider that there are people who have nothing most days never mind on Christmas day – but it makes you feel better about mankind when you see shelters and volunteers caring for others in this world and donating their own time and resources to giving them a healthy meal and a special Christmas day in cases too. When everyone has made their way through Christmas dinner, it is on to Christmas puddings and then coffee, cheese and crackers. After which everyone passes out on the sofas for a bit watching Christmas television (or subsequently setting things to record to watch when not in a Christmas-coma). When everyone has livened up a bit, the women (bar myself) wash up whilst the rest of us walk the dogs before returning for a finger food selection – like anyone has room – and playing board games. The night ends with goodbyes and much needed sleep. This whole day is then followed by another day of eating our way into a food coma at another family members house on Boxing Day.

I think me going to the pub and Bear staying at home is part of the reason why she can cook a full Christmas dinner at four years my junior and I just can’t. Recently MamaLinda taught me how to do a roast – I didn’t realise it was as simple as putting the meat in the oven. I just need to learn to cook veg and get all my timings right and I’m home free!

For giggles I will also let you know that it wasn’t til this year I learnt that mince pies did not – as I previously thought – contain meat, but a different type of mince. Go me and my university degree…. I guess intelligence really doesn’t account for common sense. 

This year I had a slight blip. Myself and The Man had hoped to be in our house and be able to enjoy our first Christmas in our own home. Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances such as needing to knock down and rebuild walls… this didn’t happen. I admit it dampened my Christmas spirit a bit, and I had not felt Christmassy til the more recent weekend. We had not put any decorations up it MamaLindas, Friday night – we bought a real tree. This was step one in Christmas spirit, step two – decorate the tree on Saturday. I was originally stressing, getting upset, feeling odd because everything seemed to be cutting it close and I found it hard to muster up any bit of Christmas cheer. But then the Man saved it all by sitting with me and building the Ikea gingerbread house he bought for me. This made everything all better. He helped me put it together properly so it wouldn’t flop over and helped me decorate it before I put my Lego Derby girl minifigure plus tree on to make it look like an awesome Christmas scene. Since this weekend, I have got my Christmas oomph back. This week I have been getting excited, really excited. There are 7 days separating us from Christmas today. (6 now. I wrote this Tuesday night – infact this time next week.. IT WILL BE CHRISTMAS!!) That feels good. Thursday is also set to be the Christmas fun last session at derby, I don’t think we will be able to go all the non-derby time without seeing each other! Saturday night will be a blast as it is the night of the Misfits christmas do – including Misfits Awards, Secret Santa and no doubt getting drunk, staying vertical only because we made a drunk wall and crying that we will miss each other because two weeks is far too long not to see anyone. AWESOME!!

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So be merry, be thankful, get excited, or don’t. We celebrate this time of year in different ways or not at all. We have different experiences, beliefs, feelings and opinions, and things can change as you get older. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change it, you may be older but you are also wiser and more experienced, take what you know and make this holiday what you want it to be. Whether you have positive or negative memories of Christmas, you have the power and ability to decide how your Christmas season will go. There will always be affecting factors, money/weather/health etc, but you have to battle through and strive for happiness as it doesn’t always come easy. So whatever you do this December 25th, just be happy and love those around who will love and cherish you in return.

Remember…. 6 days to go!!
THIS TIME NEXT WEEK!!!

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This is how I roll!

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Today I’m talking skates. Bear with me, it is easiest to start this from last night!

Last week I was back blocked pretty damn hard at a bit of an odd angle which twisted and injured my lower back and shoulder blades. So instead of putting my skates on and causing further injury, I went along to help out at last night’s practice – which I have lovingly nicknamed “scrimmage Sunday” (as opposed to “Train hard Thursdays.) At one point I spoke with skater/coach Little Miss Chief who on Saturday made the move to new Reidell boots and Avenger plates.  Originally she was looking at Roll line plates based on the store owners opinion – now I love speaking with derby store owners as they impart so much wisdom on you, however I have mixed feelings on Roll Line due to feedback from other skaters. I have heard a variety of opinions, most relating to Roll Line plates being generally better for figure and artistic rather than derby, whilst they are sold as being pretty “reactive” they are also sold with a hefty price tag. I must note that I have never tried a skate which uses a Roll Line plate so my opinions on this are subject to change or validation if/when I ever try them. What I have tried however are the Suregrip Mag Avengers – a plate I recommended to LMC based on experience. For whatever reason, LMC ended up with Mag Avengers rather than Roll Lines. Last night was her first time using these and when asked how she was finding them the reaction was exactly the same as my first. Whilst they felt good, something didn’t quite feel right. The problem? The plates had been mounted perfectly, but neither the store or LMC had changed how the DA45 trucks sat in the pivot cup. The way in which you are able to alter the seating of the pivot on these plates is fantastic! And this is something LMC did not know as she wasn’t expecting to get them so did not really look into. After sitting down, looking at and explaining how she can alter the plates to suit her, LMC was up and chuffed with the difference the slight alterations made, the ease in which she could do this said it all for her first real impression on the plate. The main impression it makes is that it is light, reactive, responds really well to your movements and really adds to agility. I had to explain to LMC that when I undertook 27 in 5 for the first time on these plates, I cramped up so badly. Why? I didn’t realise the difference in the level of work you have to put in on these plates compared to the standard probes. I was working myself so hard to get round on the Probes which essentially kept my feet flat and didn’t follow my skating on corners, whereas on the Avengers they reacted so quickly and kept up with the movement of my feet meaning I didn’t need to push as hard as I did on the Probes. I have found them ideal for my skating style and so I thought I would share my skate setup with you all!

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I use a Suregrip Rebel boot in black (size 6) with an Avenger Mag plate (plate size 2). I upgraded from the standard Probe plates to the Avengers – awesome early xmas/birthday gift from MamaCidal/PapaCidal – the Man was wonderful and mounted these for me, whilst they are a standard mount they do sit slightly further into the boot than they probably would, but this was done to suit my weight distribution in the way I skate.

Wheel wise I am a mid wheel girl. I currently own

          8 x Suregrip Fugitive Mids – 90a

          4 x Suregrip Fugitive Mids – 93a

          8 x Suregrip Fugitive Mids – 96a

          Blue Zeronuts and Bones Reds bearings

          I also have custom toe snouts from Derby Vixen

I originally started on R3s which were too narrow for my feet, then I picked up some Suregrip Rebels in standard form. I got rid of the original Fugitive wheels and went to Atom Poison Slims. I liked these but felt they weren’t quite right and figured I’d go for full on mid wheels. When I made the move to mids, there was not a huge amount of choice. Luckily the Man introduced me to one of his friends and generally awesome skater/person – Turbo Pete of Southern Discomfort. Turbo Pete has been invaluable for derby knowledge and has always helped me out without qualm – when playing the Big O tournament I spoke with him in regards to the wheel situation. As he was in the US and was surrounded by derby galore – we arranged to get some new wheels, based on his opinions and knowledge the decision was made to get the Fugitive Mids. From research it would appear quite a few overseas skaters use these, whilst most of the UK girls use Atom as a “go to” brand. Main reasoning for this? It turns out no-one really stocks the Fugitive Mids over here. This sucks. I find this kind of sad because these wheels are fantastic. The quality of the mid is much higher than that of the standard Fugitive wheel (some belief surrounding this is a higher quality material or better mapped out process), and to quote a something I saw on Skatelog forum the Fugitive mids have “much more bang for the buck” (or something along those lines.) I started with the 90a mids which I instantly took to, over time I felt with my skating style and weight etc I required something harder and I called upon Turbo Pete again to figure this whole thing out. I had previously mixed my Poison slims with my 90a as pushers, which were too soft and the mix was not ideal and probably a bit naughty – still it worked. I got rid of the Poisons and purchased more Mids, this time in a full set of harder 96a and a half set of 93a to be able to mix and match to suit the different floors we would encounter. Best move ever. (Well. It’s neck and neck with the Avenger plates.) The 96a suits our practice floor much better (our practice floor = pretty dreamy for derby) and the 93a help me out as gentle pushers when I feel I need a bit more support and grip. But when it came to visit Northampton for a training session and friendly scrim – my 90a mids were my saviour! There is a huge part of me which wants more and more wheels (a common illness in the derby world is “Wheelitus” – which is the over powering desire to buy more and more wheels) – I have heard very positive things in regards to Radar Diamonds for instance! But until I win the lottery this will have to wait. I WANT ALL THE DERBY!

When speaking with fresh meat about what they want to buy, I have highly recommended getting sturdy pair of boots to start with as they are fully able to upgrade the plates and wheels as they find their feet and figure out what kind of skater they are. The best thing about a huge majority of leagues is the fact we all have a variety of wheels, whether brand/hardness/size, and we are always more than happy to help other girls (spend money) try out our wheels for size.

The difficult thing to get across is the general idea that just because it works for someone else, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. You can spend days (even months) researching kit and speaking with various people but you have to remember that some brands have a bigger following than others whilst some brands are easier to get a hold of here and so become the norm. If I had listened to everyone else I would have gone out and bought some Atom Jukes or Heartless – both brands have their pitfalls, increasing feedback about wheels chunking too easily or wheels wearing down far too soon. But I listened to Turbo Pete and took a risk on a wheel which maybe wasn’t so loved – I don’t feel loved is right turn of phrase exactly, I would say that it is a wheel which isn’t so known and is sitting in the wings when it could be centre stage. Biggest isn’t always best. But again – this works for me, maybe you derby person sitting there reading this may go and try a fugitive mid and have your mind blown, or you may laugh at the idea of using a Suregrip wheel that isn’t the very much used Zombie wheel.

Kit wise I have a mish mash of pads – I would love to have matching pads but this is just not realistic! I have Scabs Pyscho knee pads, Anarchy elbow pads, some other wrist guards and a SFR helmet with awesome stickers. Also a variety of mouth guards (none of which ever seem to fit properly) and a team colour water bottle complete with stickers.

Kit bags – make sure your kit bag is big enough for what you need it for. But not too big that you can’t carry or pull it along. Pockets and sections are dreamy – separate your clothing/scrim tops from your kit – separate your skates from your pads where possible (you don’t want the sweat and condensation to mess with your bearings/plates).

My last bit of kit wisdom? Wash your kit. Air your kit. Love your kit. It will make it last longer and you won’t stink out your teammates the way I do – I will wash it… after our last session on Thursday. Promise Misfits.

Stinky pads award hands down.

Little Blue x