Finding Lead Jammer – Mel’s Manderley Musings

A Roller Derby Tribute To Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ 

Last night I dreamed of roller derby again… it seemed to me that I needed to pass through The Wall that led to lead jammer. There was just a narrow bit of space on the track now, its wooden surface covered with wheels and dreams. Sometimes, when I thought that I had lost it, a gap would appear again between a blocker and a pivot. Or on the inside line, formed by rope and tape. The blockers had thrown out new limbs, which stretched across my way. I came to a halt suddenly, and stood on toe-stops with my heart beating fast, tears filling my eyes and Bonnie Tyler filling my ears.


There was The Wall, their wall, strong and silent as it had always been, the coloured shirts illuminated in front of me, fluorescent in my dream. Time could not destroy this wall, nor the track itself as it lay like a coin in the hollow of my hand, waiting to be claimed. The track curved round towards the sea of chairs, a thrown sheet of spectators sitting expectantly under the lights, undisturbed by outside thoughts, and drinking alcohol smuggled in via canvas bag. I turned again to The Wall and saw that their faces looked wild, just as their eyes had done on the jam line. Blockers were bloody everywhere. But fear can play strange tricks with the imagination, even with a jammer’s imagination. As I stood there, I could swear that The Wall did not live and breathe as it had breathed before, but was empty and solid. There was no light through gaps, no breaths expelling softly through stale pad-stink air. There at my back stood my wall as I had left it, one blocker short; a necessary sacrifice to ensure a power jam.

A shout came from the bench, like a slap across the face. The thoughts left me and I looked again at a living wall, with no whisper of its former solid state. My fear was gone now. When I thought of The Wall later I would not be bitter. I would remember the skaters that stood there, shoulders touching shoulders, the shouts that came from them, then my hips under their hips and the sound of my wheels scraping on the track below. I would think of the spaces made by my relentless pushing, that feeling of getting through that would never lose its freshness. They tried hits but they did not hurt, this they knew. I was now far away, over 20ft, and would be back in the pack before long. But I would skate for this moment, skate fast and turn left, eventually comforted by the sight of my own wall, so different from the hard, wild faces of our opposition. For now the track would lay before me, short of players no doubt, but full of a certain calm that I had not felt before. For now I would not think of The Wall, I would not talk about it, for that wall was no more.

Ro Hip Mel


Photo by Ara McBay

Daphné Du Maurier  ‘Rebecca’ (1975) New York: Doubleday Dell Publishing.