quaker fencer

kathz isn't quite my name. I may be a Quaker. If I'm a fencer I'm a bad one and I don't do sabre. If I'm a Quaker I'm a bad one - but you've worked that out already. Read on. Comment if you like. Don't expect a reply.

Location: United Kingdom

Friday, April 21, 2006

fencing Darth Vader

I got back from Paris last night. Readers may have the image of me wandering (sword in hand, naturally) past Notro Dame and the Louvre, challenging passing fencers to a bout of epee. I quite like that picture myself - next time, perhaps. But it was better than that because I stayed with good friends in a suburb (yes, the dreaded banlieues, where, contrary to recent reports, I find life more relaxed, friendlier and safer than at home in Nottingham) and had a chance to talk and listen and rest, enjoying excellent food with a range of appropriate alcoholic accompaniments.

My two journeys into - or through - Paris were arranged for the entertainment of four young people, aged 12-17. The first was to Parc Asterix - an intelligent and witty theme park. Alas, I missed my favourite piece of street theatre - a d'Artagnan episode including swordplay and an escape on horseback. The nearest thing to fencing I saw was in an Asterix-related Viking spectacle, in which a young woman conquered a man who instantly presented her with a red rose - not the sort of thing that happens to me when fencing at the local leisure centre! And the most exciting thing was my first roller coaster ride for years - not on a very big roller coaster but one that was quite exciting enough, in the classical Greek section of the park The ride was called Le Vol d'Icare (the flight of Icarus) and, after the first few seconds I made up my mind to enjoy the ride - and did, which was quite an achievement. Should anyone reading this plan to visit Parc Asterix, the only advice I would give is to avoid the water rides (Le Grand Splatch, Styx, and Menhir) unless the weather is very warm - I spent a shivery hour or so in damp clothes. Young people don't seem to be affected by this - they warmed up by going on a couple more rides.

The second journey was to the Star Wars exhibition at La Villette. And in some related fencing practice, I came to the conclusion that foil or epee can beat light sabre any time. That two-handed stance and those slow movements used even by Yoda and Obi-Wan - they're just not a patch on a neat hit to the wrist or a rapid ballestra lunge. Star Wars is all very well but I'd recommend a film du cape et de l'epee any time - try Le Bossu or Le Capitan for some really good (and slightly unlikely) fencing.

No fencing-related souvenirs but yesterday's genuine French croissants warmed for breakfast today! And if anyone does get to see the Star Wars exhibition at La Villette, there's also a surprising and delightful exhibition of Roman glass which I recommend - even better than seeing what looks distressingly like a stuffed Yoda (product of a highly skilled taxidermist) in a glass case.


Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

Sounds like a good vacation - I hadn't heard of Park Asterix until you went - but it only makes sense - if Dolly Parton can have a theme park why not Asterix (did you see people getting carried on shields?). I think the only "good" fencing in star wars is the Darth/Luke fight in Return of the Jedi because "I've heard" that a Canadian sabre champion was actually in the Darth Costume.

I also agree, with an epee, I wouldn't need all that beating down the arm to chop off someone's wrist in Empire Strikes back.

7:29 pm  
Blogger B.V. Brus said...

A light-epee would be the way to go. Regular epee against a light-sabre? Suicide. Even if we get a nice touch on Vader's wrist, he's still gonna slash that nasty weapon of his through a body part.

And ya know, now that I think about it ... Lucas did a disservice to sabreuers for naming that special effect the way he did. It's definitel more of a light-katana or light-broadsword.

1:48 pm  
Anonymous Jim said...

In response to you using anger in fencing, it is something I would have never guessed. Perhaps it is the Quaker thing, but you seem so gentle! I assume that you really are a Quaker. Where I live we have a large amount of Quakers and a Quaker backed collage. I have no idea if there are many of you in the world.

I envy you your trip! Besides loving Paris, I dabble in Napoleonic history. Now that I know you are from Nottingham, I need to study the regiments from that area.

11:31 am  
Blogger kathz said...

Park Asterix is terrific and although I didn't see any people carried on shields I have seen plenty of the Asterix characters wandering round. Sadly Obelix doesn't usually carry a wild boar on his shoulder (my son, when younger, assumed that the wild boar was a favourite pet rather than lunch).

Should I come across Darth Vader, I shall make sure I acquire a light-epee first.

And yes, I really am a Quaker (by convincement rather than birth), though not a very good one. There aren't very many of us. However, I have met a couple of other Quakers who fence though they are mostly in their teens. Like anybody else, I do get angry sometimes - with people, with institutions and with injustice and cruelty - though I try not to direct my anger at people. Although quite a lot of my anger goes into my fencing, I'm always being advised to be more aggressive. Well, I'm working on it.

The best-known regiment around Nottingham is the Sherwood Foresters, I think. There's an exhibition about them in Nottingham Castle. There's some on-line history at http://freespace.virgin.net/stephen.mee/index.htm
As a pacifist (apart from fencing) I have been known to join demonstrations outside the local barracks - Chetwynd Barracks in Chilwell - which also includes a more recent piece of military history: the monument which commemorates 134 munitions workers (many of them women) killed in a huge explosion in 1918. Many more were seriously injured.

I didn't see much to do with Napoleonic history on this last visit to Paris but not long ago I saw a fine exhibition in the Louvre on Le Sacre de Napoleon (Napoleon's consecration as emperor) with the David painting, robes, and crown, etc.

1:35 pm  

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