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

Sunday, May 21, 2006

age and youth

One of our coaches brought in a photograph album. Younger fencers exclaimed at the hair, the beard, the psychodelic shirts. It took me back to Jackie magazine in my youth: there were picture stories of gorgous men with high cheekbones and flowing locks who sought out slender, crop-haired girls with small breasts, long legs and enormous eyes. The launderette was often the scene of romantic encounters. All very absurd but, in my early teenage years, the girls at my school read Jackie. Romance was supposed to be, as Lord Byron said, "woman's whole existence".

My fencing was fantasy then. I fled sports and art lessons (did anyone else play truant from art?) for the library and its complex fantasies. I read Agatha Christie and Plato, Paradise Lost and The Lord of the Rings, Georgette Heyer and Gerard Manley Hopkins. One year I was ill and commanded to rest; I read my way through the shelves of the school infirmary: James Bond, the Saint, a late-Victorian weepy called A Peep Behind the Scenes, Seven Little Australians, school stories by Angela Brazil, and all the historical novels I could find. Mostly I wanted male roles. In J.B. Priestley's The Good Companions Miss Trant liked masculine adventure in her fictions but still ended up in the doctor's arms. (The way she read was the only interesting thing about her.)

I dreamt of fencing and bunked off games. Meanwhile, the coach fenced for England. There were action photos. There were earlier club photos too - what happened to all those women fencers?

And what of those other women in the photos - the ones with neat hair and cakes? I thought of The Stepford Wives - but effect came from costume and hairstyle; perhaps when not baking, those women donned jacket and mask and whacked the men with sabres. After all, when not fencing, I've been known to bake.

Apart from the photos, it was a strange, quiet week with a number of absences. The Arsenal/Barca match was on; perhaps fencers were watching. They would have groaned as the goalie was sent off, marvelled when Arsenal took the lead and hung on for ages with ten men, only to grieve when, inevitably, Barca's second goal led to Arsenal's defeat.

I fenced two older teenage boys, one with foil and one with epee - both better than me. "Have you ever fenced epee before?" the epeeist asked, before I started. Am I that bad? That insignificant? I was pleased to see that opponent put out by a lucky hit to the groin. He showed more caution after that. But there's something deflating in fencing boys with all the energy of youth and expertise besides. Had I read fewer books and taken more exercise ...

I don't regret the books. School sports were a hell of humiliation. Books fed my imagination and gave me hope. Now, lacking skill as a fencer, I take what imagination has to offer and enjoy my sport ... and improve, still, little by little.


Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

I sucked royally at PE "Sports" which was mandatory at our school until 18. Of course they didn't have fencing or anything that promoted agression.

I had an odd experience with books too as I read and still read around 500 books year. My first influential book was "Study in Scarlet" which my parents gave me at 7 (usefull for writing "Revenge" in blood on the wall in german - a usefull grade 2 skill), and Le morte De Arthur at 8 and then Tales of the Gallent Knights at 10 - so I think I early identified swords with being a good person - perhaps a misunderstood and bloody person but definately the hero - not to mention that I learned I was supposed to be hacked down while holding the pass against the hordes of evil knights coming against Christendom.

Why exactly my parents didn't give me "nice" books is a reflective puzzlement. I did read nancy drew, and all the Black Beauty and other horse books - but for me horses were a way to a) beat everyone dramatically from behind or b) carry me into battle with my sword - I think I must have had an early Joan of Arc complex.

Good job on epee- nothing like a groin hit to get some respect!

10:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy writes: ..enjoy my sport ... and improve, still, little by little.

As we all do Kathy...as we all do.


3:49 am  

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