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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

d'Artagnan on a bicycle

I've always laughed at those moments in what the French call "cape and epee" films when the hero, who has fought his way up a spiral staircase, reaches the window, whistles and, sword in hand, jumps straight on the back of his horse. Without a pause, horse and rider gallop down the road.

I'm not laughing now. I'm filled with admiration. I'm not convinced about the horse. I reckon they faked the window's height. How did hero know to find the window - just as the villains were closing in? (Silly me - there's always one. Castles were built for swashbucklers.) Where did he leave his horse?

But riding away - that's the marvel. How did he do it? What did he do with all his fencing kit?

This week the boys had half-term. Illness, revision and pleasure kept them from fencing. I couldn't ask for a lift so thought I'd cycle to the leisure centre. There's cycle track all the way and it's only a mile and a half. Do you know a good way to get on a bike with fencing kit and two swords?

I didn't cycle in breeches so the bag for my clothing and mask was bulkier than usual. I strapped it awkwardly over my bicycle basket and then wondered how to carry my foil and epee. The woman at Leon Paul assured me I could cycle with the sword bag I'd bought to disguise my purchase on the tube, but she couldn't tell me how to balance it. At last I slung the bag across me like a satchel, mounted the saddle, and set off swaying slightly. I filled the width of the 2-way track as the bag lay horizontally against my back. I wondered if the police would stop me.

It was a sunny evening and I noticed all the flowers I usually miss: clouds of bluebells in a field, dandelion-clocks, cow parsley (Queen Anne's lace, some people call it). There was hawthorn blossom and fresh green ivy too as well as trees and flowers I can no longer name. That was on one side of the track. On the other the cars raced, leaving fumes in the air.

The drive to the leisure centre is long and has the kind of speed-bumps that used to be called "sleeping policemen". They're only fun for cyclists who like stunting or have a death-wish. I took the bumps as slowly and cautiously as I could.

And then as I clambered down, tethered my bike and began to unload, my front light flew onto the concrete paving, came to bits and cracked. Luckily the lady at the front desk let me use her Sellotape, but it wasn't a good start to the evening.

It was a funny evening too. I'm working on my en garde position and got helpful tips from a coach and fellow fencers. There's a good chance of more sustained epee coaching from next week - a little at a time with a chance for steady practice.

When I got home I wasted ten minutes trying to open the garage where my bike lives with the wrong key. It was dusk and I'd not been bothered to change. All in white, I looked like an incompetent, luminous, burglar. I bet d'Artagnan never had that problem.


Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

Wow, what dedication. I don't know how I would do with swords and kit on my bike - not well - if you plan on doing it regularly maybe you could get a little trailer to attach on the back to put everything in? Glad the fencing went well - all my practice is now wasted as I wither away under illness. Cursed mortality!

11:38 pm  
Blogger kathz said...

It's a very flat journey apart from the bumps at the end. And when I was in my 20s I used to cycle in and out of central London and get all my shopping on the bike. (I remember once trying to cycle downhill with three water melons in my front bicycle basket - that was hard). Mind you, the government is threatening to legislate against people carrying concealed knives - do you think that means I would have to ride a bike while brandishing the swords so that everyone could see them? That could be even trickier - and very stupid.

Get well soon. I don't believe practice is ever entirely wasted.

4:32 pm  

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