That's unfair, of course. I still frequent small shops and coffee bars where the friendly greeting doesn't come out of a training manual.
But for fencers, England offers a few shops magical as anything in Diagon Alley reached through locations as surprising as the Leaky Cauldron.
I haven't seen the new Leon Paul shop. They packed up and moved to Hendon from the little industrial estate where they were hidden near the city farn in the hinterland of St Pancras. Blades and Duellist offer masks, jackets and breeches in small, suburban shops south-west of London. I don't know what locals make of the display of epee and sabre so close to the sweetshop, newsagent and bookie.
Last week my son and I ventured to Duellist for the first time, changing from bus to suburban train for Twickenham before walking to Isleworth. Not a glamorous journey, for all the history and evocations of the names, but a short voyage on a busy road with roundabouts and garages as waymarks.
But trying on jackest and masks - taking practice lunges with an epee I would not buy - recalled the delights of fencing. The magic words resurfaced - not just flèche, en garde, balestra but even tang and plastron.
We were eased into the expensive, side-fastening jackets before I convinced the assistant that the cheap, back-fastening ones would do. My son is growing fast while my level of fencing doesn't merit high-quality kit (although a coach did suggest 800 NN, given how often I'm hit). The young woman at the desk was mystified when I asked about chest protectors - she was a temp, answering the phone, amazed by a world in which mothers boast of stabbing their sons.
Qn hour of fitting and fencing talk later, we'd each found a jacket and mask. I'd ordered new breeches for my son and bought him padded socks. We lugged silver-gray plastic bags to central London and looked at the South Bank; the gates and guns where Downing Street begins; Brian Haw's tiny peace camp dwarfed and threatened by parliament; the uniformed guards at Admiralty Arch.. My son counted 109 security cameras in an hour. I had cameo roles and walk-ons in movies I'll never see. Cameras, barriers, sub-machine guns in the hands of smiling police all tell a story. Rulers fear the ruled.
The bus-ride home took three hours. When we got home, I should have thrown out my old, frayed jacket and rusted mask patched at the back with silver tape. They've been illegal since January. I needed to replace them. But they are old friends. I'll take a while to accustom myself to a fresh jacket. It will be October before the padding on the mask moulds itself to my face.