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

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

fencing kit

Shopping is dull and getting duller. Every English high street has the same shops with the same stock - apart from slight adjustments for "demographic profile" - the polite way of saying class and income. Coffee is a choice between Starbucks, Caffé Nero and Costa, while clothes come from identically branches of Next; Gap, M&S, H&M..

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.


Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

Sounds like it was a good time buying new stuff - I like having a new mask - a new, non smelly and all the colours so shiny mask.

109 cameras? A couple years ago I heard that the UK is watched by more cameras per person than anywhere else on earth. But the british want it - when there was a crime or an assault in Cardiff the big cry was, "Why aren't there more cameras - why wasn't there a camera on that corner?" - odd.

9:51 pm  
Anonymous Jim said...

That old mask can be still be put to use AND you can have some fun AND be creative.
Mounted on a piece of wood (upside down) a place for letters of the snail mail kind or as a plant holder. ( Attached to the wall with a picture hanger ..or screws.)

At our club we have taken 50 year old masks and made lamps out of them, as tropheys for Veteran tournamnets.

I would love to visit those shops if I ever get back to the UK.

1:39 am  
Blogger LeperColony said...

Out of curiosity, how uncomfortable are the female chest guard inserts? They don't seem like they'd be too pleasing, though much appreciated in the event of a hit.

8:27 am  
Blogger kathz said...

I really enjoyed buying new kit but I don't get to use it for a couple of weeks. I've also finally got a band to put round my hair under my mask because I'm fed up with the way my hair gets into my eyes when fencing. Mind you, my daughter said the band was only permissible because it will be hidden by a mask!

I'd love to do something creative with my mask, which previously belonged to a much better fencer, but I'm not sure I have the skill.

I don't really notice the saucer-shaped chest protector inserts. Every so often a blade gets inside the edge of it and that does hurt but in general I guess the protection's worth it. On hot days they can be rather slimy by the time they're extracted - not an attractive thought. There's now a moulded all-in-one chest protector for women that I've never tried - I'm told it's awkward if you wear it to the supermarket on the way to fencing and need to get something from the top shelf.

1:51 pm  
Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

I use the all in one molded chest protector which is inserted into a special sports bra you wear OVER your shirt to avoid the slime factor - I got it at Leon Paul and not a week goes by I don't say, "Thank you Leon Paul" since it cuts down the bruises on the torso in 1/2 at least. The down side is that when someone really hits you, it disperses the energy across the edge of the bra so you feel like you have been kicked by a horse - but it doesn't bruise - so hey, a few deep breaths and away you go.

There are also long straight chest protectors for guys.

10:17 pm  

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