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, December 20, 2006

tinsel, fairy-lights and Grimpen Mire

England is beset by freezing fog. Domestic flights are grounded. A chill creeps under doors and through keyholes. The cat-flap is a source of Arctic gales. Radiators do their best but they've lost confidence in their ability to provide heat. Luckily I have a large, soft dressing-gown which fits over jumper and jeans. I'm wearing it as I write.

I went alone to fencing. Cycling seemed a bad idea, especially since I've broken my front light. A cab seemed a needless extravagance. So I set out to walk - along the main road, past the building site, houses and golf course, then down towards the leisure centre.

Nobody else seemed to be walking - it wasn't a good night for a stroll. The street-lights were little patches of white and yellow fuzz, as though the fog and frost had frozen the light an instant after it left the bulb. On the long walk into the leisure centre, lacy white mist had settled on the surrounding marshes. Small trees and bare bushes poked finger-twigs out of the gloom.

Grimpen Mire, I decided - without the huge hound. Sherlock Holmes was established as a fencer in Watson's first account in A Study in Scarlet . It seemed possible that Holmes and Watson, bored with stalking villains through the mist, would enter the leisure centre for a bout or two. Watson (the later Watson) would certainly encourage Holmes to practise his swordmanship if only to avoid the lure of the seven per cent solution.

The sight in the leisure centre dispelled Holmesian imaginings. Sherlock Holmes can be imagined in a range of settings but I balk at the idea of him wearing Rudolf antlers on a sabre mask, or a Father Christmas hat with Christmas tree baubles as earrings. Not many fencers had made it through the cold and fog but there were some fine costumes. I found myself, for the first time, facing an opponent who had fixed lit fairy-lights all down his epee. I couldn't believe they would endure but he fenced with the decorated and lit epee for the whole evening. They were very tough fairy-lights.

My sole contribution to the seasonal atmosphere was a long (2 metre) strand of green and red tinsel, with small red stars attached. I pretended it wasn't there for a while but eventually it as wound round my epee blade and, although the subsequent bout left a carpet of tinsel bits and stars, my sword and most of the tinsel survived.

I fenced better than I had expected (not well but better). And despite the silly costumes, my opponents gave mehelpful tips which extended my reach (to do with en garde position and even trying a hold nearer the pommel to take further advantage of the French grip). I was also advised to be more aggressive - but I think we were all affected by the Christmas spirit.

Then it was out and back to Grimpen Mire. A rustling noise in the undergrowth recalled escaped convicts and desperate men. Where was Sherlock when I needed him? But it was nothing more sinister than a light, cold (almost frozen) rain. A few minutes later it paused, leaving tiny still droplets on the ends of twigs - not quite solid but too cold to tremble or fall further. Some streetlights had failed. I wondered what to do if anyone attacked me. Should I wave my sword, still decked in tinsel? Surely that would make anyone laugh.

No-one attacked, Holmes and Watson stayed wherever they were hiding and I staggered home as my legs began to ache.

Time for a glass of wine.

Cheers. And Happy Christmas!


Anonymous Jim said...

I collect Sherlock Holmes books. Neo-Holmes make up the majority of them. I even own a deer stalker hat.

As nasty as the weather is there, I wish I could walk around in the fog. I just know that the game is a foot!

Merry Christmas Kathz!!!!

PS If beset by the Ripper, I suggest a straight attack to the mouth.

12:06 am  
Blogger kathz said...

I always look out for Sherlock when I'm in Baker Street (usually on a bus going somewhere else). I must have been 8 or 9 when I started reading the books. I recently came across Loren D. Estelman's Sherlock Holmes v. Dracula which I enjoyed but I think Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Per Cent Solution is my favourite spoof/homage.

I still wonder at the American editor of Lippincott's who, on a single visit to London, commissioned both The Sign of Four and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

10:12 pm  

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