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, February 28, 2007

fencers at a wedding, fencer washing up

I went to a wedding last Saturday. The bride was my niece and my daughter was a bridesmaid. My son wore a suit and a red (revolutionary tie).

As we sat in the church, waiting for the bride (only half an hour late and so beautiful it was worth it), we discussed fencing, of course. There were four of us sitting in a row: me (epeeist), son (foilist), daughter's boyfriend (sabreur), children's cousin (foilist who fancies sabre). We didn't get so far as demonstrating techniques as the Mendelssohn began in time to stop us, but we passed the time in happy comparison of clubs and techniques.

I'd like to report that my fencing was better, especially since I arrived in my marvellous black and gold club hoodie, but I was so tired that my arm ached when I merely held a foil and epee was exhausting. I didn't do much as serious fencers were preparing for a big tournament. I did win a bout 5-4 but I can't work out how since I was finding it hard to control the point. Possibilities include: a kind opponent, luck, or moves so wild that they were totally unpredictable.

I also challenged a teenager to a bout and he ran away. So I did something I'd always wanted to do - I took his glove from him (he was hiding behind it at the time) and struck him gently across the face. I had to explain that this was a mortal insult and he had no choice to but to fight me. I thought of asking him to name his friends (as seconds) but an awful stopped me - it might be his right to choose the weapon and feared he'd prefer foil. I ought to get the etiquette right from all the novels I've read but I wanted to fence some more epee.

I'd like to report that I beat the teenager, especially since he tried to bribe the ref (she said 20p wasn't enough and that she didn't like sweets). She didn't disqualify him. He won 5-3. He jumped up and down with delight in a stagily villainous way while I tried to scowl.

Still, I got some fencing in.

Meanwhile, the spring in my first epee is playing up - I NEED all my points to register. I may be jnxed as the dishwasher isn't working any more. "Not worth repairing," was the verdict of the armourer, who deals with plumbed appliances professionally. But I hope a little care and attention will persuade my dishwasher to clean my dishes again..

And now it's time to slave over the sink.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In Memoriam Wystan Hugh Auden 1907-1973

There's not much about fencing in Auden; all I can think of is the end-word "sword" in Sebastian's sestina in The Sea and the Mirror. Although he taught in Quaker schools and colleges, he was never a Quaker and made pertinent criticisms of Quakerism. He even flouted Swarthmore's rules by serving beer, bread and cheese to his students. But of all 20th century poets, Auden is the one I know best and love most - and today is the centenary of his birth.

I love the brilliance of his poetry and the infuriating ethical determination to write (or edit or cut) as his conscience demanded. I love his engagement with big political questions and his wordplay and silly games. I love his arrogant, donnish tones and underlying humility. I love his capacity for love and the determination to fulfil his human responsibility.

If you sit down the with Collected Poems for an hour or so, you will probably find much that irritates but also something that seems written especially for you.

Wystan Hugh Auden, in the language of your adopted Austrian home, schlaf in Ruhe.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

(male) fencers are so romantic

No-one thought of a way to combine Valentine's Day with fencing. There were no hearts and flowers and no-one wore pink breeches. It was just stabbing as normal ... with one exception. There was a shortage of men. There were still more male fencers than female, but the ratio was about 2:1 instead of the usual 5 or 6 to one. Gradually the strangeness struck us. All the women fencers had turned up but a large number of men had gone absent.

It must be the Valentine's Day effect. It seems that when the feast of St Valentine arrives, lots of male fencers - especially epeeists and sabreurs - want to share romantic meals with their loved ones. I expect red roses and soft music are involved too. Meanwhile, women who fence just want to stab people. Almost all the women fencers turned up; we made the most of the extra space and access to pistes.

It's amazing how romantic men are.

Yesterday I suggested elsewhere that Ophelia's life would have been transformed if she'd learned to fence. I thought it might have helped her relationship with Hamlet. Thinking further, I'm not so sure. Hamlet was pretty conventional in his treatment of women: insults and cold cruelty followed love letters and tokens. He wasn't worth Ophelia's time - or her life. She'd have had much more fun fencing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

52... and it isn't snowing

The chief news item is the lack of snow. It will snow, apparently. At the moment it's too cold. That means everything is still running: trains, buses, schools, offices, etc. When it snows in England, everything stops. I don't know if I'll be able to get to work tomorrow - if there really is snow.

It seemed obvious that fencing would be pretty empty tonight. Who would leave home in this cold? Instead it was packed. 52 fencers and coaches tried to stab one another - and parents huddled near heaters at the hall's edge. That meant more opportunity for conversation than usual. Fencing was focussed and determined as we took turns on the piste. My three opponents, who pointed out three different errors. I tried to overcome them but, being tired (and having little time) didn't achieve complete success.

As we came out, it wasn't snowing. We discussed the lack of snow, the likelihood of snow, plans for what to do in the event of snow. I went home. It was still too cold for snow.

Surfing at home, I found the latest instalment of The Onion - there's a story that carries out my contention that most activities would be improved by the addition of fencing. Read it here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

becoming a hoodie (sword in hand)

Hooded tops and jackets are the most sinister garments in Britain today. Some restaurants and shopping centres ban them. Children as young as two have been affected by the ban. Even trilby hats have been found guilty by association.

Soon I too will fall under suspicion. We're going to have a fencing club hoodie - black with the club logo in gold. Despite my current economy drive I couldn't resist one. I'll be strolling round the town centre, getting my shopping - even drinking in the pub, if I'm lucky - wearing my hoodie. How long till I'm issued with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order? Just wait till I'm leaving the house, dressed in my hoodie and breeches, swords slung over my shoulder ...

The prospect cheered me through some mediocre fencing - mediocre by my own standards. But I'm still fencing better than at any time last year. (I knew lack of sleep would impair my fencing - and it did). I was cheered too by reports of multiple successes by fencing club members at the regional championship and elsewhere. Perhaps one day I ... well, I can dream. Age advances and one day soon my progress in fencing may reverse. At least I have learnt to fence.