fencing v. football
It wasn't my most successful evening of fencing but I enjoyed it all the same.
Attendance was sparse. The England v. Croatia match started at the same time as fencing. Evidently most epeeists and foilists and sabreurs were football fans - or masochists. I couldn't believe the game would turn out well. Even though sports journalists talked up England team's chances after the Israel-Russia result left them in with a chance of going to Europe (all they needed was a draw) the signs didn't seem good. When I heard the manager was using a new goalie and had dropped Beckham from the starting line-up, I was convinced hope was gone. It's not that Beckham is a consistently good player - he never was that and now age is against him - but the team as a whole plays better when he's on the pitch.
I forgot the football in a semi-energetic warm-up (I was tired and not trying very hard) and then looked for a bout. There was one other epeeist - a young man much faster and better than me - who made a good attempt to conceal his disappointment at finding me his only opponent. I encouraged him to ask other fencers to do some epee and, after our bout, was pleased to see he found better competition. Almost all my hits on him were doubles, even though he was hardly trying, but I did manage one touch to his hand which pleased me.
The sabreurs were most numerous. I hesitated to ask the hard-hitting men for a bout but a quiet, hard-hitting teenage girl offered me some practice. One particular slash to my right arm had me shouting "ouch!", at which she apologised and was deeply concerned. I assured her that I expected to be hurt when fencing and continued. She continued to look concerned. I suppose I'm a grandmotherly figure in her eyes.
My second attenpt at sabre was against a woman who started fencing when I did and is now a skilled sabreuse winning medals and trophies. After a few hits, she started to show me how to improve - mostly be moving much faster. I still wasn't very fast but she assured me there was a great improvement so I felt rather pleased. Unfortunately my only means of getting through her defence was epee-style, with the point.
I still don't understand right of way in sabre. And it's strange not being able to go for the legs - or the toes.
My son finally challenged me to a bout at foil. It's ages since I've fenced him but I used to be able to land a reasonable number of hits, even though I've only beaten him once or twice. He was very out of practice so I had hopes. As I was picking up my foil, I heard my mobile phone ringing. A friend thoughtfully let me know the half-time score in the football: Croatia 2 - England 0. I passed on the news. There was no great gloom. Some of us reckoned we'd done well to avoid an evening of despair. Others were anti-football and glad they'd be able to avoid the European cup games next year.
I was soon more concerned with another defeat. My son beat me 15-3 - even with a friend of mine acting as ref. (Usually we fence without a ref and argue the points to absurdity.) He kept repeating the same attack, which turned out to be an excellent strategy since my attempts to parry it ended in failure. He is taller than me and his arms are longer. I did a bit more foil with a smaller woman and landed the occasional hit.
It sounds like a chronicle of failure but by the end of the evening I was exhilarated. I'd fenced three wepaons against a range of opponents and I was still standing. Best of all, I felt I'd learnt a little and improved just a little bit in each. This may not give me any chance of doing well in the club championship. If I can borrow club sabre kit I may indeed try all three weapons and come last in each. Someone has to come last and the practice will be good for me. I'll enjoy it too, though I dread the bruises when it's over.
After fencing, I rang for a taxi. There weren't any. I suppose all the drivers were watching the match of ferrying discolsolate fans. So I asked a fencer who lives nearby if he could give us a lift. As we stowed the kit in the boot, the driver turned on the radio. England 2 - Croatia 2. And then Croatia scored.
Note: One theory says that a mistake in the words of the Croatian National Anthem inspired the team. I suspect the mistaken version will be sung at many future Croatian sporting fixtures.