Parts of Britain are succumbing to xenophobia at present and Eastern Europeans have become a particular target. Recently a number of Poles have arrived, mostly young people taking up jobs for a year or so. We Brits are equally entitled to move around the European community. It's a tempting idea, even at my age, but I'm not sure I'll find it so easy to get work abroad when the children have left home. My language skills don't match those of other Europeans. Halting conversational French and tourist Italian aren't good enough for an employer, though I'd be happy to work at improving them.
Perhaps I could take up Polish. That's suddenly become more feasible as a new, Polish epeeist has arrived at out club. She's young, small and slender - and very fast. She's pretty and friendly too - nobody could possibly be prejudiced against someone so open and out-going. "I'm out of practice," she told me. "I haven't fenced for ten years. And I've only done epee." She made reference to competitions and years of training. Ten years ago she was sixteen.
She was fun to fence, even though I was out-classed. I got the occasional lucky hit - probably because she was out of practice - and the worst bruises I've had in a while. I learnt very quickly which areas I was failing to defend. Her guard was excellent - her whole forearm out of sight - and her parries lightning fast. I think she's a little shocked about how infrequently the club meets - "only twice a week?" she asked, disbelieving. Of course, the keenest and best fencers join more than one club. But I think she's accpeted that I'm a once-a-week fencer. I must seem very old to her, and to many of the young fencers. And that, of course, is an advantage. I can get away with more.
I found another new opponent too - a foilist with a startling black beard and moustache. He would have looked like a model for a villain from in a child's dressing-up kit were it not for his friendly smile. He fenced like an eighteenth-century duelist, sideways on. At first I found him almost impossible to hit. Then I realised that, as he moved his sword arm, to attack me I could reach his back - not all the time, but I got three or four hits. He wasn't sure how to deal with that. Again, he's an out-of-practice fencer, which suits me fine.
It was a good evening without being a great one. I liked the mix of fencing familiar and unfamiliar opponents. There was time for conversation between bouts and knock-abouts. My son is over his virus (he gave it to his sister, who gave it to her boyfriend - and his mother) so he got some good fencing in too.
Next week it's the one-hit epee contest. The chocolate santa has already been bought as a prize - donated by the club president who remains the best bet to win it. I'm taking vitamin pills and drinking orange juice in the hope of fending off colds and flu. However low my ambitions, I want to compete. I managed three hits last time - I doubt I can do more. I probably shan't do as well. But I'll be there anyway, doing my best. If I have a few moments, I'll practise lunges, which may get me some odd looks at work.
Labels: cold, competition, en garde, epee, fencing stance, lunge, once-a-week fencer, one-hit epee, Polish fencer, virus, work