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

Thursday, May 01, 2008

fitting in fencing

The day began with a trip to Manchester. Unfortunately this didn't include a trip to the pub (not even the Jolly Scholar) but only a day of papers and discussions. They were good and interesting but their effect would have been enhanced by a pint or two of well-kept real ale.

The journey by train wasn't too bad - less than three hours each way - but I wondered whether I'd manage to stay awake for fencing. I've been more tired than usual for a few days, even heading for bed before 9, so I wasn't sure how feasible an evening of fencing would be after a day away. I'd overslept too - till 6.00 a.m. - and had to leave the dishwasher unemptied. Perhaps the iron tablets kicked in. I made myself a hasty sandwich, ignored the dishes piling up in the sink, and squeezed into my breeches Then I grabbed my bags and eased myself, with backpack and swords, onto the bike. It had been a sunny day and I disregarded the single grey cloud. Over the leisure centre the sky was bright and I could smell the blooming plants on the water meadows.

I was slightly late and could hear electric guitars from the school hall. My son was in there somewhere, ready to play at the talent show. I hoped it was going well. With a second performance scheduled I had no need to attend so headed straight for the hall in time for the end of footwork practice. As I lined up I realised I was still wearing my fingerless mittens - very good for cycling but a little unconventional when practising lunges.

Few experienced fencers had turned up. For a few minutes the four epeeists occupied two electric pistes. I was, as usual, quickly beaten but noticed that I was moving a bit more easily even if I seemed unable to put together a strategy. Then, after speaking to a newcomer - a yong woman with experience in foil who hadn't fenced for two years - I thought I'd better offer her a bout. I could tell by her build and youth that she'd be good and quick - and she was. She's a left-hander too. "Well," I tried to console myself, "she's less than half your age and it's not your favourite weapon." That might work better were I winning at epee. Still, I found that foil saw me speeding up - though I probably seemed very slow to her - even if I had to keep reminding myself that there was no point in going for her arm or her mask. Still, getting a few points - it was 15-5, I think - was oddly reassuring. I found the new fencer another bout and returned to epee.

Sometimes an interval doing foil helps with epee and it seemed so this time. It wasn't a proper bout and seemed very slow - about as fast as I could manage. However, I did begin to work out a strategy which included hits to the foot and thigh - and it worked far more often than I'd expected. I was tiring, and took one bad bruise, but also beginning to gain confidence.

Standing at the edge of the piste, I fell into conversation with one of the boys who I used to fence. He's about 14, I think, and involved with the RAF and looking towards a career in the air force. When I mentioned my involvement in peace demonstrations, including the time when I'd spoken through a megaphone outside the local barracks, he thought at first I was joking. My opponent joined in - on my side, to my surprise, as we began to debate the ethics of warfare. It was slightly strange to argue for pacifism with my sword in my hand.

The conversation had become circular when I heard my mobile phone. It was my son, home from the talent show which had ended earlier than usual. "What's for supper?" he asked.

I thought of telling him to cook for himself or to order a pizza but reflected that he too had had a long day. "What's the weather like?" I asked. "Is it raining?"

He was vague on the subject but thought not. I put my kit away, said farewell to my fellow fencers and staggered back to my bike. The rain had begun and was getting heavier, and my hoodie was the nearest thing I had to a jacket. I was more worried about the swords and did my best to fasten the velcro of the sword bag around them. The pommel of one epee stuck out of the gap where I couldn't seal the bag and I found it hard to mount the bike in the rain. After the first speed hump I swerved dangerously as the swords swung me round but I steadied them against the basket and went on. At least I was soaked quickly and after that I barely noticed the rain. I did notice the other cyclists who were all wearing waterproof jackets.

So I got home, cooked spaghetti, poured myself a glass of wine and decided I was just too tired to unload the dishwasher. I left the saucepans and bowls in the sink. "Tomorrow," I thought, and set my alarm for 6.00 a.m.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sink full of dishes is the price every fencer pays.

We both know it is worth a little guilt.


9:13 pm  

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