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, June 12, 2008

the apprentice and the Cardinal's men

The chef blamed it all on Surallan, a sinister character who stalks through The Apprentice making bad decisions. Worst of these, in the chef's eyes, was his decision to fire Lucinda, who had good taste in shoes.

In my opinion, Surallan's worst decision was to appear on TV on fencing nights, luring epeeists away from the piste and into comfortable armchairs.

The chef was torn. She wanted to fence but she also wanted to see the last episode of The Apprentice. She seemed to think it her duty to criticise Surallan's choice while drinking gin with a friend. She's finding it hard to make fencing at the moment. Next week she will be indulging in academic frivolities instead of serious swordplay.

Through Facebook, we arranged to arrive early and start fencing straight away, although the chef had second thoughts as we stood, epees in hand, occupying the space that could become a piste. "But people will watch us," she said. I hadn't thought her so self-conscious.

We waited a few minutes until a few other fencers had begun. The beginners were warming up by running round in circles. No electric pistes were ready. The chef and I fenced steam for a while. The chef suggested I could make a buzzing noise whenever one of us landed a hit, but I declined. I wasn't sure how to indicate red or green and I wasn't entirely sure how well our hits were landing. Meanwhile, at the other end of our space, people who knew how fiddled with the electric boxes.

Wires and boxes have halted fencing quite often lately. The chef and I pondered over possible solutions. We could try to learn how to mend them, but that would take time and more equipment than we could muster. The obvious solution was new boxes.

Last week I attempted to find a new use for child fencers. (The chef said I should have made it clear that the small fencer didn't fix the epee, by the way - a magnetic screwdriver was required.) This time my suggestion was perhaps a little unusual. Perhaps, I suggested, we could kidnap some of the beginners and use the ransom money to buy new boxes. "But how shall we choose which ones to kidnap?" asked the chef, who prefers grown-ups to children.

I thought the easiest way would be to choose the smallest candidates as they would be most portable. The chef and I don't have a car between us and I'm not sure my bicycle basket is big enough. But the chef suggested it would be better to choose the wealthiest, because then we would need fewer. "Look at their trainers," she suggested.

We contemplated the beginners' trainers, gradually realising we didn't know how to identify expensive trainers. Fortunately at that moment the youth, who had been fiddling with a box and a wire, stood up and indicated that it was done.

When we inspected his handiwork, there was something strange about it. Two reels had been connected to one another. The youth challenged both of us to a duel, simultaneously.

At first the box refused to register hits. The chef and I fenced the youth singly. He was hitting hard and parrying my blade with such strength that I found it impossible to disengage. I managed some surprise hits, noting his habit of raising his forearm slightly, leaving a neat target if I could manage to lunge fast enough. Mostly I couldn't. But later, against the chef, I suddenly managed and accelerating lunge and found that the change of tempo took her by surprise.

Then the chef made the linked boxes work and somehow persuaded the chef and me to accept his challenge. "It will be humiliating," the chef said. I tended to agree but it was also a bit like the movies. The chef suggested a strategy. "I'll distract him with swordplay and you come in and hit him."

It didn't work. The chef and the youth fenced rapidly down the piste and I ran after them, trying to catch up. They waited for me. Then the youth hit me.

After this had happened a couple of times, I remembered the movies. The youth, with all his callow determination to win, was plainly d'Artagnan. The chef and I were the villains - the Cardinal's men. We didn't need to play by the rules. Why stop just because the youth had hit one of us or because we'd fenced him off the end of the piste.

Lawlessness was much more fun ... and made sure we got some hits in. "This is much more like real life," I said cheerfully. In real life people don't stop fencing just because a light comes on or they here a buzz.

"In real life we'd both be dead," said the chef sternly, "and there'd be blood everywhere."

"Well, allright ... it's like the movies."

Then the chef set off for her date with Surallan and the youth acknowledged that he, too, might head home to watch TV. What with the football and Surallan there were hardly any epeeists, although there were still queues for pistes.

I was about to pack up and go when a newish foilist - a left-hander who's fenced a lot elsewhere - asked if I'd like to fence steam foil. I was about to say yes when I remembered she'd mentioned an epee that she'd bought buy never used. We agreed on epee first, then foil.

I know enough about fencing to know that she was still half in epee mode - aiming for the body and exposing her forearm and elbow at times. This would have helped me if she hadn't been so fast. She didn't have the foilist's useful fault of hesitation (to establish right of way). I managed the occasional hit on her mask, leg and arm as she's not used to defending them, but, epeeist though I am, I was outclassed by a foilist.

Then we fenced foil. I think one of my hits might have been valid. She smashed me. "Half my age," I told myself. "It's OK."

It was still daylight when I cycled home. The elderflowers were in full blossom and beginning to weigh down the hedges by the cycle path. In a week or two there will be tiny purple fruit - and birds and insects.

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Anonymous Katie said...

Lucinda also had excellent taste in berets. Sadly it turned out that Surallan did *not* have very good taste in apprentices.

You may have inadvertently made it look as though it had been me that fixed the electric box, when that wasn't in fact the case (I can only do bicycles and, hopefully, washing machines).

11:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was great. I enjoyed it.

It sounded like such a fun evening.

Jim the Not-so-anonymous

2:42 am  
Blogger kathz said...

Katie - perhaps Surallan should wear berets. And I'm sure you could fix electric boxes should you wish. If your skills became apparent, you might lose valuable fencing time. However it might be a good sideline to pursue in Paris and fund your fencing there.

7:35 am  
Blogger kathz said...

Jim - it was indeed a good night and, although my fencing wasn't particularly great, I'm still very pleased I'm getting better at seeing openings. And I don't think I've ever been so conscious of using an accelerated lunge to score.

The elderflowers on the way home were lovely too. I thought about recipes for elderflower cordial and wine and then decided I could never brings myself to pick the amount required, even if I had the time and skill.

7:38 am  

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