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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

the villain laughed ....

I left work as early as I could to be sure of reaching fencing on time. But all the trains were halted and, when they started running again, the company chose to ignore the anxious passengers for my small, local station. Every other possible destination was served but, with we had to wait an hour and a half. There was a brief, hopeful interlude inwhich we were told to get on a train. We settled in our seats but it turned out that the interlude had been provided merely for entertainment and exercise. After five minutes of sitting comfortably and waiting for the train to move, we were told to get off again because it had been cancelled.

I eventually arrived home, hungry and thirsty, less than an hour before fencing was due to start. I urged the teenagers to feed themselves, grabbed a pasty and then sat down for what was meant to be a minute or two. The minutes passed.

Suddenly I noticed the clock. I would have to cycle - I had no choice. The only choice I had was what to wear. I could cycle in white breeches and glow in the dark or attempt to wear jeans over my breeches. I've never tried to wear jeans over breeches before - I wasn't convinced they would fit. To my surprise, they did although the combination felt bulky and awkward. I clambered onto my bike, remembeing how to balance the sword bag under the basket, regretting that the chef, en route for Paris, wouldn't be there to laugh at my attempts to dismount.

I sped along and managed to get off the bike with relative ease, only to struggle with the lock at the leisure centre. I usually chain my bike to a metal column. This involves manipulating a coiled bicycle lock that behaves like a recalcitrant snake. The coil was particularly bad-tempered and it took several minutes of struggle to wind the plastic-coated wire through the back wheel of my bike and round the column so that I could - at the tenth attempt - snap the device shut.

I missed footwork practice.

We're still in the small hall with classes taking place in a couple of squash courts. The beginners' class was over by the time I arrived. I caught sight of a work-colleague with his new-to-fencing nephew on the balcony and went up to say hello. It's the first time anyone from work has seen me in fencing kit but this didn't strike me till later. I stayed chatting - and showing off my epee - until two epeeists from the hall below waved to me to come and fence.

Fortunately my colleague had left before my first bout began. As usual, I lacked the brilliance I would like but was glad to be moving much more easily than earlier in the year. I seem to be over the fall from the loft and my heel barely hurts now. All I have to do is gain the speed and quick reactions of someone half my age, and increase precision and accuracy. I know it won't happen but perhaps I can get a little better, especially since epee classes will begin in a few weeks. Unfortunately some of my regular opponents will also receive coaching.

The lack of space makes it hard to get as much fencing as I would wish, and some fencers still haven't returned from holiday. I'm continuing my practice at corridor-fencing which is excellent at encouraging precise bladework. I haven't attempted corridor epee yet - there's an obvious risk to the wall, ceiling or blade. The foil blade is safer because lighter and more flexible but I'm not good at aiming for the torso, let alone establishing right of way.

Club-members are divided on corridor-fencing. Some worry about the health and safety implications - suppose we stabbed a squash player or someone leaving the toilets. We haven't yet. Occasionally non-fencers seem slightly surprised when they chance on a duel but, so far. we've always stopped to let them by. (We tend to giggle as we realise how we must look, which probably spoils the effect.)

I encouraged more people to use the corridor and fenced two opponents there myself. The second was the senior coach. Away from the piste he's a kindly individual who offers lifts and listens to Bach. On the piste he's bloodthirsty with a tendency to laugh when oppponents miss - plainly the villain in any swashbuckling film.

I know what the ending should be. I should fence backwards up a spiral staircase. There should be a moment when I spin the sword from my opponent's grasp. Then I should pause and, with sublime generosity, allow him to pick it up. He attempts by a trick to take advantage of my better nature and that's when I close in for the kill, possibly by swinging from a chandelier.

It didn't happen quite like that. My opponent laughed as he parried, tricked me with feints and leapt back from my blade. I don't even have my usual excuse for failure - he's ten years older than me. I managed to land a couple of hits on the bib of his mask which he generously conceded had, thanks to new fencing rules, been a valid target since 1st September.

Then I struggled back into my jeans only to realise, as I cycled back, that I'd forgotten to turn my bike lights on. It's very hard to reach the rear light of a bicycle when loaded with three swords and a back-pack. But I realised that, having covered my white breeches with dark blue jeans, I was almost invisible. And the streetlights along the half-mile driveway to the leisure centre were all out - perhaps a side-effect of the flooded water-meadows on either side or perhaps an attempt to save the planet.

I twisted uncomfortably on the saddle and somehow managed to turn on the rear light. Life was much easier when the chef was there to help me.

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Anonymous Katie said...

I think you should just cycle in your breeches because you'd be more visible and it'd be safer. And if anyone laughs at you you'll be able to run them over and then speed off, laughing.

1:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well there is no use adding anything else.

I agree with Katie. Though if you could find a way to leave your victim marked with a "K" it might add a certain flair.


12:09 am  

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