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, December 20, 2008

sabreur versus snowman

Festive fencing is an odd concept but, in our club, it's become an annual Christmas tradition. The week after the one-hit epee, we conclude the year by decorating masks, jackets, breeches and swords - and then fencing, more or less seriously, in costume.

It's not easy to find a way of decorating fencing kit that will survive a bout - only a skilled engineer dare risk a sword decorated with (sturdy) fairy lights. One fencer chose lights inside a mask as a safer option. I'd have worried about hitting the small epeeist while she wore lights on her jacket.

My own solution involved a hasty visit to Poundstretcher on the way to work. I'd decided a headband was probably the best solution, coupled with tinsel. Antler headbands are particularly popular but Poundstretcher didn't have any. Instead I settled on a lilac headband with two all-purpose festive figures bouncing happily on springs six inches above the band. I'm still not entirely sure what the figures are supposed to be. They had jolly faces and fluffy Father Christmas beards which turned into white snowy bodies and they wore the kind of hats that are usually associated with Albus Dumbledore. The tinsel was a slightly sad selection - there was nothing as glamorous as the black and gold (club colours) that I'd adopted last year. But there was something called "marabou" in lilac and I thought I could wear that like a feather boa.

I still had the decorations in a bag when I arrived, slightly late, for fencing. But a fellow fencer, wearing a miniature Christmas tree on his mask, helped me by securing the headband with garden twine while an old Quaker badge saying "ONLY JUSTICE BRINGS PEACE" secured the marabou boa to my jacket. I didn't dare look in the mirror but I felt that I had made a proper attempt at looking festive. And the figures on my headband were, by general agreement, identified as snowmen.

I briefly noted the bemused looks from people passing along the gallery corridor - I suppose there was something slightly odd in a fencer disguised as Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer fencing Father Christmas, but I was soon involved in watching bouts and then started fencing epee against an opponent wearing a brown woolly hat with gold tinsel and peacock feathers. The tiredness and gloom of winter seemed to have entered my fencing and at first I couldn't land any hits. Meanwhile my opponent was filled with seasonal joys which gave him extra speed and agility. I took a few bruises before I began to fence with any conviction and, even then, was too aware of my lack of speed to do well. But evidently my opponent enjoyed it because, a little while after we had finished, he suggested we fence sabre (his preferred weapon). After explaining my lack of expertise with sabre - I began by asking "am I holding this right?" - we fenced a few points and I tried to respond to my opponent's encouragement. But that was when the disaster occurred. Sabre is, as I have frequently remarked, a nasty, slashy weapon - the weapon of the Peterloo Massacre. And the sabre did its nasty, slashy work, ripping one of the snowmen (or santas or Albus Dumbledores) off the headband and sending it spinning across the hall. Concealing my grief, I put the dead snowman safely to rest on my kit-bag and continued fencing.

There was a sad shortage of epeeists at the festive fun-night but the fencer who'd helped me fix my costume has some skill in epee (and had done much better than me in the one-hit competition). I therefore suggested he lay down his foil and pick up his epee for a final bout. Perhaps he was looking rather tired but so was I. However, I thought I had a chance.

I tried to fix the dead snowman back onto my mask while my opponent adjusted the 18-inch Christmas tree he was wearing on his head. It was a particularly attractive tree, garnished with red bows and small packages - nothing exceptional or distracting in the general array of festive costumes. We decided to use the piste with new fencing scoring kit which registered hits in big numbers. Being uncertain about how it worked, we asked abother fencer to ref. He was a bit snooty about the ease of reffing epee bouts (no complex descriptions of the fencing phrase, no determination of right of way) and sat on the floor to watch.

My opponent's tiredness seemed an illusion - he raced ahead. Soon he was 7-1 up - and my only point came from a double. Then I landed a neat hit to his forearm which landed just ahead of his point. 7-2.

That filled me with enthusiasm, if not skill. There's one piece of training that usually kicks in when I'm fencing: the advice that if you miss the first hit you continue the attack. My went for my opponent's arm, he took evasive action, and I landed my hit square on his mask. It wasn't just 7-3 to me - the force of my hit toppled my opponent's Christmas tree and he was doubled over with laughter as the tree drooped in front of his eyes.

He pushed the tree to one side and we continued but I think my hit, and his laughter, had affected his momentum. And I'd begun to gain confidence. At the end of the first time period he was still ahead but only by 13-11. Silly costumes or not, I was determined to do my best and filled with the will to win.

My first hit after the break landed squarely on my opponent's chest - and didn't register on the box. The ref had been unaware of a button that should have been touched on the remote control. "Can I have the point anyway?" I pleaded ... but the ref said no. The scoring box sprang back into life, my opponent yet again pushed the tree to the side of his mask, and we started fencing again. I scored. 13-12. And again: 13-13.

By this time I was determined to end the fencing year with a victory. The will to win took over, probably disconcerting my opponent who was still contending with a felled tree. I hit again - 14-13 up - and was in the lead for the first time. For a moment I could foresee the most likely conclusion: my opponent would draw level and then win the final point. I brushed the thought aside, noticed my opponent was tiring, and took my time, letting him move forward and backward on the piste. Then I launched my attack. 15-13. I don't know how I scored that final point but I do know I ended the year on a win. I know my opponent was tired and hampered by a falling Christmas tree but my victories are rare enough for me to treasure them all.

And now fencing is over for the year but the chef is back on a visit and we're planning to drink gluehwein together soon in a festive celebration.

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Anonymous Katie said...

I am VERY excited about the gluehwein. But I think you should have mentioned the other special occasion.

10:44 pm  
Blogger The Gray Epee said...

That was an exciting!

I always like best the telling of tales when the heroine wins.

(Particularly when she is a hero of mine.)

2:00 am  
Blogger Kathz said...

In response to Katie, the gluewhein followed the very special occasion of my passing (I think) the course to become a designated first aid person at work. (It also happened to be my birthday.)

Thanks to the Gray Epee for following the epic of my contest with the Christmas tree-wearer. It was a very pleasing and surprising end to the year and I was delighted to report on a rare victory.

7:50 pm  
Blogger Fast Fancy Dress said...

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9:40 pm  

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