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

Monday, January 19, 2009

the holiday problem

It was a very good Christmas dinner. There were lots of treats over the season, from Christmas cake to gluehwein. Because of the cold, I didn't go out much but sat at home, as close to a heater as I could manage. I had a few anxieties as the return to fencing approached. Some were to do with my general unfitness but others were connected with the more serious problem: would I still fit into my breeches. They are always slightly tight after washing and relax as I move in them but this time I feared a serious problem. I was right to worry. The phone rang as I was getting changed and it was hard to explain the strange noises caused by breathing in and tugging hard at the zip.

I decided not to bother with jeans over breeches and cycled off, white-legged, toward the leisure centre. After the effort to squeeze into my breeches, they seemed to shape themselves around me well enough. They haven't split so far, at least.

Fencing was another matter. I was plainly out of practice and prepared for the familiar sensation of fencing through jelly. I welcomed the pauses for conversation, hearing tales from the first competition of the year, in which club fencers had done well. Less frequent fencers had shared the anxiety about breeches although the Man man proclaimed proudly that he hadn't put on a single pound over Christmas. As I don't possess scales I don't worry about what I weight - it seems more important to know how much energy I have and whether my clothes still fit. And I certainly don't regret good holiday food and drink - the highlight was an excellent New Year's Eve dinner cooked by the chef, preceded by champagne and accompanied by fine wine.

Eventually I turned to fencing and was pleased that the good epeeists who turned up seemed happy to spend time encouraging me. While I was slow, I could, on occasion, be accurate and was happy to land a fair number of arm-hits. A particularly helpful left-hander worked on my en garde, which had slipped, as though he had never mentioned it before, He helped me to change my stance and I suddenly felt more comfortable. He even praised my attempts at lunges, which weren't very deep.

I fenced the four other epeeists who were free and then left early - I was tired and had an early start the following morning. But I determined to take more exercise.

For months I'd been turning down Sunday invitations so that I could do housework and work. But when, at Meeting, one of my friends suggested a swim, more out of habit than anything else, I said yes. As soon as I got home I packed my black Speedo with a towel, shampoo and shower gel - and wondered if I could remember how to swim. The lengths at the public baths are 25 metres and I set myself the goal of 30 lengths in the medium lane.

It was neither a disaster nor a triumph. I stopped after every six lengths for half a minute or so, and began to feel a little tired after 28 lengths. I did my 30, pulled myself out of the pool and headed to the showers, where I enjoyed the treat of some Christmas shower gel from my daughter. It got rid of the chlorine smell very nicely.

So I'm not fit and can only just squeeze into my breeches. But I'm still fencing.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Friday, January 16, 2009


It was nearly time for the fencing Christmas dinner. A little late, perhaps - I'd taken down my Christmas tree the previous day - but the fencing club tradition includes a Christmas dinner when the holiday season had ended.

I hadn't exactly solved my fashion dilemma but I'd reached an accommodation with it, thanks to the discovery of an old, but quite well-cut, black wool dress in the back of my wardrobe. I bought it years ago to look smart in an understated sort of way and thought it might be possibly to add something glittery. I planned to buy a red scarf to go with my new red handbag, or something in pale grey and silver, so that I could wear my new grey shoes. As I hate shopping, I found excuses to avoid trips to the shops, thinking I could leave it a day or two. Then work got busy in the week of the dinner and I hadn't bought the scarf I wanted. I settled on a green shawl with sparkly thread and added long sparkly earrings with a matching necklace. I even found my old make-up bag. There was some powder left, the lipstick hadn't broken and the mascara still worked! I felt remarkably lucky. It must be nearly six months since I last wore make-up - probably on my trip to see Cyrano de Bergerac at the Comedie Francaise. By the time I'd stepped into my black high-heeled shoes I felt almost glamorous.

It didn't last of course. An old dress, a shawl, some jewellery and make-up were never going to compete with the colourful cocktail dresses on display. I felt a bit like the dowager aunt or the governess in the corner when I saw all the frocks. The men were peacocking too, with their bow ties, dinner jackets and colourful waistcoats. I wondered if I should sit with the children and waved at a young fencer, shyly elegant in red, who was present with her father. But one of the epeeists called hallo from the bar, following this with the welcome words, "What would you like?" With a glass of wine in my hand, I began to relax.

The meal was better than I'd expected and the kitchen staff, learning I was one of the two vegetarians, were quick to assure me that the potatoes had been roasted in oil and the Yorkshire puddings cooked in butter. There was a good range of vegetables to go with my quorn fillet and the meal brought back memories of the sort of meals my family used to enjoy on special Sundays: good, filling food in lavish quantities. I had melon with sorbet to start and crumble to finish, followed by coffee.

But no-one goes to the fencing dinner just for the meal. There was a quiz and there were awards so it was a time of celebration. I joined others sitting at my table for the quiz and found that I knew some things that my fellow team-members didn't. Usually I contribute literary knowledge but this time my successes include correct answers to questions on sport (In which year did a British man last win the singles title at Wimbledon?), science (How is ascorbic acid better known?) and pop music (Which was the highest selling British single of 2008?). I hope my knowledge took the sabreurs in the team by surprise as it certainly startled me. When the answers were checked it turned out that we had won. So I began the year with a fencing-related victory, even if it didn't involve any swordplay. But the sense of friendship and camaraderie was better than the food or winning the quiz.

A lavish dinner with wine may not be the best preparation for the fencing season but, as I teetered home through the frost, I felt it had been a good night out.

As for those quiz questions, it's easy enough to find out the answers to the sport and science questions. And here's a clue to the pop question though unfortunately the composer and performer on the video didn't reach number one with his version of the song.

Labels: , , , , , , ,