Too much of fencing was a blur of tiredness. I knew I was too tired but I also knew the effect of a week off fencing. Anyway, I'd been tired for weeks - and I was determined to follow the epee course.
There were only three of us. The doc and the Man man seemed filled with energy and concentration. My mind wandered. The coach demonstrated a parry in seconde - "a strong parry", he said. I waved my epee around trying the move in mid-air. It seemed manageable.I tried it against the coach. Definitely a strong parry, and one I hadn't used before.
Things got harder with the next sequence which involved hitting the wrist, moving backwards and then parrying to another hit. I couldn't do it. And things got worse as we lunged and reprised at speed down the piste. At least, the doc and the Man man were speedy - I achieved a moderately paced shuffle with the occasional bend of the knees. After some encouragement, I repeated the procedure while waving my sword about. I wasn't sure quite what I was supposed to do with it but some kind of energetic display seemed to be required. In the one-hit epee at the end I achieved a surprising hit on the Man man, possibly because, given my previous incompetence, he didn't expect me to move faster than a slug.
I meant to go home them but the Man man offered to fence me on the electric piste. I knew it was a bad idea even as I said yes. His second hit was a textbook example of how to glide down an opponent's blade to land a hit. He landed it hard on the inside of my elbow, sliding his blade at an angle that reached just below my plastron. He looked shaken. "Are you OK?" he asked. It seemed that stoicism was required - and no blood was actually leaking through my jacket.
I tried to look brave and continued. Two more points, and he landed another hit in the same place. We continued. He hit me again and again. I tried to fight back and managed a couple of hits including one on his big toe. I tried to repeat the feat and hit the floor a few times. At last I gave up. We shook hands and I began to remove my kit. It was still early but the tiredness was winning.
Slowly I discarded my jacket, coiled my bodywire and put it with the protectors and glove in my mask.. I eased my plastron over my stiffening right arm. As I thought, there was blood - but not much. Just a graze - painful when touched and slightly swollen. I showed off my wound - it was the nearest I had to proof that I was a proper fencer. I'm not sure anything I did that night really counted as fencing. Then I put on my hoodie and jacket, slung my sword and rucksack onto my back and cycled off into the dark.