After nearly a fortnight without stabbing anyone, I was happily anticipating my return to fencing. I managed an early night in preparation. Then I woke at half past four and soon realised I couldn't get back to sleep. I headed downstairs for camomile tea and started to surf the net.
I was sitting still at my computer when the pain hit me - a sharp ache just above my hip. At first I couldn't think what had caused it. Then I remembered how awkwardly I'd tranported lemonade and orange juice in a shopping bag on wheels - the bad my children object to and call my "granny bag." (As I point out, I'm old enough to be a great-grandmother, but they don't think that's a good excuse.) "If I can get back to sleep," I told myself, "the pain will go away."
I managed sleep but the pain persisted - not all the time but whenever I moved in certain ways. Tying shoelaces was the worst. Luckily there is no need to tie shoelaces while actually fencing but as the day progressed I began to wonder whether fencing would be possible. Eventually I rang the doctor's surgery just in time to get the last appointment of the day.
The doctor reassured me that it was just a pulled muscle - I had began to worry lest it was something worse - and wrote me a prescription for strong painkillers. I assured him I didn't drive or operate heavy machinery. "How about fencing?" I asked.
The doctor asked me to show what moves would be involved. This seemed a lot sillier than lying on a couch to be poked and prodded but I got to my feet and adopted a fencing stance. It didn't hurt. I made a few fencing moves backwards and forwards and attempted a small lunge. "It's OK," I said in amazement. "No pain."
I assured the doctor that I'd be able to stop if it hurt and he agreed that I could fence. I began to look forward to the evening.
Putting on my breeches and lacing my trainers was excruciating. I realised cycling would be unwise, especially since the pain-killers were going to make me woozy. Although the backpack for my kit was slightly uncomfortable, walking was the best solution.
Once again there was a shortage of epeeists but this time I had the sense to borrow a lamé and ask a couple of foilists for bouts. I warned them about my muscle strain and they helped me in the tricky and painful tasks of doing up the lamé, picking up my mask, and connecting my body wire. I was quite glad to begin with a light weapon, even though I've lost any expertise I ever had. My technique is now, as an opponent said, based entirely on epée. I kept forgetting about establishing right of way and simply tried to hit the smaller target area. To my surprise, I managed a few points.
Then one of my opponents discarded her lamé and borrowed a club epée. We fenced steam scoring, so far as we could tell, double after double. But it felt good, after a day of caution, to be moving up and down the piste with relative ease.
I'd decided early that this would be short evening. But before I left, I had a chance to fence with one of the coaches who didn't know about the muscle-strain. I was beginning to feel relaxed and reckless as the pain-killers kicked in. At first the coach just made me practise technique, though I wasn't too sure what I was doing. Then, seeing I was getting tired, he suggested as usual that we see who was the first to get two hits. It's never been me in the past, however much the coach invites a hit. Perhaps the pills subdued my certainty of defeat. I went for the first hit and caught the coaches arm. On the second point, I parried his attack and managed a chest hit. 2-0 to me.
Then I packed up my kit, heaved my backpack onto my shoulders and limped home.
Labels: coach, doctor, epee, foil, injury, losing, muscle, pain, right of way, winning