resuming normal service
I'd like to say I'm doing so more efficiently but, if I'm improving – and it feels as though I am – other people are doing so faster. The club as a whole is having great successes: two fencers heading to the Commonwealth Games, two to the World Veterans' championship and numerous good results at regional and national level. Sadly the majority are in sabre which is still a nasty, slashy weapon.
I'm now struggling to recapture the level of fitness I had last year. My back barely hurts now – just twinges from time to time – and I can walk further and lift far more than I could even a month ago. I've yet to try a really strenuous walk and I haven't been swimming all year but I hope to put that right soon. I feel as though I'm able to move up and down the piste far faster and more energetically than in a long while.
Unfortunately I haven't been winning at all lately. The 11-year-old has acquired a new technique – he started our last bout with a couple of fleches which I couldn't resist, then let the score go up in doubles until he won. Another opponent has learnt how to score through a quick flick to the arm – I'm not fast or accurate enough to do that effectively and haven't yet found a way to counter the flicks. Every so often I manage a hit that delights me – even the occasional neat hit to the wrist. They always feel unplanned but happen just often enough for me to think that perhaps I'm acquiring a skill and an instinct to see a useful opening. But too often I fail to counter or to follow through a parry - I need to work on longer sequences of actions, if I get the chance.
Sadly the one-hit epée competition, though enjoyable, was a bit of a disaster for me. I began badly with two double defeats. The first was against a beginner who was on the electric piste for the first time. I had no idea how he would fence and hoped to take him by surprise with a quick attack, only to discover that he had exactly the same idea, so that our attacks mirrored one another. Later I annoyed myself by planning a swift attack on a young and ferocious fencer, having analysed his techniques and come to the conclusion that he always paused before fleching. But I was unsure the ref had said “play,” paused, and was duly fleched – as I deserved. I ended up with only one win out of ten and finished next to bottom. Yet the occasion didn't feel entirely disastrous - I enjoyed the fencing and felt that I'd at least planned and attempted a few worthwhile attacks. At the end I reflected that it had been a harder group to fence than usual - I was the second-oldest (the oldest is a world-class veteran who was runner up) and the only woman competing. I'd also been glad that the slightly smaller group made it possible to fence everyone in a poule unique.
Now I'm restless and full of energy, wondering how to rebuild my strength. Perhaps it's time to get my bike serviced and ride off for the day – not too far and not up any steep hills. Perhaps I'll find time for a good walk in the Peak District. Perhaps strenuous (and overdue) housework would do the trick. I'm still a little nervous, knowing how much damage a fall can do. But I'm also looking forward again.