tiredness and anger
There have been good weeks. On one occasion, angry with the government, I ended the evening by fencing a relative beginner who is much taller than me and half my age. We've fenced before and are usually evenly matched. On this occasion we'd been discussing politics before the bout, sharing our views on the folly of particular government cuts. “I'm going to pretend you're the cabinet,” I told him. It seemed slightly unfair on him, since he hadn't said a word in their defence. However I'd been criticised for lack of aggression earlier in the evening and, if fencing the cabinet couldn't help, nothing could.
Apart from fencing, I'm a pacifist. It's more than thirty years since I decided on non-violence and, although I still get angry on occasion, restraint has become a habit. But I'm very angry with the government and, since starting fencing, I've made an exception for consensual violence.
I surprised myself. “Take that, Cameron!” I shouted. “That's for you, Clegg!” My first hit to my opponent's head was accompanied by the cry, “That's one of your brains, Willetts – now I'll get the other.” (And I did.)
I have to report that I didn't vanquish the entire cabinet. However my unexpected aggression must have unnerved my opponent. I beat him 15 – 4.
That was a one-off. However I seem to be fencing a little better, at least on some occasions. The following week I beat the same opponent 15 – 12, even though he had the advantage of not representing the British cabinet. And against a young woman who usually beats me with ease, even though she's mostly a foilist, I pulled back from 5 – 0 to fence her on almost level terms. She couldn't see where she was going wrong. Nor could I, but I was concentrating on keeping my distance right and waiting for the best time to strike. We reached 14 – 14. I did my best but she was faster and took the final point, much to her relief. It may have been a defeat but I was thrilled by the best score I'd ever had against her – and that I'd made her make such an effort to win.
Most of my fencing has been less exciting. I go to the leisure centre on foot or on my bike. Sometimes it rains. Usually I find myself matched with much against more experienced fencers - or better fencers - who beat me easily but help with useful advice. I ref. Sometimes the electronic equipment fails but mostly it works.
There have been highlights. One fencer gave a talk on her experience fencing at the Commonwealth Championships in Australia. And a visiting fencer gave me advice I've never heard before: "Keep it simple." It sounds good and plausible but it still depends on speed and accuracy. There's much more to do. And I'm getting older.