Not blogged for a very long time, I apologise for that. The upside is that I actually have something to talk about, and seeing as this is a place to talk about meeee, indulge me for a few moments.
Yes that’s me with the medal and the sweaty fencing hair and the stupid grin. In fact two, yes, two bronze medals are now mine and shiny and on a shelf keeping each other company. I won these at SWASH earlier in March.
‘What is SWASH?’ I hear you say. Its an annual event held at the breathtaking Royal Armouries in Leeds each year by the British Federation for Historical Swordplay (BFHS). It’s a two day event with classes, tournaments, talks and many opportunities to get up-close and personal with many beautiful weapons and historical treatises, most thrilling of all being the MS i33 – the oldest martial treatise known. The building itself is impressive – a huge glass tower filled with weapons that ought to have the sign ‘Break glass in case of zompocalypse’.
What did I win them for? One was third place in the inaugural women’s longsword tournament. It was a lot of fun and Tracey Walker made a great mini documentary of the competition here. I enjoyed all my fights, particularly the punch landed on (another) Fran after she swiftly disarmed me in a grapple.
Incidentally, it was fantastic to finally meet up with fellow fencer and Fox Spirit author, Jo Thomas. A lovely person, and I hope to see her again soon with either sword or pen.
The second bronze medal was in the rapier tournament. You may notice Pim in the top photo with me, also with a silly grin. He won gold, natch, but I had to face him in the semi-final. It’s an interesting way to work through marital tension, battling in public, but we did okay. So very pleased with myself over that, and it’s given me much more confidence in my fencing. It’s also made me want to try even harder next time I compete. There are so many fencing events this year it’s difficult to choose between them.
Another facet of Historical European Martial Arts has drawn my attention, fast-forwarding three hundred years from the Elizabethan era to the Edwardians. I’ve joined a study group focusing on Bartitsu. This is a fascinating martial art, made famous in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Conan Doyle.
The ‘original MMA’, it combines pugilism, fencing, jujitsu and savate to create a formidable defence against assorted ruffians that prowl the streets in the dead of night – at least that’s what Bartitsu was developed for. They were dangerous times, and gangs of thieves preyed on lone pedestrians.
It is also a ton of fun, and very varied: you might be punching someone in the face, jabbing them in the throat with a stick, or choking them on their coat. In a few weeks time I will be leading a class on parasol (it being the most fencing-like of the techniques). Don’t be fooled, the humble brolly is a devastating weapon.
Also taken up running. I’m trying to get my fitness up to help with the fencing, and just so I can be a bit more healthy. On the days I’m not fighting in some form or other (it’s been five days a week in some cases) I try and get a twenty minute run in. So far my enthusiasm for this has not waned, and listening to music helps a lot.
I’ve got one child in school and the other in nursery every morning now so it’s opened up a bit of free time. Oh yes, writing time, of course. Ideally that would be the case, and a lot of the time it is, but no, time to get a job. When I left work five years ago I was working in an office, and whilst I had lovely colleagues, I can’t say I’ve missed being there at all in the time since.
Perceptions altered, priorities shifted, I am now a gardener, and really enjoying the fresh air, the smiley passers-by, China Mieville on my iPod and dirt under my fingernails. I’m no Rachel de Thame, but I can dig and I can pull up weeds and I can cut grass. Life is good.
I had a brilliant time with several buddies from fencing school at the Scifi Weekender in Wales. We packed swords and managed to get in a bit of practice each day, as well as enjoying all the cosplay, panels, signings, swag and merriment. Just as I was packing to head out, however, I got a tweet from Paul Cornell asking if I would mind being timer/scorer for the Just A Minute game that he was hosting. It has become a tradition at these events, last year’s panel included Joe Abercrombie, Sarah Pinborough and China Miéville. My mind squirmed, it backed away in terror. ‘you can’t do this!’ it screamed, ‘it’s too scary!’.
So I said yes.
I thought ‘to hell with it’ and agreed. I was a bag of nerves leading up to the show, especially seeing the vast room that held the audience, the stage etc. But I just told myself it would only be keeping score, I probably wouldn’t even be visible.
Then I was led out, alone, into the glare, centre stage, to faces. You know, people.
It was terrifying.
Emma Newman, Paul Cornell, Gareth Powell, Stacia Kane and Chris Brookmyre who were the actual authors that everyone had come to see, had every right to be nervous, but they were funny and brilliant and before long I was just enjoying the spectacle along with the crowd. At the very end Paul was kind enough to ask me if I had any work out at the moment, and I proudly flew the Fox Spirit flag for a couple of seconds.
After that I relaxed, met up with loads of tweeps, drank, ate too many sweets and boogied with giant robots, zombies and superheroes. Definitely going again next year.
Hang on Fran, isn’t this meant to be a blog about, you know, writing?
*Sips wine, looks around*
Hmm? Oh, yes, that. Well I haven’t slacked on that account – two stories with the fabulous Fox Spirit books are coming out very, very soon:
Piracy – a Fox Pockets anthology edited by Adele Wearing (who never seems to tire) in which I have a short tale about bloodthirsty buckaneers on the high seas.
Tales of Eve – An anthology edited by the wonderful Anne-Mhairi Simpson, who is also a damn fine author. The brief is a reverse-Pygmalion, where women create their ideal man. My short story is about the power of wishes.
And the Magnificent Octopus? David and I are still chiseling, buffing, rearranging and sanding its edges. Things take time, but we’re getting there and I’m enjoying the process.
Talk to me, what’s new in your life? I want to know.