Friday, December 14, 2007

I was nearly that guy...

I arrived on the RER platform at Nation this morning to find a packed train waiting there already unloading passengers. I scurried down the platform a bit in order to try and find a carriage that wasn't so packed. I saw a space and casually squeezed in, my bag trailing behind. What i couldn't hear was that buzzer for the closing door was already sounding as my iPod was up too loud.

The precise moment i stepped on the train i felt the doors closing; my backpack still trailing behind me. I pulled it inside as the doors scraped it's sides.

Phew! I relaxed and let my bag drop down to the side... Only to realise that a rubber tab hanging off my bag was stuck in the door. Even more alarming was that I knew that the doors on that side of the train wouldn't be opening again before i got off. <Queue dramatic music>


So, I suppose what I've illustrated with this story is that things have been relatively quiet. Training is back to full speed and work is keeping me busy. It's still on my mind to fully update this blog for all the time I missed from May to August. It was a busy time with the Europeans, Cuba, the universiades and holidays in Thailand.

I certainly might have a different perspective on some of the events of the last 12 months now but I'd like to have a record of them somewhere. So, interesting times ahead, I promise, even if it means dredging up the past.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Hate Ikea...

...My first experience of the Swedish mega-store leaves a taste of MDF in my mouth.

'I need a set of drawers' I thought to myself. 'Furniture' I thought, 'Where does one buy furniture?'. Four years of being bombarded with case studies about the behemoth of fürni left only one name in my mind. Added to this I happened to be teaching (did I mention I started teaching?) in a centre not far from a modest sized Ikea store (only a couple of square kilometers) - the stars were surely all aligned and pointing me in the direction

Once I finished work at 4 o'clock I got a bus to the Ikea store about ten minutes away. To enter the place is like entering another world - a yellow and blue one. I'm apparently too negative a person but the trouble started nearly straight away. Having headed the warnings about people being lost for days in the place and nearly starving to death before reaching the café, I had the piece of furniture selected well in advance of my visit. Aneboda, or some such, was the name of this modestly priced chest of drawers but where the hell was it?

The showroom section snake on for ever before I came to the sprawling storage space area. All of a sudden there it was - the chest of drawers of my dreams. So this piece of furniture could be collected in the warehouse section of the building; row 25 dock 48.

Another twenty minutes of walking through beds, wardrobes, TV units, wardrobes, kitchen storage, shoe racks, kids bedrooms, kitchen wear, crockery, plastic tress and baskets and I finally found the warehouse section and with a small jaunt through the warehouse I located my chest of drawers.

They were heavier than I though. At 30kgs it was going to be a long hour long metro ride back to my apartment at rush hour but I assumed that a magical solution would present itself; perhaps I could buy this small yellow trolley.

Firstly though I had to deal with the check-out. I'm sure I've posted previously about the speed of service at any french check-outs. This ranges from a man buying a loaf of bread taking 10 minutes to a jar of pickles taking 5 hours. Imagine then French people having to check through hundreds of kilos of furniture. A long wait was in store as my flimsy yellow trolley (with a max load of 30kg) began to buckle. When I eventually paid for the drawers, I was told I could not bring my branded trolley any further. So I had to drag the box to through to the delivery area - stopping to get an ultra cheap bulk produced hot-dog on the way.

It was becoming apparent to me that Ikea did not want people without cars shopping with them as they didn't want people placing small orders and clogging up there delivery system. I was looking that my small set of drawers was going to cost €50 to deliver and that having already paid for it, I had no other option, save for giving myself a coronary trying to carry it on the metro. €100 for a chest of drawers that will probably barely last the rest of my time hear, no matter how short of long that is.

Bah, so there you go... that's how exciting my life is these days apparently. Without being directly exposed to the incompetence of Irish fencing I'm left to get angry at harmless multinational corporations (albeit ones with bizarre tax dodging religious status). I'm sorry Ikea, it's not you... it's me being negative...

No more whiskey after training...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Miss My Extra Kilos...

It's freezing in Paris at the minute and I'm only writing this entry to put off walking to training (see previous entry on strike).

Losing a stone over the course of the last year, I've obviously lost considerable insulation as well. I've never been much of a hat and scarf wearer but this is definitely hat, scarf and gloves weather. Anyway at least my figure tips have been warmed slightly from typing.

Discovering Paris By Foot

... In freezing temperatures.

For the second time in as many months Paris is in the grip of an RATP strike. I know, hard to believe that the French would go on strike (some info here) but it's happened. I'm certainly not going to debate whether the reforms are needed or whether the concerns of the €68,000+ a year train drivers are valid. Far be it from me to propose theories as to the moral imperatives in question but Goddammit this is a pain in the ass!

I walked an hour to work yesterday, after getting up at 6am only to find that my class was cancelled because my student couldn't get there. I was half-way to work this morning when my student cancelled leaving me with an additional two hours wait after my two hours walk before my next class. All the while we are experiencing the coldest days of the year so far - it's fantastic.

The strike seems set to continue I've heard talk of it lasting till Sunday at least. It's going to make my trip to the airport this weekend a nightmare not to mention trying to get back home on Sunday evening. After all that I have classes in Roissy (the town in which CdeG Airport is located) on Monday and Tuesday - I might as well stay in the airport if I want to have any chance of getting to those classes!

Ugh... I'm not digging this at all!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One year on... (Warning: Introspection Ahead)

It's exactly one year and a day since I've been living in France. Perhaps it's time for a stock-take. I'm tired of writing more or less about subjects about as tangible or relevant as the weather so perhaps it's time for a more personal confessional entry about my life so far in France and where it has lead me.

Tonight I celebrated with my friends and team-mates at my club my birthday (which happened two weeks ago) as well as, more importantly, my being in France for exactly one year. I arrived in France on the 6th of November last year - with the basic idea that I would spend a year in France to improve my fencing.

On paper I perhaps haven't really faired that well. I've lost a girlfriend. My world ranking has slipped where my focus on World-Cups and Grand-Pris has lead to a lesser involvement in easier competitions. I am pretty much completely broke but have finally found a job, to which I am quite indifferent to, which will do little except maintain my position as broke. My level of French while massively improved is still nowhere a level where I would feel comfortable working completely in French.

So... where have I performed memorably?... Hmm...

Why carry on? Why not end it all?

I suppose, I feel I am finally living. I have autonomy, freedom and no restraints emotional or physical. While my world ranking has slumped I feel like a far superior fencer and I feel that with even more work I could finally make myself satisfied in terms of results and achievements. I live in what I believe to be one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. I'm in the best shape I have possibly ever been. I am determined to become fluent in French if it is the last thing I do.

I'm generally enjoying life and continuing the path I have actually chosen to do and I suppose that is worth more than anything. While the call of a serious career is certainly beckoning I am enjoying this time and growing as a person. It's possible that both could continue in tandem and certainly that would be my ideal state - we'll see.


Well there it is. Confessional, heart-rendering, as ridiculously pious and self-inflated as any piece you will ever see for public consumption on the inter-web. Enjoy it or not... I'm glad to get it off my chest.

Á plus...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Best Worst Dive Ever

Brazil now have a contender to topple this hilarious and infamous dive by Rivaldo in the World Cup. Seen at around 00:45 in this dive compilation -

Dida the Brazilian goalkeeper deserves a lap of honour all to himself for this one. The mantle has been passed...

His initial reaction is to chase after the fan to give him a kick... then he remembers his training and goes down like a ton of bricks. It would be tragic if Celtic get punished for this in terms of their result, hopefully it will just be a monetary fine.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Which do I hate more?

... this week: dog-owners or smokers?

In what may turn-out to be a regular feature, I contemplate to of the most ignorant groups of people on the planet. Don't get me wrong I know plenty of smokers who are good friends of mine and likewise plenty of friends of mine own dogs but as groups they have certain ignorant and infuriating traits.

I'm working from a sort libertarian / utilitarian outlook whereby people should be free to do what they want as long as it doesn't do harm to others. I've spent the last twenty minutes cleaning dog-shit off my shoe because someone saw fit to use the footpath as a toilet for their dog. All my clothes stink like shit and my chance of cancer has increased because smokers still enjoy the right to smoke indoors in Paris.

Hmm... the jury is still out on this one...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's Official... Apple Are Now Bigger Wankers Than Microsoft

A thinly veiled threat by Apple that if iPhone users use the mods now available to unlock their phones from AT&T that future updates they release will disable their phones. Article from Wall Street Journal

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Getting Up Early / Sleeping In Late

Hmm, it's been an odd couple of weeks. Training is painstakingly slowly getting back to ordinary levels but the majority of the last two weeks of training has been taken up with football. Which is fair enough if you're coming back from a long break from training and you want to ease yourself back in. I on the other hand am coming back from a position where I've been dying to train all Summer in preparation for the Europeans and the Universiades but haven't had the oppurtunity. My form dipped correspondingly to this lack of training, culminating in an uninspired and disappointing tournament in Bangkok (which I'm sure I'll get round to writing about in some time).

Added to this, frustrations in my personal life, the majority of my friends from the Irish College having returned home and the tedium of trying to find a job, I'm left swinging like a pendulum between restlessness and a pensive aggression. As if I needed it, on top of it all the under performing Irish rugby team are bringing me down even further.


I'll fill in some of the blanks from the last 3 weeks...

Since my return to Paris on the 31st of August, were it not for the sparse entries to this blog I'd barely be able to remember a single thing I did. For two weeks though I got back into some serious training in the gym. Managed to get 5 sessions in for both those weeks, which I was pleased with and I was feeling good for. Aside from that, I watched the start of the Rugby World Cup and the early warning signs of things to come as Ireland struggled past Namibia.

I began a serious of interviews with 5 or 6 different English teaching organisations. Since I'm still involved in the interview process with some of them I won't say much more about that. It was good practice at my interview technique at the very least.

Last weekend, the 14th September, I returned to Ireland. I was briefly cheered up on the Friday night by watching England being massacred by South Africa with friends in town, only to be brought back down again by Ireland's performance against Georgia. Sunday's All-Ireland final was a predictably dull affair but I went to see Knocked Up in the evening - which probably made the day a draw but a moral victory. Monday, I'd had to return some things left in my apartment by a friend, so at least my bag was lighter returning to Paris.

As if by magic, Tuesday I was back in Paris. None-the-wiser for my short stay, I longed for a longer stay at home even before I boarded the plane. The rest of the week I slept. And slept. And slept.

I woke up Friday, since there was some sort of match on. Got absolutely buckled for a good 12 hour period. Stumbled home at 7am Saturday and have spent the rest of the weekend recovering until now. Just what the next week will bring... It's already 8 minutes old at the time of writing and I don't know if I care.


I face into the unknown. I should be well familiar with that by now; having not known what I wanted to do in College, not knowing what I wanted to after college and my not knowing eventually leading me to my current location. Still my familiarity with this feeling brings me no comfort right now.

Suggestions welcome...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

France Just Keeps Getting Stranger...

I went to a stationary supply shop and they had no refill pads with horizontal lines, only ones with hundreds of squares... It's like some sort of alternative universe.

Anyway, off to training.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Excellent Rugby Site

Found this excellent Rugby Blog randomly today -

Playing Loaded... A Lesson Here For Everyone!

I love the way Slash says - "Dope and booze were maybe more of a after the show thing, maybe in between shows and during time-off". Doesn't seem like there'd be much time left...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Which Wind Instrument Will Receive the Beatbox Treatment Next?

As far as I can see the source of the beatbox/wind-instrument phenomenom - an obviously very talented and original thinking man in New York...

The beatbox-harmonica doesn't really bring much to this ridiculous genre...

The whole genre comes together and takes on a life of its own with this video though and my favourite beatbox/wind-instrument combination...

Where will this genre go next?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I Need To Build My Own Swimming Pool

Up at 8am on a Sunday! I'm at the pool at 8.30am, thinking no one will be up this early on a Sunday. No. This is France. Looking down into the pool from reception I'd say it would be easier just to walk across all the bodies crammed into the pool rather than swim. I didn't even bother going in, going to hit the gym at 10 when it opens instead. This is the final straw with my local pool!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Good Ship Modern Pentathlon Has Sailed

It seems I may have missed the boat somewhat on my pentathlon dreams (well unfocused aspirations at least) as a friend of mine pointed out that the Irish National Championships were held early than last year on the 1st and 2nd September, last weekend.

Am I despondent? Well no it doesn't really bother me much. In fact it barely registers these days considering the raw tripe that fate has flung at me recently and the results from this years competition certainly give me hope for next year. The full results (available here) reveal that if I had even entered the competition I would have been guaranteed 3rd place in the Men's Senior category. So with my resolve refastened and a whole year now to prepare for the event, I'm determined to actually compete next year.


In other news, the shock defeat of Les Blue last night at the hands of Los Pumas has left the French nation reeling (I presume). I witnessed first hand the quickest clearing of a pub ever as the final whistle blow at le Stade e France signalled the exodus of maybe 200 French patrons from The Frog At Bercy where I'd gone to watch the match.

A great match though, all the same enthralling to watch. It's a great pity that the poor geographical spread of rugby means that the majority of the interesting matches from the poule stage will be coming from Ireland's poule, while the others are mere formalities for the Southern Hemisphere teams.

I'm off to get a pizza in my local halal pizzeria,

Auf Wiedersehen

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Me? Working? Never...

... Or at least I hoped never.

That sad day has arrived though. I've mail-bombed the city of Paris with my CV today and now await my fate.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Scary Thought At Bedtime...

...For anybody who was in on either of these in-jokes and particularly for the small subset which intersect both.

While catching up on my blogging a strange thought entered my head. What if The Pirate and 70's Porn Man were somehow linked? What if one was a sidekick of the other? It's not beyond the realms of possibility, I think you'll agree and it begs the question what diabolical plan will they hatch next.

I'm obviously delirious from jet-lag so I'm off to bed...

The More Things Change...

I touched down at Charles de Gaulle at about 6.30am on Friday. I must have slept more than I realised on the return flight from Thailand, as it certainly didn't feel like twelve hours. All the same I was fairly exhausted and not really in the mood for any of the annoyances that the morning would provide. A long queue through passport control was just the start. Between my fencing equipment and luggage for a two week holiday my baggage had been ridiculously overweight - close enough to 40Kg.

It became apparent to me as I made my way to the RER to head back into Paris that I would be getting into Paris just around peak morning rush hour. As the train trundled its way into Paris it began to slowly fill up. By the time it had reached Gare du Nord it was thoroughly packed. My stuffed fencing bag, I'd perched on the seat opposite me, while my rucksack was on the luggage rack above, its many straps dangling down and nearly hitting passers by. I struggled to get the backpack onto my back as we approached Chatelet - Les Halles (the mouth of hell, as I like to call it). I ended up having to reverse my way out the carriage - hitting anyone in the face with my backpack at the slightest turn left or right.

At Chatelet I have to change RER lines and it was another 10 minute RER journey across to Nation, several minutes of dragging my bags to the metro, a short metro journey and then the walk to my apartment before I collapsed onto my bed, leaving my bags where I had dropped them.

I decided to try and stay up and re-tune myself to the time-zone again as quickly as possible rather than sleeping for the day. Nonetheless, it was about 8pm when I couldn't stay awake any longer and fell asleep.


The next day I decided to head to training with the Paris Gaels GAA, hoping that the fresh air and exercise would clear my head. I've never played Gaelic at any level and I'm not really sure do I have any desire to either. It did certainly, however, provide a kick-start back into training; one I'm sure I'll be paying for over the next couple of days.


Today I've tried to tidy my apartment a bit and finally unpack. I'm still quite tired and feel a bit drained. Fencing training starts back on Tues. Annoyingly enough I think I'll need to get another medical cert to say I'm fit to train. This is an expense I could do without, in fact I could do without any expenses at this stage. The obvious outcome of my jet-set lifestyle has arrived at my doorstep and I am finally broke. I'm hoping this will at least provide me with some real motivation to get up off my ass and find a job.

As for the abissmal state of my blog over the Summer months I really and truly intend to remedy that situation over the next while. I'm going to complete my account of last seasons competition and fill in the blanks of my holidays etc asap. A return to Owen's cookbook may be in order as well at some stage. Anyway, I must get back to whatever it was I wasn't doing...


Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm Not Saying Americans Are Stupid...

... but I may well have met who's bringing down their average.

I was in the Bombardier last night to meet a friend from the Irish college, David, who'd briefly returned to visit Paris for a few days. It's a quiet bar nothing particularly special about it and is generally regarded as the local of the Irish College.

We were sitting minding our own business, about eight of us, three guys and five girls, when a guy passed by on his way to the bar with no shirt on. Slightly bemused to see someone wandering around with no shirt on but even more scared and confused to see this guy seemed to have waxed every hair from his body, he drew some confused glances. Apparently noticing he muttered something in what may have been some sort of poor attempt at an Irish accent. Immediately noticing that he was American we took this as explanation enough. Someone probably said "twat", we all nodded and went back to our drinks and conversations.

A while passed before he passed once again, this time with his shirt and his girlfriend. He stopped at the shoulder of David who was sitting on the outside of the group of tables we were occupying. Right at Dave's shoulder, he grabbed his girlfriend and started sucking face (there's no other way to describe it). Once again we were left confused as to what this twat was playing at but when we were obviously ignoring him he went away.

It wasn't till he finally returned that things became truly odd in the most comical of ways. He passed on his way to the bar and on his return stopped at our table.

"I know y'all don't like me", he began.
"...", confusion reigned on the part of the assembled Irish and Danish masses.
"But I'm a good person y'all and I know you don't like me", he drawled. "My name is Madison", with this he took one of the girls hands went down on one knee and kissed his own wrist.
Isn't Madison a girl's name?
"Ok", replied David eventually the first one to break through the veil of confusion. "We don't really care, now go away."

He didn't take well to David's attempts to tell him to leave and began explaining quite indignantly that he was from "Adlanta, Georguh".

"We're from Ireland," replied Dave, "Europe."

He pointed to his cap which boar the initials GS - "See this, MoFo?"

"Oh yeah the Georgia Seagulls", I had to groan in my head at that reply. Only 10 minutes earlier David had been explaining it was a year since he'd last gotten into a fight.

This idiot was setting himself up for a smart-ass reply with every word he uttered. He was speaking like the illegitimate child of 50-cent and Ashton Cutcher; raised, after he had been abandoned, by the cast of Deliverance in the deep-south. He was the alpha-jock - the stereotypical Southern US hick, Fox-watching flag-waving moron. I was of the opinion that these were the Americans that never got passports but sadly he'd somehow slipped through the net...

Things were getting quite heated as David would say something calmly but perhaps with the merest hint of sarcasm, which Madison, God bless him, would not understand and which he would ask David to repeat to his face while staring into his face from two inches away. Dave would and he still wouldn't understand.

Eventually he departed, seemingly frustrated with the lack of respect he was being shown.

His parting shot at David was, and I hope I'm spelling this right, "You ain't nothing but a punk as bitch. Holla [back] at you, dawg!" This outburst of nonsense was punctuated by a scissors gesture into David's face.

We were not left wondering what form of mental disability Madi was suffering from for long however, as he soon was back with some of his friends - a fellow American and a Australian.

Apparently he had bemoaned to his friends that we were showing him a lack of respect. When he returned however he assured that it was just David that he had a problem with, most likely because of his believe that David was a punk-ass bitch.

A battle of wits soon commenced between David and Madi. Just to give you a flavour of their exchanges...

"Can't you take a joke?"
"Yeah, just not from an Irishman" oooh!

"I didn't think people went to bars any more just to start fights"
"Say that again to my face!"
"I didn't think people went to bars any more just to start fights"

Lookily enough the Australian was a much more agreeable sort, as most Aussies are. We explained to him the situation and he was immediately on our side.

"You should tell your friend to calm down"
"Say that again to my face!"
[Repeats what he just said to his face]

His friend managed to talk to muppet off the ledge. There was a handshake and finally we were left alone to finish our drinks.

Later still, on his way out Madison shook David's hand and hugged him. Never have I seen a group of people so confused by the actions of one moron. Gave the night a talking point though, as well as reinforcing stereotypes...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I'm Not a Swimmer...

Today I managed 50 lengths, no problem. Unfortunately that was Breast-stroke and I'm still struggling with front-crawl although I can feel myself slowly improve.

I'm going to head out to the gym shortly and do some power-work on my legs and then maybe head for a bit of jog around one of the lakes at Bois de Vincennes this evening.

I've been trying to contact the French National team coach this week as well. The French team are having a stage (training camp) next week in the South of France and it would be fantastic for me to get in on that. The French are a notoriously closed camp though and I don't really hold out that much hope of being allowed in.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Major update on its way... I promise!

I'm going to go to the gym and when I come back spend the afternoon finishing all the drafts I've made over the last couple of months but not finished. Well not all of them but most of them. Starting with the Euro-Champs, then the fencing season before that and then Cuba.

It will be done!


Updated the Europeans

Next-up - the rest of the season

Owen the Modern Pentathlete: Week X

My struggles to achieve 200m freestyle in or around olympic record of 2:14ish has hit a series of walls and as such so has my modern pentathlete ambitions. I'll work through this section by section...

Pistol Shooting

I still have never shot a pistol. The closest I've come is half an hour of air rifle shooting easily ten years or more ago.

Show Jumping

While my experience of horse riding has increased exponentially over the last few weeks - we went on a horse treck while in Cuba. The closest I've come to actually show-jumping is asking a few people who've previously done it to explain it to me verbally in under 10 minutes... and for them to burst out into laughter. When they eventually calmed down they explained I would likely kill myself...


Haven't fenced any Epee since about 30 minutes in February.


I'm no middle distance runner. Built for short burst of energy and then long-bouts of sleeping, my 3000m times aren't really times as in something worth recording.


The 200m freestyle probably has been the most frustrating element not only because of own shoddy freestyle abilities but because of my local pool.

Yesterday, for instance the fast lane contained 4 or 5 fat old women. One would alternately lie on her front or back clutching several floats while instead of doing a proper swimming kick she seemed to be cycling underwater. Needless to say she wasn't moving and several other women clutching boards would slowly queue up behind her. Another woman was doing back-crawl without using her legs and was dragging along in the water at a 45o angle. Yet another, was clutching several boards and doing breast stroke while completely vertical in the water - any forward motion she was getting was purely coincidental and may well have been the air-conditioning blowing her along.


All this is firstly caused by the constant and ridiculous layout of the pool. A third of it is un-laned and a leisure area. The rest is divided into three lanes - Breast-Stroke, Front-Crawl and Back-Crawl and yet another Front-Crawl and Back-Crawl lane. What sense does it make to have two lanes which combine two strokes with possibly the biggest difference in speed? There is no indication of which is supposed to be the faster of the two and normally this seems to be decided just by how many terrible swimmers are in one over the other. The Lifeguards, who are numerous, since this is France and the state bears the responsibility of providing as many wasters as possible with pointless jobs, do nothing!

To top all this my own swimming is possibly the biggest source of frustration. Breast-stroke was always my preferred stroke. I can swim a large number of lengths no problem with breast-stroke but the technique of my front-crawl is terrible. Each time I swim a length or two I think of something else I should be focusing on. Of course the minute I do that I forget to do something else. I did enough breast-stroke when I was younger that it is automatic now and I can force myself into good technique when I get tired. On the other hand, front-crawl is still just a huge number of variables which I must try to focus on at once.

Anyway, I shall persist and push on through to the other side...


The final nail in the coffin for my local pool came today. I returned to a cubicle to dry-off from the shower. As I was drying myself, I felt an eerie feeling creep over me. Then I realised what was wrong... Michael Jackson was playing over the intercom. I shuddered, packed up my stuff and left as soon as I could.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Euro Champs, Day Three: Men's Epee and Women's Sabre

My guilt at not getting up at 7am to go watch Benedict will stay with me for the rest of my life. I had intended to get up and run out quick at around 7.45am and head down to catch most of it. I half woke up. Thought I needed an extra 20 minutes sleep, reset my alarm and the next time my eyes were open it was closer to 10.

I'd missed the men's Epee poules when I arrived and Benedict explained how the whole championships had been cruelly torn from his hands by the luck of the gods. In all seriousness though he was unlucky that a beatable Latvian scratched from his poule at the start. He won another match and was agonisingly close to taking another but lost 5-4 and became the third of the Irish team to depart the competition at the poule stage (the entire male contingent).


The afternoon it was Siobhán's turn.

In a poule with a Romanian, Hungarian, Polish and Russian fencers and a Belarussian president, one might have seen the writing on the wall. Particularly as the president laughed with his former soviet comrades on the sidelines. The dagger was truly twisted when after fenceing excellently against the powerful Russian fencer Velekya Siobhán was up 4-3 and with the momentum firmly in her favour she seemed set to take the match and guarantee her place in the next round (having already beaten the Hungarian - Peto). Siobhán went for the attack... Velekya went for a parry Quinte... which had barely cleared her navel when Siobhán's attack landed square in her chest. The most blatant mal-parry I have ever seen but the point went to Velekya. In the lottery of a 4-4 match and with momentum suddenly shifted given this heinous error the match went to the Russian.

There was only one match left after that, against her club-mate Louise Bond-Williams, who she had drawn in international competition for something like the 9th time. Matches against an opponent you know so well and who knows you so well are never easily and in a short poule match anyting could have happened. Siobhán has an excellent record over Louise in their last few meetings but it was to be the Brit who came out on top in a very tense match this time. Bond-Williams took the last qualify place in the rankings and Siobhán was left wondering what could have been... sadly.

She fenced well in a very tough poule and as she said herself, that made it so much harder to take the bitter disappointment of going out so soon.


At three o'clock I had to make my exit from the tournament. I had a flight to catch back to Dublin that evening from Charles De Gaulle, as I was going to be going to Rachel's graduation the following morning.

For the first time in the week the transport desk proved useful and they organised an entire minibus to take me alone, to the train station. I got a train back to Brussels nearly immediately but I was unable to change my ticket to an earlier TGV because of some pricing condition. After an hours wait on the platform I was shuttled quickly and quietly back to Paris.

I dumped my stuff in the apartment, packed my hand-luggae, changed into my suit, as it was the easiest way to the carry it and headed back to the train out to CDG.

A couple of uneventful hours later I was back in Dublin

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Euro Champs, Day Two - Women's Epee and Men's Foil

Benedict was dropping his weapons in to weapons control on the Tuesday morning, as was Siobhán, so I went with them to the hall.

A tremendous amount of hanging around then followed as the weapons were waited on and we waited to support Philip in the afternoon. I filled in the time inspecting the women's epee, in which the Swedish team were surely the highlight.

Although I was not familiar with his opposition, the general vibe I got was that the men's foil was not an easy competition either - shocking.

A week before his 50th birthday philip was really putting it up himself fight with fencers the majority of whom must have been half his age. I don't know how he felt about his performance but he did seem to be quite tense on the piste. In the end the speed of the other fencers was to be his undoing and he failed to register a victory.


Tired from a relatively early start on the day and the ridiculously early start the day before I decided to skip the finals and take a nap in my room. As it turns out I missed probably the most eventful finals but for reasons other than fencing. The weather had been terrible all week and the roof chose to spring a leek just as the finals were being shown on Eurosport delaying the whole thing by about 3/4 of an hour.

Somewhat relieved to have missed a long wait before some finals that I had little interest in, I felt vindicated in my choice of a nap.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Euro Champs, Day One - Men's Sabre

I had my alarm set for 5.15am the next morning, so as to make sure to be up and awake several hours before the tournament. I showered and changed into my tracksuit. I had my equipment packed in my bag from the night before and did one final check I had everything before taking the bag down for breakfast.

I poured myself a bowl of muesli and some fruit for breakfast. the bus was scheduled to leave from the Sofitel for 6.15am for the bus to the venue (the bus schedule had to be re-arranged for this as originally the first bus was leaving at 7am, which would have left little or no time for warming-up). It began to rain as the bus made it's way through the empty streets of the town. In yet another, organisational master-stroke when we reached the venue at around 6.30am the doors weren't even opened yet.

I began my warm-up at around 7am. Unfortunately, I was left with no one to warm up with in advance of my poule. With small complete teams of four from most countries there was no need or will to have me warm-up with them. One of the few other single member teams, an Israeli, ws in my poule so that limited my options even further. I did my best to be fully warmed up before my poule and felt quite comfortable and confident nonetheless going into my poule.

As is the normal for the European Championships a very tough poule lay ahead of me. PRYIEMKA Valery (BLR) #51, SHTURBABIN Oleg (UKR) #62, BAUER Dennis (GER) #22, PODZNYAKOV Stanislav (RUS) #2, MAIMON Yaniv (ISR) #999, MARTI Jaime (ESP) #18. Full results from the poule are available here.

Pryiemka was my first match. I was unfamiliar him going into the match but expected a high tempo. His attacks repeated went into my guard, much to his consternation. Unexpectedly enough my attacks were working in the centre so I pressed my attack at 4-4. He managed to parry about parry my attack and get the reposte.

Shturbabin is a particularly fast Ukranian. My parries were just milliseconds to slow.

I knew what to expect from Bauer - giant attacks finished with epic lunges. That is all well and good in theory but you only really appreciate the speed until you're facing it on the piste. My distance just wasn't quite there for this match, needing to retreat an extra six foot and I was somewhat dissapointed at the fight I put up in this match.

Podz was never going to be an easy prospect, being the greatest living sabreur and current world champion. I'd fenced him last year at the Europeans and I was infinitely more satisfied with my performance this year. I fenced at my best, not at all in awe of the man. I got one great point where he fell short and then flunged at him with a feint head and then wrist. There was a brief look of disbelief through his visor mask - that was enough for me for the mean time. It's unfortunate that my best isn't the best in the world then and his is.

The match against the unseeded Israeli was undoubtedly my worst match. A match I knew I could have and indeed should have won. Nerves prevailed in the end and really I should have done better to close out the match against an inferior opponent.

With absolutely no hope of qualification I was determined still to give Jaime a good match. He's a really nice guy and always has time to say hello at any opportunity. I tried my hardest and certainly worked him up and down the piste but in the end he truly is world-class and that turned out to be a vital difference on the day.


On paper than it was a dissapointing result but throughout I was happy with how I fenced. The important thing for me was the difference in my performance from last year and I was satisfied that throughout it was much better. The only downside was not beating the fencer that I should have and that is something I'm actively working on sorting out mentally myself. All round though I felt a lot more confident and that truly being competitive and beating these fencers is a lot closer a goal than when I set off for Paris in November.

To put the result in context, only one of the British Sabreurs managed to get through to a direct elimination match and the three others were eliminated along with myself. It was not a result that would ever set the world on fire but I felt good about my fencing and how I had performed


The most annoying thing about the whole thing was how early it had been and now just over an hour later on the very first day of the championships I was finished by about 9am. Philip Lee, our foilist competitor, had arrived with his daughter in the mean time and enquired how I got on.

I spent the rest of the day watching matches in the Men's Sabre. It was a very exciting tournament as it happened. The standard was ridiculous and the big names were dropping from the very first DE. Pillet had to fence Tretiyak in the incomplete 64.

In the end Jorgé Pina took gold, beating Yakimenko in the final. Jorgé is a real nice guy, who Marcos knew from his time fencing in Madrid, and who has always been friendly since we were introduced in Istanbul last year. He ended up winning the tournament in Istanbul that weekend being in incredible form and once more at this championships, as he put it himself "I just had a good day, that's all".


I watched the finals with Nuala and Philip. To my shock horror and amazement, the opening ceremony was actually quite good. There was obviously going to be some ponsey dance group interpreting fencing, which was pants but they were followed by an acrobatic troupe of maybe 50 acrobats who put on an amazing display.

Special mention must go to the absolute dire straights that women's foil is in. Far more excruciatingly boring than watching paint dry; these ridiculously skilled and fit athletes put on a display that hardly anyone could bare to watch. Idiotically as well the organisors had put the two women's foil semis on before the men's sabre semis. Both matches went to time - I'm not even sure if any fencers scored over ten in either match. Much of the throng of locals who had crowded in to see the first finals of these championships, left after the first women's foil match and even more followed after the second. The crowd was much depleted by the time the sabre began.

Even more frustratingly I had to bare the women's foil final as well before the sabre final. The men's final made up for it though in a thrilling encounter that saw an on-fire Pina take Yakimenko to pieces. Then it was back to the hotel for some food and a post-competition beer. Benedict arrived that evening and was sharing my hotel room. Men's Epee, his weapon, was to be on Wednesday, starting at the same ungodly hour that my competition had begun. Philip's Foil was on Tuesday midday and Siobhán's sabre would follow men's epee on Wednesday.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Senior European Championships, Day Minus One

On Sunday morning I needed to be registered and accredited for the competition by 10am to confirm my entry into the competition. I met Nuala, the IAFF secretary, and Tom, the IAFF Chairman, in their hotel, Sofitel, which was just round corner from the Novotel, at 9am. Nuala is on the committee of the European Fencing Confederation and both herself and Tom were paid for by the EFC to be there.

We got a Taxi to the venue, the Topsporthal, to make sure we would be there before the registration closed. I dropped my gear into weapons check as soon as possible and started the long wait for it's return. It was a very impressive venue, the likes of which is sorely needed in Ireland. With a versatile indoor athletics venue as well as excellent warm-up and training facilities. A running track ran underneath the entire perimeter of the stands and a sceond large hall (larger than most in Ireland) provdided additional versatile space, in this case used to hold the over-spill of pistes from the main hall.

The weapons would not be ready till after two so we return to the town centre for lunch. We had lunch in a café near the hotel where we were joined by Tom's wife Anne. I'd decided to return to the venue at 3pm on the athlete's bus to collect my gear and do some light warm-ups and footwork before the competition the next day.

My equipment all passed and I went about doing some footwork, blade-work and stretches, needless to say all by myself.

My intention was to return on the 4.30pm bus back to the hotel. Around that time I returned to the reception of the venue but it appeared that there was only a bus coming to the venue at 4.30pm. In fact there was only two buses returning to the hotels all day - one set at 3pm and one set at 8.30pm. This ridiculous and wholly impractical bus timetable was to persist for the rest of the week.

A large group of other competitors had made the same mistake with the timetables and now a large amount of taxis was trying to be organised by one of the volunteers at reception. To annoy people further, the four buses were sitting in the car-park doing nothing. The group waiting for taxis grew irate as the Russians did their usual trick of arriving after everyone else and skipping in the queue. Pretty soon the Eastern Europeans were angry at the taxi drivers, the receptionist was angry at the Eastern Europeans and everyone was pissed-off with the Russians. The receptionist called the organisor of the buses and refused to do anymore.

Eventually the transport organisor arrived and arranged for one of the buses to leave for the town centre. They refused however to drop us at the Novotel however and dropped us instead at the Hotel Ibis 15 minutes walk away.

That evening Siobhán Byrne, our women's sabreur, arrived that before Dinner on a train from Frankfurt. Her coach, Naslimov, was also at the tournament, he declined an invitation to dinner but suggested we mind bring Marina, a American student of his, who was sharing a room with Siobhán. This seemed to be news to Siobhán, although she didn't mind at all as she was a friend of hers, and I have to say that my first impressions of this highly respected coach was that he was somewhat odd to say the least.

We went for Dinner in a restaurant by the canal that was very pleasant. I needed to get up very early for the competition the next morning but the meal dragged on somewhat mainly because of the excruciatingly slow service. We eventually returned to the hotel at around 10.30pm and I went straight to sleep since my weapon was due to start at 7.45am the next morning.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Euro Champs - Back to Paris, Off to Ghent...

My flight arrived into Paris from Havana at around 11.30am on Saturday. I'd slept for the majority of the flight and felt reasonably confident that I wouldn't suffer too much from any effects of jet-lag.

I'd just about enough time to wash some of my clothes from the holiday and grab a bite to eat before I'd have to travel on to Ghent. I met up with Siobhán, who'd been house-sitting my apartment while I was away, and got my keys back from her.

I arrived at Gare De Nord in plently of time for my flight for my train, almost an hour in advance and dozed on the platform while I waited. The trip to Ghent was somewhat uneventful also, I slept most of the way on the short trip to Brussels and managed to get an earlier direct train to Gint St. Pitiers than I had originally planned.

It was around 9pm when I arrived in Ghent. I noticed David Sach, the British referee, was on the same train and shared a taxi with him as we were both staying in the Novotel, just off the central square of Ghent. This also saved me €10 since he had an expense account (thriftiness was to be a theme of my visit).

I was settled in the hotel and ready for sleep by 10pm, quite pleased when the time I'd made and ready for a good nights sleep...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The shoddy amount of blogging of late

I've been travelling quite a bit of late - in the last couple of weeks of been to Poland, Madrid and Ireland and it's left me with little time to sit around updating my blog unfortunately.

My project to bring the blog up to date has meant that March is now up fully up to date but April and may lag far behing and June has only one post so far; this one.

I'm going to try and bring it up to date asap but with a holiday in Cuba looming (drat) and after that the Europeans in Ghent (and double drat), a trip back home for Rachel's Graduation taking me into mid July. I'm not sure when I'm going to get a chance.

I've got at least 14 entries drafted that will update the last couple of months. I've had two weekends off in the last 2 months. Since the beginning of April I've been out of Paris for 36 days and had visitors on an additional 6 days. Between fencing training, going to the gym, swimming and trying to become an modern pentathlete, it's no wonder I haven't had much time to write to this.

This page has been a victim of my own hectic lifestyle over the last while but I'm going to try and get it back on track for the sake of my own records as much as anything. Anyhoo, I'll keep you posted...


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

France Vs. Owen The Modern Pentathlete

...Aaaaaaaggggghhhh! An entire swimming pool worth of bureaucracy!

I'm just back from a swim at the local pool. Despite the cool waters, I feel my blood boil as I reel from yet another attack of a petty French jobsworth.

Determined to get my reduced pass for the pool this time (see my last Pentathlon post) I brought my drivers licence for my age (you have to be less than 26), my Parisian rent allowance card and a bank statement with my address (you have to live in Paris). On this, my third attempt, they finally conceded and gave me the 10 entries pass for €12.50, compared to the normal price of €21.50, so I was in reasonable form as I made my way downstairs to the changing rooms.

Despite my good intentions I hadn't made it to the morning session (7.00 - 8.30 - bizarre timetable here) and I landed smack in the middle of the busy lunch session. Nonetheless I readied myself quickly for the pool, threw my stuff in a locker and got ready to do what I could in the limited space available.

As I was moving down the pool in my resplendant new Jammers (long swimming shorts - here's a shot of me in them to the right) the two life-guards on watch stopped me and started babbling at me in French.

"You can't wear those in here, they're banned."
I looked at them utterly confused, I knew you had to wear tight swimming trunks but I had no idea why these would be a problem.
"You'll have to wear shorter ones. It's alright this but next time you'll have to have proper tiny little man-thong speedos (I may be paraphrasing there). You can't wear cycling shorts in here."
"But these are Speedos and don't use them for cycling because they are swimming trunks. That and I never cycle!"
"Well guys were coming in straight from the gym in there cycling shorts into the pool and we can't be checking the label on everyones shorts."
"So you mean I have to buy new shorts?" What I wanted to say I didn't know all the profanities for and I never could have repeated here.
"Well you can use them for cycling", chimed in David Hasselhoff's assistant.

So that put me in great form for my swim. On a positive note I already felt a massive improvement from last week. Unfortunately 50m at a time was about all I could manage not because I was too tired but because the pool was so ridiculously crowded. Rather than have the pool organised into lanes according to speed, the pool has one third left as a sort of paddling pool for grown-ups then rest divided into three lanes according to stroke. The central and one would presume slow lane for Front-crawl and back-crawl, a lane for breast-stroke and an outside "fast" lane for crawl and back-crawl. This system doesn't work at all.

I stayed for the most part in the outside fast lane which had about 10 swimmers of completely different speeds on a small 25m pool. It was an absolute disaster. The main cause of the problems was this fricking whale who was swimming at a rate of less than a length to every two of mine and somehow managed to sprawl herself across the entire fricking lane with the most hideous stroke I've ever seen. Then there was other old dears swimming slow breast stroke in the lane and yet others doing hideous back-crawl. Then the was one muppet doing only his arms on front-crawl - in the bloody fast lane!

It's so irritating but I think I need to find a new pool or a new time. I have no intention of buying new trunks because of those dickheads and I have no intention of having to go that slowly again. The problem is this pool is just so convienient for me and all the others would involve a metro journey.

I'm going to try and get to the pool for the early session once this week and see how that goes...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Owen the Modern Pentathlete - Week 1

And so I set out on my first dithering steps towards competing in a Modern Pentathlon. I decided to hit the swimming pool hard and took to the challenge like a Salmon to the 3000m... this pentathlon business was confusing.

Thursday afternoon, once some initial research had been performed and the idea had crystalised in the part of my brain reserved for ludacris ideas I made my way to the local swimming pool to see what my level was like.

As I've previously stated, I've never swam competitively and the last time I've swam on any regular basis would have been 6th class of primary school. I wasn't going to let that beat me though and I set off like a man fighting a battle against a reasonably large body of water. Two lengths (i.e. 50 metres) later, I stopped in the shallow end once again thoroughly exhausted. Crap - I'd need to slow down... significantly.

So my first hour in the pool carried on like this swimming for as long as I could and working on different variables of my front crawl - breathing, arms, pace of my legs. I found myself barely able to do 50 metres and struggling to do 75. I spent some time practicing my turns as well and was quite pleased that I could at least do them at all.

Friday I returned to the pool and to change things tried some breast stroke to warm-up. Breast Stroke had always been my preferred stroke and I found myself quite able to do 200m. Pacing myself in Front-Crawl was still causing me problems however and while I would start with a decent stroke and at a reasonable pace as I began to tire I found myself floundering and losing all semblance of a decent stroke.


A Brief Aside - Bureaucracy on the Water, Fire in the Skies...

The pool has very irregular opening hours and only two days in the week share the same opening hours, Thursday and Friday. The pool doesn't open Monday and then opens for a morning session, a lunch session and maybe a afternoon session on the other days but at slightly different times. While checking these opening times I read the tariffs for entry and noticed there was a reduction for under 26s. So I made up my mind to ask for this reduction.

When I asked at the desk before entering the pool the woman rattled something to me in French about certain piece of identity needed. Not recognising what she was talking about I payed the full fare and decided to bring a few different IDs the next day. On Friday I rechecked the website which had the conditions of entry on it and brought my drivers licence to show I was under 26.

This time when I asked for the reduced ticket she said "<I don't speak English>" even though I was speaking French so I repeated myself and showed her the licence. She wouldn't accept it - apparently you also have to have an ID which shows you are a resident of Paris. Hopefully it will be third time lucky when I try next week.


Modern Pentathlon?

The most beautiful athletes of them all are the pentathletes - Aristotle

From a brief survey of Mordern Pentathlon websites this is the most commonly used quote to advertise their sport. That Aristotle was talking about an entirely different type of pentathlon (which no doubt involved naked Greek men rubbing oil in each other before running after 5 young boys) seems of no consequence to them. This quote then is the equivalent of fencing's "physical chess" analogy which does nothing for the sport only conjuring images of uncoordinated nerds jabbing at each other on a black and white checkered floor (It may be true but it's not the image we want to portray).

The true origins of the sport lie with Napoleon and his imagining of the perfect modern soldier who could shoot, fence, swim, ride, and run. Origins, which I would focus on ahead of the being called beautiful by some fruity greek philosopher if I was in charge of their marketing but that is a rant for another post.

All this aside, it's been on my mind for some time, since I heard about the Irish Modern Pentathlon Championships last October to be precise, to enter a Modern Pentathlon. For those who don't know what I'm talking about here's the Olympic Committee's quick overview of the sport:

"Shooting comes first. The pentathletes have 40 seconds to fire 20 shots from an air pistol at a 17cm-square target from 10 metres. Fencing follows, with a round-robin competition between each participant. Swimming is third, a freestyle race over 200 metres, with athletes seeded in heats according to their personal best times. Once they have dried off, the pentathletes head to the show jumping ring, where they have 20 minutes to get to know the horse before riding. The final event is the 3000m run, with the pentathletes set off at intervals corresponding to their points so the first person across the line wins the gold medal."

Shooting - 20 bullets, 40 seconds, 10 metre
Fencing - Epee, One-hit matches against everyone
Swimming - 200m freestyle
Show-Jumping - 350m course with 12 obstacles.
Running - 3000m, released at intervals according to performance in other events, first across the line wins.

This isn't some stark revelation that I've realised that Men's Sabre isn't for me. What this is really is a solid target which I hope will help me a achieve a higher level of fitness. Between now and October I'd hope to bring my fitness up to a level where I could be very competive in the Irish Modern Pentathlon Championships.

I've been trying to figure out the level required to win the event (what's the point in aiming for anything less?)

Shooting - 180+ points would gain first place at the highest level international Pentathlon. I've never done any pistol shooting but how hard can it be? Shooting between heart beats my arse! Standing in flat-shoes, with one hand in your pocket and your arm out straight, it doesn't sound that taxing.

Fencing - An elementary knowledge of Epee should give me an edge over most Irish Pentathletes. That being said epee is not my weapon and a one hit match is basically a lottery. Might train a bit of epee the week before in that case.

Swimming - 1:46 is the Irish record for 200m freestyle. I've never swam competitively, unless you count primary school galas (I sure my Granny still has those medals around somewhere). Breast-stroke was always my favoured stroke then and in the swimming I've done since for leisure would have remained so. I probably have never swam 200m consecutively in my life.

Show-Jumping - Absolutely no idea what is required but who has any respect for Irish show-jumping these days anyway. I'm sure the horse will know what to do anyway and just in case I'll stuff the poor thing full of anti-depressants.

3000m - The Irish record set by a dedicated athlete over that distance is 7:30. At our best when myself and Julian were running that just over that distance around the fields of UCD we were managing 11:30 and that was killing us. I've never been a runner, never seen the need to run and have never one a foot race in my life. I'm about a stone lighter than last summer at this stage but I still don't really have the build of a middle distance runner. Getting down past the 10 minute mark will be a big challenge.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Kremlin Bisset... And the Monsoon Season

I'm writing this so many months on, in November/December, but I wanted to go back and make sure I had a complete account of things.

Kremlin Bisset perhaps marked a peak in my form last year. I was settling in well in the club and my fencing was improving. The competition took place in Kremlin Bisset just South of Paris centre. I had a decent run in the poules, which I was pleased with and secured a relatively easy first round opponent who I dispatched without too much hassle in the 128. I had a difficult last 64 against a decent fencer, the brother of one of my team-mates.

After staying within touch during the first half of the match I failed to change my game in the second half when he did and lost out as a result. While my final ranking of #40 wasn't great, I was quite pleased with my performance on the day and considered the tournament somewhat of a turning point in becoming more familiar with the French set up.


After the tournament, I went for a bite to eat with Mo, one of the Scimitar fencers over from London. We'd dropped bags bag in my place before going for a bite to eat. On the way back to get the bags so he could leave for his flight in Charles de Gaulle the sky opened. I haven't seen rain like it since, even during the flood in Thailand. We pegged it back to my place for some shelter.

Reluctant to go out in the downpour, I was confident that if he left with around two hours before his flight he'd still make it without too much hassle. The rain didn't ease up but eventually it was time to go anyway. So, he set off to the RER station at Nation.

It wasn't till half an hour later that I got a call from him from the RER. The rain was so heavy that it had actually delayed the train and they were stuck at St. Denis. There was nothing much I could do except check various timetables or alternative travel arrangements. He seemed destined to miss the flight... and did.

So no miraculous escape this time, which would have made a better blog-entry perhaps. Ah well...

Change France but keep the lunches

Nice article written in a very personalable way about the dilemma facing france in the upcoming election.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Colours... Finally

I was up at a thoroughly ungodly hour to get back for the colours. I left my apartment at 6am in the morning to get my flight from CdeG.

In the end I suppose it was a bit of an anti-climax. The standard drubbing was handed down by the UCD squad to Trinity. The final scores were

MS - 5 : 0 - UCD
WS - 5 : 4 - UCD
ME - 5 : 3 - UCD
WE - 5 : 2 - UCD
MF - 4 : 5 - TCD
WF - 5 : 0 - UCD

UCD ran out 5-1 winners on weapons - fairly convincing, I think you'd agree. UCD could have probably managed to dispatch their men's sabre team which included two foilists without me but I was glad to be there for the club for my last colours and one which marked the 10th victory in a row for UCD. It gave me another chance to travel home and visit as well albeit very briefly.

I took charge of the reffing of the women's sabre match again, this time passed off without any outside interference. The Decade of Dominance was complete but what pleased me more than anything was the thought that 70's Porn Man was watching it all on his monitors in his underground layer and when that final hit landed he swivelled in his high-backed chair and clenching his fist, released a gutteral roar "Curse you UCD!"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Apologies for the lack of updates...

Sorry about the lack of updates of late. Between my trip to Algeria, my trip home for the five nations, the rescheduling of the Colours, my graduation etc. etc. it's not like there hasn't been anything to write on but somehow I haven't got round to sitting down and writing about it.

I intend to get updates for the last 3 or 4 weeks up over the next couple of days.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Weekend In Cardiff - Ugh!

I returned to Paris on Wednesday the 18th of April as planned and passed the week as normal until it was time to travel again. This weekend it was to be... ugh... the Student Five Nations... ugh... in Cardiff... ugh. This had originally been pencilled in as a rest weekend for me but I was somehow convinced by someone to head over to Cardiff... ugh.

Direct flights to Cardiff were ridiculously were ridiculously expensive. I eventually settled on taking a cheap flight to London Heathrow and then a National Express bus to Cardiff (it was to be approximately 5/6 hours). All this trekking to get to the chavton that is Cardiff but whatever.

The hostel we were staying in was just across the river from the Millenium Stadium. It was somewhat of a dive and after such a long and trying journey to get there I have to admit I was in no form to stay there. The pillow cases were attached to the bed sheet and the mattresses were wrapped in thick plastic. Positioned at the cross-roads of a busy chav estate the soundtrack of the evening was provide by scumbags in their modified Honda Civics parked seemingly right under the window. I barely slept at all.

The fencing the next day was fairly brief but enjoyable. Northern Ireland had failed to get a team together so there were only three matches. I fenced reasonably well in all of them I felt and was fairly happy with how they went. We didn't win any matches but my personal performance was good, so screw the team!


That night we started off in a fancy (the fancy) Cardiff bar - Tiger Tiger. A bit of self-service buffet grub went some way towards making up for the ridiculous price of beer... but not quite. I was absolutely exhausted from not getting any sleep the night before and was fading fast after the few beers and some food. I headed back to the hostel fairly early to try and get some sleep.


Mercifully my bus the next day wasn't until the afternoon and my flight the evening. So I was able to hang around a bit and relax in the morning before the journey back. I'd plenty of time to get something to eat and hang about with the team.

I'd be back to Dublin soon enough anyway, the Tuesday of that week for the colours.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Changing the colours...

It was sometime during that week that it was announced by the Trinity captain that he was not accepting that the colours were going to be held on the 17th April as had to everyone else's knowledge been discussed and agreed. Now because some of his key fencers were missing he claimed that there was not enough warning even though the date had been discussed back as far as the beginning of March. Rather than just approaching this in a straightforward manner which may well have more easily garnered a more reasonable response, said captain went all subterfuge cc-ing sports department officials etc. in a way that could only lead to aggravation between the two sides.

Anyway, all this was particular pain in the ass to me as it would involve the expense of another flight back to Dublin. The final date agreed upon was the 24th of April, the weekend after the colours. No matter what the expense was going to be now, I knew that I'd have to be there to ensure they got a serious thumping.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Extending My Break in Dublin

I was due to fly back early on Monday morning after the Five Nations. As it happens I was to be back the following Tuesday for the Colours match against Trinity. I decided then since March had been a very busy month for competitions and I hadn't seen Rachel or my family much, that I'd run the two flights together and stay the week in between and return to Paris using the return flight on Wednesday.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Five Nations - Evening Meal

I have to say that the evening meal for the 5 Nations was a great success. It was held in the 1838 club in DCU.

I'd left the competition just before the end (missing the team photo, unfortunately) so that I could get home and get a change of clothes. My plan was to drive to the meal anyway so that I could drive back home for my brothers 21st which was happening in my house that evening.

When myself and Rachel arrived back out to DCU the drinks reception was already under way. After a spot of mingling we were lead upstairs to the tables. The setting was excellent, as was the food. I ended up having a vegetarian course bizarrely enough it looked so good.

It was a shame when it came to the presentation that the PA system wasn't quite up to dealing with the British teams who were already quite well oiled for their night in "Tempul Baa".

At around 11ish buses had been arranged to take the teams into town. I took this opportunity to leave and head back to my brother's party. I gave Siobhán a lift back to her hotel nearby as she was absolutely knackered and jet-lagged and then headed with Rachel back to my brother's.

We got there with plenty of cocktail sausages and cake still available. I managed to squeeze in a few cocktail sausages despite not being at all hungry.

It was a fairly packed night and a weekend in general but a very enjoyable one.

The Five Nations - Men's Sabre Team & Other Happenings

I got a lift from my dad out to DCU early on a Saturday morning. This is the biggest day of the Irish Fencing calendar and for some it would be the highest level they would compete. As an event it's something I've questioned it's roll in the progression of Irish fencing but it was never something I was going to give less than 100% for.

It was great for me to see my sabre team - Stephen, Hugh and Dan. We'd all started around the same time and all good friends at this stage, so there was a fantastic atmosphere on the team. Everyone knew they had a part to play and was determined to give their all. I had a suspicion it wasn't going to be easy and at best we would scrape a win on the back of an excellent performance with everything going right but we'd see...

When I walked into the sports hall it seemed to be trapped in twilight with none of the main lights on. This would delay the start of precedings and on top of that our first match wasn't till the second or third round so I probably could have afforded to stay out later with my class or sleep in the next morning.


Here's the bit on the actual performance of the Men's Sabre team...

Our first match was against England. Stephen tore out of the blocks against Chris Farren and picked up a good result against the whiley Jaffa who'd been around the top of the rankings longer than any of his team-mates. I was up next against Alex O'Connell but I was off to a much slower start. If my attacks fell short I needed to be immediately in his face so he couldn't build up his momentum. His bread and butter is a long marching attack. Unfortunately I didn't do this and he was able to claw the score back in England favour. From that point onwards England pulled away. While we all put in good performances against without-a-doubt the strongest team in the tournament the final result was never really in question.

The second match was against Northern Ireland. They'd managed to bring a team of 5 or 6, I think just for the sake of going on the piss but they were all decent fencers. I managed a win in my first match against Nicholls. Hugh Tobin, according to the RTE report however, "Couldn't keep up the pace" and lost us the match. Which provided us with the greatest joke ever but it was only that Hugh and Dan both fenced excellently for the match. Their group of fencers were just slightly stronger than our own and they ran out winners. I had the last laugh however with my shout of "Three cheers for Norn Iron" - taped for posterity on RTE cameras.

In our third match we faced Scottland. Aside from Harry Moncrieff they lacked outstanding international quality but were all solid and/or awkward fencers. Stephen again put in a strong performance on his 5 Nations Debut. He was really psyched-up on the day, screaming at every point from the very beginning, even just getting warmed up, even just travelling there on the bus. We kept it reasonably close in the match but Scotland were always just a tiny bit ahead. In the final match I had to catch up 15 points to the 5 Harry need to end the match. I was pretty please with my fencing in the match but couldn't managed more than 5-5 in the bout. Three cheers for Scotland and all that crap.

In our final match we were to face Wales. We'd been fencing strongly all day and I knew this was our best chance of a win. Unfortunately, in the end, the key factor was to be the terrible refereeing. We kept the match very tight and the lead pendulumed back and forward between the teams by a matter of 2 or 3 points throughout. As the match went on however, the calls of the referee got more and more eratic. His seperation of points in the centre of the piste made no sense and were completely inconsistant. Sometimes they seemed to be based on who cheered louder. Other times I could not see where the calls were coming from. At one point when one of the other fencers was fencing, on a point I was certain wasn't ours I cheered for it as loudly as possible - and the point went our way; ridiculous! The Welsh team were far more familiar with his absurd calls and played him better than ourselves. Bemused I would glance across at Juppy on the Welsh side after a terrible decision and we would both shrugg our shoulders and laugh.

Myself and Dan in particular both were frustrated repeated by his downright shoddy presiding. I left the piste shouting "Quelle Cont" except in English at one stage. Philip the team captain suggested that I should apologise to the ref for my language but when I did he didn't know what I was talking about (deaf in one ear). He'd actually been annoyed by something Dan said under his breath on the piste. So now he thought two of us were swearing at him rather than one. Last time I follow someone elses advice during a match like that.

As the final bout approach Wales had managed to build a three point lead. Against Alistar Juppy, their strongest fencer, I knew I'd have to be well psyched up. I knew I needed myself in a slightly aggitated state to get the adrenaline flowing. Unfortunately though, aided by some poor refereeing decisions I couldn't claw back the difference and Wales won out.

As I left the piste thoroughly pissed off with the ref. Another team captain came to me and said "That was your fault, you lost your cool!" I was stunned, if I hadn't been so stunned my first reaction would have been to take a swing at them! I managed to answer reasonably calmly "No, I needed to have myself worked up to get back the difference... I was in control and I was intentionally putting myself there." That was definitely the low-light of the day, wanted to knock-out another captain!

I was really proud of the team and really happy with how they fenced. Stephen, as Dan had done the year before, on his five-nations debut, free from expectations, had fenced brilliantly. Dan himself also put in a very solid performance after a season that had been wracked with injury. Hugh when called upon put in some really top performances and was a massive adition to the team.

Myself, on reflextion, was reasonably pleased with how I fenced. Last year, I wasn't happy with how I handled the stress of having to anchor the team on what was my own debut in the competition. This year, I felt I put in some good performances and was pleased that I never let my team down. I also tried to take on a definite leader roll in the team as captain and tried my best to coach my fencers between and during matches.

I think, more than anything we realised on the team that there was definite potential the team as a unit to improve and work together over the next year. In the weeks that followed we were fairly boyant about the potential for the team to improve its results and hope to work together over the next year in going to competitions and training to improve our results for the next year.


There was a lot of other things going on around the tournament as well. Kerry Hardie the author who I met in the Centre Culturel Irlandais came down to say hello and to watch the fencing. Her book is well underway at this stage.

As well as this OB Sports were filming an extract for their programme. They focused on the Women's Sabre with Siobhán and the Men's Sabre team, I suppose because I'm training full-time abroad. They filmed quite a lot of the Men's Sabre matches, getting right into my face as I was preparing to go on the piste. I tried to ignore it as best I could. They also did an interview with me, during which I went on a 20 minute tirade about what a bastard Hugh was (that is a joke), but they didn't show that.

The piece can be viewed on the RTE website here

Friday, March 30, 2007

I Graduated... Again

For second time in a little under two years I had an oppurtunity for a day out where I dressed up like a ponse and parade about with a bit of paper. It was great to see all the gang from the masters class again. We hadn't been all together in the one place since the last nights of college and much of the day was taken up with polite questioning of "what are you up to now?" and then a series of recipricating and appreciative noises as one would explain ones current situation. I think my own explanation of being an international fencing bumb had to rank on the higher end of the scale of things.

Aside from those forced niceties it was great to share some time again with these people I had wasted a year with. Old private jokes soon resurfaced and soon it was as if we had never left those uncomfortable chairs in Smurfit.

The ceremony itself was the usual drab, formality. Nothing of note came to pass save for all my row and the next not receiving blank pieces of paper when they went to receive their masters degree.

When we had finished the ceremony in the O'Reily hall in UCD we went down to the Smurfit School for a reception. With Dinner still a few hours away, I tucked into the garlic bread to tide me over while I talked with lecturers and friends from the class.


I was going for a meal with my family and Rachel in Dali's (Here's a link) in Blackrock at around 7pm. We had an hour or two to relax at home and then I set off to pick up Rachel, who'd been on placement during the day, while the rest of the family headed on to Blackrock.

The food was absolutely fantastic and I'd heartedly recommend it. The ambiance , decor and service were all top-notch and it was a lovely meal.


When the meal was over myself and Rachel headed into town. With the Five Nations the next morning and captaining the sabre team, I knew I shouldn't really drink that evening or get home too late. I took the car into town so that I'd have a perfect excuse not to drink and a way of getting home easily.

Not being plastered didn't really have any effect of my enjoyment of the evening and it was great to catch up with my friends. Sadly though, tired already from the long day I had to leave relatively early and took off around midnight as I knew I'd have to get up early to be out in DCU by 9 the next morning.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Back Training On Home Soil... Ugh

Wednesday and Thursday evening I went to train in Salle Dublin and UCD respectively. If I am to be brutally honest, I was somewhat reminded of why I have to leave. The sole sabreur in Salle Dublin on Wednesday was Stephen. I don't know how he doesn't go mental. Not only is he surrounded by Trinity folk in the club (that may be a joke) but it seems he's nearly always the only sabreur there.

I gave him a few matches on both days and he was absolutely shattered (by his own admission) after a few bouts because no one around was really pushing him that hard.

I'm not belittling anyones efforts or anybodies club but something really needs to be done if we are ever to bring the level of fencing up to a decent standard in Ireland. While it was a great ego boost to temporarily be top-dog again it was not one which I particularly sought or appreciated.


Nonetheless though it was great to see everybody again in UCD. Although my time in the club may be dwindling if not already past, I've made some great friends there. The great positive atmosphere within UCD Fencing is one of the keys to the college staying on top for so long now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Busy Couple of Days Back Home...

I arrived back in Dublin on Wednesday the 28th of March for what was to be a busy couple of days. Wednesday itself was my brothers 21st birthday, Thursday I was going to go training and had a fair few jobs to do, Friday was my masters graduation, Saturday was the Five Nations in DCU and my brothers birthday party, Sunday I was going to need to sleep a bit and Monday I was supposed to be leaving on a ridiculously early flight.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Leaving Behind Algers... As Quickly As Possible...

... And under Police Escort of course.

Leaving Algeria proved just a difficult as gaining entry. On Monday morning, I piled onto the bus with the French team and after the summary wait for the police escort we left for the airport.

As we approached the airport there was a checkpoint. A soldier or police officer, they seem to be much of a muchness there, checked under the cars in front of us with a tool that looked very much like a giant version of the mirror that dentists use for checking out-of-reach spots of the mouth. I can only presume he was looking underneath the cars for explosive devices.

When we got out of the bus and approached the door we had to go through our second check-point, which was a metal detector and x-raying of our bags. With 20-odd fencing bags in one group to go through this slowed us down significantly.

Upon arrival at the queue (yes, just the queue) for Air France our tickets were checked and we were handed departure cards. On these cards we had to fill in all the same information as the arrival cards and in the forms for our visas. We entered the queue for one of the few flights out of dodge that day. Once we had our tickets, which were hand-written (in this freshly Japanese built and designed hundred million dollar airport) and had our bags checked in, we had to go another desk in order to get those tickets stamped and validated.

Once that was done we made our way upstairs to the departure gates. Firstly we had to wait in-line for half-an-hour as, our visas were, exit cards and validated tickets were checked. Some of the French team had not realised they needed there tickets validated and so had to go back to the end of the line. The usual rigmarole of a lot of staring at the documents, then at the person, then back at the documents was followed for several moments before the endless series of stamping began for each person.

Eventually when that was done we went through the usual secutiry check which included a madatory frisking. I was able to bypass the next security desk which was just customs and made my way to the departure lounge for the short wait before we would be board.

When called to the departure gate we were loaded onto a bus for transportation to the plane. While it had been pleasently warm the whole time we had been there, this day was by far the hottest day. With the bus completely full and not many chairs on board... we sat there... and waited and waited. Half an hour to three quarters of an hour after getting on the bus we set off for the plane. After about a ten minute drive to what must have been the furthest runway away (were we still in the same airport) we arrived at the plane.

At this point our progress was once again halted... and we waited... and waited... Another half-hour must have passed. A Police 4X4 arrived, with a sniffer dog. At this stage the large luggage drums were all lined up in front of the bus. All of the drums were emptied and the luggage placed out on the tarmac. The dog was brought along all the rows of baggage. Eventually when that check was completed, the doors of the bus were finally opened. Our tickets and passport were checked and we were asked to put our luggage back into the drums.

As we finally approached the plane another of the same type of large buses was lined up in front of the stairs. Our tickets and passports were checked as we entered the bus again. The our carry on luggage was searched by police inside the bus as we moved through it before one final frisk and ticket and passport check before boarding the plane. I presented my boarding pass to the steward and finally took my seat.

Just as one final reminder of the mental nature of the country it is a apparently Algerian law that a Bug bomb be set off in the plane before take off. The steward set off the aerosol and then paraded up and down the cabin covering us all in lovely bug killing carcenogenic goodness... Bizarre!

That really some up the whole trip really...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

All Kitted Up But No Where to Go in Algeria

With no fencing for me on the second day (again), I return to the venue to watch what turned out to be an eventful days fencing. Algeria marked the return to fencing, after a three month absence through injury, of Olympic champion Aldo Montano (he's standing six foot away from me as I write this in the bleachers at Warsaw). His return was certainly dramatic, if not necessarily for the right reasons...

He was going strong after the poules, I had picked him out to win the tournament in a pool with the Brits. In the last 16 he faced Nicolas Limbach in a match some thought could produce the eventual winner. He seemed pretty relaxed going into the match, having a smoke before he warmed-up. In fact he seemed pretty relaxed all day, walking on his hands, posing for photos with his adoring Algerian public.

When it was time to fence though, he was all business. Limbach had the edge for most of the match, which was fenced at a ferocious speed and intensity. With Limbach in the lead entering the final stages Montano launched a comeback. With the score at 14-all Montano caught a parry and launched himself at his opponent - one light. He had just about enough energy to salute his opponent before collapsing on the piste, coughing up his lungs. My money really didn't seem very secure.

His next match was to be against the Pole, Gorski, who had been in top form all day, in the quarter-final. The match again was fenced at a tremendous intensity but the real drama was yet to unfold. Gorski was leading throughout the match by three or four points but Montana once again launched a dramatic comeback and the momentum had definitely swung in his favour.

With the score at 14-13 to Gorski, Aldo made him fall short and launched a counter-attack. The French referee somehow saw a preparation in the attack and awarded the point to Gorski. To say that Montano "lost it" at that point doesn't do justice to the lunacy that followed. He had already returned te his line in anticipation of the final point. When the ref had awarded the point, he flung his mask down in front of him and charged up to the ref, screaming in his face "No, No, No!" The ref was obviously reaching for his black card at this stage but was restrained by another French ref. Montano stormed back to the piste throwing his weapon into the surrounds of the piste.

He'd just about returned to the piste when suddenly he turned and bolted for the president. Several members of the Italian team immediately restrained him and he wrestled against them to try and get to the referee. The ref, taken aback and obviously slightly shaken had not option at this stage but to give him a black card.

Eventually the Italian team seemed to have calmed him down somewhat. They lead him away over to the other side of the venue. He threw his jacket and lamé to the side and walked away.

Out of nowhere, he turned and once again charged for the referee from the other side side of the arena, maybe 30 metres away. I've never scene someone moves so fast. As quickly as his sprint began, however, it was brought to an abrupt end when the stocky Italian team physio intercepted his march and rugby tackled him to the ground. Immediately, he was joined by the rest of the Italian team who piled on top of him to restrain him while he reeled on the floor.

Finally, the excitement was over. A couple of minutes later I passed the French referee outside, his hands visibly shaking as he drew his cigarette to his mouth. No one could believe what they had just witnessed. Events were to take an even more strange twist however...

Shortly afterwards as I sat near the French team, they were approached by the head of the Italian delegation. He said that Aldo wanted to apologise. I joked with the French guys around me, that it was a trap and that he shouldn't go. Nonetheless though he met with Montano, who duly apologised. The most miraculous thing of all though was that the black card was taken back... it really helps to be Olympic champion sometimes, I suppose.


After that, the rest of the tournament paled into insignificance. Of most note, was the performance of Tim Morehouse, of the US team, who went all the way to the final against Pillet. He ended up losing by the narrowest of margins 14-15 after Pillet produced a one-light counter-attack on the final point. The result meant that the US team had a member in the finals for the previous 6 tournaments. They're truly now a force to be reckoned with on the international tour.

Oh yeah, that and Réné Roche, the president of the FIE, turned up for a bit to watch the finals. I think I passed him in the restaurant later as well. Pretty unimpressive really.


That evening back at the hotel I ate with the French team and packed my gear in preparation for an early departure on Monday.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Algerian Poules

After a reasonable nights sleep, even with the coffee table beds, I got up refreshed after eight hours and made my way to breakfast. I had a reasonably light breakfast of cereals and fruit and still had an hour or two before we left for the venue. I headed back to my room to relax and prepare my equipment.

When the time came to leave I got on the bus with the French team. We waited on the bus for the best part of half an hour for whatever reason I don't know. I guessed that we were perhaps waiting for a police escort which never arrived as this was the one trip we took without and armed escort. Ingeniously enough this was also the one trip we took with a driver that had no idea where he was going. This gave us ample oppurtunity to see the Algerian countryside from the motorway. Every junction we passed without fail had several policemen with Kalashnikovs doing absolutely nothing apparently.

We drove and drove. None of us had any idea where the venue was but we were begining to get quite frustrated given the entry forms claims that it was 5 minutes from the hotel. After 45 minutes we reached the back gate of what was we hoped the venue. The driver drove through a make-shift shickane and up to the security gate. A heated exchange followed where the driver, I presume was telling him that this was a team for the competition and the security guard was telling him he'd have to use another gate and beckoning in a large oval indicating where the gate was to this large complex.

In the end the security guard would not give in and the bus began to slowly reverse out through the shickanes to rapturous applause from the French team. It was now only 5 minutes before the scratch. Just as we had negotiated our way backwards through the shickane another car drove up, presumably someone from the organising comittee. He berratted the security guard and beckoned to the driver to come through the gate. A series of varying salutes were given to the security guard as we eventually passed.


There we were the entire French and Irish teams should have been disqualified from the competition because of the incompatence of our hosts, for arriving after the scratch. Standing at the entrance of the venue it was possible to see our hotel.

The venue itself was a bizarre circular arena, shaped somewhat like a giant short white mushroom on the outside. Inside seating sourounded a large circular floor. Where eight pistes were set up (four of which were to be used for the competition). Despite there being plenty of room on the competition floor that was only open to competitors it was insisted that we leave our bags in the bleechers that were completely open to the public. Many school kids had been brought in for the day for the event and it was hard not to feel that this was not the best place for our bags.

As it happened I was to be in the second batch of poules and so our late arrival didn't make that much difference. I headed to weapons check straight away nonetheless, where the great inefficiencies of Algerian society were further displayed to me. I waited in line with Alex Rouseau and Nourdin Marouf from the French team. We had arrived at the weapons check behind the large Italian contingent. Aldo Montano, the Olympic champion, was before us in the queue. His hair gelled back, his armani jeans almost around his knees barely held up by his sparkly D&G belt. This was his comeback tournament after 3 months of injury. Right at the minute he was changing the visor in his mask.

The Algerian, the one singular Algerian, who was running weapons check was in no hurry with dealing with the Italians. He laughed and joked with Aldo, saying something about knowing his father. After each, piece of equipment was given a cursory glance, his cigarette hanging precariously from the side of his mouth as he squinted at Lamés or masks. Several of the Italians body-wires actually failed but after a series of "EH!" and some convicing shrugging of shoulders they were given there weapons mark.

Eventually my gear was inspected and past, one of my body wires checked and tagged twice and I went about warming up for the competition.


I should have seen the warning signs. My poule was completely mixed up. While the other poules all had a smattering of African fencers two or three in all of them, mine had only one Senegalese and no Algerian. Instead we had a Algerian referee (i.e. a crap one!)

ROSE Julien (GBR), MAROUF Nourdin (FRA), AIBOUCHEV Dmitri (RUS), ANNIBALDI Daniele (ITA) and OUEDRAOGO Julien (BUR) made up my poule. By no means an easy one particularly when compared to some of the others in the tournament.

Rose was my first match. He's a very decent fencer and highly ranked in Britain. The match went to 4-4 all. At this point rather than attacking I drop back and made him fall short. My final attack was just milliseconds to slow though and he was able to get me with a counter attack. That was a match I could have one and I knew I'd be hard pressed among the other fencers to find one that I could beat.

The ref was refusing to call the next match up and expected everyone to constantly look at the poule sheet for the next match. After getting a wrap on the knuckle I'd taken my glove off to have a look. I was surprised then to hear my name being called to the piste. When I arrived on the piste without my glove the ref summarily gave me a yellow, despite the protests that this wasn't necessary from my opponent Nourdin. While this is in the rules it is very rarely enforced and I was somewhat taken aback by the pettiness of this ref who then went on to make a balls of every second call in the whole pool.

My match against Marouf was very different to my first. Marouf is quite a short but lightning fast fencer, who's very entertaining to watch. On the other end of the piste however, I hesitated to much in my attacks and let his speed dictate the match from the start. It was a somewhat dissappointing bout and over too quickly.

Aibouchev the Russian had been frustrated by some absolutely awful refereeing decisions from the terrible referee which had handed the Burkino Fassoan an unlikely victory. By the time he reached me though he was in full flight and against my stumbling form tore me to pieces.

Annibaldi the lanky Italian was always going to be a difficult prospect and with my chances of going through beocoming slimmer by the second my spirit was whaning. Faulty electrics which I was almost certain was the cause of dodgy Italian body-wires that were allowed to pass by the dodgy Algerian doing the weapons check were the cause of us eventually moving piste. Where the faults continued but the result was never really in question.

Ouedrago - a consolation match against the bunny in the poule is not a very pleasing place to find yourself but nonetheless I tore into him and proved that I could fence to anyone watching and salvaged some dignity. My single victory of the tournament.


One victory is rarely going to be enough to secure passage to day two of a world cup and this was to be no exception. For the second week in a row I was to miss out on indicators with some one win fencers going through. I think I was the first or second elimination again.

I was thuroughly depressed after the poules and for the rest of the day really. Lunch didn't particularly help, when I found that the 3 day old greasy chicken was raw in the inside and the potatoe was all but entirely butter. I drank the juice and ate the bannana, the rest wasn't fit for much except the bin.

The novelty of the women's sabre WC poules did not entice me to stay at the venue for the afternoon and I soon left for the hotel after the lunch.


Drowning myself in the swimming pool crossed my mind but when I arrived in the pool in my hotel I was informed this was only for women and that the mens pool was over in the other hotel building. Somewhat adgitated by the news I left for the other hotel to see if I was bothered having a swim. When eventually I found the other pool in the other hotel building (which was incedentally, far nicer and much more populated than our own) the pool was so crowded mustachioed men and boys that I really couldn't have brought myself to go for a swim.

I went back to my room for the evening, only to emerge for dinner from the buffet alone. I wrote about the tournament in my fencing journal, watched some French TV and then went to bed on the rock hard bed, wiching I was back in Ireland at the Nationals that I might have won.

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