This summer's fencing activities started with SWASH, which was smaller than in previous years due to timing changes forced by the Royal Armouries' refurbishment programme.
Despite (or perhaps because of) lower attendance, SWASH 2014 was a really excellent event. With smaller classes and a less crowded freeplay area, there was more time to play and more contact with instructors when learning.
I was a marshal for much of the event. You could tell when I was a marshal because I had a marshal's hat (well, a vaguely Western looking hat with a sherrif's badge on it). I was a marshal for the rapier, backsword and sabre/smallsword tourneys and at various times in between. The rest of the time I was... well... there.
The new tournament format resulted in a high standard of entries, and numerous bouts for those involved. What we saw was some excellent fencing (or fighting, in some cases) and hotly contested bouts that remained gentlemanly. Competitors were in my opinion exemplary in their fair play and courtesy... notably in the area of acknowledging or refusing to accept hits.
The backsword event in particular involved the marshals having to run around a lot, which certain people seemed to find amusing. The competitors got a rest between running marathons with swords; the marshals had to do it constantly. This more than anything else explains why I was sober yet comatose by 10PM on Sunday night...
I was able to attend some classes during SWASH, notably a gutter-fighting class based around Sykes-Fairbairn armed and unarmed combat and a horrifically exhausting smallsword class courtesy of Phil Crawley.
Yes. Smallsword, exhausting. Same sentence.
Damn you, Phil...!
Couple of weeks later and I'm in Edinburgh assessing IL1 candidates along with Ian MacIntyre and Phil again. Interestingly, the two we'd failed in Lincoln were exceptionally good this time around, which proves the importance of a high bar. Overall standard was pretty decent to very good, and we established that Ian should indeed be installed as Regional Assessor for Scotland.
Sunday saw Ian horribly discommoded (or maybe just commoded, if that's a real word) by some kind of wholemeal-derived poison masquerading as beer, leaving me and Phil to play in the park while he nursed his misery away from civilised folk.
Despite this, the overwhelming conclusion to be drawn from the weekend, if perhaps one influenced by a certain amount of whisky, is that those involved in running the assessment weekend do indeed deserve the respect of the fencing community. I seem to recall the phrase 'eminent as fuck' was used at one point, summing it all up in suitably Scottish style.