Calgary is a special town…

Just before I get to that, a little heads up. This post is scheduled later than usual. I’m about to start the process of transitioning out of night work. I quit my day(night) job to write. I’m not stupid so I’ve landed myself a part time job to cover expenses, but…yeah. Big change. Scary. My plan at this point is to wake up early and write blog posts, and then use the day and evening for writing when I’m not working. I did briefly consider doing blog posts on alternate days, but I’ve come to really enjoy the experience of raw, first draft, no edit writing. It’s a humbling treat for me. So where were we? Calgary.

David Edey and I made the trip up in a lovely rental car, and only one speeding ticket. Got into town late in the dark, and crashed at the home of a friend of his. Woke up early, and off to a day of intense rapier training. Fantastic event, lots of good classes. I remember taking David Borland’s class on Capo Ferro, and Gary Chelak flew up to teach a class that I took, and cannot recall what it was. I think Devon Boorman taught his “Art of Sucking” class…there was a lot going on, it was a great time. But the nighttime was, as they say, the right time…

A huge crowd of us met at a bar dowtown, and we had the basement set aside for us. I don’t remember what the name of the place was, but I remember the cute red-headed Irish waitress, and a bet involving my ability to write poetry. It was a good night. Anyway…

The real fun started when Mr. Borland brought out the singlesticks. I’d watched him do a bout at an SCA event previously, and I was eager to experience the fun for myself. The rules were explained to me…sort of. I was told the appropriate armour was four points of Guinness, and I took care of that requirement promptly. Did I mention my recollection of the entire event was sort of fuzzy? I know we wore fencing masks, so someone was sober.

The first bout went about as one would expect…my first time with the sticks, and David with his sabreur background…I hoisted my stick up in position, advanced to measure, heard “lay on!” and looked for an opening. As I was looking for an opening, I started to wonder what that steady “dingdingdingding” noise was. Ah. Right. That would be Mr. Borland cracking me repeatedly on the top of the head. Hmmm.

The next while was a great long series of bouts between the participants, and things got an awful lot of fun. For those of you unfamiliar with the rules, you win a point only by striking the top or temples of the head. No other blows count. You can adopt a guard that almost completely blocks the head as a target, at which point the game become one of pain tolerance…blows to the ribs don’t count for points, but they are allowed. If someone has a good guard, you can nail them in the ribs to make them drop their guard. If you are fast and expect it, you can still parry the riposte to your head. Enough hard rib shots and the opponent might flinch against a fake, and then you could get in a clean head shot. With a good crowd drinking after a day of rapier lessons, you can imagine what this turned into. The cracking, laughter, and bellowing of our extremely good time attracted attention upstairs.

I had noticed them when we arrived…a group of fit, burly and boisterous men in the upstairs bar. They were noisy and a bit challenging, a tight pack of them celebrating something around the bar. Our festivities…and possibly the large number of attractive women who were part of our group…brought them down the spiral staircase to see what was going on. We sort of heard them coming down, hooting and hollering about bringing the party…

They froze about halfway down, looking over at the sight us cheering on two people mercilessly beating on each other sticks. I can only imagine what it looked like. They froze in place, and then retreated back up the stairs, leaving shortly after. We didn’t think much of it, and kept up with our games. We later heard more from the waitress. Apparently the upstairs staff wasn’t really sure what was going on, and had expected trouble when the guys started down the stairs. They were astonished when the group of guys came back without a good-natured brawl of some kind. Apparently the group was a bunch of British SAS guys in town for some training…I still wonder what kind of story they had to tell about Canadians when they got home.