A Fence too Far by Bill Storie

gym 1

By Bill Storie

I was never a sporty kind of kid at school (or since for that matter).

I did gym stuff because I was commanded to by a gruesome PE Teacher called McFarlane. Never liked him. Mind you, he never liked me either. Fair’s fair.

We had to do circuit training around the gym. Climbing ropes and swinging on bars. “Why?” I would ask regularly. “Cos I said so” said The Terminator.

Funny enough, I did like swimming and was pretty good at it, especially the back-stroke. I think I liked it because under water I couldn’t hear him bark at us. But a fish I was not.

I did play a lot of football (OK, soccer if you must). My technique was pretty awful to be honest, but I did have a great shot on me. Dead ball placement about 20 yards out from goal. I’m the man. Wham. Of course at that stage in a schoolboy’s life, the goalposts were the same size as normal goalposts in the professional leagues, but the goal-keepers were insignificantly small. So, all you had to do was place it in the corner and he had no chance. But, I swear, I did have a hard shot.

A coach who was a friend of mine suggested I should try out for our local amateur team. I went to see them play often, but after he said that, I paid attention to how physical the game was. “You’re joking pal” I said to him the next day. It reminded me of “War and Peace” without the Peace. No chance I would do that. Scared? You bet I was.

Then I found my niche.

Fencing. No, not the barbed wire stuff. The swordy thing.

My mate the Terminator volunteered me for a new fencing class at school. The English teacher was a fencer and wanted to start a small group. I was forced to fence.

As it happens, I took to it like a fish to water (no, not swimming again !!). I really was very good at it. I used the Foil and the Epee. The Sabre, which is the next level up was more awkward for me. For some bizarre reason my balance which had eluded me in the gym, became my perfect platform. I could spring up and down the mat with ease. It was truly great fun.

So much so that the teacher guy put me in for the Scottish Schoolboys Championships – the national competition. Yup, modesty aside !! I was that good. He reckoned I would place. Woo-hoo.

The week before the competition I had to go get a smallpox injection because I was going to Spain in the summer on a boys holiday. No problem I thought. Wrong. My arm blew up in a severe rash. It was sore and annoying…..no chance of fencing. My career floundered. Shame really.

Strangely though, for the past 25 years or so I have been a regular attendee at my local gym. I do all the stuff The Terminator wanted me to do back then. Go figure.

Maybe I’m just a late bloomer. More likely I’m a slow learner.

“Oh, that’s what you mean …duh. I get it now”…. 50 years later !!!!

By Bill Storie


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