fencing

A surprise victory

A surprise victory

Daniel Elliker (left) and Martin Turner prior to the final of the Warwickshire Fencing Competition

Daniel Elliker (left) and Martin Turner prior to the final of the Warwickshire Fencing Competition

Having not fenced between August 2009 and May 2010, I took a flyer on the Warwickshire County Championships, 26 June, after just two training sessions. I’d expected to be soundly thrashed in one of the early rounds, and wasn’t surprised to lose in the pool round 0:5 to Daniel Elliker of Birmingham Fencing Club. I still managed to be seeded fourth, pitting me against Richard Morris, first seed, in the semi-finals, after relatively straightforward fights in the last sixteen and the last eight. Reigning West Midlands champion, Morris has had a good year on the national competition circuit, making the last eight at the Slough Open.

Morris went almost immediately 4:1 up, exploiting a powerful fleche attack. I was fairly weary from the pool and the first two rounds — the eight fights within an hour were as much as I had done in the previous nine months. The most I could do was hold him off and attempt either to twist out of the way or to parry and riposte. By the end of the first time period, I had managed to work it up to 5:6 behind. After the one minute break, I realised that the psychological pressure was beginning to tell. Making my only attack of the fight, I was fortunate enough to step-balestra-lung, going straight past his parry to score a hit on the shoulder. This was perhaps not quite what he bargained for, and pushed him to attack repeatedly. Unfortunately for him, I had picked up the rhythm of his attack, and was able to draw him to attack with increasing speed, but decreasing effectiveness, until I was 11:7 up at the end of the second time period. In the final period he held back his attack, but, with time against him, was forced back into attacking mode, and eventually lost 15:8.

In the other semi-final, Matt Powell made an impressive come-back after being 7:11 down in a fight more characterised by the guts and determination of the fencers than by the technical superiority of one over the other. He reached 11:11 all to get back into contention, but Daniel Elliker managed to get a glancing hit which unnerved Powell, and pushed strongly to eventually win 15:12.

In the final, Daniel Elliker pushed quickly through, delivering attack after attack as I did little more than watch him. He reached 11:7 by the end of the second time period without any particular difficulty. But when he took off his mask, I saw the energy drain from his face — the exertions of the previous fight were catching up with him. Recognising that if I carried on defending as I had done in the previous fight I would be certain to lose, I took the fight to him. Regrettably my technique was nowhere near what it was a year before, and I was reduced to little better than walking up to him quickly and jabbing in a hit.

I pulled back to 13:14 behind, and I could see his reactions slowing. With about a minute left, I managed to get in a double-step-lunge. Daniel is very lithe and quick, and has long practised twisting away from the hit or doubling up to avoid the point. His counter-attack almost did for me as he pulled himself away to avoid my point, but I managed to get perhaps centimetre more than I was getting in the pool round when he beat me 5:0, and, with both lights coming on simultaneously, was awarded the point to go 14:14. Having not expected to get anywhere near this stage of the competition, I was now mortally tired, bone-weary and aching. With more or less my last strength, I fleched down his left side, landing on the piste and hitting him almost simultaneously and at the last allowable moment. There was just one light, and, for the first time, I was Warwickshire Champion.

It was almost ten minutes before I had the strength to get up again after saluting and shaking hands. Daniel had to go on to get medical attention, as he was in an extreme state of exhaustion.

Give parliament a clean start

Just 265 MPs have stated definitely that they will stand again, and parliamentary officials are predicting a quarter of MPs will eventually stand down before the General Election, according to the Daily Telegraph. Although this is set to be the biggest exodus in living memory, voters may legitimately be asking the question: “why aren’t more going?” We know that politics in Britain is broken. A large number of MPs who assisted in breaking it, by first voting against the disclosure of their expenses, and then through their unrepentant response when found out, are still staying. Should we really rehire the people who broke it to fix it?

Staying on too long in parliament is like staying too long as the captain of a sports team, when you no longer have the fitness and reactions to be there. I feel this somewhat keenly at the moment, since, as of 1 January, I have stepped down from captaining the West Midlands fencing team. At the age of 43, I am more than twice as old as half of the team, and it was time to move on. The upper age for politics is rather older, but even MPs need to recognise when it’s time to go. This time, though, it’s not retirement and pension which is the issue — it’s the simple fact that MPs have lost our confidence. For some this is an unfair ‘guilty by association’, but others lost our trust because they abused it. For the good of the team, they need to be off.

It appears, though, that not everyone has got the message. In fact, we have politicians who fought tooth and nail against Heather Brooke’s campaign for full disclosure of expenses, voted against it in parliament, and then tried to resurrect their careers and put one over on their opponents by representing themselves as the peoples’ champions when the Telegraph got hold of the story.

We are expecting a number of announcements over the next weeks. Some MPs can honourably step down, having worked hard for many years for the good of their constituents. They deserve our respect. Some MPs who are expenses-damaged but still holding on should go. That way, they can win back some of our respect, and ensure that the next parliament is given the best possible start with a clean slate.

It will be a long, hard job to win back the confidence of the public. But it is a job which must be done, no matter how hard, nor how long.

Personal Update

Personal Update

Martin Turner at his home in Marlcliff, Warwickshire.

Martin Turner at his home in Marlcliff, Warwickshire.

A lot of people have been contacting me for a personal update. So here it is. We’re now living in Marlcliff, a tiny, beautiful village just over the river from Bidford on Avon in Warwickshire. I’m also now working for my day job for the NHS in Warwickshire. The easiest way to keep up with personal details is to find me on Facebook. If you don’ do Facebook, or just want an update, read on.

I’m still chairman of Warwickshire County Fencing Union, and West Midlands Fencing Captain, but, sadly, I’ve had to miss the start of the fencing competition series in the run up to the General Election, which will mean that my ranking will plummet as the year goes by. For those who are interested, my best ever ranking was UK 39th in Men’s Foil, and I held on to a spot in the top fifty for a full competition season in that year.

Politically, I will be fighting for the Stratford on Avon seat at the General Election, God willing, which is expected to be May or the very beginning of June. Liberal Democrats have come a long way over the last two years: we won the biggest swing against the Tories anywhere in the UK in May 2008, and the second biggest in the County Council elections in June this year, also coming 34th out of all districts for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections which were held on the same day.

We’ve started attending Bidford on Avon Baptist Church which, if you live in the area, meets in the Crawford Memorial Hall on Sundays at 10.30 am. It’s a warm, welcoming group of people, and a good place to visit if you are wondering about God.

We are also straight into the thick of things, as Tory councillors on Warwickshire County Council have decided to axe our local Fire Station, along with several others in the constituency. Quite simply, they must be stopped.

Victory in Much Wenlock

Victory in Much Wenlock

Final of the Much Wenlock Olympian Games fencing 2008 Receiving the gold medal Martin Turner receives the Much Wenlock Olympian Games fencing trophy
It’s the end of the fencing season, and it’s been a good couple of days. Saturday was the British Championships, where I achieved 35th place — for once beating my UK ranking (42), and hopefully giving me enough points to push me up a little.
Sunday — today — was something rather special. It was the Much Wenlock Olympian Games. Now in their 122th year, the Much Wenlock Olympians are the progenitors of the Modern Olympics, and are receiving substantial attention in the preparations for Britain’s 2012 Olympic Games. The Much Wenlocks are a bit of an oddity, combining modern Olympic sports such as fencing, running, field athletics and cycling, with historical oddities like vintage cycling, and more traditional English fare such as Archery.
This year, for the first time, I took home the fencing trophy, the gold medal, and slightly embarrassingly, the medal for the highest placed veteran (they call you a veteran in fencing once you get over 40).
So, after almost a year in the UK top 50, my best nationals performance ever and my first competition title.
After 16 hours at fencing competitions in two days, I’m now ready for a bath and bed!

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