I get to wear a natty white jacket, insectoid mask and hold an épée like a pistol – my inner child could not be happier. En garde!
Ever since childhood, I have wanted to be trained in the sword. But I have always believed one had to be born a musketeer for this to happen, or have a death to avenge, plus access to castle steps. But here I am at the London Fencing Club in Old Street, which is easier.
It’s a few weeks before omicron takes off, and the government is pooh-poohing any talk of tightening Covid restrictions. I’m learning épée, the thin, pointy blade that most resembles a classic swashbuckling sword. My Russian-born coach, Anna Anstal, loves fencing épée. The opponent’s entire body is a target, and there are no “right of way” rules governing who can score at a given moment. “You must think about the zombie apocalypse,” she says. “Rules are no use with a zombie. The ability to strike first is all that matters.” It’s unexpected advice, her heavy accent giving it even more edge. I’m quite scared.