Watching the fencing at the Olympics, one reflects that this somewhat esoteric sport has grisly origins. Today the blunted blade bends as the fencer scores a touch on his opponent; the score is electronically recorded. Before, the blade would have run through the opponent’s body.
Duels at dawn, dripping forests. Death before dishonour. It was pretty gruesome.
One recalls Winston Churchill’s account from his early days with the British army in India. He was in command of a squad of Indian troops and they’d been ambushed by some rebels in the hills. They were retreating in good order when |one of his men was hit and wounded. Churchill went to his assistance.
Then one of the rebels broke cover and came rushing at them, brandishing a sword. Churchill remembered he had been public schools fencing champion and |drew his sword to take him on |in personal combat. Then as he came closer he also remembered he had a revolver at his hip, so he shot him.
Do they frisk the fencers for side-arms at the Olympics?
In what Olympic events do you win going backwards?
Rowing and backstroke. There was a time you could have said tug-o’-war but they’ve dropped that as an Olympic sport.
But they haven’t dropped things like target shooting with airguns. A lady at the Street Shelter for the Over-40s was waxing indignant the other night that men shooting at targets 10m away with air pistols should be competing for Olympic gold.
What she really seemed to object to was that they were kitted out in protective gear as if they were the bomb disposal squad.
I really wouldn’t know. Maybe there’s a danger of ricochets. Maybe they start shooting at each other as the competition hots up. It could be part of the game. These pellet gun fellows can be real scamps.
Legend swirls about Hashim Amla after that marathon three-ton innings at the Oval. They say he started out clean-shaven.
When, not if
Reader Eric Hodgson notes that when the Sharks win on Saturday (he says when, not if) it will be a feat unlikely ever to be repeated: beating all three conference winners at their home grounds, to take the trophy on to Durban.
The breakfast trade in Durban will be pumping on Saturday, he predicts.
One doesn’t wish to speak ill of the dead, but last week’s Tailpiece about the golf pro who hustled the parish priest into betting hole by hole reminds Dave van der Schyff, of Zimbali, of the legendary Bobby Locke.
Locke – the South African who won the British Open four times – had a horrific car crash in 1959 which affected his eyesight and |kept him out of top competitive golf. But he was still a mamba at club level.
After all these misfortunes he was living in reduced circumstances and would augment his income by playing golf against people who didn’t know who he was, betting on every hole.
“He’d say, let’s have a rand on the first hole and of course you would win. He would congratulate you and raise the stakes. You’d win again. This went on until the stakes were quite high.
“He had calculated when to strike and raised the odds high enough to make quite a bundle of money by the end of the game, and of course turned on the heat with some brilliant golf.”
Dave was a geologist at the Diamond Research Laboratory at Crown Mines, Johannesburg, and a golf course was next door. He used to practise putting at lunch time. Forewarned about the Locke gambit, when he did get approached by the maestro, he could make the excuse that he was just a lunchtimer and had to get back to the lab.
Hmmm. I wonder if Dave would be interested in a few frames of snooker. Low stakes, just to put some zest into the game…
Good news and bad news from Eskom.
First the bad news. The unmentionable is about to hit the fan as electricity production plunges and blackouts roll across the country.
Now the good news. The fan won’t be working.
Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, |and the universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the universe is winning. – Rick Cook