On the flight from London I’m not sure if our ears were ringing from the cabin pressure or as residual from the deafening jungle drums in Heathrow – no matter. All calmed down and the flights were fine, despite only findingJapanese noodles in Beijing. Jingjiu and baijiu in a private dining hall in the hotel introduced us safely to delicious Chinese (but not proper Fuzhou!!) cuisine.
In the morning we ha a training session in their Presidential suite (reputedly not all in the sauna) while some people caught up on sleep. After an excellent REAL Fuzhou lunch, in a fit of benevolence, Dennis then agreed to accompany Agent C to the afternoon’s meeting by the competition organisers, leaving us to explore the old quarter and barter for the best incense at the cheapest prices (not sure how well that worked).
Saturday: competition day dawned! Nothing went wrong, apart from minor details like us finding out at the eleventh hour that we had ten minutes to pack and check out, and there not being enough space on the bus provided.
Those who caught a cab travelled at eye-watering speed while the driver juggled to see how many phones he could speak into at the same time.
Those on the bus advanced at a more leisurely pace while the driver stopped every quarter mile to ask for directions and make a u-turn. Amazingly we all ended up at the venue.
Dennis watched us warming up for ten minutes and told us not to show too much – keep the powder dry for the main event! Then after most of a morning watching colourful silks swirling in the hall, Danil, Richard, Robin Hood and Will Scarlet marched off swinging their swords. Luckily the woman standing at the top of the stairs was quick on her feet.
We did better than some: one of our competitors got half-way through, realised that leaving the name badge hanging around the neck can have dangerous consequences in sword pattern, and had to scamper forward to the judges to put it out of harm’s way.
Fifteen minutes later and they’re back, in time for another photo shoot before lunch.
I remember once being followed through a field by a herd of curious bullocks who were trying to sneak close enough to chew the back of my coat, but would scatter sheepishly if I turned. Why did this day remind me of that? The Artist was a popular beacon for girls calling, “hello”, Little B was asked how old he was every time someone caught his eye, and many admiring fellow competitors developed cricks in their necks as Danil walked past.
Ten golds, three silver, three bronze, and we boarded the bus for Yong Chun tired but happy.