I’ve been off on my wanderings again. I flew to Singapore on Sunday 22nd, and arrived at 5pm local time on the Monday, to be met by Robin (who runs PHEMAS, my Singapore branch), plus three visiting students from Malaysia, and one from Jakarta, who were all in town to come to my very short class that evening.
After a spot of dinner at the airport, we made our way to the Eurasian Community House, where PHEMAS has been making its home for the last ten years or so. About 25 students showed up for the class, from all over Singapore, and I did my best to run a good session for them, bearing in mind that for many it was their first exposure to Fiore. It seemed to go well, and they were very ready for the pizza delivery that arrived when we were done at 9pm.
I spent Tuesday hanging out with Greg (PHEMAS’s glorious founder) and Robin, with a leisurely lunch with my cousin Jeremy, who has lived in Singapore for about 25 years. Then dinner in the evening with some of the new students, our new friend from Jakarta, and a couple of the old guard. Chilli Stingray for the win! The food in Singapore is simply awesome, and we finished it off back at Greg’s with the best straciatella ice cream I have ever eaten— made by Greg and his wife Lin. They produce it in their home out of top quality ingredients, and if you live in Singapore they’ll deliver it to your door… see Dancing Elephant Ice Cream for details!
Probably the best use of my time while I was there though was reading stories to a certain little girl…
On Wednesday evening I took the night flight to Sydney, changed there, and arrived in Wellington feeling surprisingly chipper. I attribute this to my ‘sleeping on planes’ kit. This includes my noise-cancelling headphones, an eye mask, and the Skydreamer
pillow. Pillow is the wrong word; it’s two lumps of odd-shaped padding, that strap under your chin, and makes the world of difference to sleeping sitting up (your average sword student can’t afford to send their instructors across the planet in First Class). (Incidentally, if you’d be interested in a post about how I pack light for long trips, and actually sleep on planes, let me know in the comments.) At dinner that evening I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Manouchehr Moshtag Khorasani, author of over 100 articles and two extraordinary books on Persian arms, armour and martial arts. Having seen him teach, let me put it like this: I’d be delighted to fence him, but no way in hell I’d ever want to fight him.
I stayed the night at an alpaca farm just outside Wellington, which brought back memories of living in Peru.
Steve and Tam were lovely hosts, and Steve and I had plenty of time to chat before tooling off to the event that triggered this entire Odyssey: the New Zealand Sword Symposium. This was held at the Brookfield scout camp outside the capital, and I was teaching alongside people like Manouchehr, and Bede Dwyer, probably the pre-eminent world expert on Asian archery, as well as old friends Richard Cullinan, Colin McKinstry, and many others. The event was a delight, and the students in my class could not have been nicer to teach. I prevailed on Selwyn, the illustrious organiser, to promise to run the event again in two years, so it looks like I’ll be back this way then. I was too busy to get my phone out for photos of the event, sorry!
I think the greatest benefit I get from these events is meeting new colleagues and making new friends; the Kiwis have a gift for making one feel welcome. I’m staying at Lizzi Tremayne’s farm for a couple of days r+r before heading off to Auckland to teach a seminar this weekend. Lizzi is a horse vet turned novelist, as well as swinging a sword or two in her spare time.
If you’re in striking distance of Auckland, and fancy learning some Fiore dagger and longsword, come along! You can find the event sign-up here. See you there!