First day of competition

Who says you can’t do horseback archery in a sandstorm?

First day of competition today. After the opening ceremony (my first time riding with the flag) I had Korean style, which went OK but not great. Then after lunch the other half did the Hungarian style. By this point the cool breeze had started to get quite strong and there was sand everywhere. Even seeing to the far end of the track was challenging. Very atmospheric though, and should make for some great pictures and video.

Finally we had my group doing the Oriental style. This starts with 3 runs at qabaq (one shot low and behind you, then one at the top of a pole 8m high). My dismal run at qabaq continued, failing to hit a single upwards shot, despite getting them all in training.

The second part of the Oriental style is the Jordanian event: a forward shot and then use a sword to stab and pick up a target on the ground. The first time I tried it I hit my chin on the bow and missed. The second and third times I got the sword target (missed all three arrows but didn’t really care!). The officer running it said I could take the target home, so it’s safe in my bag.

Late back to the hotel today so only a quick post before shower and dinner. No pictures from today, sorry to say, but there will be lots in due course.

A quick word about my horse: he took off like a rocket, too fast but good fun. By the end of the day he was so tired he was tripping over his hooves and wanted to go home, but still found a little extra each run to push for the finish. A really honest and hardworking horse.

Great day, even if my nice white shirt is now sand coloured!

Day 2

After sleeping through my alarm I decided that I wouldn’t take the 7.15 bus to the Meidan to watch others train. Instead I went for a leisurely stroll around the area. Not much to see really. It’s not exactly the tourist or shopping centre of Amman here. Lots of government buildings, big business offices and hotels, plus an incongruous mixture of market tents (none open at that time) and a disused multi-storey car park.

By 8.15 there was not a cloud in the sky. Today, I think, will be more what I was expecting the weather to be like, rather than the fluffy clouds and cool breeze of yesterday (I’m typing this a little before 10am, the pool opening having been put back from 9 to 10. This is deeply annoying since the late bus goes at 11 so not much time to chill out by the pool.

It’s now 1020 and I am royally annoyed. Yesterday we were told by two different people that the pool was shut. When can we swim? “tomorrow from 9am”. This morning at 9.20 we were told we could swim at 10. At 1010 I went upstairs and started to swim. I managed 2 laps of the 10-15m pool before somebody came and told me “no swim”. “when can I swim?”. “Tomorrow.” Hands up all those who believe him…

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It’s now 2230 and I’m back from another fun day. I’ve quite calmed down about the pool. The afternoon was spent practising archery and, for me at least, taking photos. Met some more people, including Daniel Griffin and his wife Lisa, from South Africa. One of the great things about these events is meeting people you’ve known on Facebook for ages but have never actually seen. Lots of interesting and pleasant people.

Another, related aspect of international competition is the conversations. Today I had a lesson on the yumi, a 2m Japanese longbow, from Mikami-san, with whom I am sharing a horse. I speak no Japanese at all and he speaks a few words of English but the conversations you can have with sign language and noises are wonderful. Sometimes it’s not necessary, of course. This evening, after dinner, I ended up in the hotel bar chatting quite happily, mostly in English, to a Turk, a Malaysian, a couple of Swedes, a Frenchman, a Qatari and a Mancunian. Sounds like the start of a joke…

Competition starts tomorrow at silly o’clock in the morning so I’m for bed now.

Day 1

So much to say from one day. Travel first: passage through Gatwick was the quickest and easiest I’ve ever had. Paying extra for speedy boarding was worth every penny as it meant I got a front row seat, with nobody in front of me and about 6′ legroom. Then the pilot announced that we were five minutes late and had missed our slot and would now have to wait a further 55 minutes to take off. Dammit!

Arrival in Jordan was fine, I cruised through customs but the delayed flight meant that the police who were meeting me had had to take the Spanish, who arrived when I should have, to the hotel. So I had to wait another hour or so. Dammit!

The drive from the airport to the hotel was one of the more entertaining journeys of my life. The roads have dotted lines running along the middle of them, which look like our lane markings. They can’t be lane markings, however, because lanes would suggest that people drive in a lane, maybe moving from one to another to overtake. That’s not how it works here. You seem to pick a part of the road and drive there. If that means straddling these lines, so be it. If there’s somebody in front of you then you can a. move in whichever direction you fancy to overtake; b. sound your horn; or c. both of the above. Also many of the cars don’t seem to have indicators. If you want to move across the road you might sound your horn or you might just move. It seems to come down to personal preference. I should like to add that my driver was actually very good and I felt pretty safe, despite the best efforts of those around us. Oh, and I think that here the numbers on the speed limit signs must be minimum rather than maximum…

We’re not in the same hotel as last time. Rather than Le Royal, we’re in the Regency. It’s a nice place, but devoid of a jacuzzi. Also today devoid of a functional swimming pool but apparently that’ll be open tomorrow. The other thing is that the wifi is pretty expensive, so I’m typing this in bed offline and will upload it tomorrow.

Today was horse selection. My horse is nice and slow. Possibly too slow but I think I should be able to pick the pace up bit and I’d rather be too slow than too fast. We had a demonstration of the Jordanian style. After all my practice with the curved sword, we’re actually using 1908 straight bladed sabres with the guards removed.

Dinner was very pleasant, and included a long chat with Kassai Lajos, who for any non-horseback archers out there is the man who reintroduced horseback archery into Europe and is regarded by many as the greatest horseback archer in the world. I hadn’t been sure what to expect, having read his book and a book about Atilla in which the author wrote of Kassai as a very hard, cold eyed man with no time for the outside world. To my surprise and delight, he’s actually a very pleasant guy, with a slightly impish sense of humour. Passionate about mounted archery, of course, but perfectly ready to say that his style is not for everyone, that his aims and my aims are not the same and that somewhere there should be a meeting of those ways. I look forward to seeing him shoot.

There are old friends as well as new friends, of course, from French to Malaysian. There’s been plenty of discussion, in the usual mixture of English, French, German, Hungarian, Korean, Japanese, Arabic etc, all translated by the nearest person who speaks the right combination. I’ve spoken in my broken French to a Japanese competitor via a Frenchman who speaks Japanese. Only at an event like this can that sort of thing happen.

Good day all round, now I just have to decide whether to get up early and catch the bus to watch Kassai train or stay in bed a bit longer and go for a swim, then take the late bus. In the meantime, I’m going to read a bit more of this book on general relativity and then go to sleep. Night all.

Al Faris – Ready to Go

It’s now a little after 11pm the night before I leave for the Al Faris competition in Jordan. Claire’s been at work since 8am without a pause and shows no sign of coming home any time soon. In fact she rang as I was typing this post and she’ll be another couple of hours…

Bags are packed, total weight 27kg, so well within the 32kg limit for sports kit, since Easyjet have now accepted that archery is in fact a sport. Important items include 3 bottles of factor 50 sun cream, a bottle of aftersun, hat and many lightweight clothes. Oh, and my thick black riding trousers…

Next post will be from Jordan!