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Woman Stands with a Fist

Yes I have a longbow (several), yes I am female, yes I know that this is a/was a male premise.  And no, I couldn’t ever pull a 180lb bow such as those used at Agincourt. But who could, who can, and to what effect?  Just in order to say it?  Not reason enough.  Let’s look at the history.

British archers, taught from the age of seven, were sent out into the field, with  increasing bow weight with increasing years.  This we know, but  it took scholars quite some thought to understand the odd physiognomy of the skeletal remains aboard the Mary Rose.  The distinct shoulder dysformation was due to long years in longbow use, and only one sided.  Massive musculature on the left side, and damage to the shoulder and collar bone on the right.  Who were these people?

Years ago, I had the luck to come across a chiropractor who took one of my archery lessons when I worked for Club Mediterranee as archery teacher and dancer.  I  am, so I thought, right eyed, and he encouraged me to pull with the left, but not release the string, just a sort of pretend. He had used this technique with tennis pros, to swing with the opposite side during their downtime.  Not so sceptical in those days, I pulled away.  Oddest of things.  I am right eyed, for sure, but pulled well enough to my left to make me a good ambidextrous shot.  I had to aim differently.  Bring the bow up, rather than down, before letting loose, but the results were astounding.  I could shoot either way.

And what good is that?  For me, it sorted out a scoliosis, my muscles had become large on my back and in my shoulder on the right.  So every time I let a volley fly, I adjusted by doing the pretend left sided version.

Added to which, this Magician chiropractor who would have cost a small fortune to visit, volunteered to sort my spine out.  In a small shed in the Dominican Republic,  he directed me to wrap my arms around my self, cross my legs, and, well, he jumped on me.  I had a nano second to be afraid and then….. bliss.  I felt I was 7ft tall.  Everything cracked, got in synch, became balanced.  My old and forever dancing injuries, including disjointed hip, disappeared.  My trapeze hurts, various, the same.  Gone in a fraction of a second.  Bless you chiropractors, those whose vocation it is to make us whole.

I still can’t pull a “real” longbow, but why would I want to?  I can hold steady a 50lb hunting bow with nary a sound.  Happy enough.  Until, perhaps, I joined the companions of the longbow, here in Oxfordshire.  If I was concerned at being a female minority I need not have worried.  I have to say that in all my grown up life, I’ve rarely had such fun.  Historical aficionados recreate battle scenes and it is for us, the archers, to do what we will, be it shoot at the Sheriff of Nottingham, back away gracefully over a bridge (six arrows on the ground) or try our hand at field shooting in teams.  And this is where my odd lefty ability came good, finally.  I was able to crouch down low under a hanging bush, and shoot the target ( a wooden bear) right in the sweet spot.  My only one lasting good shot.  The rest of the time was spent tramping around an organic farm feeling rather pathetically inept vis a vis the die-hard longbow and gifted fanatics.  All of whom, may  I say, bid a weedy female a warm welcome.

My various longbows made by the superlative Richard Head, who supplies the Royal Archers, lie dormant for this time.  Dormant in use, but not in imagination.  For it is for my longbow that my

daughter and friends reach in their imaginarium of a time when the house and town are besieged.  They are well equipped by the foremost natural hunting weaponry.  Did I mention Husband?  He is of the military and now a historian, and our house is littered with useful and not, paraphernalia.  Swords cross the mantelpiece over the fire, grace the wall with suits of armour et al.

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