When I tell people I am writing stories about past winners of the Golden Pliers, there is usually a look of 'what's that?' on their faces.
Last year I received a phone call from a man who asked if I would write a series of short stories about the past winners of the Golden Pliers. My response was exactly the same. 'What's that?' I asked and he went on to explain that it is a fencing competition.
Once again my mind went to swords and people in white outfits prancing about and then I wondered why they would receive a pair of golden pliers if they won?
Then he mentioned Fieldays at Mystery Creek and I knew about that, the fabulous agricultural show that attracts thousands of visitors each year. He said every year competitors gather to see who can build the best fence - meaning a farm fence - and the winner receives the coveted Golden Pliers award. The competition is prestigious, well organised and judged with precision and great care.
One thing led to another and now we are nearing the end of the writing/editing/proofing and the book will soon be at the printer's.
The man who called me last year was none other than Nick Liefting. That's him in the photo with some of his fencing gear. Listing his Fieldays records reads like the Academy Awards of fencing in New Zealand: longest ever competitor (40 years) year on year, 36 singles finals (28 years were first off the lines in both qualifying heats and finals), the longest margin of 1.5 hours after the second man off, the fastest ever heats time of one hour 8 minutes, the slimmest margin in time and points in a final (one fifth of a point) and finally, in his last year of competition in 2015 he was the first ever 60 year old in the final. He has won the Pliers twice.
The book has been a real labour of love for Nick. He traveled all around the country, and to Australia, to interview the past winners. He has organised photos, additional material, and me (no mean feat!) and it's all coming together. Anyone who has self published will know it is a huge process, especially for a book like this which will have photos and stories together.
It's been a real privilege for me to work with Nick and to learn more about the men who have won this competition. The final is a gruelling 5-6 hours of intense physical and mental work. As someone said in one of the stories, the finalists have 'left their pound of flesh out there' and the adulation and reward is well deserved.
The book will be launched at this year's Fieldays in June. I've never been to Fieldays and I have to say, I am looking forward to going. I shall be paying particular attention to the National Fencing Competition because now, what I don't know about fences and the men who make them, just isn't worth knowing.