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A Skelding Summary

Now and again - you'll witness a sword swallower in the Piazza at Covent Garden among the other jugglers, buskers and, in the summer, skantly clad folk standing absolutely still pretending to be statues.

Sword eating tends to be classed as more sensationsal - almost street theatre. This dates back to Greek and Roman times - and indeed is not an optical illusion. The secret is not to gag or choke as the blade enters your mouth - and both your throat and stomach have to be conditioned against the sheer discomfort of the experience.

Sometimes sword swallowers have previously swallowed tubing that acts as a sheath or scabbard once the sword is ingested, thus preventing injury. It is a dangerous stunt, though action and suspense movies have rather inured the public to finding this as spectacular as it certainly was, when people started doing it for a living way back.

One wonders what made them want to try in the first place. Mr Jones in 'Dad's Army' may have thought of the cold steel that 'they didn't like it up 'em'. However, on some streets they don't half love to knock it back.

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By Laurence Skelding

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