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A Pigeon Fancier's Travels Series Pigeon Man in Skendleby







As a child and for five almost feral years I lived in this beautiful village that time almost forgot. It was sunken in the gentle countryside of the Lincolnshire Wolds, in images wrapped in sweet nostalgia, matured by time. I loved my rambling childhood as an adventurous spirit played a tune in a boy’s adventure tale. Our three acres were ornamented by a large orchard, grass and shrubs and dominated by an impressive yew tree and a Juglans nigra wallnut. Wild geese grazed the pasture, our banty cocks crowed in dominant defiance as the turkeys and geese grew nervous as Xmas neared. The land was enriched by Chinese pheasants, as a stray banty hen produced her twelve chicks from the womb of a dry hedge. A young cuckoo called loudly to its parent slave - a little hedge sparrow. Hour after hour, head raised I would gaze into the sky as my roller pigeons spun through warm summer air. Befriending farm boys we learned the country lesson of the gun, and scaled the inner sanctum of the church belfry in excited admiration of the huge bells, the jackdaws’ nests and the nesting feral pigeons. Oh for the glowing euphoria of times past, when a spirit flowed free in the sun, the wind, the rain and when the roof was the sky!


As a man in love with the big outdoors, I have relished my time in the real world of nature. My years at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew were punctuated by rare characters from different corners of the world, and I was brainwashed by botanical Latin, which echoes today. The glasshouses flourished under many microclimates, home to unique floral collections, dedicated plantsmen and species of horrific cockroaches that stirred you into instinctual wakefulness. The dark side was I longed for fields, woods and hedgerows and flocks of wild birds, and to embrace the raw power of wilderness. Subsequent years saw more cloistered academia, until Mensa became a friendly academic ceiling, allowing free expression to the flow of creativity. Now I satiate my senses in nature reserves with visits to distinguished gardens like Bodnant in Wales, Cypress Gardens in Florida and Monet’s in Giverny. In my cottage floral retreat I am absorbed in mindful transcendence by bees, butterflies and a backcloth of plant specimens. I love the truth and direct impact of nature.


 The Pokhara Valley and what sweet sensations in the scented gardens of the blind. Gently absorbed by gaily coloured blooms I luxuriated in detached reverie, in soulful harmony. In the English style of weather contemplation I peered above at the lofty cumulus clouds, and gasped at the sheer majesty overhead. Moments of reflection then the dawning of reality as I gazed upon Annapurna. Awestruck, I was made to feel tiny at the feet of those snowclad peaks, sensations that morphed my mind. Mingling amongst Tibetan refugees, I enjoyed their strange singularity of exile and the delightful snowlands gin that they made in finest purity. Now to Kathmandu where a handsome, steely-legged rickshaw cyclist escorted me around the Nepalese capital, a cultural explosion.


Little birds caged for their intrinsic and fragile beauty sing for their freedom from bougainvillea clad balconies, from a different perspective of cruelty in Malta. The speedy racing pigeons whirling round the sultry evening sky, above roof-topped lofts to be expertly called down by the urgency of whistles. We ventured into the summer night to relish the heady perfection of Simon’s cocktails in Sliema. In the morning after a euphoric evening we responded to the street fish trader crying LAMPUKI, LAMPUKI. The sun-drenched beaches of Melieha Bay, home of the charismatic and great Eddie Newcombe, giving champion racing significance to our sojourn here. We rested in the tropical Barraka gardens where a colony of cats led by a huge matriarch pursued a free and instinctual life away from the madding crowd. We spied the graceful yachts as they floated serenely out of Valetta harbour, as an old local described a resort to rabbits in a pot in World War Two. These are some sweet memories of the Maltese connection.


In 79 I reached Kabul via a remote, rugged and epic journey along the seemingly endless and soulless Khyber Pass - swirling heat, arid rocks and military outposts, nevertheless a popular journey for tribal lords, drugs and every devious shade of humanity. Stepping with eyes open into primitive and ancient Kabul, eyes assaulted by open sewers, shanty and jostling tribesmen, I became aware of my naked and singular strangeness in this ancient and unique capital. Although there were celebrations of the communist rule, armoured vehicles alerted me to the military presence. My photos taken with locals found them to be friendly, exotic and welcoming - I still have the fox hat to prove it and the raw taste of opium was uplifting in a very cerebral way!! We travelled by ancient bus with no air con, and by the time I had reached the Himalayas my mind, soul and spirit had evolved and morphed into a more enlightened form. The east can teach the west and I try and apply the wisdom gleaned on my wordly travels in the now today - sounds like a shaolin monk.


We stayed on the beautiful and exotic houseboats on Lake Dahl in the awe inspiring, snow clad foothills of the Himalayas. The lake was populated by 4 species of flashing and irridescent kingfishers, adorned with water lilies and inhabited by lurking fish. Our local meals were prepared by a turbaned houseboy, a remnant of the Rahj. With glowing and due pride he produced a reference book from the British officers he had served, a delightful and charming man.

Over the passing days we took visceral pleasure in a wedding feast including cooked water lily shoots. I confess to enjoying the cool smoke of a hookha pipe, and the consequence was extraordinary in a psychic sense. In Srinigar, the capital I tried on a wolf skin coat, buying Jean an ornate papier mache jewellery box. We walked in local gardens amongst native rhododendrons and admired the free spirits of soaring mountain eagles as they wheeled on high thermals. Such enchanting experiences are the canvas of my poetry today.