BACKYARD MARATHON CHALLENGE
Blackpool 2015 Round Up
With a gut full of excitement, my Uncle Gaz and I headed up to Blackpool after a 1 year sabbatical to enjoy a weekend of fun, feathers and fine wines. Well, probably more fine cider as opposed to wine but you can see where I am coming from! I had said to myself I was just going to go and enjoy the weekend, catch up with some friends, and really make the most of what I always believe to the be the start of the season.
A scene from Blackpool
We met some of the North Road lads in a pub close to Kent Road and from there it was down to the first auction of the weekend at the Central Club. The sale of P & C Swindell offered some superb Irish long distance birds and I had been advised to head over here by Drew Callan, PO for the NFC. He was certainly not wrong when he had said there would be some excellent specimens on offer here and I don't think us English fanciers appreciate what these birds have to overcome on their route back to the Emerald Isle. The "Friendship National" is a challenging race, no doubt about it, and I have to confess that until Blackpool I had no idea how difficult it could be. For those of you that don't know where Quimper is, then take a look at a map and look at Brittany in the West of France. Then keep looking West and you should Quimper in the South West corner of Brittany itself, a long way West of Rennes and Nantes! If you then plot a line from Quimper up into Ireland you will see that the sea crossing is immense, rivalling that of the arduous crossing from Lerwick and in terms of difficult, judging by day birds, or lack of them, in previous years, it is arguably the most difficult race that people in the British Isles face, other than the extreme distance events which we all know about. The Swindell pigeons have excelled at this race point, and no wonder with introductions from the likes of Dave Goddard to go into the hard Irish distance family.
That evening we took in another auction and then we hit the town for a few steady drinks, which soon became a lot of steady drinks, and we piled in at 1:30am craving our beds and a good nights rest! Although the show itself was smaller than previous years, I think with the stalls and trade stands all being pulled closer together, it made for a really good atmosphere and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The MNFC stand was exceptionally well attended by members paying fees and good conversations were had with Peter Humphries and Roy Jones, discussing the future of the club and the success that the 2 Bird Nomination Races were during 2014. The club is going from strength to strength and I am sure there are yet more exciting announcements that will come from this Club in the years to come to safeguard cross-Channel pigeon racing well into the future.
The various one-loft events also caught my eye, especially the Derby Arona, which is the extreme of all one-loft races, the flight path looking very ominous for those who dare to send their birds to the Canary Isles to take part in this Rolls Royce of one-loft races. As Saturday lunch time passed, and my hangover gave way to renewed energy following a pie and chips, we headed down to an old stomping ground, The Savoy hotel. Gaz and I have spent many chaotic evenings in The Savoy, working auctions for Louella in the late 90s, and it was good to be walking through the front doors again to attend the quality auction offered by Stuart Wilcox, the British Distance Special. It was a real who's who of distance in the room and I got to have a chat with John Wills, someone who's system and style of racing have inspired me to keep the Barcelona dream alive. Over the weekend I also had conversations with the Padfield Family, Jim Donaldson and I am delighted to say I met Bill Young, whom I featured in my Back To Basics article a few weeks back.
The main hall
Saturday evening was slightly more tame than Friday. A bite to eat, a few quiet drinks and back into the hotel to watch Match of the Day. Now I am the wrong side of 30 with a young family, these late nights take their toll, so a good nights sleep was needed to combat the previous evenings frivolities! Sunday dawned and again after a good breakfast we headed to the show with a shopping list in hand for a few basic essentials I needed for the season ahead. Although purchasing all my grit, pick pots, pick stones, minerals and nest bowls in one go was a mistake, my arms felt like Popeye's after 20 minutes and it is not something I shall be repeating next year! We had a brief look at the fancy pigeons, another whizz round some of the more interesting stands, then it was off to watch West Ham vs Hull, grab some lunch, and then finally head back to Leicester.
Having really enjoyed the weekend I was worried I would suffer PBT, Post Blackpool Trauma, and I was right! The following week at work was not too much fun but 2 weeks later I am all settled back and looking forward to the season ahead. I have a loose plan coming together now and with a little luck I am hoping to get the birds, or a selection of them, to a 500 mile racepoint this year. My decision to remove myself from weekly club racing has been justified, as I was really struggling with my time before, and my Wife and I have a baby on the way in June, so to be able to concentrate on 4 or 5 weeks between May and August is ideal, coupled with a new 24/7 open loft method that I am now operating, it makes management a lot easier! Was I worried I would "lose" control of the birds? Yes, a little. But numerous distance fanciers have instilled in me that I should worry more about getting them home as oppose to getting them in! It really is a different ball game over 600 miles. I can see the crossover at 500/550 where both traditional natural distance men can still thrive, but the new-age widowhood/roundabout fancier can also compete, but stretch it out beyond 600/700 miles then there is a still a large place in pigeon society for the open hole system to work wonders, even if that is only at 2/3 racepoints a year. To be honest, with a team my size, that I want to cut back even further next year, 2/3 races will be plenty! Not a lot else is happening in the backyard at present, the birds are together but with no bowls and apart from the odd egg there hasn't been any real issues. I plan to put the bowls in around the end of February weather depending, but due to the fact I am not racing young birds anymore, I shan't rush the bowls going in, I'll wait as long as possible until the weather hopefully improves, and I can get some light out in the garden.
The garden has now be cleared up and is looking much better ready for the race season to start
To keep me ticking along through these Winter months, I take advice from an ancient philosopher. The Chinese teacher Confucious once said, "It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop."
As always, any feedback would be greatly received, good luck to those of you breeding a little earlier, the next champion could be chipping off right now!
83, Newport Street
Elimar - February 2015