“The Blackpool Experience”
Starting this article I will briefly catch you up on what has happened that most already know then I will go on to talk about The Blackpool Weekend we have all just passed. Firstly as most know already I have had to come to the decision to part with my birds. This was not an easy decision but one that was made for family reasons. Just to say that a big change is to happen in the next year or so and with this the birds had to be let go. Should this change not come about I will most definitely be on the Barcelona Trail Again. Until that point or not I am not going to walk away from my involvement in what I love to do as a side thing which is my writing and my videos about our feathered friends.
And so to Blackpool we go?. As with 2017 I went to Blackpool 3 uncles Jimmy, Joe and Willie, cousins Christopher, (the organiser), and Robert, my good friend Pat Nolan and a number of friends of my uncles, Hugo, Paolo, Whacker, Stephen and Paul. The group did not stay this size for long and once arriving as usual it escalates like most to more friends joining the group. All I can say is what a weekend. For most lads in the pigeon world and those that don’t have pigeons it is a weekend on the lash with the boys. I am all in favour of this for everyone and do it myself also. I also however like a lot of us in pigeondom like to put some value on it by meeting up with fellow fanciers I would have only been on the phone with or in contact through Facebook. This is where I like to mix business with pleasure. The pleasure starts on Thursday morning when the group meets at the airport for a couple before the flights. This is a good way to catch up because although we all know each other and talk quite a bit we may not have seen each other physically for a while. Also Robert is a bad flyer and it gives him time for the Dutch courage to get in there before the flight. When the 10yr old in the group is slagging the 25ish old about being a baby on the flight it is definitely worth a mention. Any how we got to Liverpool in good stead, payed respects to the uncle in Garston Cemetery and went to the local there to start the festivities. And start we did until 2:30pm when the minibus arrived for the journey to Blackpool. This is the norm for this group and has been going on pre my involvement in 2017 so I say why break tradition. Once in Blackpool in the afternoon it is only about settling in to the Hotel and having a good evening then to the one of the night clubs around. we went to the usual haunt on the Thursday night and, well, all I can say is it was an outstanding start to the weekend ahead.Friday dawned to a not so clear head and a brisk with Pat and the lads around Blackpool and to the promenade was had to clear the cobwebs after breakfast. I can honestly say that the promenade is absolutely breath taking and so was the view out to sea to the horizon with such a clear cold morning. Being back in the hotel bar shortly after lunch the drinking had to start again. Whilst sitting back relaxing I got a txt from fellow scribe John Ghent. Who promptly arrived with his uncle Gary within about 15 minutes of contacting. And then as happens the group had grown by another 2. The lads joined us and John is one of the lads I have been in contact with over the last 3 or 4 years now through Facebook and phone. To meet him after missing him last year was brilliant. John and Gary simply sat in and were an instant part of the group. I at least felt that and I hope they did to. We talked about all things pigeons and in a larger context and I believe John had a little bit of a philosophical chat with none other than Mistic Peg, aka my Uncle Jimmy. What a fantastic afternoon that I think was cut way too short. But we all have things to do and so John and Gary left us with smiles and handshakes all round. What a great time. Through conversation myself and Pat decided we wanted to check out the auctions on the Friday evening at the Savoy where Stuart Wilcox was hosting. And I have to say when we got there we were not disappointed. The birds on offer were exceptional and although I was not there to buy it was fantastic to see and feel the atmosphere as well as ogle at a few of the birds on offer. We had arranged the previous day to meet Alan Shinton for the 650 Eclipse Club there and so we did. We had a great chat with Alan and met a few new friend also involved in the 650 Club. Alan had bought a couple of the birds in one of the auctions and it was lovely again to handle a couple of good birds on offer through the fanciers Stuart works through. (Stuart if your reading this you can send on the payment please ;-) ). After having a chat with the lads for a while Pat and myself went looking for Alwyn Hill. I have been reading about Alwyn Hill for more than 20 years and can honestly say, and I’m sure he will agree, it was an absolutely pleasure and honour to meet another of the big names in distance racing. After hunting around for a while we did indeed find Alwyn and ended up have a chat for 2 hours at least. What a gentleman of the sport and someone I will be in contact with in the future again I hope. In talking to him the feeling of the quiet man comes across. That soft spoken gentleman that you just want to listen to. Not just about pigeons but about life in general. So all I can say from me to you Alwyn is that it was a fantastic opportunity to meet you and I look forward to it in the future again. Whilst finishing up talking to Alwyn I saw a man crossing the room looking in our direction and thought he like me was approaching Alwyn, it was someone else’s turn to get to Alwyn. But no it was the none other than Paul Treanor looking at me. Paul is one of those lads I have been in contact with for a couple of years now but never actually met and I have to say again that it was a pleasure to actually meet face to face. We had a chat for about half hour about the do’s and don’ts and it was really nice to meet another fancier with similar interests but that also has a candle for the sprint racing as well. Paul it was very nice to meet you my friend and again you are someone I look forward to seeing again in the future. And so to the taxi we went and headed back to the hotel to the lads and another night on the lash. It’s always about the best of both worlds for me. combine good times with productive times and you will never be happier. Saturday dawned a bit of a miserable day. The show was on and we would be indoors so the weather would not really affect it. Those of us going to the show had breakfast and made our merry way there to meet and greet others we may have not seen in a while or to make new acquaintances. Myself and Pat had a meander around the shows arena and it was fantastic. One thing we did stop to see was there was a panel discussion on the morning of the Barcelona enthusiasts. On the panel were Mark Gilbert and Jan Polder with 3 other marathon specialist fanciers. It was interesting to listen to their perspectives and how each although carrying out similar systems all had their own tweaks to the general system. From youngsters to their treatment and flying right on to preparation of the birds heading for the ultimate in pigeon racing that is Barcelona. It seems to me that throughout the sport when it comes to out and out distance or marathon racing that the preparation for the birds to be sent to this race of races is very similar no matter where you go. The birds are prepared with flights or races in the build-up to get them fit and ready and then fats are added to the diet in the week before basketing. One thing that was mentioned that I have not heard before was how fats can be over done in feeding. That giving too much can be as fatal as not giving enough. Striving for that balance is what is important in order to give the birds the best chance of success and that is what we all want. Now you may be reading this and saying that I am over simplifying this in stating that the systems are very similar, however I cannot say enough that this part is true there is a lot overlap in the given fanciers systems. Then one might say how come I can’t get my birds to do the same following the same methods? Well the simple fact is that even though the systems are very similar and overlap quite a bit in practice the intricacies and details involved in each and how each fancier treats each individual bird over the number of years prior to the Barcelona race, in my eyes, play a big part. How the fancier acts and reacts to certain things happening within the loft environment. How they prepare the birds over the winter months right through from that first season after weaning as youngsters right through until the bird is sent to its destined race. It all plays a part as a bigger whole I think and not just the season where it all happens and it becomes make or break for the bird and fancier. Also let’s not forget the bird. I have stated before in a previous article how the further the distance out we send our feathered friends and the bigger difficulty within the race the more success is reliant on the bird more than the fancier. The bird first and foremost has to have what it takes from the egg for without that it has no chance. It is then up to the fancier to bring it all together at the right time. This is the difference between the successful and unsuccessful in the pigeon sport. After leaving the panel discussion we had a browse around and were fortunate enough to bump into Geoff and Catherine Cooper. Having met them at a function a couple of years back it was really nice to bump into them again and just to say hello. Really I think these are to outstanding fanciers and we could all pick up on the dedication that they have and how they focus on the birds 365days a year. Walking around I did think there were a few less stalls and specifically in the show sections the birdage seemed to be down but that may have just been me. The halls seemed to be busy with people and we stopped at quite a few stalls chatting with fanciers I know and others doing the one loft races. We had a great chat with John Halstead who is a house hold name in the sport at this point and has a fantastic proven track record within the sport. I have to say came into contact with John when I started the Barcelona climb and can honestly say he is another fancier that is well known and respected but that is also willing to help others where he can. And so nearly time to head off after bumping into a few people we met John Ghent and Gary on the way out another couple of photos and off we went. That night we did attend the RPRA awards which were duly given out followed by cabaret for all to enjoy and from there back to the hotel.So what do fanciers really get from attending the Blackpool Show. Really all I can give is my perspective. You get out of it what you want. If you want a weekend on the lash with friends you can do far worse than got to Blackpool for the weekend with your friends and have a ball. If like me you like to network and meet up with old friends and make some new ones that is also on the table. Most important is that you get what YOU want out of it and not some pre-prescribed notion of what it should be from one friend or another. I like it for all the above reasons and I will finish with a comment from John Ghent(hope you don’t mind John?) that after a conversation with and uncle mentioned earlier, Mystic Peg, aka Jimmy Gannon. John was told that ‘Pigeons are currency for friendship’. I think this sums up Blackpool for me and probably a lot of others also. We go to Blackpool for enjoyment and to meet old and new friends. What a weekend?..The photos here are of a couple of the meeting of minds throughout the weekend. A nice one of the lads out on the town, secondly we have a photo of the famous It’s the Alwyn Hill in the photo with us. What a gentleman. Lastly after bumping into John we had to show him the best buy of the weekend. Here he is featured with it in his hand. What a buy?.
Until next time