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Life in The North East of England 48 20-03-17


Life in the North East of England (48)

Rod Adams

The place was a shambles. Falling to pieces. Overrun with mice and stinking but the quality of the old birds was quite frightening and I remember saying to my friend that we couldn’t let this team be spread to the four winds. “If he quits pigeon racing” I said “I’ll buy the lot. We’ll kill all the young birds because we, and most likely nobody else, knows what they are bred off. And we’ll burn the loft down.” Believe me I would have done just that! The pigeons stood out like sore thumbs. They had both pedigree and performance behind them. The owner’s self proclaimed system of “total chaos” hadn’t hindered them one little bit when it came to flying Bourges and they had beaten me handsomely on more than one occasion.

My plan never came to anything however as the man stayed in the sport but my friend, and to a lesser extent myself, have been collecting those original pigeons as they grew older and the man ran out of space to keep them in. They are not just pigeons whose time has been, but pigeons we both feel whose time will come again. Today I saw a basketful of what my friend has collected and bred since then. It was a case of deja vu. Where have I seen these birds before? It was just like looking at all the originals as they stood on top of the nest-boxes all those years ago. I was impressed. They were a solid team and anybody would have been proud of them. The fact that they were based largely on my old blood in the first place is a big plus and we have our plans, my friend and I. We each operate our own quite separate lofts, but in reality what is mine is his and what is his is mine. It has always been that way. And always will be.

It occurred to me today, when I was looking at a beautifully bred pigeon which has just come back to me after being on loan, that sometimes the difference between a successful racer and one that just gets home is, or can be, nothing more than confidence or rather a lack of it. This particular hen, which is going right back into my stock loft, comes from a long line of distance winners  yet on the road she never won a thing and was probably clocked from the distance only the once. I am convinced that when a pigeon has been “hurt” at the distance, by not making home in good time and struggling to get back, for whatever reason, they will not “give it a go” ever again.

In my club there is a good cock that has never had a night out in it’s life, despite having been to some hard channel races. It has always made it home on the day, at least once just, and I mean only just, beating the onset of darkness. This bird is being aimed for Bourges, our longest race at 571 miles, in 2008 and I have every confidence that given a day race that bird will make it on the day. It “knows” that it can always get home on the day until the time comes, and it will, when it doesn’t make it. How the bird takes that experience will determine the rest of it’s racing career.

The hen that has just come back to me had a very hard Sartilly race early in her life and was never the same again. After that she just came home but never again really raced. You “make” your own channel birds by how you equip them in terms of experience to handle what they have to handle, and if you get it wrong or are just plain unlucky the “Confidence Factor” goes and with it your hope of ever owning a champion racer.

Some birds pair for life, roaming around separately in the winter and meeting up again at their nest-site in the spring, whereas we as fanciers traditionally separate our birds after the racing season, re-pairing them, as and when required, to whatever mates suit us. Only occasionally are the same racing pairs put back together, stock birds being another matter because good breeding pairs are often left together. Due to unusual circumstances prevailing in my own loft I never separated my old birds at all but just removed the nest pans and converted the nest boxes into perches. Only the odd pairs have taken to laying in the deep litter on the floor. The remnants of my youngsters, the cause of all my troubles, have been left together in the young bird end and have never mixed with the old birds at all. The plan is to dump all of them in one breeding end to sort out their own mates and perches and to race the legs off them down to 470 miles. And to keep what is left, if any, at the end of the year.

They will not be bred off and neither will any of my current old racing birds, all the youngsters that I require will be coming from my stock loft at home. I need a holding season to consolidate my team and to this end my two year olds will go three times, maybe four times, to the channel but will not be asked to compete in the longest race. What is left will form my future Bourges team as three year olds.

This is completely alien to me but seems the logical way to re- build up the team. What is very obvious to me now is how not breaking the bond between pigeons, still with the very first love of their life, has left them much more settled and happy than if they had been parted. Moreover, pairing up this next year will be completely stress and hassle free. They are with their mates and in the nest box of their choice. All I have to do is put the nest-pans in! Whether they will race better because of this remains to be seen, but seen it will be. I will be watching them closely. They are in for a long hard season!

Computers are brilliant pieces of equipment, when they are working properly. When they are not you feel like throwing them out of the window! I’m a two-fingered typist, on each hand, and a bit slow, so when my son-in-law bought me some voice recognition software I was tickled pink. In theory this would enable me to simply speak into a microphone and control my computer by my voice alone. No more laborious typing! That was the theory. In practice it wasn’t that easy. What you do is to first feed into the computer the normal speaking volume and tone of your voice so that it “knows” and can recognise it. Next you read out several prepared passages of text so that it can build up how your speech patterns run, then finally you feed in some written text of your own so that your normal writing style can be added to what it already has.

All these are added together so it “knows” you, and if it is in any doubt as to what you mean it will make an educated guess. Later on you correct any mistakes the programme might be making and this is stored and eventually your meanings become clearer and clearer until you and the programme are perfectly matched and everything is fine. In theory. But what did I go and do? Well, I accidentally chose as the piece of written work, an article that I’d previously written in which I told a joke about ex Prime Minister Tony Blair visiting a Scottish  hospital. This contained some dialect poetry and now the computer thinks I’m the famed Scottish poet Rabbie Burns. And acts accordingly! You ought to see the rubbish it’s churning out! It’s back to the drawing board. And to the keyboard!