Speech to the Midlands Social Circle - 2006
Former Editor of the British Homing World & winner of 1st Section, 8th Open NFC Dax International 2005
Thank you for the invitation tonight and the hospitality received.
For his birthday, little Patrick asked for a 10-speed bike. His father said, "Son, we'd give you one, but the mortgage on this house is £200,000 and your mother just lost her job. There's no way we can afford it."
The next day the father saw little Patrick heading out the front door with a suitcase. So he asked, "Son, where are you going?"
Little Patrick told him, "I was walking past your room last night and heard you telling Mum you were pulling out. Then I heard her tell you to wait because she was coming too. And I’m damned if I'm staying here by myself with a £200,000 mortgage and no bike!"
The golden rule for making speeches is not to talk on a subject that the audience know more about than you do. So basically I’ll be keeping off pigeon racing other than to outline a few ideas of my own which I know the majority will disagree with.
My pedigree in pigeon racing goes back some time – in fact I’m the 4th generation of Glovers to race pigeons, a fact I’m very proud of but I don’t see the line continuing after me. So I’m a bit like the last of the Mohicans but with a bit more hair. I’ve a trophy at home that was for the young bird averages won by ‘Glover and Son’ in 1907 and 1908. As father wasn’t born until 1918 this trophy relates to my great grandfather and grandfather racing pigeons at the turn of the last century.
As a boy I helped at the local club where the entry fees for normal club races were about 9pence a bird (pre decimal coinage) so relatively pigeon racing is cheaper today than it was then. At one time there were three of the Glovers with different lofts, uncle Trevor and father at Ravenstone and Joan and myself at Burbage. Sadly old age has caught up with the senior members of the family and we are now the only ‘Glover’ loft left. Having had a go at all the various types of racing over the years I’m now considered as something of an oddity – with ideas that are different than most.
BREEDING - Lazy Man’s Way
I used to keep meticulous records and pair on the full moon after spending the winter pairing and re-pairing the birds on paper for the best possible combinations. Nowadays I’ve developed a system where I just open the door in the spring and let them get on with it. I don’t keep any breeding records and the hen that was 1st section, 8th open National for me in the Dax International last year was bred using this method and I don’t have a clue what she was bred off. I’ve also bred two other birds to be in the top 50 from Pau in the NFC in recent years using the same system (or rather lack of system). My attitude to breeding records is that they are only of interest if you are buying or selling pigeons and, as I’ve little interest in either, they have little interest to me.
I buy 30 NFC and 30 MNFC rings each year and when they are used up I’ve finished breeding. Where I am a little different from most is that I cull plenty and often re-use the same ring. Any that don’t conform or I don’t like the look of are removed. Sometimes I know I have mated brother to sister but as long as the birds are happy I just let them get on with it. After all, in the wild I doubt if birds know whether they are paired to their close relatives. Such close matings must produce a bigger percentage of duffers but I suspect the few that are not duffers are just the opposite.
I train them hard. With the young birds I use the rule of thirds. Most fanciers get in a sweat if they lose a few youngsters but if I breed 60 I try and lose one third by the time of the first race. Under my plan, the next third must have gone by the end of the racing season leaving the final third of the original 60 for the yearling stage. If I don’t lose enough I consider that I have failed by being too lazy. I train young birds to lose them rather than to keep duffers. My ideas are based on those of my uncle Trev who had one of the finest lofts of long distance birds in the midlands. His young birds were always exercised on Saturday mornings and often disappeared for most of the day being carried off by passing race birds. Needless to say, he lost plenty but the young birds that remained went on to score in all the long distance races of the MNFC and the NFC.
My old birds are treated the same way and it is essential to lose one third of the old bird race team each year to make place for the replacement stock. Better to lose them racing than have to cull some at the end of the season when you are never sure whether you are getting rid of the right ones. If you send them often enough and far enough you will not have too many left at the end of the season.
I’m a great believer in breeding off young stock. You read in the newspapers where 50 year old women are having fertility treatment to get pregnant with babies reared in intensive care units. Yet the same papers report girls of 14 having babies after a few minutes behind the bike shed and their babies are always fit and healthy. I’m convinced that the younger the parents, the healthier the offspring.
I’ve never liked keeping prisoner stock birds and I’m just developing my own ‘no prisoner’ system. The basic idea is that you don’t race yearlings until you have finished breeding.
The yearlings are kept in a separate compartment and used as stock birds. They fly out with the others but are not raced or trained. After the initial round off all the birds any further requirements are bred from the ‘flying out’ stock birds. My theory is that, provided you have a loft of tried and tested race birds, the next winners can come from any pairings. When the birds are sitting the winning gene fairy passes over the loft and sprinkles winning dust over the eggs. Some get a lot, some get little and the ones with the most are the future champions.
If you are getting short of birds breed some late breds for use as flying out stock birds the next year. In the same way, if you wish to introduce new bloodlines, bring in latebreds to fly out with the rest. Over the years (and I mean between the 1920s and present) this was the family policy.
When it comes to racing, it is important to send as many as possible to the toughest races otherwise you end up with a loft full of untried pigeons.
For some years I have practised a sort of roundabout system, racing alternate cocks and hens up to the NFC Nantes race (about June 5th) and then pairing them for Pau and Saintes. Last year I ended up with twice as many hens as cocks and have had to change my ideas to cope with this. My older birds are presently paired together with about 15 spare yearling hens.
Once the first round of youngsters have been moved, I intend to re-pair the cocks to the younger hens. This way I should have about 30 hens paired to about 15 cocks, which should create some fun. However, the threat of the Bird Flu will probably put paid to my plans.
My ideas on race programmes are also somewhat different from most. With all this upset over the Bird Flu it will be necessary for some south road organisations to race north. With this in mind I would propose the following federation programme for clubs in the Midlands:
1st race 100 miles NW 2nd race 100 miles SE
3rd race 150 miles NE 4th race 150 miles SW
Then follow on with races from the NW, SE, NE and SW, increasing the distance.
This would get rid of the ‘best loft position’ argument and create a much more level playing field for members. Initially, more pigeons would be lost but after a few years we would end up with birds capable of flying from anywhere in the UK. However, I did put this suggestion to several of my local federation officials and was laughed out of the room.
After leaving school and a couple of years working for the Coal Board, I joined the Leicestershire Police, firstly as a police cadet and then as a constable. My first posting as a cadet was to the Ashby de la Zouch section which was about the same standing as the police station featured in the ‘Heartbeat’ series on TV. The establishment was one inspector, two sergeants and 20 constables. As a cadet I was always ‘in company’ with a senior constable – my highest area of responsibility being the kettle and teapot.
We had a good working relationship with the locals and the first time on night duty I was told not to bring any meal provisions. There was only the one PC and myself to cover the whole town - a somewhat frightening thought, especially for the good citizens of Ashby. About 3am we went round the back of the local bakery and the PC reached up and removed the back door key and opened the door. Inside the bakery the first job was to light the gas ovens for the baker who would be in there at 4am to find his ovens warmed up and ready for action. The second job was to tuck into the large helpings of pork pie and pickles that were left by the baker every night for the night duty officers. A fine example of police/public relations.
There has been much said about corrupt policemen but during my time in the police I never came across any actually ‘bent’ coppers although there were plenty of ‘strange’ ones.
One I worked with spent all his time round the backs of properties looking for open bedroom curtains with females undressing. I found out later that he was called ‘The Moth’ due to his attraction to bedroom lights.
Another, who I suspect was frightened of the dark, tried every trick in the book to remain in the station after dark. He was known as the TOCH H LAMP. When I asked how he got his name I was told it was because he never went out at night.
Another caught two people actually at it in the local toilets and the case ended up before a judge who gave him a commendation for his good police work – a rare reward in those days - and he spent the rest of his career trying to repeat the achievement. As an 18 year old cadet I was detailed by him to keep watch outside the entrance to the public toilets whilst he was on his hands and knees inside looking under the cubicle doors to check how many pairs of feet were in each one.
There were lots of other strange police terms in use in those days.
The police station was known as the NICK or THE COPSHOP; Policewomen were known as PLONKS; A police helmet with the metal knob on top was known as your TIT HAT; Nicking cars was called TWOC (take without the owner’s consent); A sergeant was called a SKIPPER; Any higher rank was called GUV’NER. What with guvs, skips and plonks any strangers to the police station thought they were on a different planet.
My time as a police cadet was curtailed by my 19th Birthday and I was sent on a 3-month course at FHQ as a pre-requisite to the official 3-month initial constables course at Coventry. On the cadet course I was taught how to march up and down and salute anything or body who appeared of higher rank to yourself.
Every morning the whole course, about 18 of us, paraded at 8.45 am on a patch of tarmac outside the Chief Constable’s garage at FHQ. I should point out that to a young police cadet, a chief constable is something about one rank above GOD.
John Taylor was the Leicestershire CC and he had two passions: one was rugby and the force had the best rugby side in the country. Mainly because if you played rugby at a high enough level you passed the police entrance exam irrespective as to whether you could read or write.
His second passion was gun dogs and his two dogs always attended the office with him each day.
The Chief always arrived whilst we were having ‘drill’ practice and the training sergeant brought us up abruptly to ‘attention’ while the chief, plus his two gun dogs, got out of his car and made his way to his office. Anyone who has ever owned a Labrador will know of their disgusting habit of having a good sniff of any body part available, the smellier the better. If you can imagine me standing rigidly to attention, not daring to move a muscle while the chief’s dog comes running up and thrusts its nose into my crotch and proceeds to have a good sniff round. The Chief never batted an eyelid but I’m sure when he was back in his office he wet himself laughing at our embarrassment.
The Chief’s dogs were a constant problem for me. At the end of the course we all had a personal interview with the chief, which required that the training sergeant marched us into his office – chest out and chin up. Left right – left right etc. In this mode it’s impossible to see the floor in front of you. The dogs always lay in front of the chief’s desk and I marched smartly in and fell all my length over the bloody dogs. The Chief growled, ‘Don’t kick the dogs laddie or I’ll send you to Melton Mowbray.’ Melton, being an outpost of the Leicestershire Constabulary where no one wanted to go and it was used by the boss as a sort of prison colony where he sent errant officers for a term of punishment.
BEWARE DOT COM Emails – always a problem.
A couple decided to go to Florida for their wedding anniversary and stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon. Because it was a last minute idea they had to use Last Minute Dot Com but couldn’t get flights together - so the husband flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying over the following day. It was a great hotel. There was even a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realising it, sent the email.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Derby, a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. He was the local vicar who had died following a heart attack. The widow decided to check her emails expecting messages from relatives and friends who had been unable to attend the funeral. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen message which read:
To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've Arrived. I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send e-mails to your loved ones. I've just arrived and have been checked in and everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.
To conclude, On behalf of the guests tonight, I would like to propose a toast to the future of the Midlands Social Circle and hope you all also have a safe and uneventful journey home.