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January 2019 - That Was the Year That Was
Well here we go again. As I start this article it's January the 1st 2019 and the Blackpool Show is now a matter of weeks away. Whoever it was that said “time flies” must have been one of the world's first pigeon fanciers because in this great game your feet never seem to touch the floor, but then again mine never do.
Chris Williams from Weymouth joined us as scribe in 2017. He will continue to give us his news and views throughout this year. Chris has written pieces for many years for British Homing World magazine 'From the Chair' and we are very pleased to have him on board.
2018 was a rollercoaster year. I think Charles Dickins (a far better writer than I could ever hope to be) would have said of my 2018, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. 2018 was a challenging year for all pigeon fanciers. In fact some have said it was the toughest racing season on record. I am not a great one for statistics so I wouldn’t know about it being the toughest on record, but it certainly was the toughest I have known since I started racing.
Every cloud has a silver lining, even if you do have to polish the muck off it first! What is meant by this? Well to put it simply, even in the toughest of situations, good lessons can and indeed must be learnt if we are to develop and grow, not only as people but also as fanciers. If not, we can then fall into the trap of complacency; something which can never be afforded in 21st Century racing, as it's just too competitive!
Like the majority of pigeon fanciers this year, Dad and I experienced losses, but for all the birds that are missing, on a personal note, no loss was felt more keenly than that of our dear friend Barry Watson, known to pigeon fanciers everywhere, and by readers of my 'From The Chair' column in the BHW, as 'Watto'. Watto was a great character who understood the value of true friendship and, along with my Dad, has taught me some very important lessons in the 28 years I got to call him my friend, including two of the most valuable that any pigeon fancier can learn; sportsmanship and enjoyment.
The modern age of pigeon racing at times appears to be dominated by the ego and as such it could be argued that enjoyment is lost. However when practiced in its 'purest' form it is the very essence and life blood of our brilliant sport, in which we are all striving for the same. And so let us enjoy it, for in the words of the iconic Manchester United Manager Sir Matt Busby, "Winning isn’t everything. There should be no conceit in victory and no despair in defeat". Wise words from a man who helped to build one of the most successful football clubs in the world by instilling in his players a positive mental attitude and love of what they did. This approach lead to the formation of arguably one of the greatest squads of football players the game has ever known in the form of 'The Busby Babes'; a team who’s meteoric rise to the top was tragically cut short as a result of the Munich air crash of February 6th 1958, but whose legacy of youth, vitality and most importantly passion, leads to not only Manchester United becoming one of the most successful teams in football history, but also revolutionizing the game itself. Now just envisage what the collective pigeon fancy could attain if we all showed the same ethic!
It is a fact of life that we all face challenges of one form or another and it really is in these times that you learn who your true friends are. Thankfully, in the world of pigeon racing, I have some great and genuine friends who have been very supportive not only in terms of helping me in my quest for knowledge in order that I can grow as a pigeon fancier, but who have helped and encouraged me as a scribe. Writing about my passion for pigeon racing has also enriched my enjoyment of this fantastic sport and, just like the racing side of our hobby, it too has provided me with stimulating challenges. Then of course there was the trip to Ireland and making the 'Irish Gold' DVD with the Pigeon King Team; my first experience of the work that goes into making a DVD. During the course of its production I learnt many things, as I helped to interview the double-Irish National winning partnership of Leonard & Deridder, a truly great experience that has been well received by the fancy. During the filming it suddenly dawned upon me that I, an ordinary back garden fancier was given a unique and privileged opportunity to quiz a double national winning loft. Talk about being thrown in the deep end, in what was my first day on the job, so to speak. Thinking back on it I wouldn’t have missed it for the world as it literally was the 'fly-on-the-wall' experience that all pigeon fanciers dream of when it comes to getting into the mindset of a top level partnership. The whole trip was a real learning curve that will stay with me for many years to come.
Human beings by their nature love to ask questions; it is a fundamental part of the learning process. Remember the old saying that there’s no such thing as a daft question? As a disabled person, answering people’s questions about how I manage certain tasks is something I have grown up with and it was exactly the same when I began in the pigeon sport, as certain people questioned how I would manage? Of course it's no secret that even prior to the formation of our partnership Dad has always been a big help to me; doing the physical jobs around the loft which my situation prevents me from doing. But like all pigeon fanciers I know you have to make the best of what you have and focus on what can be done, rather what you cannot do and our sport is full of excellent examples of fanciers who do just that 365 days a year. In early 2018 Graham Walker asked me about filming a DVD, which I agreed to on the condition that it would be used to promote the sport as one that is truly a sport for all and it was also agreed that a percentage of the sales would go to the Nest of Hope charity. This charity helps disabled children and their families in Sao Paulo Brazil. The charity helps provide vital medical and Pastoral care in a country where there is still great stigma attached to disability and many of these families are shunned by their local community. After hearing about the truly amazing and life changing work they do I made a promise that if ever there was a way in which I could do something to help then I would. (See our DVD page for more information on 'From The Chair' DVD - Editor)
Well that was the year that was 2018 ! Now we have the 2019 BHW Show of the year to look forward to and more memories to make in the year ahead and of course the passion and thrill of the racing season. I can’t wait, so that’s all for now. See you in Blackpool: “Graham Walker, it's your round!”
Chris also appears in our Autumn 2018 DVD, 'From the Chair'... watch the promo clip now...