When you are writing about pigeons, you are considered to be a kind of specialist.
Over a short period I received:
- A question about feeding, (what do I know about that)
- A request to make a drawing of the ideal loft, (which doesn't exist)
- A question from an unknown Belgian fancier, to send him medicines that he couldn't buy in his own country, as soon as possible (!), he would pay me later for them (very nice of him).
- A request for a very good breeding hen (can you ask something more stupid?)
- And a letter from, you will never guess, Nagorno Karabach.
To be honest, I have to admit that I don't get many letters from that area.
I think that's because I don't have many fans there.
So when you find a letter with such an unusual stamp among your correspondence that gives you a bit of a shock.
It was an appeal from someone called Vladimir, written in touchingly clumsy German.
He wanted to know everything there is to know about vitamins and medicines for pigeons, and about Delbar. "Bitte, Bitte, Danke, Danke" he wrote. And he added:
"Sie wohnen in Paradeis, Ich in die Helle (You live in Paradise, I live in Hell)," I quote him literally so that I won't be accused of using bad German.
I didn't know how to answer the man, because what can you say when you are told you live in paradise, while you yourself are not so sure about that?
But then a paradise with plenty of traffic jams, fraud, crime and pigeon thefts.
Where did he get that notion from?
Not from our television; he wouldn't get our channels there. And he couldn't have known what an acquaintance experienced with a few migrant ladies either.
Understand me well, I have nothing against people with a dark skin, and even less against ladies.
Because the hours that I have been sunning myself to acquire a 'dark tan', are as countless as the nights that I have been dreaming of ladies.
But when you have your furniture stolen and the police don't do anything about it, but on the other hand gives you a ticket for 'not hand signalling ' when you're riding your bicycle on a quiet road, then that is something that I, besides an evil cat of the neighbours, a persistent pain in my knee and a season ticket holder for PSV Eindhoven (the Dutch football club) have to get off my chest. How could he think I live in paradise?
So Vladimir had questions about vitamins and medicines for pigeons, and about Delbar.
We were supposed to know all about these.
I have my doubts about that.
Lately the pharmaceutical industry has been in the news in a rather negative way. GP's are giving antibiotics too easily, and we take vitamins that have no effect at all.
If there already are so many doubts about human health care, how will it be in the pigeon sport?
If you ask me, 'our Russian' doesn't have to worry that he doesn't know much about medicines and vitamins.
I couldn't believe what I read.
Hasn't Delbar been part of history for a long time?
I have the reputation to be cynical, but isn't a man made cynical?
In February 2008, 'Bons' were sold for the cream of the pigeon sport in Antwerp.
For the amount of money that some foreigners spent on ONE single pedigree pigeon, they could have bought all the 'Bons' from all champions on that site.
Or is it a fact that only offspring of 'De Kleine Dirk', 'De Figo' and 'De Kannibaal' are the only ones capable of producing good ones?
Of course fanciers like Koopman and so on have good pigeons, very good even, but ... not only they.
Take for instance de Rauw Sablon, at the top for years but unknown until recently.
However, after some kind of media hype, people from over the whole world are now giving a lot of money for this breed.
I'll show you what I mean by the example of the 'As' from van de Velde, a pigeon that is often described as 'the best middle-distance pigeon of all times'.
That doesn't say much, there are already plenty of 'best long-distance pigeons of all times', but with 18 pure first prizes, the 'As' really was a super pigeon.
Breed Janssen x Meulemans or something of the kind?
Something of the kind, yes.
It was a cross of Jos Maes and Sebregts, both of whom were ... completely unknown as well.
Sebregts came from Wijnegem, v d Velde met him when he was already 80 years old.
Later, the 'As' would be bought by Gommaar Verbruggen, and his descendants made him world famous, and deservedly so. Verbruggen races tremendously well.
But now the descendants of that Sebregts pigeon are known as 'breed Verbruggen', and that is something that Gommaar can't help either.
Ludo Claessens owes much to a pigeon from someone called Cruysweeghs.
And I could go on like that forever.
There are complaints about the dominance of a small select group in racing with young pigeons.
But is it so much different in the long-distance races?
Are the chances so much more equal there?
Take Barcelona. More than half of the contestants doesn't make the result lists.
Which is something you can't say of the young pigeon races.
In 1981 there were 27,000(!) pigeon fanciers in Oost Vlaanderen, in 1994 there were 17,000. And I don't know how many there are now.
What I do know is that Vladimir is wrong when he thinks that in the pigeon sport all wisdom comes from the west, and that everything is rosy here.
A paradise, like he says.
For fanciers, it WAS a paradise here; in my childhood.
Let's finish on a positive note.
Very uplifting was an interview with Pros Roosen, on TV a long time ago.
At the mention that the pigeon sport was greatly diminishing, he answered smartly:
"There are still enough fanciers to enjoy the pigeon sport. In my district there are (now were) 120 fanciers still active, and NOT ONE SINGLE cyclist or boxer."
And when 'big money' was mentioned he responded:
"In our small country there are 9,000,000 racing pigeons. At least 8,900,000 of those are worthless."
Vladimir is very fond of pigeons, he has to make his own pigeon basket, owns a pigeon clock from the last century and has to drive 60(!) kilometers to basket his pigeons. Maybe in that respect, despite so many gloomy reports, it's a little bit of a (pigeon) paradise over here after all!