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The Italian

Honestly speaking I am not keen on visitors but I must admit I have learned from it. From Americans, those happy birds most of them far too fat, and who wonder why in

the morning you cannot have breakfast on every street corner.
I learned from Chinese and Japanese, those persons with two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, two hands, two feet and a camera.
I learned from Germans, those precise beings, sometimes with woolly socks, who are so perfect and correct in everything.
They adhere to the law, will not wash cars if that is forbidden and do only one thing wrong: driving like hell on the motorway.
If in Germany you drive (only!) 140 kilometers per hour you hinder the traffic.
Left and right the BMWs and Mercedeses fly past hooting loudly. The drivers point to their foreheads to say that YOU are crazy, driving so slowly.
But we, and certainly me, also have our limitations and defects, but whats wrong with being different?

This time the visit was an Italian and his wife.
They wanted to visit some lofts with me.

Why I consented I do not know, perhaps because of the language. That is fascinating and impressively beautiful.

That is not talking but composing and singing simultaneously. Not in sentences but in symphonies.
Ask an Italian a simple question and he will answer singing for minutes and then you will discover that you still know nothing.
Or maybe I went with them because of his wife. She was blonde, beautiful and now I have to watch my words, well shaped.

It would be an interesting day.

First there was the inevitable visit to a veterinarian.
The man was filling bags with mysterious powder.
And if something intrigues me it is vets who fill bags with mysterious powder.
"What are you putting into those bags?" I asked.
The veterinarian:
"Some customers have problems. I give them a cure against canker but after a few weeks they hang on the phone again. Again canker.

At first I thought: there are two possibilities:
- I am a veterinarian that is no good.
- Or that medicine of mine is worth nothing.
Since I do not find myself the worst white coat  and my medicine had already proven to be good there should be something else.

And that "something else" is the climate!

In winter the birds hardly drink, in hot weather they drink 4 times more than normal.

So if you medicate through the water pigeons will hardly get any of the medicine you want them to give in winter and far too much in warm weather.

Therefore I advise to medicate through the food only and I am studying the amount of medicine you need for that.  

Of course you can also give pills through the throat but that means a lot of work.


We also visited Mr Z from the town of Riel.
"Ah, there is the expert" he welcomed me.
I cringed.
I have known Z since long and I wondered what I had done wrong, because I hate being called "the expert".

If there is anyone on this earth who knows little about pigeons, it is me.

Since I cannot see if a bird is any good, I breed so many babies every year.

And why do others also breed so many babies?

Because they do not know it either.  

Maybe "knowing nothing about pigeons is a bit exaggerated", and must I say "know a bit". But back to Mr Z.


"Do you remember him?" he asked pointing to a pigeon.
I did not know what he meant.
"Thats my best breeder" he said, "and you have predicted this without even having seen the bird."

I did not understand.

Then he did his story.
"Long way back this bird won a first prize and then you asked what the weather was."
"Wind from behind," I apologized.
"Keep it" you said then.

"I did not take you serious then but this bird was to become a real super breeder."

I lit a cigarette, I always do those rare times that I get a compliment, and inhaled until my toes curled in the enjoyment of nicotine.
It reminded me of my "06"  long time ago.
This "06" won the first race it was entered as a baby the first prize.

It was a short distance race with tailwinds.

"This bird will become a super" I said.

"Become a super, because it won a first prize from a race of no more than 100 kilometers with tailwinds?" my fellow sportsmen said.
"Exactly" I said.

They could not stop laughing.

Iit did become a super and even gave a baby that won a 4th and a 5th National Bourges in Belgium from no less than 20,000 birds in both races.

It is a mistake to claim that races with tailwinds are lucky races.

Precisely in such races birds must have the quality to leave the rest directly after the release. And this is not an easy thing since with tailwinds the speed is high.

Birds have little time to correct their course in such circumstances.

Even the late Jan Grondelaars himself, a real icon, used to say that winning with tailwinds is more difficult than winning with headwinds.  

I have often noticed that a super bird which is not in good shape can win a prize with headwinds but they are too late with tailwinds when the speed is high.

Besides look at National Bourges 2009 in Belgium!

Strong tailwinds but the best birds were on top of the national result sheet.

All that I said to the Italian, who looked at me incredulously.

" No lucky races with tailwinds?"

He wanted to buy super birds and in his opinion those were birds that had won a first prize with headwinds.  


"What birds then should I buy?" he asked me.

"Definitely not old birds for much money" I said.

"Buy a bunch of babies, preferably summer breds and not too expensive." 
"But I wanted to go back home with a basket full of super pigeons" he said .
"And I want to be as good as Messi" I said.
We said goodbye with a dinner.
He wore a fancy tie, his wife had a breath taking d'collet'.

And never have I seen a waiter who so often deeply bowing came to ask how the food tasted.