JIM Emerton made a name for himself as a top pigeon racer, breeding birds that won international competitions, flying home to his loft in North Yorkshire from as far afield as southern Spain.

He certainly knows how to raise tough birds, but as to how these creatures find their way back from foreign shores, he’s as much in the dark as the rest of us.

‘As far as we can perceive, the how and why of homing and orientation remain elusive to science as well as to the fancy at large,’ writes the former Bradford College student in his latest book. ‘Who can tell what a pigeon experiences within its being or the exact impetus that drives a pigeon to home over great distances…it remains a beautiful mystery.’

In the book, An Eccentric Genius, Jim returns to the endlessly fascinating subject of racing pigeons, writing of his liking for north-east winds as ‘a real test’ of management and bird.

Jim’s pigeons broke records. One, Barcelona Dream, still holds the record for the longest flying member of the British International Championship Club (BICC) from Barcelona. In 1994 he was the only bird of 20,936 who flew more than 800 miles

‘There is no exact science or art to pigeon racing, but the champion flyers know the game.,’ he writes.

This is his ninth book, having delivered previous entertaining offerings on life and how he perceives it.

Complete with photographs, this paperback reflects on the influences that have made him the man he is today. A round-up of his life, it harks back to ground with which his readers are familiar, his pigeons, his family, his travels and his intellectual challenges.

He devotes a chapter in the book to ‘travels with Jean’, his soul mate, who he met at a social club dance in 1978. ‘She proved to be the salvation of my life’, he writes. ‘I sent her to sleep with incessant chatter about pigeons and myself, but strangely enough she didn’t seem to mind.’

He moved in with her in 1979 and they have been together ever since. Jim describes her as ‘a kind and jolly soul’ who ‘lights up a room wherever she goes’.

Jean had three children when the couple met. They ‘see me as a bit of an oddball, but in an affectionate way,’ writes Jim.

In fact, the term ‘oddball’ is music to Jim’s ears. As a proud member of Mensa he writes ‘I love the exclusivity of Mensa; it is my home, a union of oddballs.’ What other members will think of that is statement is anyone’s guess.

Jim writes of how discovering Mensa became a turning point in his life. Finding he had an IQ in the top one per cent gave him a huge confidence boost.

‘As I ‘age towards the sage’ my membership meand even more to my creative, philosophical and literary life, It is an effective cure for loneliness, and it connects you with some unusual and fascinating folk.’

Jim describes his happy childhood in Skegness, where his father, Walter, ran a sweet and candy-floss shop.

‘As the baby of the family and the only boy, I suppose I did receive special treatment,” he recalls, going on to describe the diverse characters of family members.

His father made a success of the shop. ‘For some years he did well by exercising his personal charm and salescraft on his customers,’ writes Jim, who is clearly a chip off the old block.

It is his upbringing that spawned the sharp, ebullient, mildly eccentric character that he is today and who shouts from the pages of this book.

*An Eccentric Genius, My Extraordinary Life by Jim Emerton is published by Mero Books and is available on Amazon.

Helen Mead