Aliens, Narnia and our dog, Murphy

Image result for image of world from space


My latest devouring passion (perhaps passions keep you alive and hungry for the fascination and excitement of life!)  is for films about aliens… I especially love the ones with encounters between them and us… those with peace and a desire to communicate.

The film ‘Arrival’ sparked this unlikely interest, and I’ve watched it several times, and have been working backward from ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, in which Keanu Reeves played the solemn and idealistic alien, ‘ET’ of course, and my favourite, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. At the end of any film I’ve watched, I then go into a frenzy Googling the cast, reviews, and interviews with directors and any other interesting facts, etc.

When watching ‘Close Encounters…’ again last night, I registered for the first time the dead decoy carcases of sheep and cattle. I noticed too, the tortured dog entrapped in a crude home-made gas mask by his owner, who was trying to sell animal gas masks at the crowded railway station crammed with evacuees. I put aside my disquiet at the killing of the sheep and cattle in order to immerse myself in the mystical, magical encounter with the space-ship and its aliens.

But in my researches afterwards, my misgivings returned. Reading Spielberg explaining that before disguising a group of local school children as the child aliens he had tried to use an orang-utan encased in a silver lycra suit and roller skates strapped to his feet upset me dreadfully. The poor creature undid the skates and crawled back to its owner, so Spielberg had to switch to using children.

As usual, my heart turned over at the idea of using an animal for the purposes of entertainment and causing it distress and discomfort. Not as bad as bull fighting obviously, or as bad as the experience of the tiger in ‘The Life of Pi’. This glorious creature became the victim of the very people who were supposed to be looking after him, and nearly drowned because his keepers were so pre-occupied with the affair they were enjoying.

I’m been suspicious of the use of animals in films ever since the makers of Narnia had wanted to use our magnificent bull mastiff. We had taken Murphy – a rescue dog – to the vet, who was impressed with his splendid mastiff good looks. The vet told us that the makers of the film Narnia were on the look- out for big, handsome bull mastiffs like this. They needed six apparently.

We thought about it, desultorily, and finally asked what it would involve. It would have meant gentle, devoted Murphy – who’d cried with relief all the way home from a ‘Club Med for Critters’ where we’d left him for a weekend once – going away for training for six weeks. And what would the training be, we asked. He would learn to snarl and growl and spring upon people on demand, we learned.

We were absolutely horrified. While he would be pining, and wondering why he had been taken away from us, Murphy’s gentle, friendly nature would have been warped for the purposes of film makers who obviously would not have his best interests at heart. How would they teach a friendly courteous animal to snarl and growl and attack, I wondered, appalled.

Since learning about this, I’ve been very conscious of the way film-makers seem to lack a conscience about how animals are used on set. I no longer believe those PC disclaimers: ‘No animal has suffered any cruelty in the making of this film.’ Certainly, the carnage, when over a hundred horses were killed in the making of Ben Hur, would not be tolerated today, but what constitutes cruelty is entirely subjective…

I cried my heart out over Old Yeller, like most of my generation, my best friend and I mopping up our blotched mascara in the ladies cloakroom after the film… but I sometimes wonder now, after our experience with Narnia , how Old Yeller was trained when he had to snarl and growl before rabies set in…

Lassie is another story, with his waving tail and cheerful demeanour. The most fascinating thing about him is that his character is based on a true story, and on the heroism of a real Lassie.

Wikipedia tells us that writer Nigel Clarke in the “Shipwreck Guide to Dorset and South Devon”, gives the original Lassie story. Half collie, Lassie was owned by the landlord of the Pilot Boat, a pub in the little sea-side town of Lyme Regis. On New Year’s Day in 1915, the battleship “HMS Formidable” was torpedoed by a German submarine off Start Point in South Devon, with the loss of more than 500 men. In a storm that followed, a life raft containing bodies was blown along the coast to Lyme Regis. The owner of the Pilot Boat offered his cellar as a morgue.

When the bodies had been laid out on the stone floor, Lassie found her way down amongst them, and began to lick the face of one of the victims, Able Seaman John Cowan. She stayed beside him for more than half an hour, nuzzling him and keeping him warm with her fur. To everyone’s astonishment, Cowan eventually stirred. He was taken to hospital and went on to make a full recovery. He visited Lassie again when he returned to thank all those who had saved his life.

The sinking of the ship was a severe blow and when RN officers heard the story of Lassie, and what she did to rescue Cowan, they told the story again and again to anyone who would listen, as it was so inspirational and heart-warming. The story travelled to Hollywood and Lassie and the generations of Lassies who followed her, became one of the immortals.  Hers is a feel-good story, as also was the real- life filming of Babe.

In this film, there were six trainers acting as department heads, supervised by an American trainer, and assisted by over fifty-seven animal handlers from the United States, Australia and New Zealand. It took a year and a half of training, and six months of filming to make the film. Wherever there was any violence or an incident in which an animal might suffer discomfort, animatronic models were used; and the pigs were so clever that animatronic models were hardly used in their scenes.

The filming of Babe was a triumph for the humane treatment of other creatures. Interestingly, James Cromwell, who played Farmer Hogget, who was already a vegetarian, became a vegan after making it. Many children, including my granddaughter, stopped eating bacon after seeing this film… And when we remember how often the word ‘pig’ is used in such derogatory ways, it was beautiful and heart- warming that pigs were portrayed at last as the intelligent and loveable creatures that they are.

I’ve strayed a long way from aliens, but I like to think that the noble alien in ‘The Day The World Stood Still’, who came to save the planet, but not the undeserving people, would approve of this film, realising that humans are changing, that they can cherish all life, and not just our own species. (They can even give up eating bacon!)

Technology update. I discovered that my extraordinary overload of e-mails was a file I didn’t know existed, and it contained every blog I have ever received, plus every like, comment, follower, since May 2012. There were nearly ninety thousand, and I’m down to just under seventy- three thousand, deleting them in chunks of fifty which is the best ‘they’ will let me do.

Four fascinating bloggers used to send between five and twenty blogs a day each, which was one reason for the huge back-log… but now at least I know what I’m up against and try to clear between five hundred and a thousand every day … time consuming especially when a title leaps out at me, and I simply have to stop and read it. I’m back as far as December 2015, so you can imagine what a task I still face…this may explain my tardiness in sometimes getting back to you… but nil desperandum.


Food for threadbare gourmets

Not much in the fridge, except the makings of courgette and feta fritters, a favourite for us both. First, grate two large courgettes and put them to drain on kitchen paper. I’m using leeks at the moment instead of onions, so cut half a leek in four lengthways and chop it. Gently fry the leek in olive oil. In a large bowl mix the leeks, grated courgettes, two beaten eggs, a crumbled packet of feta (about 225 gr) two tablespoons of flour, lots of salt and pepper, and plenty of chopped parsley and fresh thyme. Drop tablespoonfuls into hot olive oil, and slightly flatten, turn when brown on one side, and then drain on kitchen paper while you cook the rest.

Sometimes I use coriander instead of parsley and thyme, sometimes nutmeg. We eat the fritters with chilli jelly or sweet chilli sauce, or beetroot relish, with salad – and hot buttered rolls for hungry people. This amount of fritters is enough for three greedy people or four reasonable people!

Food for thought

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.        William Wilberforce who campaigned against slavery and cruelty to animals.



Filed under animals/pets, consciousness, cookery/recipes, films, history, love, spiritual, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, Uncategorized, wild life

23 responses to “Aliens, Narnia and our dog, Murphy

  1. Dear Valerie,

    I love your takes on animals. I’m one who is amazed by the unconditional love of animals when they’re treated right…and sometimes when they’re not.
    Currently I miss having a dog or cat but don’t feel that we can properly care for one.
    It sounds like you still have quite a task ahead of you clearing your email. I will then wait for the “all clear” to send any more your way.
    In any case, it’s good to read your voice again.




  2. Merciful heavens – all those emails.. poor you. loved the story of the real Lassie – how lovely.. c


  3. I’m with you on the mistreatment of any creature and I,too, loved the story of the original Lassie. Was missing you but seeing your update, must have missed a post, sorry! So many emails! Oh my! Love to you 🙂


    • Hello Sally, so good to hear from you… yes, Lassie was doing her heroic work not far fro you… I’ve been quietly following you under the radar, and loved all your pics of your trip and gorgeous little grand children…it must have been so hard to say goodbye… thank heavens for Skype…
      Love to you in sunny Cornwall !!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My heart goes out to you, thanks a lot, Valerie❣️👣


  5. I loved the original story of Lassie…I had never read it before! Like you I can NOT stand the idea of treating animals…any animals in a horrible or unkind way. Your love of animals and human kind always shine forth in your blog posts.
    2015—only two more years to go!
    Love you!


  6. I agree with you, Valerie. Cruelty to animals is abhorrent, especially when it’s in the name of ‘entertainment’. I didn’t know about what happened with the ‘Life of Pi’ tiger. How shocking that that type of cruelty still continues in this day and age.

    I haven’t seen ‘Arrival’ yet, but it sounds interesting. I studied linguistics at university, and I read that the main character in ‘Arrival’ is a linguist, so I would like to see it even though I’m not a big fan of alien films.

    The courgette and feta fritters sound delicious! And I do hope you manage to whittle down the emails — it sounds like quite a mammoth task. Whenever I have to do tedious technological tasks, I find that listening to music helps.


    • Lovely to hear from you Grace, and thank you for your thoughtful comments
      I found Arrival fascinating because really it was about our planet, and the opportunities we have to change… our psychology and hope…

      Thank you for reminding me about music ! I always used to put on the Goldberg variations, or other Baroque music when I was doing boring stuff, but had completely forgotten to do so here, where we listen to silence, which isn’t silence, but the sound of birdsong, the wind in the trees, and the stream below…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I stopped going to the circus many years ago because of the animal acts, Valerie. No animal should be exploited for entertainment. 😉


  8. Dear Margarita, I agree of course – I never go to circuses…and have to button my lip around family who own racehorses too !!!!


  9. I hope you are making progress with your deletions. I am daunted by a couple of hundred back emails!
    Aliens are fascinating, and in much the same genre as lands of supernatural beings as I have been involved in recently with editing a book dealing with demons and angels and the like, and with returning to give a final polish to my own l…o…n…g-outstanding ‘fairy story’.


  10. Some days I can’t even face them, and so they start to mount up again… think Sisyphus and you’ll get the picture !!!!
    Yes, aliens are fascinating and demons and angels intrigue me too… I would be interested to hear more about your ‘fairy story’….


  11. Hi Valerie, just to let you know I’ve nominated you for the bloggers Liebster award. Please go to my recent post to find out all about it


    • Dear Lynne, thank you so much for thinking of me for an award, I really appreciate it. However, I don’t do awards.. lots of reasons , I even wrote a blog about why I don’t…
      But anyway, thank you again, it was lovely that you thought of me, Valerie


  12. Valerie, have you seen Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie? If not, this film needs to go on your list. Beautiful and strange and very sad.


  13. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our fellow creatures. They have sustained our lives in ways that we never could have imagine. In every mythology, every story, every sacred book humanity is called to hold all life in reverence. May we heed the call to action! I do love your posts. They add joy to my life.


  14. Rebecca, lovely to hear from you… hope all is well with you and yours…I loved your comment… you always extend and enlarge my perspective, thank you…and thank you for your beautiful encouragement as always, love Valerie


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