UFOs, a subject best left alone ….  .jpg

UFOs, a subject best left alone ….  

SEPARATED FROM the house by 150 metres of drenched greenery, puddles and mud, my office is guaranteed privacy when it rains: a jungle of eucalyptus saplings from the stumps of trees cut down last spring stand two metres high round the shed, the narrow path awash. It is only a matter of time before the power fails.

A back up supply of candles, bought during the year, now resembles the roots of a mandrake plant, this summer’s high temperatures having melted and twisted them into strange figures. Happily, that is where the similarity ends.

Although potatoes, peppers and tomatoes belong to the same family and the leaves are poisonous, the part we eat is harmless. However, a mandrake root, left soaking in wine, was used as an anaesthetic centuries ago, and is mentioned in at least four plays by Shakespeare. Considered to be the first agent used in chemical warfare, in 200BC, an army of Carthaginians, driven from a city they had been defending, left quantities of wine infused with the same plant. The invaders drank it, passed out cold and were slaughtered, the environmentally friendly poison leaving no harmful traces behind. Compared with 21st century weapons of war, this system of killing might also be considered as an involuntary euthanasia.

Scientific discovery, inspired guesses and our inventive skills have us believing that we are in control of life, yet in many ways we have become less civilised, devouring world resources and giving little thought to future consequences. Unnecessary illumination of town and countryside, seen for miles as a bright glow where there is air pollution or cloud cover, has reduced our ability to see the stars even on a clear night.

Some weeks ago, mercury vapour lamps were replaced by orange sodium lighting along the lanes of the valley where we live: they are bright enough to read by and will adversely affect the circadian rhythms of local wildlife. It is a very small example of what is happening all over the planet and considered partly responsible for the loss of a variety of species that used to thrive beyond the urban spread.

A family of bats living in the dry well of the farm next door might appear to benefit from an easy source of food when moths and other flying insects are attracted to the lamps, but they are nocturnal mammals and await darkness before emerging to feed. Because these lights come on immediately as the sun goes down, the bats remain dormant, their feeding time is shortened, breeding is affected and lifespan reduced.

Towns and cities shining into outer space appear to be attracting the attentions of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) if reports in the local English press are correct. Recent viewings over the Algarve have been received with cautious interest, laughter and outright disbelief.

Having delved deeper into the history of past sightings, it appears that Portugal has had a higher than average number of visitations. Between September 14, and December 15, 1946, there were at least three well documented UFOs seen by a variety of ordinary, sensible people. The Sociadade Portuguesa de Exploraçâo Científica (SPEC) has been investigating such phenomena for many years and an international symposium on the subject was held in 1997.

The Institute of Hispanic Ufology was founded in 1998, and has representatives in more than a dozen Spanish speaking countries. A Spanish non-believer by the name of José Luis Jordan Peña invented an elaborate hoax in the 1950s, aiming to prove the gullibility of elite scientists and the paranoiac tendencies of the man in the street. It is known as the UMMO affair, which eventually got completely out of hand, spawning a sect of Ummites with heavy religious overtones. By the time the inventor of this phantom planet admitted his deception, UMMO had developed a life of its own.

There was a rash of UFO sightings during the 1950s in the Warminster area of Wiltshire, which seemed to have been singled out by Extra Terrestrials for in-depth surveillance. Some reports were verified by highly respected members of the British Army.

Sceptical, but with open minds, 10 years ago the Boss and I were out late at night checking the horses near Lagos. Looking east, we saw a bright light streaking northward at very high speed, followed seconds later by two jet fighters on maximum boost. They might just as well have stayed at home because the UFO had vanished. If sentient beings were proved to be in control of these objects, it would present a terrible dilemma for both Darwinists and Christians. Some things are better left alone.

Sadly, we cannot ignore or disbelieve reports of sheep killing in our valley. The stray bitch rescued by our neighbour five months ago and our Podenga hunting dog Fred, found injured and redeemed from death in August 2004, have been named. Although Fred has never had blood on him nor been aggressive to other animals, I have to accept the farmer’s word because I trust him. While the bitch was shot by her owner, our vet has agreed to come over so that Fred may slip away in peace among those to whom he has given so much joy.

Margaret Brown