Early March 2010

March 12, 2010

UK Paperback cover 2010

UK Paperback cover 2010 - due for release soon. Photo by Derek Cattani, Dorking, UK 1970

The paperback edition of our book A Lion Called Christian is about to be released in America, followed by Australian and UK editions (pictured), and I am going to Los Angeles for some interviews. A film on Christian’s life is in negotiation and I hope there is some news soon.I love this photograph on the cover. Someone contacted me last year and commented that I always seemed to be talking to Christian, and what was I saying? I replied that I was probably just saying what I have always said to my various cats: that I love them, they are beautiful, probably the most beautiful in the world etc – the sort of things cats love and expect to hear! I then watched our old footage more closely, and realised I was ALWAYS talking to Christian, especially on our return visits to Kenya in 1971 and 1972. This now big lion seemed to listen to me with great patience. I then monitored my own behavior at home more closely, and as I live alone except for my two cats, I realised I did give them a running commentary on my day, life etc, but I also had the manners to ask them how they were!   

A comprehensive catalogue of irresistible photographs by Christian’s “official” photographer Derek Cattani can be seen – and purchased – on www.christianthelionprints.com.  

Last year I was sent many photographs and stories of people’s pets, and I welcome them being sent to me and may post some of them on this blog – but please make sure they are good photographs, and the stories brief and original! 

I would also welcome any suggestions about causes or campaigns that I should be aware of or consider for support through this blog. For example, Voiceless is an independent non-profit think tank dedicated to alleviating the suffering of animals in Australia, and on 29 April there is an auction to raise money with artworks donated by many of Australia’s leading artists see www.voiceless.org.au/voa

Feeling Good 2009 oil on canvas, Daniel Boyd

Feeling Good 2009 oil on canvas, Daniel Boyd

Just opened in Sydney and on until 23 May is an exhibition Wilderness at the Art Gallery of NSW. The exhibition “is not about observed landscape, but about imagined regions, psychological landscapes, creatures both natural and unnatural, the importance that ideas of the ‘wild’ still play in our minds and lives, and how we inscribe nature with memory and meaning”. Daniel Boyd is one of my favourite artists. I have included previous work by him in exhibitions I have curated, and as an Aboriginal person he has questioned romantic notions of our foundational narratives (especially the arrival of Captain Cook in 1770), and Eurocentric perspectives.

8 Responses to “Early March 2010”

  1. Lorelei PELTIER Says:

    Hello Ace,
    I just read your book in French, and when I read about the reunion, I cried with joy. Since then I have felt slightly weird, without doubt because I admire what you have done, and the help you gave to Christian.
    I wish that I could donate, but I can’t now because I am only 13 years old. Finding out about Christian was extraordinary for me. I was wondering if Unity (her best friend) had ever visited Kora, as she had promised.
    It was a sad and unfourtunate fate for the little Katania and also for Monalisa and the others.
    When I am an adult, I hope I will be able to go to Kora, if it is ever possible.

  2. Daphne Constantine Says:

    Today has seen a special reunion for me but not as impressive as Christian’s! My little dog Myrtle came out of quarantine after 6 months this morning and is now curled up beside the fire. We had gone to Egypt together for just under a year and she had seen the pyramids and sphinx and the bustling Cairo bazaars when she stayed with me opposite the Cairo Museum with its golden mask of King Tutankhamun. Not many little dogs have travelled in a plane and seen the boats on Suez and feluccas on the Nile. She crossed the Sinai desert with me and saw the desert under the stars. From our apartment she could see the mountains and the Red Sea and quickly become a favourite personality in the town, apart from the taxi drivers who were convinced she was dangerous (she is the size of a cat). I used to tell them that she ate 2 taxi drivers every week and they would laugh nervously. Every night she would watch the wild feral dogs run baying and howling past our window. There were 5 lanky, sandy ones and one small black and white spotty one who ran at a distance behind, with his little legs going 19 to the dozen to keep up. Myrtle would sit and squeak and wish they would let her join them. In cafes the staff would lift her onto the counter so everyone could see her. In the Middle East they don’t understand about loving animals as pets so they were amused and baffled by the fact she accompanied me everywhere. We had some wonderful adventures and met some wonderful new friends.

    I live alone so when I decided to return to the UK, getting Myrtle home was as important as getting myself back. Thanks to the generosity of an old schoolfriend in New Zealand and the assistance of the vet in Sharm el Sheikh who drove us from the tip of Sinai back to Cairo, Myrtle and I were able to return to England. We now live in a little cottage in the middle of the forest in Sussex where she can run and play again among the woodlands and green countryside. Tomorrow she has a Welcome Home party with balloons, cake and lots of visitors. Pictures posted on Facebook.

  3. Since you said you would welcome stories about pets, I have one I’d like to share…

    This is a story about just one of my own cats. They’re all unique personalities, but this one was a standout. He was the happiest cat in the world.

    He was gray–the purest gray you have ever seen on an animal. And he had a white chest, to give him the classification of a tuxedo cat, plus he had a splash of white on his nose and chin.

    We found him at the county animal shelter. He was one year old at the time. His previous owners had given him up because someone in their family was allergic to him. It was definitely their loss and our gain.

    We took him home in a canvas bag that the shelter volunteer had assured us was escape-proof. Five seconds into the car ride, he popped out of the bag. All cats must earn their names, and this one had quickly earned his: Houdini.

    When we arrived home, our other cat, a pure black cat named Lucky, was sleeping on the couch. Violating all known wisdom about how to introduce a new cat to a household, we threw Houdini onto the couch next to Luck. Luck reacted about how you’d expect, and ran upstairs. For three days Luck expressed suspicion, distrust, and general displeasure at this invasion of his house, during which time Houdini always responded in a way that obviously said, “I’m happy, why aren’t you?” Houdini won. (Houdini always won.) The two cats became the best of friends.

    That pattern was to be repeated by Houdini all his life. He would burst into a room, spring onto your lap, or sometimes just jump straight up in the sure faith that you’d catch him in your arms, and then assuage whatever adrenaline he’d caused to flow with a loud purr that never stopped. He loved life and loved everyone, and he just naturally assumed that everyone loved him. I never once saw him angry. He never got upset at other animals in the vicinity, even other cats. Everyone was a potential friend to him–cats, dogs, squirrels, people. He was no fool; even at an advanced age he outdistanced a dog that jumped into our yard with evil intentions. But everywhere he went, even at the veterinarian’s office, he perked up at the sight of other animals and was eager to meet them. The vet never could hear his heartbeat because Houdini was always purring.

    And Houdini loved to watch people work. Houdini’s world was already perfect, and it was just so wonderful to him to watch people make it more perfect. When I constructed book shelves, he was there to make sure every measurement was exact, every screw driven in straight. And purring his approval all the time.

    When my wife would work in the garden, Houdini would be there. You could see his double enjoyment of sitting in the warm sun and watching my wife work. Anyone could just immediately tell this was a happy cat. Houdini even made friends with the squirrels who lived in our trees. It was a remarkable sight to see Houdini and a squirrel sitting close together on the grass, apparently having a conversation that we were not privy to.

    As much as I wish that a life force like Houdini could exist forever, old age crept up on Houdini like I suppose it does on anyone. Oh, there had been signs–like, lately you had to bend over to catch him when he jumped straight up to your arms. But he still was always the same Houdini, always happy, always purring.

    Houdini had had a history of infections in his mouth. A course of antibiotics had always put him right. But the time inevitably came when even the antibiotics couldn’t kick-start his aging immune system any more. It was such an infection that would take Houdini from us soon.

    Despite our best efforts, Houdini got weaker and weaker. One day, toward the end of March, we were having an unusually warm spell, so I took Houdini outside to enjoy some time in the sun. I placed him on the little landing outside our kitchen door, about 5 feet high off the ground, and I stood on the ground next to him, to protect him. In his current condition he was weak and unsteady on his feet.

    As he was lying there with me standing guard, I was startled by a loud rustling sound at the back of our yard. I quickly realized the sound was made by a squirrel, who was charging full speed up the yard, directly at me! Never had any of the squirrels allowed me to come within 20 feet of them, so all sorts of scary thoughts, of rabies and such, raced through my mind. But something told me to do nothing, even as the squirrel ran up to me, right up to my feet, and then ran to my right and up a tree stump directly across from the kitchen landing–and the same height as the landing. The squirrel just sat there, looking intently at Houdini. Houdini was too ill to return the look, but I can only conclude that the two friends could still carry on one last wordless conversation. After all, something had told me not to fear the charging squirrel. I felt privileged to be a witness to the event, and grateful for the sun and warm weather that had prompted the occasion. Houdini’s squirrel friend stayed and watched Houdini with me for quite some time. But as the sun moved, Houdini was left in the too-cool shade. Houdini meowed softly to be taken back in to the warm house. The squirrel watched me pick up Houdini and carry him into the house.

    Whether you believe animals communicate telepathically, or just enjoy each other’s company, I was impressed by this obvious display of friendship, and I was glad the two friends had one last chance to see each other.

    Houdini died peacefully on our couch a few days later. Friend to everyone that wanted him for a friend, he was definitely a life force that cannot be forgotten.

    A photo of Houdini is here:
    http://tinyurl.com/HoudiniCat .
    The photo was taken by Tim Gadd.

  4. Gabi Says:

    Thank you, Ace! Kár, hogy nem tudok angolul, de olvasom a blogját a google fordító segítségével Európából, Magyarországról. Sok érdekeset ír,jó olvasmányokat ajánl. Van köztük néhány a kedvenceim közül, amik magyarul is megjelentek pl. http://www.janegoodall.hu/janegoodall/konyvek Nagy rajongója vagyok, akárcsak Önnek. Jane Goodall ír az egyik könyvében egy magyar professzorról, Pusztai Árpádról,aki szintén fontos dolgokra hívja fel a figyelmet.

  5. Kay George Says:

    Hello Ace,
    I am so enamored by your and John’s experience with Christian and the outcome.
    I believe we have a theme song for you, for Christian the Lion film. The words are amazingly accurate of Christian’s story. The music is a tear jerker. I wrote the words and sent them to the one having the music. The music is by singer and songwriter David Huff. He can be reached at info@davidhuff.com I’ll let David know of your blog. You can hear the music on youtube, that song is “you saved my life”. Name for Christian’s song is “You Gave Me A Life”. Words are very different, but accurate to story. Will be glad to send you the words. Huge thanks to the one that sent me your blog. Did you ever find Unity Bevis-Jones?
    Thanks again, Kay George RN, BSN

  6. Elizabeth Dietz Says:

    Hi, Ace, I am so happy to read about your adventures here and about your art. I am hoping you will come to the NYC area, as well, to talk.

    One cause (charity) I am now so involved with is The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (the elephant orphanage in Nairobi). Found out about them last Spring from my sister seeing a piece done on tv about them. Went to their first ever NYC fundraiser last month but I want to do so much more. I foster Dida, Shukuru and Olare…

    Thank you so much for this blog and giving Christian the life he deserved all those years ago….tears come to me everytime I watch that youtube…I see the love…

    Best wishes,

  7. Therasa Says:

    Hi Ace,
    Great to see it all up there and live! Fantastic content… can’t wait to read more.
    T x

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