Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

............I forgot

I forgot to add what a hive of activity this place is today either. Corinna is preparing dinner after having been proofreading all day. Oll is in the Dining Room printing out the CFZ Christmas cards, and Richard is printing out the latest edition of Animals & Men. Mark is doing the final tweaks to my 1995 book `The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the Westcountry` (the last of my cryptozoological back catalogue to come out in paperback form), which will be available in about ten days, and I have just finished doing the final revisions to my long awaited book of short stories about fish.

It's called Strength Through Koi, and I find it mildly entertaining. To quote from the introduction:

"Koi carp were certainly lucky for me. As anyone who has ever read my autobiography – Monster Hunter – will know, the beginning of the 21st Century was a particularly bleak time for me. Beset with health problems, I was also facing the threat of imminent bankruptcy. The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] was in the financial doldrums; it was costing an arm and a leg to keep going, and all of our regular sources of funding had dried up!

For years I have augmented my income by working as a `hack` writer, penning throwaway articles for anyone who will pay me. Regularly, I would get the bus into Exeter City Centre, and sneak into W.H.Smiths and peruse the magazines for sale, and make a surreptitious list of any new publications whom I could approach to buy an article from me.

One day in the late winter, I was doing just this when I found a copy of a magazine called Koi Carp. With my tongue firmly in cheek, I telephoned them, and asked whether they would be interested in an article – or even a series of articles – about the fortean aspects of their hobby. Much to my surprise and gratification they accepted, and so I started work on my first article.
I had been so used to working for fly-by-night publications, that I had stopped taking a long-term view of my writing work. I was lucky if a series I wrote lasted three issues, so the fact that I knew next to nothing about the fortean aspect of koi carp keeping didn’t really matter. However, on this occasion, I was hoist by my own petard, as the series carried on for nearly two years! After six or seven issues, I bit the bullet, and started to employ the old journalistic adage that one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Some of the stories that follow are true. Some are mostly true, others have a germ of truth, and even the ones that I made up are based on true events. I think my proudest moment as a journalist came, after the publication of “They Saved Hitler’s Koi”, when Simon Wolstencroft, an old friend of mine, and then editor of a sister-magazine to the one for which I was working, sent me the following email.

1. How did you think you would get away with having this printed?
2. How did you get away with it?

For goodness sake, don’t read these stories looking for any firm insights into the history and culture of koi keeping, but I hope that they may give you some little amusement, because that was the spirit in which they were written.

Same old, same old

I'm actually quite pleased how the last week or so has gone. Corinna is back down here with us again, which is always nice. She is in the process of moving in, and events keep on overtaking us, so the long, slow, process is taking what seems to be an intermanable length of time. Oh well, good things come to those who wait.

When I moved up here, I decided that I was going to keep my pet numbers to a minimum. I co-own an elderly dog called Tessie with Richard and Graham, and I have an exceedingly stupid cat called `Helios 7` named after a character invented by the immortal Mr Biffo.

However, I should have known better. The best laid plans of Animals & Men always seem to go pearshaped, and at the moment, in addition to the animals in the CFZ collection (which are exhibits rather than pets, even though both Richard and I have been known to talk babytalk to the amphiumas and caecelians), we now have two degus, a rabbit, two rats (called `Len` and `Sid`) and five cats as well as the dog. Most of these animals belong to my beloved, who is welcome to do what she wants because she can't do wrong in my eyes whatever she does, and the other two are the property of a friend of ours who is staying at the moment.

So, whereas for the past ten years my old, stone house was populated by my elderly parents and their cat, and latterly by my father alone, there are all the above animals, plus the ever growing collection of exotics in the kitchen and conservatory, and tonight there will be seven of us sitting down to dinner.

Weird how things go huh?