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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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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Strange Days

This is a very peculiar time. Corinna is being magnificently brave, and I think that despite it all she is having a much nicer Christmas than anyone would have suspected. We all knew that was happened on Christmas Eve was likely to happen one day, and despite all of our efforts there was nothing that we could do to prevent it.

In a strange way, a shroud has been lifted. The girls are being wonderful as well, and we are both looking forward to a reasonably traditional family Christmas when they arrive tomorrow.

Corinna gave me a lap steel guitar fot my Christmas present, and I am having great fub learning to play it; and after a few hours practise I no longer sound as if I am torturing a cat!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas

Well it's been a strange old year, but through the highs and the lows, the readers of this blog have always been there with us. Happy Christmas my friends....

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sad News

Corinna's father died in the early hours of this morning. Sadly, he could not cope with his personal daemons any more, and decided to take matters into his own hands.

This is a sad and confusing time for Corinna, her mother, and the two girls. Her brother Antony is looking after my mother-in-law at his home in Norfolk, and my two darling step-daughters Shoshannah and Olivia are being comforted by their long-term boyfriends, (Gavin, and Rob aka `Goldie`) who are very fine young men, and whom I am very proud to have as de facto sons in law. I am - of course - doing my best to look after my darling wife, after what has been a horrible year for her.

This is the end of a long, confusing, and desparately distressing period in the life of my family. We ask you to keep us in your thoughts, and remember us in your prayers.

"Hear my prayer, 0 Lord, and with thine ears consider my calling: hold not thy peace at my tears. For I am a stranger with thee: and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. 0 spare me a little, that I may recover my strength: before I go hence, and be no more seen."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Best records of 2007

Having seen that Biffo has done it I can follow in his lead and post my favourite albums of 2007.

In no particular order:

1 Paul McCartney `Memory almost Full`
2 Kula Shaker `Strangefolk`
3 Radiohead `In Rainbows`
4 The Polyphonic Spree `Fragile Army`
5 Tinariwen `Aman Iman`
6 The Decemberists `The Crane Wife`
7 Robert Plant/Alison Krauss `Eaising Sand`
8 Robert Wyatt `Comicopera`
9 Gogol Bordello `Super Taranta!`
10 Kevin Ayers `The unfairground`

but my favourite has to be the first solo album by Brett Anderson, ex of Suede! It is everything that one could have hoped for and more....

My best gig of the year was the Pet ShopBoys at the Eden Project, but then again I didn't get to see either Led Zeppelin or Steve Ignorant!

I dont't usually hang out in such places, but I was on Friends Reunited a few months ago, and I happened to spy the entry from a one-time social intimate of mine in which he was ranting that all modern music is rubbish.

Nonsense!

You just have to look harder these days..

Good Times, Bad Times

The bad news is that Corinna's Christmas Presents have died. I bought her a pair of Budgett's frogs, and Oll and I smuggled them into the house about three weeks ago. They were thriving, and even managed to survive the very cold snap of a few days back, but yesterday, David went up yo feed them and they were both dead!

I was very upset, and what made it worse was that Corinna realised I was upset and wormed the reason out of me. Now she knows about the Christmas Present she didn't have :( But I have sourced another pair for her and she will get thewm early in the New Year, so despite the trajedy, she will still get her amphibious presents.

I am very ambivelent about this time of year. I don't go as far as to say "Bah Humbug" (well not all the time, anyway), but in many ways there is something vaguely disturbing about what is euphemistically known as the `festive season`. I was in Morrison's the other day, buying vaguely festive stuff like catfood and cigarettes when I was mown down by baying hordes of chavs gallumphing around the aisles like a herd of vulgar wildebeest. They were all talking to their revolting friends on their mobile phones at the top of their voices, mostly about their sex-lives, and they were buying such enormous piles of food and booze, (that shocked me, and I am a drinker with an eating disorder), that I can onloy assume that they all had large families of eleven or twelve, or that they were kitting out an Antarctic expedition.

What was most disturbing were the number of people whom I overheard bemoaning the fact that - and I quote - they "would be paying for this for months", and that they were getting themselves deeply into debt, paying for one enormous, artery-busting blowout. I know we are a consumer society, but this is ridiculous.

And all this is to celebrate a sacred festival of a religion most people these days don't believe in. There is something wrong here.

On a happier note, however, we went to a family party last night, and had a real old-fashioned Christmas parlour party, with cake and pop and carols round the piano. It was lovely.

But the best thing about this Christmas? Spending it with my beautiful new wife, and my two lovely step-daughters! After years of being a bachelor, I am never going to be alone at Christmas again.... and you don't know how happy that makes me.

Happy Christmas my friends..

Thursday, December 20, 2007

CFZ Annual Report 2007

CFZ ANNUAL REPORT 2007


Dear friends,


Counting up on my fingers, I realise – with a start – that this is the fourteenth annual report that I have written for the membership of the CFZ. Every year since 1994, during the first week in December, I sit back and reflect upon the events of the previous twelve months, and then attempt to put them into writing.

This has been a tumultuous year, both for the CFZ and for me. On a personal level, just over two years after we met, Corinna moved in with me full-time in April, and we married on 21st July. This is, therefore, the first annual report that I have ever written as a happily married man. But the advent of Corinna has not just meant that my years of turmoil are over, but she has been faced with the monumental task – almost akin to that of cleaning the Augean Stables – of bringing order to the chaos that was the CFZ administration. And she is doing a magnificent job. We have spreadsheets, accounts, databases, and even a franking machine (although those jolly nice people at the franking machine company have still not given us the facility of printing our logos on outgoing mail). It is an epic task, but – assuming that we survive the forthcoming recession intact – one that has already to bear fruit.

One of the most important results of our newfound efficiency is that, at last, we are beginning to attract corporate sponsorship.

The first of these sponsors was Travis Perkins, who very kindly donated about £800 worth of timber, which has been used in the construction of the museum, and the second is Capcom – one of the world’s leading computer game publishers – who very kindly sponsored our November expedition to the South American country of Guyana.

But more of that later.

Work on the museum has been hindered by the bloody awful weather. It is wryly amusing to look back and realise that in April we were told by those in the know, that 2007 was going to be the hottest, and driest, year on record. In fact, it was anything but! We had hoped that the museum was going to be – to a certain extent at least – ready for visitors in time for the Weird Weekend. As June, July, and August were almost unrelentingly horrible weather-wise, practically no work was able to be done, and so the revellers who attended first our wedding, and second – a month later – the Weird Weekend, were confronted by a dilapidated, and rather unsavoury-looking building site. However, the floor is complete, the electric supply has been installed, and the aviary block is 95% complete. There is a hell of a lot more to be done, and it still looks like an unsavoury building site, but we hope that the vast majority of work will be completed by the spring. However, it will be eight months late, at least, and between £5,000 and £8,000 over budget.

However, it will be the only institution of its kind in the UK, and will be open to the public on selected days during 2008. We can announce the first four days of these: the last weekend in June as part of the Open Gardens project, and the Weird Weekend on the third weekend in August. Otherwise, it will be open by appointment only, and - all year round - to all members of the CFZ.

We are also proud to be able to announce our involvement with a major conservation initiative. Chirs Moiser, who has been a member of the CFZ permanent directorate since 1995, has just bought a zoo – Tropiquaria at Watchet in Minehead, north Somerset. Corinna is a partner with Chris and with Jane Bassett in this venture, and owns a small but significant share of it. My greatest hero, the late Gerald Durrell (1925 – 1995) used to quip that his second wife Lee, “only married him for his zoo”. There have been a lot of parallels between Durrell and myself. Indeed, just before Christmas last year, BBC4 broadcast a documentary about him. I was sitting in bed, unwell, watching it with Mark North sitting at the foot of my bed eating cake. As more and more details emerged about Durrell’s views on life, and relationships with other people, Mark began to laugh so much that he nearly choked on cake crumbs. As I wrote in my autobiography, however, in every way Durrell dwarfs me. He was a giant of a man, both in his achievements and his failings. Whereas his achievements are so vast that they will forever leave mine looking insignificant in comparison, the same can be said about other aspects of his life. However, it is mildly amusing that where he claimed that his second wife married him for his zoo, I have married my second wife who is part-owner of one. There is a lot of work to be done with Tropiquaria, but their 2007 breeding successes with Jamaican boas, pancake tortoises, and northern helmeted curassows are something which can only be admired, and they are projects with which the CFZ is very proud to be involved.

Our publication schedule has continued apace this year. We are particularly proud of four books:

· Monster: The A-Z Zooform Phenomena by Neil Arnold
· Big Cats: Loose in Britain by Marcus Matthews
· Man Monkey by Nick Redfern
· Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr. Karl P.N. Shuker

The first two books have achieved a legendary status amongst the crypto-investigative community. Neil’s has been in the offing for two or three years, and is the largest and most comprehensive run-down on zooform phenomena around the world that has ever been attempted. Marcus’ book has an even longer history. It was written in the mid-1980s, and is the most comprehensive study of British big cats from pre-history to about 1990 ever to have been published. Researchers have known about this book for many years, and we are very proud to have at last been able to publish it.

Nick Redfern’s book is the first volume ever to have been written on BHM phenomena in Britain, and Karl Shuker’s book is the long-awaited and very welcome update to one of his best-loved and most obscure works. We are very proud to announce that we shall be publishing a whole string of books by both authors, which will include both updated and revised editions of their classic – and often long out of print – books, and entirely new volumes. Expect the next books by both of them in the New Year.

We are also very proud to be able to announce that the CFZ Yearbook series has been re-started. After a hiatus of three years, the 2007 Yearbook was published this spring, and the 2008 Yearbook – which will include this annual report – will be published within the next few weeks.

2007 also saw us publishing the second Big Cat Yearbook published by the Big Cats in Britain [BCIB] research group. This invaluable series includes in-depth reports on every known big cat sighting in the UK over a twelve-month period, together with essays from many of the luminaries in the field. It was particularly pleasing that the 2007 volume included a piece by Di Francis – one of the seminal researchers into big cat phenomena in the UK, and a researcher who has – sadly – fallen beneath the radar for the last few years.

For 2008 we are very pleased to announce yet another series. This will be of approximately 40 volumes and will be a county-by-county guide to the mystery animals, zooform phenomena, and animal folklore of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The first volume which covers Tyneside and Northumberland has been written by Mike Hallowell and will be published early in the New Year. Other volumes have been commissioned from Karl Shuker, Nick Redfern, Richard Freeman, Jon McGowan, Neil Arnold, Garry Cunningham, Oll Lewis and myself, and several of these will be published in 2008.

This summer we also launched a magazine called Exotic Pets. This does exactly what it says on the tin, and is intended to foster responsible animal keeping. We believe that under the current political climate, it may not be long before all exotic pet keeping has been hounded out of existence by the Animal Rights lobby and this increasingly disagreeable government. We believe that this will be a very bad thing, because the work of the amateur naturalist is irreplaceably valuable. Remember, that Darwin, Mendel, Gosse, Wallace, and, of course, Gerald Durrell, were all, basically, amateur naturalists. In the broadest sense of the word, so are the CFZ. Amateur naturalists are those people who do what they do un-constrained by the forces of finance or peer pressure.

Successive governments culminating in the shower who are presently strutting along the corridors of power have inflicted immeasurable damage upon the British way of life. They have turned our television companies from being the best in the world; national treasures who produce the world’s greatest documentaries, dramas, and current affairs programmes, into a pathetic, shambling affair whose only remit seems to be to provide ‘bread and circuses’ to an increasingly moronic viewing public. They have turned our education system into a fatuous joke, and they have instituted such a draconian ‘nanny state’ that most of the things that once made Britain great are now nought but a vaguely embarrassing memory. We feel that one of the major roles of the CFZ in the 21st Century is to enthuse successive generations into rediscovering the joy of discovery of the natural world which my generation had as children. Natural history was a national obsession for about a century from the 1850s onwards, and had it not been for this national obsession, much of what we know about the natural world would still be a mystery. We believe that with publications such as Exotic Pets and Animals & Men that we are doing our own little bit to redress this balance, and we hope that you will agree with us that what we do is indeed a valuable thing.

This year’s Weird Weekend, which took place on the third weekend in August, was a great success. It raised over £1,500 for CFZ funds, and attracted nearly 200 people from across the world. It was very encouraging to see how many of these were children who are becoming enthused by what we do. This year’s speakers included Grigory Panchenko – the world’s greatest expert on the almasty of the Caucasus – whose appearance at the Weird Weekend was his first speaking engagement in the West. Other speakers were Larry Warren, Peter Robbins, Richard Freeman, Oll Lewis, Nick Redfern, Jonathan McGowan, Matthew Williams, Mike Hallowell, Dr Charles Paxton, Adam Davies, Dr Darren Naish, Chris Moiser, Paul Vella, Ronan Coghlan and myself.
Next year’s event will once again take place on the third weekend of August and confirmed speakers so far are: Adrian Shine, Mike Hallowell, Nick Redfern, Lee Walker, Matt Salusbury, Geoff Ward, Richard Freeman, Ronan Coghlan, Paul Vella and myself. Tickets will be going on sale in early January, and we strongly urge you to book your places early and also to book your accommodation in good time. Last year every B&B and campsite for miles was chocker.
In October this year we launched yet another new proejct. ‘On the Track’ is amonthly web TV show hosted on our CFZtv website which provides an overview of cryptozoological news in general and CFZ news in particular. The third episode was posted in early December, and initial viewing figures of about 1,000 a month are very encouraging.

In November, for the fifth year in a row, the CFZ undertook a major foreign expedition. This year’s excursion was to Guyana and was sponsored by Capcom. The five-person team consisted of:

· Richard Freeman (team leader)
· Dr. Chris Clark
· Jon Hare
· Lisa Dowley
· Paul Rose

Paul Rose is perhaps better known to his legions of fans as ‘Mr. Biffo’, the one-time head honcho of the Channel 4 teletext video game magazine Digitiser. He is better known these days as a humorous journalist, and TV script writer. Richard and I have been massive fans of his for years, and it was a great joy to us both, when, in May, he became a member of the CFZ. During the sojourn in the little explored grassland savannah of southern Guyana, he quickly became an integral part of the team, and whereas he intitially only went along because he had been commissioned to write a major book about the CFZ, he told me on the telephone the other night that he is now firmly ‘hooked’, and will be joining in CFZ activities for many a year to come.

The expedition went in search of information about three unknown animals:

· The didi (pronounced dai dai) – a bigfoot type creature.
· The giant anaconda
· The water tiger (a little known aquatic cryptid)

We found out a lot of information about all three species, but also came back with a wealth of data on two other cryptids as well. These are – as far as we are aware – completely unknown outside Guyana:

· A race of tiny red-faced pygmys
· A very small species of cayman

The team also secured the first ever video footage of a very recently discovered species of bright green scorpion, and were the first Europeans to visit some remote mountain caves which contained ancient burials.

Early in the New Year we will be publishing the expedition report written by all of the members of the team, and containing hundreds of unpublished photographs. We will also be releasing a full length documentary on CFZtv as part of our ongoing commitment to making the results of our investigations freely available to anyone who is interested.

Our other expedition this year was on a much smaller scale. However, in June, we returned to the Lake District, and in conjunction with our good friend Kevin Boyd, we spent four days in what turned out to be an ultimately fruitless hunt for eels. Back in 2002 we launched ‘The Big Fish Project’ which was initially a survey of extremely large fish from around the world, and the folklore surrounding it. However, in the last few years, this has morphed into what is perhaps the most important research project that we have ever done. With every new piece of data we become more convinced that the vast majority of so-called lake monsters from across the Northern Hemisphere are in fact enormous eels. Although the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) has been known for millenia, and has been a species of important economic concern for an equal time, surprisingly little is known about its biology. It was only well within the past 100 years that the details of its life-cycle were discovered, and various other important aspects of its biology are still being revealed. It was only in the past few years, for example, that it was discovered that a surprisingly last proportion of the European eel population stays offshore, and never actually enters freshwater, and it was only just over a year ago that it was discovered that the closely related species Anguilla japonica spawns and dies in the Marianas Trench near the Phillippines.

In our own little way, we have made a couple of potentially momentous discoveries within the field of eel biology. We have photographed eels far bigger than they are meant to grow, hidden away in the rather unpleasant intersteces of a run-down northern English holiday resort, and we have discovered historical evidence which suggests that the two currently known morphological varieties of the European eel are relatively recent, and appear only to have evolved in the past couple of hundred years.

Our investigations into the population dynamics of the European eels in lakes where monstrous specimens seem to have been reported will continue, and we hope that we shall eventually be successful in securing specimens, which we can take back and measure their growth rates under laboratory conditions.

Financially this has not been a good time for the CFZ. Every project that we have listed in this annual report has come in significantly over budget. Whereas we are very pleased with having secured the sponsorship deals described above, and the two smaller sponsorship deals from the Farmer’s Arms in Woolsery, and the Cairngorm Brewery Company, for the Weird Weekend, we are disappointed that our other requests for sponsorship have been fruitless. Running the CFZ is an increasingly expensive business, and whilst none of the directors are paid anything for their time and effort, we have increasingly been forced to draw upon our own private resources in order to keep the organisation afloat. I have romped through the money I inherited from my late father, and there is very little left.
Historically, we have funded the CFZ by doing contract design work, website building, and freelance journalism for a number of clients. During my father’s final illness two years ago, we were forced to cut back on outside work, and by this summer we only had one regular client left. We severed ties with this client after an unfortunate and highly embarrassing incident which took place over the Weird Weekend. None of it was our fault, and everybody who knows the details has been appalled and disgusted by our ex-client’s behaviour. However, this means that the only income we have comes from occasional articles for Fortean Times or Beyond, and sales of our own publications. The CFZ is in the worst financial position in which it has found itself since 2001, and with our new premises in the North Devon countryside, our overheads are higher than ever. We would be very grateful for any fund-raising ideas, potential sponsorship concepts, or any other ways that we can – as the late Sir John Verney once said – “keep both ends of the wolf from meeting at the door”.

However, all in all it has been a fantastic year. We shall draw a discreet curtain over the unfortunate events alluded to above which left us £500 a month worse off, and with our late client still owing us £2,500. We shall also draw a discreet curtain over the disgusting behaviour of NatWest Bank in closing our bank accounts for no valid reason, and we will do our best to forget the car crash which nearly killed Corinna and myself in September. But all in all, from where I am sitting, the future looks pretty rosy.

Thank you for your support over the last twelve months. Together we will continue to prove the truth of Bernard Heuvelmans’ famous axiom that “the great days of zoology are not done”.

Here’s to the future.


Jon Downes,
Director, CFZ
Woolsery, North Devon

19th December 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

bloody revolutions - Igs and friends

I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be middle aged men (and women) across Britain, who still have wild staring eyes, a healthy disregard for authority, and a penchent for `the big statement` who like me will get all emotional, and even wipe away the beginnings of a tear at this...



God. I wish I had been there.

Friday, November 23, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 23rd November 2007

GUYANA MONSTER HUNTERS ‘PHONE HOME

Five British explorers from The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ], based in rural North Devon, are deep in the little known grasslands of Guyana, South America on the track of unknown animals. The expedition is sponsored by Capcom, one of the world’s leading video game manufacturers, and is led by Richard Freeman (37) a British zoologist and explorer. The team have been in the wilds of South America for over a week now, and despite setbacks such as injury, heatstroke, equipment malfunction, and even a burgeoning political crisis which many commentators have described as an “invasion” of Guyana by neighbouring Venezuela, their initial findings appear remarkable.

They have obtained a wealth of anecdotal evidence for the existence of the three animals that they went there to investigate.

Didi
Giant anaconda
Water tiger

They have secured this evidence in the form of filmed interviews with eye-witnesses in this remote part of rural Guyana. Amongst these are two chilling accounts of young women being abducted by the didi (pronounced ‘die die’). None of these stories have been published in Europe or America before.

Perhaps the most important results so far are evidence for two completely hitherto unknown animals: a tiny brown crocodile, and a three-foot high hairy creature that walks upright like a man, and has a bright red face. They also have secured the first video footage of a living specimen of a recently discovered species of green scorpion.

The team do not return to the UK until Wednesday, 28th November, so there is plenty of time for you to join the thousands of people worldwide who follow their adventures on http://cfzguyana.blogspot.com/

CFZ Director Jonathan Downes is available for interview, and photographs of expedition members, and other images, are also available. Please telephone Jon or Corinna on 01237 431413.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

+ The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is the world’s largest mystery animal research organisation. It was founded in 1992 by British author Jonathan Downes (48) and is a non-profit making (not for profit) organisation registered with H.M. Stamp Office.
+ Life-president of the CFZ is Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, best known for his groundbreaking youth work organising the ‘Operation Drake’ and ‘Operation Raleigh’ expeditions in the 1970s and 1980s.
+ CFZ Director Jonathan Downes is the author and/or editor of over 20 books. Island of Paradise, his first hand account of two expeditions to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in search of the grotesque vampiric chupacabra, will be published in early 2008.
+ The CFZ have carried out expeditions across the world including Sumatra, Mongolia, Guyana, Gambia, Texas, Mexico, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Illinois, Loch Ness, and Loch Morar.
+ CFZ Press are the world’s largest publishers of books on mystery animals. They also publish Animals & Men, the world’s only cryptozoology magazine, and Exotic Pets, Britain’s only dedicated magazine on the subject.
+ The CFZ produce their own full-length documentaries through their media division called CFZtv (www.cfztv.org). One of their films Lair of the Red Worm which was released in early 2007 and documents their 2005 Mongolia expedition has now been seen by nearly 30,000 people.
+ The CFZ is based in Jon Downes’ old family home in rural North Devon which he shares with his wife Corinna (51). It is also home to various members of the CFZ’s permanent directorate and a collection of exotic animals.
+ Corinna and Jonathan Downes are shareholders in Tropiquaria – a small zoo in North Somerset (www.tropiquaria.co.uk).
+ Jonathan Downes presents a monthly web TV show called On the Track (http://cfzmonthly.blogspot.com/) which covers cryptozoology and work of the CFZ.
+ The CFZ are currently building a Visitor Centre and Museum in Woolsery, North Devon.
+ Each year the CFZ presents an annual conference (www.weirdweekend.org)
+ Following their successful partnership with Capcom (www.capcom.com) on the 2007 Guyana expedition, the CFZ are looking for more commercial sponsors.

Going to the Wars

These last few weeks have been strange ones here at the CFZ. Not only have I been particularly unwell, and as mad as a bag full of cheese for a large portion of it, but also I have had to cast aside my madness as best as I can and co-ordinate the running of the Guyana expedition blog (see the link on the side of the page).

I have spent much of the rest of the time in bed, and I have been re-discovering the writings of an old friend of mine: Sir John Verney. He is probably best known for his semi-autobiographical book Going to the Wars, which recounts his spectacularly exciting military career, but he has always been most important to me through his alter-ego, journalist and harassed father Augustus “Gus” Callendar, one of the central characters of a series of children’s books which were written between 1959 and 1972. Much to my grave disappointment, they remain spectacularly obscure, and very few people have heard of them. However, they all have a worthy message to those of us of a fortean persuasion, and have peculiarly surrealchemical plot twists and anarchistic themes, which are all the more peculiar when you discover that the author is not only a notable war hero, but also a minor Peer of the Realm.

The five books are:

Friday’s Tunnel (1959)
February’s Road (1961)
ISMO (1963)
Seven Sunflower Seeds (1968)
Samson’s Hoard (1972)

The last three books, in particular, are very fortean in their outlook, in that at every twist and turn of the plot you find out that, as Lloyd Pye said, “everything you know is wrong”. And all preconceptions are demolished, as Verney plays surreal word games worthy of Tony Shiels upon the hapless reader. Whereas, on the surface at least, these books appear to be stuck well within the genre, which was popular 50 years ago of ‘middle class children, with ponies, having adventures and thwarting the adult world’, in reality these books are far more complex. Where else in the canon of children’s literature do you find two novels about a mythical global anarchist group founded in Italy by an Italian aristocrat posing as a pop singer (who has always reminded me of the late Richard Chanfray, who alongside a not very successful career as a third rate Jacques Brel or Claude Francois, copyist, claimed to be the immortal and invisible Count of Saint Germain)? And, furthermore, where in the canon of children’s literature do you find novels in which the concept of anarchism, at least as practised by the CFZ, is portrayed not just in a positive light, but as a jolly good idea?

Although I hope that you will all continue to follow the adventures of the Guyana Five (as Nick Redfern has dubbed them), to download my latest album from www.cfz.org.uk/music and watch On the Track (see the new link on the side of this page), if you have a few quid left during the inexorable run-up to what is euphemistically described as the festive season, I urge you to go to Abe Books www.abebooks.com and have a look for one or more of the above titles. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

If music be the food of whatever.....

My new album, together with every piece of music that I have released since 1995 (except for the CD with Lionel Fanthorpe which is copyrighted to Voiceprint) is now up on a dedicated section of the CFZ site.

Please check it out HERE

Feel free to download as much as you like, but if you are feeling generous, make a donation to CFZ funds.

Enjoy!

PS. My earlier albums, together with a selection of live recordings and some other odds and sods will be posted over the next few months, as and when I have the energy. And for those of you who are Amphibs fans, you may be interested to know that Dave Penna is visiting us on wednesday, and a reunion of some sort may not be as out of the question as I have always implied..

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Normal service will.... etc etc

Guys,

forgive me for having been somewhat elusive over the past few days. Ever since the horrible events of early September my health has been shot to buggery, and both my bipolar disorder and my diabetes have gone from being reasonably controlled, to being all over the place.

At the moment it is the turn of my bipolarshite and I am feeling as mad as a bagfull of cheese. No doubt it will pass - it usually does, and I will be back in the driver's seat, but for the moment I am keeping my head down, playing twelve year old computer games, listening to Al Stewart, and sucessfully resisting the temptation to drink myself into a coma.

Dealing with bipolar was much easier when I could drink or drug it away, but now I am completely drug free, and I only drink occasionally, so the twin crutches that helped me deal with this filthy bloody disease for years have disappeared. And when I am in this condition I know that I am an even bigger pain in the arse without drink or drugs than I would have been with them. So I am drinking diet ginger beer, trying not to smoke too much, and attempting not to be irksome to my loved ones...

Remember me in your thoughts, and prayers to whichever deity you favour. I need them

love

J

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On The Track Episode 2 and other stuff...

Just in case that you thought it would never happen, may I suggest you have a look at On The Track a new permanent home for the new CFZtv project: a monthly webTV show giving all the latest news from the CFZ and cryptozoology news from around the world.

The second edition is now up, and I think that it is a marked improvement on the first!

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions after episode one last month, and you should be glad to see that I have taken them on board. Many thanks especially to those of you who said such kind things about my music. I can, therefore, happily announce that I have a new album due out in the next few weeks. It is called Twilight over England and following in the worthy footsteps of Radiohead it will be available as a download, with the payment being via paypal in the form of a voluntary donation of whatever you want to give to CFZ funds.

There are fourteen tracks:

1 All because of You
2 The Unknown Terrorist (Usama's Hymn)
3 Leap of Faith
4 Ratop (Instrumental)
5 Underwater Chicken Music (Skippo)
6 Amerikan Synergy (The King is Dead)
7 Time after Time (Picnic beneath the Lake)
8 I've been bitten by the yellow shark (Instrumental)
9 Wardance
10 Sing me to sleep
11 The man who killed the moon (Your mother is a slut)
12 Bernadette
13 Endgame
14 Opium Tea

The two instrumental tracks are featured on this month's edition of `On the Track`. Track 6 features an astounding guest appearance by CFZ stalwart David "Geordie Dave" Curtis, doing his best Elvis impersonation while I vent my spleen on the current American president. (Note to all my American friends, and other US readers of this blog - I have always had great fun in the USA, and I have many American friends. It is merely the upper echelons of your present government that I find repellant. There is a heck of a lot that I admire about the USA, and I would hate to be accused (again) of xenophobia.

I am also not anti-military. My brother is a high ranking officer in the British Army, and I come from a military family. It is the political motivations for recent events that I find dubious. Some wars are sadly justified. The recent spate have not been.

Whilst on the subject of covering my back, I have made a few comments about Young Earth Creationists in this month's `On the Track`. On the whole I live and let live, and I know that some of my theories about life, the universe, and everything do not meet with universal approval, but I am getting severely annoyed by being inundated with eMails claiming that I will go to hell because I believe that our planet is over 4.5 billion years old!

I am not coming at this from the viewpoint of an atheist either. Although I rarely mention either my political or religious beliefs on this blog, I am a churchgoer, and I do believe in both a creator and an intercessionist God. I merely have no peoblem with reconciling this belief with any of the scientific evidence for the true age of the Universe, or for the mechanisms of evolution.

Anyway, off my soap box! I hope that you enjoy our new ventures, and I look forward to reading the feedback (though not the inevitable hate mail).

Monday, October 29, 2007

SOUTH AMERICAN MONSTER HUNT

SOUTH AMERICAN MONSTER HUNT


For Immediate Release: 2007-10-24


On the 14th November 2007, five members of the Centre for Fortean Zoology – the world’s largest organisation dedicated to the search for mystery animals – leave the UK for South America, on their most ambitious expedition yet. They will be searching the remote swamps and jungles of Guyana. They are looking for three elusive, potentially lethal, and hitherto undiscovered animals.

· The giant anaconda
· The didi
· The water tiger

As far as we are aware, this is the first cryptozoological expedition in search of evidence for the existence of these three animals that has ever been mounted. After months of complex negotiations, we can also announce that the expedition is sponsored by Capcom – one of the world’s leading video game publishers, who are concurrently launching Monster Hunter Freedom 2, their exciting new game for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable (PSP).

The expedition will take the five members, and their guides, deep into unexplored swamps in the west of Guyana. The area is so remote and poorly known that it doesn’t even have a name.

· The anaconda (Eunectes murinus) is the largest known snake in South America. The largest specimen shot was 28ft (9m) long. However, in the past, reports have come in from Guyana of anacondas of mind-boggling proportions, 40-60ft (12-18m) long. In some areas these giants are referred to as manatorro (the bull killer). As recently as last year, a specimen estimated at being 40ft (12m) long was observed by a party of native hunters. The giant snake frightened them so much that they fled. The target area for these monster serpents is a series of remote lakes in the grasslands.

· The didi is a more nebulous beast. It is said to walk upright like a man and be armed with scythe-like claws. It is alleged to tear out the tongues of living cattle, and leave swathes of terror in its wake. Although this last attribute may well be apocryphal, the claws in particular recall the supposedly extinct giant ground sloths or mylodonts. These bear-sized herbivores supposedly died out ten thousand years ago, but reports from across the Amazon, and surrounding areas, suggest they may well still survive.




2

· The water tiger is an aggressive aquatic animal said to have pointed teeth and webbed, humanlike hands. In the past, it was reported to have attacked both people and livestock. The water tiger may be based on reports of the rare giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) which can grow to a length of 6ft (1.8m).

The group intend to interview native witnesses to gather information on the animals and search the grasslands and lakes for evidence. They are being guided by Damon Corrie - a chief of the Eagle Clan Arawak tribe – who is also one of the few people to have visited the area in question.

The group consists of:

· Dr Chris Clark, engineer
· Lisa Dowley, photographer
· Richard Freeman, cryptozoologist
· Jon Hare, science writer
· Paul Rose, journalist

Photographs, a press pack, and further information are available, and expedition members are available for interview. Please contact Jon or Corinna at the CFZ Press Office on +44 (0)1237 431413.


NOTES FOR EDITORS:

+ The Centre for Fortean Zoology is a non profit-making organisation, which was founded in 1992. Over the last 11 years we have mounted expeditions to Central America, Thailand, Mexico, Mongolia, Sumatra, West Africa, various parts of the United States, as well as numerous investigations in the UK.
+ Further information on the CFZ can be found on their website, www.cfz.org.uk
+ CFZ Press are now the world’s most prolific publishers of books on mystery animals.
+ The honorary life President of the Centre for Fortean Zoology is renowned explorer, author and soldier Colonel John Blashford-Snell OBE, best known for his pioneering Operation Drake and Operation Raleigh expeditions during the 1970s.
+ The CFZ is looking for corporate and private sponsors.
+ The CFZ make their own documentary films which can be seen at http://www.cfztv.org
+ `Lair of the Red Worm`, the 60 minute film of their 2005 expedition to Mongolia has now been seen by 27,000 people.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A New Venture



This is something I have been thinking about doing for a while. If it works it will be a monthly show on CFZtv, and I am considering licensing it to other web tv stations. What do you think?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Just had a phone call...

...from the lady at NuttyWest to whom my letter (below) was addressed.

Yes I can have a £2000 overdraft guarantee, yes I can have a debit card, yes to everything else I asked for, and the matter of compensation has been forwarded to their customer care division.

But THIS beggard belief. One of the reasons my accounts were colsed turns out to be that there was a "conflict" in my home address....

They had two addrsses for me:

J.Downes
Myrtle Cottage
Woolsery
Bideford
EX39 5QR

and

J. Downes
Myrtle Cottage
9 Back Street
Woolfardisworthy
Bideford
EX39 5QR


The fact that there are two different spellings for my village ain't my fault, and they should have checked out that the postcode was - in fact - the same.

Idiots..

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Jonathan and Corinna did next....

Ms. C. Rarity,
NatWest,
Application Verification Unit,
Younger Building,
3 Redheughs Avenue,
Edinburgh EH12 9RB


27th September 2007

Dear Ms. Rarity,

Thank you for your letter dated 26th September 2007. Whilst we accept your apologies, there are a number of issues that need to be sorted out before we can forget the matter.

1. Reinstatement of lost facilities


Until the unfortunate events of last week, I had the following facilities on my account:

· Debit card and cheque book
· Internet banking
· £2,000 guaranteed overdraft

I would like written confirmation from you that these facilities will be automatically transferred to my new account.

2. Apologies

Whilst, as I stated above, we accept your apologies for having closed our bank accounts, the following issue has not been addressed. Whilst my wife received a letter last Wednesday, telling her that our joint account had been closed, I still have not received any such letter from the Accounts Closure Team. NatWest took it upon themselves, not only to close my account, but to write to various people who were paid by standing order and by direct debit, telling them that these payments had been cancelled, without having the courtesy of informing me of the fact. This, by anybody’s standards, is an appalling breach of professionalism.

The letter to my wife was sent to her old address. If she had not had a re-direction service she would not have received it, although the acceptance letters had been sent to the correct address.

We would like an explanation for this, and a full apology from the Accounts Closure Team.

3. Compensation

These events have caused us an enormous amount of social and financial embarrassment, extra work, and almost unbearable levels of stress. The original letter we were sent (copy attached) was couched in such offensive terms that we were both very upset and traumatised.

We feel that we should receive some measure of financial compensation for this. As you have stated in your telephone call, the whole affair was caused by a wrong decision by the Accounts Closure Team. Under these circumstances, I am sure that you will agree that a mere apology is not enough.

We realise that none of this is your fault, or the fault of anyone else of the Application Verification Team. However, as you have been the only person within the NatWest management who has treated us with courtesy and kindness, we hope that you will forgive us writing to you on this matter.

Best wishes,

Yours sincerely,



Jonathan Downes Corinna N. James

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

NEWSFLASH!!!!!!!!!!

The bastards have just capitulated! I have a full apology, my bank accounts and my credit reference back.

But what do I do next?

1. Nothing
2. Try for compensation
3. Put my crusader's hat on and fight on behalf of every other poor sod in my position

What would you do????????????

Monday, September 24, 2007

Is it just me, or.....

Did the world used to make some sort of sense? These days, it is just getting more and more surreal.

This morning I got a letter from TwatWest. It said that I was a long-standing and valued customer, and it invited me to apply for a loan of up to 25 grand! I still have not received a letter telling me that they were closing my account. And I thought the CFZ office was inefficient...

Then the Police Compound to where the jag was takebn after the accident is trying to charge us loads of money for the privelige, and the University grants people have lost the paperwork for my stepdaughter's claims. On top of that HM Inland Revenue have paid Corinna a substantial sum of money that she is not due, and which she does not want. The whole world has gone bloody mad!

It was a surprisingly heartwarming weekend. When I wrote on the blog on friday lunchtime, I really thought I was facing ruin. Remember guys, that I am bipolar - I see things in black and white, which is a good thing when I am being positive, but a terrible one when I am being negative.

Many of the world's great achievers have been bipolar, and whilst I am not putting myself on a par with Beethoven, Churchill, or Coleridge, or even Stephen Fry or Kurt Cobain, the fact that I am bipolar means that I can charge at something like a bull at a gate until I achieve it. Its a mixed blessing, but I honestly think that whatever little success I have achieved in the world, is mostly down to the positive effects of my mental illness.

But the negative effects are devastating, and until tea time on friday, all I wanted to do was die!

However, once the money was in my stiucky little fingers, and we were on the way to London, I did not begin to feel better.

We collected David (my 15 year old ur-nephew, for those wuo don't know) from school, and drove hell for leather down the M5. We got to the travelodge at Feltham at about 10.00, checked in and had a few beers. david is a country boy, and had great difficulty settling down to sleep against the suburban sonic background of car alarms and the Heathrow flightpath, but the next morning, all four of us (Dave, Graham, Corinna and me) were up and relatively conscious in time to get to Kempton Park racecource for 8.30.

We set out our stall, exchanging cheerful badinage with Graham and Janice Smith with whom we were sharing a stall for the day. We had a relatively good day, spent too much money (I bought five more Peruvian fern insects (a species that I have been trying to establish permanently at the CFZ for over 12 years), and some West African armoured millipedes for the CFZ menagerie, and we sold quite a few copies of the new magazine, as well as a significant amount of advertising.

Two things were uplifting in particular.

For over a year I have been a member of a forum called BugNation in which I burble on about insects to like minded folk. I joined over a year ago, and in the intervening months I have found myself getting quite fond of some of the people there. On saturday I met them in the flesh (as it were)for the first time, and they were lovely!

What was even more heartwarming than finding you were friends with a whole new posse o'people was the fact that so many of the punters at the AES exhibition were kids! Now, I over the years I have fallen into the generation gap thing, and berated "the kids of today" for being more interested in video games than books or natural history. "T'weren't like that in my day" I would grouse. "..and what about the bloody music they listen to. In mah day they had proper words and tunes that everyone could enjoy, like `Throbbing Gristle`, or `Shaved Women Collaborators` by CRASS"..

What a joy it weas to have a string of young ladies and gentlemen, many as young as six or seven, coming up to the stall and asking highly competent, and quite technical questions that I was completely unable to answer. What a joy to have a young girl of nine or ten rattle off a load of latin names at me, as she told me about her successes in breeding mantids.

It was a bloody delight, and it did my old anarchist's heart a world of good to experience it.

Then we went home to another bit of sad news. Corinna's other pet rat, Sid, outlived his brother by only about 48 hours. He was getting rather old, but he was a good rat.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

We are back

Its amazing how much better I felt when the bloke at NatWest gave me nine grand in cash (which is now invested in an account at the bank that likes to say "do you really think that is a good idea dear") I wouldn't admit it to anyone, but I had managed to convince myself that I would never get my money back. As it was, the tale of how I did is mildly amusing, and probably deserves to be told.

I went into the bank with Corinna. I was probably looking less than salubrious, because now only - as you might have gathered from my last few posts - was I feeling very frail, and as mad as a bagfull of cheese - but my hair was blown all over the place, I was dressed head to foot in black, and sporting a leather jacket, big hat, and a T Shirt with the CRASS logo and the motto "Anarchy, Peace and Freedom". The usual then.

I stomped difidently (can you stomp diffidently? I'm not too sure, but I am convinced that I did), up to the enquiries counter, and was met by a bloke called Mr Slocombe.

Now, banks have changed a lot over the years. When my father first took me to NatWest to open an account back in the day, it was a serious social event. The Bank Manager had sidewhiskers, and wore a near pin-striped suit. He offered both me and my father cigars, and the whole occasion had a strange dignity about it, as if opening my first cheque-book account was one of those important rites of passage in the making of a young gentleman.

When we went in to the bank a few weeks ago to open our joint account (the thing which I am sure was the reason behind the current crisis), the staff, who seemed to be a mixture of kids hardly old enough to shave, and late middle-aged women with grey hair, who looked acutely embarrasssed), were all dressed in bright yellow T.Shirts emblazoned with some facile slogan or other, and an air of quiet dignity was nowhere to be seen. Even when the official who was to open our account took us into a side room to do the dirty deed, he called us (uninvited) by our first names, and had about as much quiet dignity as a farting competition.

However, Mr Slocombe was lovely. He was the only person since this whole horrid affair started who treated us, not only with respect, but in the manner in which one would expect a bank official to behave. He was kind, dignified, and sensitive, and I cannot thank hum enough.

I told him that I had been ordered by the powers that be to close my account. His eyelids did not even flicker at this,, and he said that he was sorry to hear it. I gave him my details and asked for him to give me the balance of my account in cash. He said that of course he would, and it was only as my balance flashed up on the screen before him, that any emotion could be seen on his face. "Why on earth do you have to close this account?" he asked.

I grinned and told him the whole sorry tale. He confirmed to me that most people who are forced into the position of closing their accounts have no money, a substantial overdraft, and a history of bouncing cheques. Not a balance of nine grand (because the irony is, that for the first time in my life it transpired that I had MORE money in my account than I thought).

Still professionally suave to the core (although one could see his poor little brain working overtime as he wondered what the $%^&^ was going on), he arranged the withdrawal, shook our hands and we walked out into the street with £9,123.70 in my pocket. For the first time in my life I have no Bank Account.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Well, this is it..

This afternoon I have to go to the NatWest bank in Bideford and withdraw the balance of what used to be my account... if they let me.

There should be no reason why not, but then again until two days ago there was no reason for them to cancel my account.

If I can't get the money, I will have to start selling things.

We are going to the AES bug show this weekend, and I hope we will make enough money from selling `Exotic Pets` to tide us over. If we don't I really don't know what we shall do.

I feel that I am only feet away from an abyss - an abyss that I have not sensed for many years. At the moment I am terrified. My life has been turned upside down, and I am so disorientated that I really don't know what is real at the moment.

This should be an exciting experience for a fortean, who has spent his life looking at surreal mega-possibilities, but it isn't. I feel physically sick, and I really don't know what the future has to offer.

We are away until saturday night, so don't worry if this is the last blog for a time.

Dum Spiro Spero

Putting it all into perspective

I don't know how many of you read the blogs that I have links to on the bottom right hand side of this page. However, one, `Captain Pancreas` was particularly inspirational. The last entry on the blog was made some weeks ago, and it never ocurred to me to read the comments. It was only today, when - feeling more depressed, and closer to the abyss than I have felt in years - I clicked on the comments tab and found out that Brian the blogger had died.

I posted this:

"Brian old mate. We never met, but your blog was inspirational. My life is crap sometimes, and my health is not what it could be, but your writings have done more than you will ever know to lift my spirits.I hope that you indeed managed to drain the sweetness out of every second.LoveJ"

And I mean every word.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another letter

Myrtle Cottage
9 Back Street
Woolfardisworthy
Bideford
Devon
EX39 5QR



Mr. Geoffrey Cox, QC., MP.,
Member of Parliament for Torridge & West Devon,
2 Bridge Chambers,
Lower Bridge Street,
Bideford,
Devon EX39 2BU

20th September 2007

Dear Mr. Cox,

I am writing to you in the hope that you may be able to help in anyway with the situation in which I find myself. As you will see, from the enclosed letter addressed to my wife (in her single name due to her not having required documentation on her at the time proving her new address details), after trying to open a joint account with NatWest, she has been refused on unspecified grounds. She was informed, when she phoned NatWest to enquire as to the reason why, that I, too, had such a letter in the post to me – but this has, as yet, not materialised.

I enclose a letter I have sent to NatWest in response to their actions, which is self-explanatory, together with the letter from NatWest, and a copy of my recent bank statement proving that I have a substantial credit on my account.

This is an appalling situation in which to find myself, after so many years banking with the same bank, and to make things very much worse I am also severely disabled. The thing that really makes me angry is the fact that this could happen to anyone! In this instance I am a bloody-minded, relatively articulate and intelligent individual with a good support network of friends and colleagues, a loving (and solvent) wife, and enough sheer venom and determination to fight against it.But what if I had not been? What would have happened if I was still manic-depressive, but living alone, with no money and no support? If I were not in the fortunate position that I am, I would be facing homelessness and destitution almost overnight!

I don’t know whether there is anything you can do to help, but I would be very grateful for your support.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Downes.

In a past life we must have done real bad stuff

Apologies to Biffo for my continued quotings from his musings, but they seem somewhat appropriate.


Now, Corinna's pet rat, Len, has died and been ceremoniously buried under the rose bushes. They say things happen in threes, and maybe this is the third. He was a jolly little fellow, and I bought him as a present for her a couple of years ago. He has been poorly for a while, and it is probably for the best, but he was a jolly little fellow, and we will miss him.

Corinna is obviously very unhappy (as are we all), and it is just another horrid thing with which we have to deal.


Is anything ELSE going to happen in this bloody awful week? I'm beginning to feel like Job....

...

This is a complete bloody nightmare, but maybe the letter below will do some good. The thing that really makes me angry is the fact that this could happen to anyone! In this instance I am a bloody-minded, relatively articulate and intelligent individual with a good support network of friends and colleagues, a loving (and solvent) wife, and enough sheer venom and determination to fight against it.

But what if I had not been? What would have happened if I was still manic-depressive, but living alone, with no money and no support? The DSS are no damn good, and the Heath Authority are overstretched and - despite everything - largely unaware of the reality of coping with bi-polar illnesses. The social services would be unable to help. If I were not in the fortunate position that I am, I would be facing homelessness and a life where my only valid option would to be drinking myself to death as I lived in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere.

My heart goes out to everyone else in this situation who ain't as fortunate as I am.

Again, thanks to everyone for their continued support..............

And now THIS happens

Myrtle Cottage
9 Back Street
Woolfardisworthy
Bideford
Devon
EX39 5QR

Account Closure Team,
Natwest Bank,
PO Box 20000,
Younger Building,
Edinburgh EH12 9RB

Your ref: /18390395/CMOL21

20th September 2007

Dear Sirs,

Account No: 79xxxxxxxxxxxx
Sort Code: 51 70 16 Mr Jonathan Downes & Ms Corinna N. James

Account No: 13xxxxxxxxxxx
Sort Code: 52 30 22 Mr Jonathan Downes

I have been banking with National Westminster without any major incidents since 1979. I have been an account holder at your Dawlish branch since 1982. I am currently in credit with you to the tune of about £8,500 pounds. I do not owe you any money, nor do I have any major debts to anyone else that are not under control. I am appalled, therefore, to find that my bank account is being closed, without my knowledge, and without any indication on your part on what I have done wrong.

Whereas I accept that you have every legal right to do what you have done, I would point out, after having taken advice on this matter, that Principal 6 of the Financial Services Act 2007 guarantees my right as a customer to ‘fair treatment’. And furthermore states that ‘a properly informed customer would reasonably expect that the firm would place his interests above its own, the firm should live up to that expectation.’ As I am not aware of anything that I have done which warrants such treatment, I would urge you to re-examine the matter, and at the very least, explain to me and my wife why you have taken this draconian action.

In the last 24 hours, several items of information have come to light. I have tried – twice – to contact NatWest. Firstly, your office, and secondly my own branch. On each occasion a taciturn employee told me that “it was a commercial decision” without giving me any explanation for what that actually means. They also refused to give any explanation for the reasons for the action which has been taken.

According to a professional acquaintance `commercial decision` means one of two things:

Either I have been conducting the business of my account incorrectly, in which case you have a duty to have informed me of this and given me a warning, before summarily closing my accounts. If this is the case, then it was totally unintentional. I can only apologise, and ask you to provide details of what I – totally innocently – did.

The other option is that, when my wife and I opened our joint account a few weeks ago, you carried out a routine credit check which revealed something about me of which you were unaware.

I have been in financial difficulties twice in my life. The first time when I had a massive nervous breakdown in 1990, and the second a few years ago, when I basically had to give up my home in Exeter to look after my dying father! Yes, I have three CCJs to my credit (or lack of it), but one is paid off and the other two are under control. In 2005 I received a year's Council Tax demand from Exeter City Council for a house I wasn't even living in. I was given a CCJ for that, and even though I paid it off, and had the money refunded when the council realised they had made a mistake, the CCJ still stands. I have a problem with Barclaycard, and another one with the South West Water Authority, but both of these are under control, and I am paying an agreed amount off each month.

As the then-manager of my branch at Dawlish was aware, I had CCJs against me in 1990, after I became unemployed. These did not effect the standing of my bank account then, and I fail to see how they effect the standing of my bank account now. I don't owe any money to the bank. Indeed my account had a healthy credit balance! I was not trying to borrow any money, now or in the forseeable future, and basically, after a difficult few years, I have just got married and am trying to put my life back on track. I am planning to refurbish and sell my house in Exeter (in which I have equity of something in excess of £70,000, and when I have done so, I shall be putting the rest of my affairs in order. This is why I kept 8.5K from the money I inherited from my father last year in my bank account. I have two friends living in the Exeter property at the moment, and can obviously do nothing until they have found new homes. The fact that my bank account has now been cancelled will, obviously, cause me a number of problems trying to facilitate this.

The history of this affair over the past few weeks also brings up several concerns. On Tuesday 11th, I tried to pay for some medication at Lloyd’s Pharmacy in Bideford East-The-Water using my card. The card was refused. I went in to the Bideford branch of NatWest to ask what the problem was. The staff were very helpful and told me that – because of a mistake – my account had been referred to your `Debt Management Unit`. They assured me that this was just a mistake. The following day I telephoned my branch, who confirmed that this was just a mistake, and assured me that I would get a new card in 4-6 working days. Either someone was lying to me then, or an error of massive proportions has taken place.

I still, at time of writing, have received no written conformation from you that my personal account has been closed. I was informed of this fact by an abusive young man from your office, but have still not received confirmation. As a customer of thirty years standing, with a healthy credit balance, surely I could have been offered a `basic account` even if my cheque book and debit card facilities were withdrawn? This would – I believe – have been a kind and businesslike option for you to have taken.

I should also inform you, I believe, that copies of this letter, together with covering letters explaining the situation, and photocopies of relevant supporting documents, are being sent to The Financial Ombudsman Service, my local MP, Geoffrey Cox, QC, and to my legal advisor.

You may, or may not be, aware that I am disabled, and in my opinion, at least, the unbelievable stress that you are putting me under would also warrant an action against you under the Disability Discrimination Act. I have not yet done so, but if this matter is not satisfactorily resolved within 7 days, I shall be contacting the relevant authorities and seeking to lodge a complaint under the above act. For no good reason you are placing a severely disabled man under appalling, and totally unwarranted stress. I am a manic-depressive suffering with Bipolar II. For your information, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia (the free encyclopaedia):

"Mortality studies have documented an increase in all-cause mortality in patients with BD. A newly established and rapidly growing database indicates that mortality due to chronic medical disorders (eg, cardiovascular disease) is the single largest cause of premature and excess deaths in BD. The standardized mortality ratio from suicide in BD is estimated to be approximately 18 to 25, further emphasizing the lethality of the disorder. Although many people with bipolar disorder who attempt suicide never actually complete it, the annual average suicide rate in males and females with diagnosed bipolar disorder (0.4%) is 10 to more than 20 times that in the general population.

Individuals with bipolar disorder tend to become
suicidal, especially during mixed states such as dysphoric mania and agitated depression. Persons suffering from Bipolar II have high rates of suicide compared to persons suffering from other mental health conditions, including Major Depression. Major Depressive episodes are part of the Bipolar II experience, and there is evidence that sufferers of this disorder spend proportionally much more of their life in the depressive phase of the illness than their counterparts with Bipolar I Disorder (Akiskal & Kessler, 2007).”

You have just subjected a man suffering from this to the unbelievable stress, of having to reorganise his personal finances, after thirty unblemished years of banking with you, in just ten days. You have cancelled my standing orders, upset my relationship with my mortgage holder, cancelled my online banking facilities, refused to speak to me, have besmirched my financial good name, cancelled any banking references, and basically ruined my financial life. And, as far as I can see, for no good reason.

I truly believe that this is nothing more than an unfortunate administrative error. I would strongly urge you, both for the reasons that I have listed above, and just out of sheer human compassion to look again at your decision and see what – if anything – can be done.

Yours faithfully,




Jonathan Downes

cc: Natwest Bank, Bideford
Natwest Bank, Dawlish
Natwest Customer Relations
The Financial Ombudsman Service
Mr. Geoffrey Cox, QC, MP for Torridge & West Devon
Chris Moiser
John Ward

New Morning

Well it's another day. I am still alive, I am relatively awake, I slept reasonably well (after a slew of tranquilisers), and I have formulated some sort of plan.

I am going to continue posting the progress of what is going on here on the blog for three reasons.

1. Because I have always tried to be honest with people. You, the CFZ readership, have always supported us as an organisation, and me as an individual. It is only fair for me to share this with you.

2. Because I feel that I have been the victim of a massive injustice, and if it can happen to me, it can happen to you! If I share this information with you all, then MAYBE it will protect someone else from this happening to them in the future if they know how to deal with it.

3. Because, if I share this with you - my friends known, and unknown, across cyberspace - then Corinna and I will no longer feel quite so isolated and alone in the face of this overwhelming horror.

By the way. I would like to stress now that none of this effects the CFZ. The CFZ is solvent (as on paper am I), and our programme of research and publications is not, and will not be effected.

So keep your fingers crossed guys, and hold on tight. It is going to be a bumpy ride!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"My brain hurts like a warehouse; it's too full to care"

"My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I'd need so many people"

Thank you dear friends for your messages...

Just when you think it can't get any worse...

I woke up this morning to find that those jolly nice people at NatWest have closed my bank accounts, with no reason given. The letter we received bordered on the abusive, and when I tried to telephone their helpline to find out more information I was eventually told by some faceless arsehole beaurocrat that "it was a commercial decision". I asked (politely) what the hell that meant, but he just repeated it. I asked for a reason for my bank accounts having been closed, and they told me that they had no legal requirement to tell me, and put the phone down!

I phoned my solicitor, and my financial advisor bloke, but to no real avail. Feeling somewhat Kafkaesque, I telephoned Kaye, who is pretty well my sister, but I won't bore you with the story at this juncture. She - it transpired - is friends with a senior bank bod from a rival bank, and gave him an `off the record` ring.

It transpired that, after Corinna and I recently tried to open a joint savings account, that some bright spark at GnatWest decided to do a credit check on me. I have been banking with them for thirty years, and have probably not had a credit check since I initially opened the account.

The credit check probably revealed that I have a dodgy credit record.

Well DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have been in financial difficulties twice in my life. The first time when I had a massive nervous breakdown in 1990, and the second a few years ago, when I basically had to give up work to look after my dying father! Yes, I have three CCJs to my credit (or lack of it), but one is paid off and the other two are under control.

MY CREDIT RATING WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO GET A MORTGAGE SIX MONTHS AGO!!!!!

So what has changed?

I don't owe any money to anyone at TwatWest. Indeed my account had a healthy credit balance! I was not trying to borrow any money, now or in the forseeable future, and basically, after a difficult few years, I have just got married and am trying to put my life back on track.

Now, less than a week after nearly dying in a horrible car crash, I am facing a financial wasteland. Despite the fact that I banked with them for nearly thirty years, I have no bank account and am unable to give them as a banking reference. It is as if - financially at least - I have never existed.... And I can't even get an explanation or an apology from the bastards!

It has not been a crime to owe anyone money since the Debtor's Act of 1869. It appears, however, that the powers that be - at least at the PratWest, have decided that it is a crime for me to owe someone ELSE money! Their advertising slogan is, after all, `Another Way`!

However, I may be wrong. I actually don't KNOW why my accounts have been closed. For all I know, I may have been fingered as an Al Quaeda terrorist, or (as my legal advisor said, only half jokingly), it might even be because of my friendship with various dissident types, parlour revolutionaries, ex-members of various proscribed organisations, or even Larry Warren. After all that poor bastard has been persecuted by the US Government for thirty years because he once saw a UFO.

But no. Its probably because in 2005 I received a year's Council Tax demand from Exeter City Council for a house I wasn't even living in. I got a CCJ out of that one, and even though I paid it off, and had the money refunded when the council realised they had made a mistake, the CCJ still stands. Oh yes, I have a problem with Barclaycard, and another one with the South West Water Authority, and I am still paying nine quid a month for a car my ex-wife totalled in 1988.

But does this give those faceless bastards in Edinburgh the right to make me a non-person?

I am going to bed now, to take a sleeping pill, and I hope that tomorrow I will wake up refreshed, dust myself down, and get on with rebuilding my life once again. But I don't know how much more of this shit I can take.

I am writing to the NatWest complaints manager, to the `accounts closure` department, to the manager of my bank, to my MP, to the banking ombudsman, and to anyone else I can think of. But it won't do any good. Even my solicitor admits that although morally their position is indefensible, legally they are fireproof. They can do what they like, and ruin as many lives in the process as they want.

Jarvis Cocker was right about the people who are still running the world.

Sorry for the rant.....

...I'll be back in a few days to talk about mystery animals, or something important, again.

love

Jon

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back to work, shoulder to the wheel, time and tide wait for no man, etc etc

While we were away on our M25 misadventure, I had an eMail from Nichola, politely but firmly reminding me that I hadn't posted any piccies from the Weird Weekend. She is right - I hadn't.

Well, coincidentally, last week I received a 22,000 word account of our annual bunfight from our old friend Helen Lester, known to the fortean discussion group as `Helen of Troy`. I saw her scribbling away throughout the conference, and she had told me that she would write up a review, but I never expected anything on this scale.

So, I have been at work this morning, and HERE is the story of the 2007 Weird Weekend in words and pictures...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We are back..

We are back, safe and relatively sound. Apart from some superficial cuts and bruises we are OK, but if we hadn't been driving a Jaguar we would both be dead! It was the worst crash I have ever been in, and I think that the emotional effects for both of us will be with us for some time.

The car is a complete mangled wreck, but you can buy a new car. You can't get a new wife, and thank God Corinna was OK...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bad News

The CFZ Press Office released the following statement this afternoon:

CFZ Director Jonathan Downes and his wife Corinna were involved in a serious road traffic accident on the M25 last night, involving four other vehicles. Their Jaguar was a write-off and they were taken to hospital. However, they were discharged in the early hours of this morning.

The police have stated that although a prosecution is likely to take place, it would not be against Mr Downes, who was completely blameless.

Apart from shock, and superficial scratches and bruises, it appears that Mr and Mrs Downes are unheart.

More news when we get it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

So it begins.


After months of keeping relatively quiet about it, we can now go public with our latest major project. In conjunction with CAPCOM - one of the world's leading developers and publishers of video games - we are launching an expedition to Guyana in South America in search of giant anacondas.

The project is made even more exciting for me because of the special guest we are taking along with us. For more news on the project visit the dedicated Guyana Expedition blog....

Sunday, September 02, 2007

East Infection

re my last post. Watch this. It has everything ; an insane frontman with an absurd moustache, a gypsy fiddler who looks like he was kicked out of Willie Nelson's band, and a pretty girl wearing a bird mask and what looks like a cheese grater strapped to her back. If it doesn't bring a smile to your face there is no hope for you..




It is - without a doubt, and against some stiff competition, the best thing I have heard all year.

Music Maestro please

This is proving to be a cracking year for music.

Released in the last few weeks, and highly recommended from this author are:

1. Kula Shaker `Strangefolk`
2. The Polyphonic Spree `Fragile Army`
3. Richard Hawley `Lady's Bridge`

The first two are welcome returns to form after slightly patchy second albums. The second Kula Shaker album in particular was a crashing disappointment after the glories of their debut, and whilst `Together we're Heavy` by the Polyphonic Spree had its moments, it was a bit too self-consciously clever for my tastes. After the joyous psychobabble of the first album which sounded like the Mamas and Pappas on mescaline, they suddenly became Yes which although I have been known to ingest a fair amount of prog in my time, was probably a mistake. Both their album and the new Kula Shaker one are harder edged and less fussy than their immediate predecessors, and are worth serious consideration.

Richard Hawley never ceases to bemuse me. His last album was universally lauded as a masterpiece (and quite rightly so), and pressed all the right Scott Walker buttons for me, but the new one is quite a departure, and I can see why some reviewers were lukewarm about it. The nearest frame of reference I can find is an obscure album called "The one and Only" by Billy Fury, which was recorded just before his death and released on kTel or some other crappy little label posthumously, whereupon nobody bought it.

It featured many of his most famous songs rerecorded with the cream of 1980s session musicians, and - unusually for such a project, in such a decade - is bloody marvellous. I picked up a copy by mistake on a car boot stall years ago, and I have played it regularly ever since. And yes, Richard Hawley's record is THAT good.

I have also just discovered Gogol Bordello and from them I have digressed onto all sorts of Gypsy Punk, and the sound system in the CFZ office is as eccentric as ever.

On a more sombre note, Mark's mum is about to go into hospital, and we would ask you to remember her in your thoughts and prayers. As a result, Mark is back in Dorset for at least the next six months, and will probably be forced into getting a proper job, for a while at least...

Rome wasn't built in a day...

Last night I sat up in bed watching television while Corinna battled her way through Middle Earth. I watched something called `The Ultimate Sitcom` blissfully unaware that it was originally broadcast some 20 months ago, and that everyone else in the omniverse knew the results before I did.

I was childishly happy to see that my three favourites (Reggie Perrin, Sgt Bilko, and Larry Sanders) made the listing, but it was one of the clips they showed that actually got me thinking. It was a clip from `Yes Minister` c. 1982 in which the immortal Sir Humphrey Appleby was making excuses for Civil Service tardiness by using one of his catchphrases: "Rome wasn't built in a Day".

Now, Graham used to be a Civil Servant. Until, that is, he smashed the windows of Exeter Tax Office with a lump hammer, and broke a leg during the subsequent police chase, causing the Exeter Express and Echo to come up with a superlative headline describing him as an `Uncivil Servant`.

For twenty years he has been my best friend, co-conspirator, and partner in crime, but under the scuzzy, scatty, Hawkwind revereing exterior, still beats the heart of a Civil Servant. And yes, he has been known to use Sir Humphry's favourite catchphrase. But although it would be easy to see this as a convenient and facile excuse, the truth is that stuff doesn't happen as quickly as we would like.

The museum, for example, was supposed to be finished last May, but is still basically a building site full of crap. The aviary still has no roof and only two of three doors, and although the roof, floor, and electrics of the museum are fixed, and indeed finished, the interior is still an untidy shed rather than the lodestone of world cryptozoology. But as Graham says, Rome WASN'T built in a day, the weather has been appaling, and most of the time when Graham should have been outside doing the building work, he was cowering indoors because of the driving torrential rain which threatened to give us a Noah-style deluge. Add to that the fact that this year Corinna has sold her house, I have bought this one, Corinna has moved in with me, We got married, helped to buy a zoo, and promoted the best Weird Weekend yet, and it is amazing that we have achieved anything else!

However, none of this excuses the fact that I haven't been keeping this blog up to date like I should. But in the last few weeks we have been programming the new welcome pack for new CFZ members, finishing Animals & Men #41, Exotic Pets #2 and being sacked by Tropical World. I am also in the process of designing websites for My Darling Quasi-Sister, one for the aforementioned zoo, and editing the Weird Weekend footage into some sort of cohesive whole.

So, forgive me for not having done as much as I should, but Rome wasn't built in a day!

[Wikipedia:According to legend, the city of Rome was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus on April 21, 753 BC, but archaeological evidence supports the theory that Rome grew from pastoral settlements on the Palatine Hill and in the area of the future Roman Forum, coalescing into a city in the 8th century BC. That city developed into the capital of the Roman Kingdom (ruled by a succession of seven kings, according to tradition), Roman Republic (from 510 BC, governed by the Senate), and finally the Roman Empire (from 31 BC, ruled by an Emperor)]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dudes...

Me and the lovely Mrs D are unwell. She is being brave about it, and I am not (though she is iller than me). It is just some crappy lurgy that we caught from Oll, who caught it from my nephew Ross, but telegrams of sympathy and gifts of caviar and champagne would be gratefully received.

BTW the Weird Weekend was a fantastic success and raised a grand and a half for CFZ funds, and because of stuff I don't really want to go in to (but anyone who was at the WW will understand and sympathise), I am no longer the deputy editor of Tropical World.

Oh well. Shit happens....

Friday, August 17, 2007

IT'S A MOST PECULIAR - NOT TO SAY WEIRD - WEEKEND

Guys and Gals - it's that time of the year again, and for once I am going to be relinquishing my self-appointed task as WW blogger in chief.

Instead, it is my pleasure to hand the task over to the lovely Mrs Downes who is doing the job with her usual aplomb and flair...

Preparations

Thursday night

Sunday, July 29, 2007

what a week!

Dear Friends,

It is a shock to realise how long it has been since I made a proper posting on this blog, and how much longer it has been since I made a post that wasn’t either a re-hash of a CFZ press release, or something appertaining to my then forthcoming wedding.

Well. We have done it. Corinna is now Mrs. Downes, and furthermore she has made an honest man of me. Stop that sniggering in the back row.

As everyone who reads Corinna’s blog will know, the day after the wedding we went to The Eden Project, where we saw the Dirty Pretty Things and The Pet Shop Boys. The first band were slightly disappointing, despite a strong and varied debut album. I have a sneaking suspicion that in a sweaty little club they would have been magnificent. Dwarfed by the splendour of The Eden Project, they were less so, although Carl Barat claims that he and his compadres have spent the summer hanging out in graveyards writing new material, and that the second album will be released early next year. I am quite looking forward to it, but regretfully admit that I don’t think that either Barat or Doherty are any where near as good separately as they are together, and I hope that The Libertines will eventually forget their differences and make a third album.

The Pet Shop Boys, however, were magnificent. There can be no better start to married life than an evening of high camp and gay disco. Much to my surprise, unlike the Dirty Pretty Things, The Pet Shop Boys’ performance was majestic and suited to what was essentially a festival crowd perfectly. But enough of this. If you wanna read someone’s ramblings about contemporary music there are far better places to go than this blog.

What is happening with the CFZ, I hear you ask? What is new in the world of monster hunting? While you were poncing around singing along to ‘Left to my own Devices’ what was happening in the world of cryptozoology?

Well, Bernard Heuvelmens once wrote that there are lost worlds everywhere. This is an assertion that I have always believed to be true, but even I was somewhat taken aback when I discovered that there is a potential major cryptozoological mystery on our own figurative doorstep – OK, in an area of thick woodland at Huddisford – a mile or so from the village.

This is where things begin to get strange. Avid readers of Corinna’s blog (and here I would like to take grave exception to her verbal assertion to me only a few minutes ago that I only persuaded her to write a blog so I didn’t have to do it so often) will know, only a few days before the wedding Corinna, Richard and I spent an evening at Huddisford on the track of an eight foot black cat. She told the story better than I possibly could, and there is no point in repeating it here. However, the implications of the sightings at Huddisford are immense.

Yes, sightings – plural!

Over the past few years there have been a whole string of sightings in the region. Interestingly, some of them are of a powerful black creature, but others describe a smaller brown one, with thick set shoulders and a nasty mastiff like face. As regular readers of this blog will know, this is getting dangerously close to the animal postulated by Di Francis. I wonder how many more times this year I will have to use my blog space in eating humble pie and apologising for my previous cavalier attitude towards Di’s theories. The further I go in my descent into British big cattery, I become more convinced that to dismiss Di Francis’ theories out of hand would be both unscientific and unwise.

Also in the week before the wedding, we finished work on Nick Redfern’s delightfully nutty new book – Man Monkey a British Bigfoot. This will be available in the next few days, and looks set to be a massive success. It is the first dedicated book on British BHM phenomena and furthermore tells the story of the quest from Nick’s delightfully idiosyncratic perspective. Even I turn up in one chapter as my 2003 encounter with the Beast of Bolam is put under the microscope.

Next out of the starting gate is Karl Shuker’s impressive update of his 1990 book Extraordinary Animals Worldwide. Extraordinary Animals Revisited will – we hope – be available in the next couple of weeks.

Before the end of the summer we have the Weird Weekend, issue 41 of Animals & Men, two more books, issue 2 of Exotic Pets, and even some sort of a honeymoon.

Dudes, the future is so bright that it is good job I don’t have hangovers any more, ‘cos I would then be forced to wear shades, and that would just look pretentious.

Onwards and upwards.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The service













And more....

The bride and her mother

The rain stayed off just long enough for everyone to be photographed in the garden


The bride, the groom, and the boys (and girls) of the old brigade


Bride, groom, sisters, brothers, neices and nephews


Bride, groom and brother/padre



The bride's mother (R) and the nearest thing the groom still has as a mother



The lovely bridesmaids (Shosh - left; Olivia - right) and their lucky menfolk



Bride, groom, both brothers, and both sister-in-laws