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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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another letter

Myrtle Cottage
9 Back Street
EX39 5QR

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