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, February 10, 2011

MIKE HALLOWELL: A miscellany of odd Geordie tales

A miscellany of odd Geordie tales follows, all of which are true because a) their provenance is well attested in learned tomes penned by our nation's greatest scholars, and b) I like them.

On June 1 1853 a young fellow by the name of George Wallis was fishing near the rocks at Tynemouth. Tynemouth is an ideal spot to fish at, for the sea is there. Now George was not fishing for fish, but for crabs. And he found one, scuttling in amongst the rocks. But this was no ordinary crab. What was it then? One of the legendary South Shields Devil Crabs from across the river, as detailed by the eminent Ronan Coghlan in his splendiferous tome A Dictionary of Cryptozoology? Nay; t'was a quite unremarkable crab, save for the fact that it had, welded to its back, a silver sixpence. This shocked young Wallis for, as everyone knows, crabs are wont to keep their sixpences in a purses made by Versace or wallets made by someone in China.

The author of The Historical Register of Remarkable Events, Mr T. Fordyce, attempted to explain the conundrum thus: “The coin had probably fallen upon the crab when its outer covering was in a soft state, as the shell had grown considerably over the edge of the piece”.

Mr Fordyce's explanation is as good as any I can come up with, but I'd appreciate it if any colleagues out there who specialise in either crabology and/or sixpencism could explain to me just how the coin stayed in place long enough for the shell to grow around it.

And another: on March 9, 1842 a butcher by the name of George Watson, from Stockton, was driving a rather obese cow from the market when for reasons not clear, the animal decided to take a right turn into a narrow alley called William Street. There she found an open door. Curious, she poked her bovine snout inside and espied a stairwell.

“Ooh”, she exclaimed, “a stairwell!” Then, all excited like, she proceeded to climb the stairs and without warning or ceremony, intrude upon the living room of a flax dresser named Franklin. Mr Franklin, who seems to have worked from home, was dressing flax for all he was worth, assisted by his able wife and several children.

“Here”, said Franklin, all authoritative like, “We're flax-dressing in here, and you can't come in”.

Unfortunately, Daisy – for that was her name – was already in, and had no intentions of being out. Not long after, Mr Watson arrived and in a state of high dudgeon, said that he was right annoyed, like.

“You're annoyed? I'm bloody annoyed! I've spent all bloody night dressing this flax, and - “

“Excuse me”, interrupted Mrs Franklin, “WE'VE been dressing this flax all bloody night!”

“Oh, alright, keep your hair on”, retorted her beloved. “Anyway, look at the mess. This flax looks like its been dragged through a hedge backwards. That cow of yours has trampled it to bits and eaten half of it”.

“What's the damage, then?”

“Five shillings should cover it.”

“Done. Here's five shillings; now help me get Daisy down the stairs before she decides to 'drop the kids off at the pool' so to speak, and covers your precious flax with a pat."

With some difficulty, the flax-dresser and the butcher managed to entice Daisy back down to the alley where, chuffed with her little adventure, she proceeded on her way.

Postscript: the Franklin family, just one week later, are gathered around the table for Sunday lunch.

“Here”, says young Benjamin, “this stewed tripe is a bit of alright mother, but why has it got bits of semi-digested flax in it?”

“That's 'cause your eating Daisy”, said Mr Franklin, with some satisfaction. “I knew I'd see my day with that gate-crashing bovine b*****d”.

Alas, a radio interview beckons, so I must dash, but I'll be back with more Geordie crypto-lunacy as soon as poss....

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