Saturday 23 August 2008

Better late than never

Okay, okay - I know that 'tomorrow' has turned in to a 'few days later' but here is a brief update on proceedings on the last day of the Weird Weekend.

Our speakers were: Michael Woodley (In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans), Dr. Gail-Nina Anderson (Fairies in Art), Mike Hallowell (Invisikids - childhood imaginary friends), Geoff Ward (Spirals - the Pattern of Existence), Ronan Coghlan (The Duncannon incident) and Jon's keynote speech and closing remarks.

Ronan had previously made Jon promise that no fuss would be made of his 60th birthday on the Friday of the Weird Weekend but, as Jon announced before Ronan took the stage on Sunday, he had not promised not to mention it two days later! To this effect, the auditorium was full and we all sang Happy Birthday to the birthday boy, and presented him with a rather tasty looking strawberry gateaux.

As before, Allan and Jennie did us proud with our end-of-weekend dinner at our local - The Farmers Arms, and we all thank them very much for their hospitality and the delicious meal.

In my write-up about Saturday's events, I forgot to mention that, Dr. Karl Shuker spoke briefly about his new book - Dr. Shuker's Casebook - and many people took the opportunity of buying a copy signed by the man himself. Thanks go to him for making the journey to and from Walsall with his mum - all in one day - for the event. They must have both been exhausted on Sunday, after such a long trip!

All in all it was a successful weekend, although tiring and with a few minor hiccups. Myrtle Cottage has been quiet all this week as we catch up on our sleep, but we are sticking our heads up from our covers gradually more each day and will soon be back to normal - whatever normal is.

Thanks go to all our speakers for their interesting talks, and thanks also go to all our crew who all pulled together and helped make the weekend go as smoothly as it did. And for their excellent work in the kitchen, we also give our thanks to those who constantly provided the excellent refreshments and food throughout the three days.

We have videod all the talks this year and Jon has been busy uploading them on to YouTube, so keep an eye out for them.

As for next year - well it will be the 10th of these events and will also mark Jon's 50th birthday so I guess it promises to be interesting to say the least ......

Sunday 17 August 2008

Blimey, I'm tired

But..... I am a bit earlier 'tonight' with this entry, and I am determined, once again, to do this now rather than wait until the morning.

The list of speakers for today's programme were Jon and Richard (An introduction to cryptozoology), Jon (The Owlman and Others), Dr. Mike Dash (In Search of Dr. MacRae (Loch Ness), Matt Salusbury (Water elephants of the Congo), Tim Matthews (Weird Stuff Happens - my part in UFOlogy's downfall) Ronan Coghlan (The theology of extra-terrestrials) Richard et al (Guyana 2007 Expedition Report), Graham Inglis (CFZ Museum - annual report), Jonathan McGowan (the last 12 months in Mystery Cats), Oll Lewis (the last 12 months of lake and sea monster reperts), Chris Moiser (Confessions of a Fortean zookeeper) and Richard et al (Russian 2008 Expedition Report).

I will not go into details of the talks for two reasons - the first being that I only saw Ronan's and a bit of Chris Moiser's, and the second being that notes are again, this year, being taken by Helen Lester of all the talks which will once again be posted at a later stage. Thanks to Helen for offering to do this mammoth task.

The CFZ awards this year went to: Dave and Joanna Curtis (for their stirling input with the children's entertainment - all at their own expense), Simon and Sharon Bennett (for their stirling work with the organisation of meals and children), Mrs. Braund (for being such a good neighbour, supporter and 'second mum' to Jon for so many years), Dr. Karl Shuker (for his superb crypto writings and support), Adam Davies (for his expeditionary services) and Ronan Coghlan (for his endless support of the CFZ and the fact that year after year he still manages to make it over to the Weird Weekend).

There had been a fraught few hours spent whilst we waited for Karl to arrive to promote his new book, Dr Shuker's Casebook, and we were, for a short while, running a horrible hour and a bit late, but we eventually finished not too far from the published time and all breathed a sigh of relief that all went well.

The 'Mad Hatter's Tea-party' spread cake around the bar area much the same as it did last year - I felt sick just at the thought of eating so much cake, but as usual the children proved that they have stomach linings of concrete as the two sides battled it out as to which could finish their cake first. Olivia offered, and was duly appointed by me, to wander around and take photos with my camera throughout the weekend, and the picture below was taken just as the winning team were finishing off their calorie laden task.

Their prize?

Another cake of course......

One of our exhibitors this year is Metamorphosis, run by our good friends Graham and Janice Smith. You will know them from our forays into the Bug Festival world. The praying mantis below was determined to show off as much as she possible could - well I don't really blame her - just look at those wings!

Richard looking somewhat furtive and Graham looking rather pleased with himself - I am not too sure what those stick people are doing on the sign on the front of the desk though.

Anyway, I will post more photos in the next few days - they take ages to load up on my slightly exhausted computer and as it is now 2.00 am I reckon I am going to sign off for today.
More tomorrow.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Things that go bump in the night

It is 2.15 in the morning and I have decided to make the very noble effort of posting my blog now rather than trying to do it first thing in the morning when not really awake and under the pressure of getting to the hall for the 10.00 am door opening. I may as well as I am still wide awake, although my body is screaming at me to lie down. My feet are aching, but are at least free now from the restriction of shoes.

All in all it has been a very successful evening. Matthew Williams kicked off with a talk on Crop Circles (yes he landed safely), followed by Pollyanna Pickering with her Yeti skull in Bhutan talk, then Richard Ingrams on a talk about The Tunguska Event, and lastly Mike Hallowell on The Tyneside Poltergeist. The latter was the only talk I saw tonight, but it certainly sent a chill down the spine. It didn't help when - as Mike's allotted time slot was nearly up - Jon came through the doors and, I have to admit, made me jump out of my skin! When Mike asked if anyone had any questions, I very nearly put my hand up to ask if anyone else had endured the same fate.

We have three extra inmates tonight - Matthew Williams (who could not make his return journey due to the poor weather conditions) and Jon McGowan and Darren Naish (who were due to sleep under canvas but discovered that they would be half-submerged in sodden earth if they attempted so to do). But it is the CFZ, and in such emergencies we are only too happy to come to the rescue so to speak.

There were two incidents of 'will they make it' when one of our speakers and one of our exhibitors were stuck in bad traffic on various motorways but they all made it in the end we are glad to say - safe and well.

Well, I am off to bed now - I should manage at least 6 hours sleep with any luck!

By the way, I found out afterwards that I was not the only one who had jumped in their seats when Jon made his entrance - well, he does do that to people!

Friday 15 August 2008

Life is just like a box of chocolates

Ten hours after posting my blog earlier this morning, I am now attempting to catch up on the daily reports – at the moment there is a refreshing lull in proceedings so I am upstairs in ‘my office’ typing this up, and sorting out the floats, lists etc etc.

Everyone is in fine fettle after last night’s festivities - all the glasses have been washed up, dried and put away and the garden has been tidied up in readiness for the Open Day prior to the doors at the Community Centre officially opening tonight.

Most importantly today, though, is the fact that it is Ronan’s 60th birthday! So Happy Birthday dear Ronan! I am not sure, however, that the morning of such a special day should be spent, tea-towel in hand, helping to dry up over a hundred glasses!

You will pleased to learn that, thankfully in the end, last night went off without any problems – there was no wind, no rain and, apart from being a bit chilly later on, the evening was perfect. The piñata gave up its goodies to the children willingly and all seemed to enjoy themselves thoroughly.
The champagne flowed, together with an interesting black cocktail called Soul of the Sasquatch - specially concocted for the occasion by Olivia and Robert.

Truly Terrifying Tipple - the 2008 Weird Weekend Cocktail Bar

We also received a call from Matthew Williams last night to say that he would be arriving sometime during this afternoon at a nearby airstrip. This, in itself, is not that amazing in the grand scheme of things, but if I tell you that the dear fellow’s mode of transport is a microlight you may understand why I have given it special mention. What an entrance eh? The well-known catchphrase “And all because the lady loves Milk Tray” comes to mind. We definitely wish him happy landings.

The next two postings will be rushed affairs before heading off to the hall, but I shall do my best to keep you all informed of events as they unfurl.

See you all tomorrow morning then, bright and early.

Olivia and Robert (who is doing a rather dashing impression of Alex from A Clockwork Orange) standing proudly in front of all their hard work!

Sic infit

Yesterday saw the arrival Dr. Gail-Nina Anderson, the first of our speakers to arrive this year. Graham went off to Exeter Airport to collect her and incorporated this trip with the collection of the cakes for the children’s tea-party, and the cash float.

Now Thursday has arrived and brings with it the looming pressure of ‘no more time’. The marquee and gazebo will be re-erected this morning and by this afternoon it will hopefully be ready for Olivia to set up and decorate her ‘cocktail bar’, and for David and his mate Chris to sort out their music deck.

We will also see the arrival of some more guests, including Ronan Coghlan, who is making is annual trip over to the weekend from Ireland. Today is the day, also, that the dining room has to be cleared to make room for those who are sleeping on the floor and for the possible eventuality of having to hold the cocktail party inside if the heavens open up again tonight. The weather forecast has informed us that we should be ok – but I am not convinced we can trust Mr. Weather these days. Oh yes, it’s male – it has to be! Jon will be proud of me for managing to get a sexist comment in at least one of my Weird Weekend blogs.

The handover from Wednesday to Thursday involved a late night – there were pictures to print off and some scanning to do. From 12.30 onwards Oll, Graham, and Richard were able to drift off to their respective beds while Jon came upstairs at around 3.45 to be greeted by a bedroom full of black balloons which I was intermittently blowing up for this evening’s festivities. They looked rather like giant grapes festooned around the floor. Anyhow, Jon went to sleep about three quarters of an hour later, and the last time I looked at the clock it was 5.15 am. Not a good time to suffer from the dreaded insomnia methinks.

And yes, many of you may spot that this has been posted after the party! Hmmm, well I went downstairs in the middle of typing this to do something and never really managed to come back up again until now!

I did try…..honest.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind

Feeling tired and stressed, Jon went to bed early last night, so I stayed downstairs with my laptop and was tinkering around on the internet when, all of a sudden, the lights went out. I had my earphones on listening to some music, but heard a loud bang behind me. Removing the earphones I realised that it was a clap of thunder that I had heard – the loudest I have heard for a long time – and it became obvious that we had endured a power cut due to the promised ‘severe weather’ mentioned yesterday. Being on my laptop, of course, meant that my power had not left me due to the battery, which made it all the more weird - for a few seconds I could not make out why the lights had gone out and not my laptop!

The wind was blowing a veritable gale and the rain was coming down in torrents. Hey ho – here we go again I thought.

A little while later I went into the kitchen to get a drink of water and found Oll, with the vac, on his way outside to the car to do a spot of hoovering. Oh yes, still at work at around 10pm. Complete with plastic bags to protect any power source that was necessary he went out to finish off the Daihatsu’s makeover.

When stressed I cannot get to sleep very well and so I don’t bother to go to bed until I know that I will be able to drift off to dreamland almost instantly. Hence last night I was still wandering around at around 1am. That is actually quite early for me – it has, of late, been 2 or 3 am before I finally get between the sheets. I made my way ‘up the wooden hills to Bedfordshire’ to the sound of howling wind and rain smashing against the windowpanes.

It was of no real surprise, then, to be awoken this morning to the sound of Jon exclaiming that both the marquee and gazebo had been blown down in the wind. On top of that, the sundial had also blown over! Luckily there was no damage to the latter and Graham returned it to its rightful place with no problems. The other two, however, have been left until later as the winds are supposed to be dying down. I am not sure how the poor roses have suffered, though, as they have been a bit battered by the structures.

When Jon had risen earlier, at around 7am, to answer nature’s call all three had been standing – so it must have been a particularly heavy gust that caused the mayhem before he looked out of the bedroom window again at around 10 am and saw them collapsed. Perhaps a final terrifying gust to herald the gale’s waning? A kind of ‘that’ll teach them’ action of spite before it finally moves on to pastures new.

Bloody weather.

I guess it could have been worse – at least Ichabod’s aviary did not blow over too. That would have been quite awful. I do not believe in keeping captive wild birds on a whim, but as he is a rescue and – for his own safety - cannot be released back into the wild, I would not like to think of him wandering around in a world he knows nothing about.

The organisation of the Weird Weekends that I have been involved in have all been stressful for one reason or another – this year’s does seem to have a lot more downs than ups so far – perhaps this all will mean that it will be an especially good one?

I bet the sun don’t shine though.

The day of the car

Today, Tuesday, is the day in the Daihatsu’s diary when she receives her annual spruce up. For one weekend in the year, she gets a clean – well inside at least. Several bin bags of rubbish will be removed to enable any passengers to actually place their feet on the carpeting instead of having to rest them on a pile of empty bottles and sandwich containers. Yes, the carpets inside will be seen again – albeit briefly – I wonder how many items of crockery/cutlery will be found this time?!

Yesterday, we merely had a slalom course through the kitchen, but since last night we have now made a show-jumping course in the dining room with more boxes of essentials for the event. Our very own Olympics are building up nicely it would seem.
David and Ross are erected the small gazebo on the top lawn as I write this and everything else has been ticking along as it basically should – rehearsals at the hall are due tonight.

The worrying thing, however, is that there are severe weather warnings – will the marquee and gazebo stay put?

Monday 11 August 2008

‘Twas on a Monday morning

Not quite up with the lark, but by CFZ standards ‘as near as dammit’ - and it was not raining! Mr. Sunshine did not exactly have his bonnet on either – more of a fetching so’wester just in case – but at least the rhythmic dripping has ceased.

Before anything else can be done, all the mouths around the CFZ menagerie have to be fed. Our new inmate (well mine really) is Ichabod Grimm, the rescued jackdaw. He has been hand-reared, since falling down a chimney in February, by Beth – who runs an animal rescue centre by herself not far from here. Every morning and evening you will find me in his aviary feeding him delicacies by hand as he ruffles his wings and squawks at me for more. His favourite at the moment is a banquet of mealworms – I am amazed as to quite how many of the wriggly little things he can down in one sitting!

But that has absolutely nothing to do with the Weird Weekend.

Neither has the fact that we are still sending out the latest Animals & Men! Is this bad organisation on our part – to be producing both an issue of Exotic Pets and the aforesaid magazine so close to the weekend in question? Probably, but that is a condundrum that you will have to approach Jon about!

Stocks of books arrived today, so the space in the dining room is fast beginning to shrink – add to that the bags of t-shirts - duly counted and neatly folded - and we nearly have a market stall in the making. Almost a true cottage-garden industry, apart from the fact that it is in the house rather than out!

David managed to mow the lawn today and the roses have all been pruned and I am happy to report that, after Olivia’s boyfriend, Robert, and Graham’s work at the weekend, the marquee is still standing majestically in place. However, this year we have been prudent and are not adding the side panels until the last possible moment to avoid the possibility of them being blown too much and torn again like they were last year, due to the high winds. Olivia, Robert, David, Ross and I had the task of repairing the tabs on the roof and panels last weekend, and we are all determined not to have to go through that again next year!

The ‘to-do’ list was getting shorter, but I added two more items today, so that ruined that – d’oh. But as long as the items being shopped for today are successfully purchased it will mean that a good few other things will disappear on the twice-daily check tonight. Hurrah! (until some bright spark thinks of something else that is).

Sunday 10 August 2008

Tempus volat hora fugit

As he did last year, Jon has asked me to post a regular update on the preparations and actual event that is the Weird Weekend. So, this is the first of the, what I plan to be, daily updates that will record the ups and downs through the last week, as seen through my eyes.

In four and a half days, the traditional cocktail party that precedes the annual Weird Weekend will be underway in our back garden. This year it will be the weekend’s 9th birthday so things should be somewhat passé in the organisation stakes by now. So are we ready and waiting? I could say, ‘but of course we are – we have had enough practice at this sort of thing after all. We are so laid-back. We are catching up on a spot of reading, painting our toenails, laying in bed until mid-day, and thoroughly enjoying a spot of pre-weekend relaxation’. As I said, I could say that. However, I may tell a few white lies occasionally, but to state the above would be a blatant whopper of a black one. Of course we are not ready! In truth, I suppose, you can never really be totally ready for an event of this kind, but can only hope that what you have achieved is enough.

The last few weeks have seen us all with frayed tempers, and nerves, and have seen us constantly trying to find our heads as we rush around like the infamous chickens without them. Clumps of hair are dotted around the place to be left where they lay after having been torn out with clenched fists of frustration. For one reason or another, we are also down on ‘man-power’ this year so we have been considering laying traps to press-gang anyone who steps over the threshold to Myrtle Cottage. So, Mr. Postie, I would watch your back if I were you.

The tense atmosphere has also been exacerbated due to the unseasonable (or has it now become more the norm) weather and the added bonus of the roof over the porch and utility room collapsing. Water had seeped in through cracks, the sheer weight of which had caused this inopportune event to take place. These defects could not be attended to before due to the aforementioned weather not allowing essential repairs to be done. Sod’s law at work, I guess, that it should all fall down now.

So buckets to the ready, and tissues to hand to mop up tears of frustration, we are still battling on to ensure that the weekend goes as well as it possibly can. We are all getting good at performing a slalom around the strategically placed buckets and are even thinking of inventing some kind of timed game to see who can get from the dining room to the outside – without slipping over on the wet patches – the fastest. Hey ho.

But, on the up side, we are getting there ….. I think.