The Medieval Water That Would Not Boil! December 5, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Medieval
An early thirteenth-century source comes up with this strange little story. The modern editor suggests that Piroletti may be Piolenc near Orange in southern France: but the names are not that close. In any case whatis far, far more interesting is the fact that water from a local stream, wherever we are, does not boil. What on earth is going on here?
In the Kingdom of Arles, and in the village of Pirioleti, there is some water that is very clear, and well-fitted for human consumption. Its quality will arouse wonder, for although it cooks thoroughly meat and vegetables of every kind, it can never boil. And so it happens that strangers and travellers, not realizing this and expecting the water to boil, find after long heating and tedious waiting that the pieces of meat or rish which had put in the pot are so reduced and overdone that they are rendered virtually inedible by their excessive cooking.
Est in regno Arelatensi et castro de Pirioleti aqua limpidissima, usui mortalium plurima commode. Huius miranda erit complexio, quod cum ad plenum caro omnisque generis legumina decoquat, numquam tamen bullire potest. Under prouenit quod ignoti et transeuntes, hec ignorantes, aque bullicionem expectantes, post diutinos ignes longasque moras carnes aut pices cacabo immissos reperiunt sic comminutos et excoctos quod minus sapidi ex nimia decoctione redduntur.
Beach should note that he has no kind of scientific background and, in fact, very little ability to understand scientific facts even when explained by cogent and gifted teachers. But could there possibly be a scientific explanation for this, rather than us having to write it off as a bit of medieval Franco-Forteanism? It seems, reading the passage, that the water does actually ‘boil’ in that it reaches very high temperatures and that food cooks, only that those who are cooking don’t perceive the water boiling, only (eventually) the food going bad. If that is, indeed, what happens here why doesn’t the water bubble up as it heats? Looking in a very amateurish way in an encylopedia it seems that boiling can be effected by impurities in the water and by altitude (Piolenc is relatively low lying). Does perhaps the fact that the stream is limpissima (ever so pure) have something to do with this embarrassing lack of bubbles: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com. Or perhaps after all it really was the pixies up in the mountains playing tricks on the locals.
Selling Alaska/Louisiana/Manhattan by the Pound December 4, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Contemporary, Modern
History could be usefully defined as one long territory grab: who has the desire to take these acres, and who has the will and the resources and enough young ready to die on the other side? You can almost see the archangels of history pouring blood and bullets into two sides of a balance. But […]
Killing a Nineteenth-Century Nessie December 3, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Modern
There is a fabulous Scottish water beast story that is worth repeating. Today we scour lochs for fantastic animals. In the early nineteenth century they scoured at Loch na Beiste (literally Loch of the Beast) to kill the same. The story of the celebrated water-kelpie of the Greenstone Point is very well known in Gairloch. […]
Napoleon and the Great Pyramid: Myth and Reality December 2, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Ancient, Modern
One of the best WIBT (wish I’d been there) moments in history must have been that wonderful occasion when Napoleon ascended to the royal chamber in the Great Pyramid and asked to spend a minute alone with the pharoahs: perhaps it is so fantastically attractive as history because no one was there and so there […]
Beachcombed 42 December 1, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Beachcombed
Dear Reader, November has been a blast, from an iron furnace.This is always the most difficult month of the year: a sort of cursed menses. The main issue is that Mrs B. has to organise an annual academic conference: not so much herding cats as herding blind, incontinent seagulls. Child rearing falls mainly to Beach […]
The Index Biography #2: Prize = Imaginary Animals November 30, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Contemporary
The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the indivdual’s life. We offered up previously here Sheridan le Fanu and Joseph […]
Review: Imaginary Animals November 29, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
Any parent will know that animals are important. Children make animal sounds before they make words. They draw and paint animals. They cherish animal toys. The books they read have animal characters. They pretend to be animals. Animals, in fact, become a kind of meta-language for their experience and their emotions: Little Miss Beach has […]
Monotheistic Moments November 28, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Ancient, Medieval
There seems to be no question that early human societies were polytheistic. Might it even be said that polytheism is the natural human condition? Perhaps monotheism is the equivalent of Big Macs and fried mars bars, whereas we should all really be eating freshly killed gazelle and the fruits of the forest? There is, in […]
Weird Cirencester Report November 27, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Modern
This pithy little piece appears in a fascinating book: James Malcolm Miscellaneous Anecdotes Illustrative of the Manners and History of Europe (1811), 39-40. Malcolm had ransacked seventeenth and eighteenth century newspapers in search of absurd stories, which he could make fun of. He then included these accounts in his book. He does not give us […]
Irish and Africans: A Peculiar Nineteenth-Century English Obsession November 26, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Modern
The science of ‘race’ is for the most part a series of embarrassing excesses and intellectually dishonst indulgences of contemporary opinions and prejudice, with some requisite skull-measuring and blethering about frontal lobes to make everything sound alright. Even by these particularly sad lows the following picture is an extraordinary achievement. The images come from Ireland […]
Romans and Fairies? November 25, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
***Dedicated to Invisible who sent the Notts example in*** Beach has slowly become aware that Roman remains in Britain were misinterpreted by imaginative yokels. Of course, already by the seventh century Roman Bath (probably?) was the City of Giants in an Anglo-Saxon poem. By the twelfth century Geoffrey of Monmouth was claiming that some Roman […]
The Place of Still Born Children November 24, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Modern, Prehistoric
Skeaf is a small townland in County Cork in the wild west of Ireland. Looking for information about this little patch of green on the internet gives almost nothing: there are, for example, no houses for sale in Skeaf and no singles looking for ‘hot encounters’, no farmers’ markets and no entries in Craigs List. […]
The Wood County Creature!!! November 23, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Actualite
Some very sad news from the US: the death of Nick Reiter. Nick was a paranormal investigator based in Ohio and his website contains a series of investigations of mysterious cases, particularly hauntings. Beach hasn’t got much time for all this ghost-busters stuff, but Nick’s writing gives the phantoms a rare edge and more particularly […]
Jokes from WW1 November 22, 2013Posted by Beachcombing in : Contemporary
A recent post included jokes of the Second World War and jokes about the Second World War. Here is a sister post on jokes from the First World War. These are trickier to track down but some are still fun and deserve respect and a reading. Others gratefully received: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beach […]