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Dragons and Hairy Stars in Early Ireland September 30, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Dragons and Hairy Stars in Early Ireland

Beachcombing knows that there is a fashion for exaggerating the achievements of the medieval Irish. So let Beachcombing be emphatic. The early Irish did not have a table of elements. They did not talk of words like ‘relativity’ or ‘displacement’. They did not make clones or drop atom bombs. However, recent research has suggested that […]

The Table Leg that Changed History (Kind Of) September 29, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Table Leg that Changed History (Kind Of)

Beachcombing knows that estimates of the number of serious assassination attempts against Hitler vary from ten to twenty. However, the only one of these attacks that actually drew Adolf’s blood was the last, Claus von Stauffenberg’s gutsy solo effort towards the end of the war. In fact, on three different occasions – 11, 15 and 18 July […]

San Miniato: Renaissance Vandalism September 28, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
San Miniato: Renaissance Vandalism

Beachcombing has loved the extraordinary monastery of San Miniato (Florence), his favourite continental church, since he first saw it fifteen years ago. Started in a largely undocumented generation in the eleventh century it showed from the beginning an ambition that, though wholly medieval in form, anticipated the Florentine renaissance in terms of its self-confident eccentricity. However, there […]

Image: They Can Because They Think They Can September 27, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Image: They Can Because They Think They Can

As his final tribute to the RAF on the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Beachcombing offers this remarkable photograph from 19 Squadron. 19 Squadron had fought over Dunkirk and spent the Battle of Britain in the front line at Duxford: the legless and incorrigible Douglas Bader was one of her pilots as was […]

Blowing Up Robin Hood Airport September 26, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Blowing Up Robin Hood Airport

Regular readers of this blog will know that Beachcombing is a stickler for chronology. For example, the ‘contemporary’ tag he regularly uses refers strictly to events between Germany’s invasion of Belgium in the summer of 1914 and the birth of Little Miss B in the summer of 2008. But every so often an event comes along […]

The Galeotti: Rowing Out Of The Barbary Coast September 25, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Galeotti: Rowing Out Of The Barbary Coast

It’s been a bad week in the seventeenth century. There you were, a French pilgrim, just minding your own business, lounging around on a Catalan cutter and, bang, Barbary pirates overrun the ship. Next thing you know you are being shunted on board their vessel kicking and screaming and being told that you are to be […]

Garibaldi’s Worst Hours September 24, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Garibaldi's Worst Hours

Giuseppe Garibaldi had been, in the late 1830s, an insurgent in Brazil: think Che Guevara with a good barber and bourgeoise decency. He had played the rhetorician who talked up Italian irregulars as they retreated from Rome in 1849: ‘Where we are Rome will be!’ He was the genius general who, in 1860, conquered half the peninsula […]

Super-Centenarians in the Roman Empire September 23, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Super-Centenarians in the Roman Empire

Beachcombing knew that life expectancy in the Roman Empire stood at between twenty and thirty years of age – a figure dragged down, of course, by appalling infant mortality. So he was particularly fascinated to come across this passage in Pliny the Elder. In addition there are the experiences of the last census, held within the […]

A Kingdom in a London Hotel Room September 22, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
A Kingdom in a London Hotel Room

Over the last weeks Beachcombing has offered a collection of posts from his Forgotten Kingdoms file. And he thought that today he would add to this with the smallest recognised state known to him: Suite 212 at Claridge’s. First a little background. Claridge’s has long had a reputation as the most exclusive London hotel. And […]

Baron Munchhausen and Jack the Ripper September 21, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Baron Munchhausen and Jack the Ripper

Beachcombing has long had a secret nemesis: Donald McCormick aka Richard Deacon, a British author. McCormick (1911-1998) wrote entertainingly on a bewildering series of topics including the Hell Fire Club, Mossad, Ian Fleming, the Kempa Tai and the death of Kitchener. Many of these books included doubtful elements: extremely valuable sources that no one else had ever […]

The Cornbeef Sandwich that Almost Destroyed a Spacecraft… September 20, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Cornbeef Sandwich that Almost Destroyed a Spacecraft...

Today astronauts have it easy when it comes to lunchtime.  They open  their MandMs or unpack a fabulous meal whipped up down at ground control – in 2006 celebrity chef, Rachael Ray even prepared them Swedish meatballs. Then there are the views… Life doesn’t really get much better. But ‘back in the day’ when the […]

Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan September 19, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
Ten Thousand Romans in Turkmenistan

There are many reasons for which individuals have travelled a long way from home in history: money, love, fear… But a vitally important and generally overlooked motive is imprisonment. Soldiers taken in battle have often (and very sensibly) been moved from where they were captured to the furthest possible point from their own country to avoid […]

The Treasure Message: A Challenge September 18, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Treasure Message: A Challenge

Beachcombing has a long-standing interest in the reliability of oral legend. Over how many decades can a piece of information be passed from mouth to mouth – without recourse to writing – and yet survive intact? So an example: a young Athenian fights in that city’s golden year, 490 BC, against the Persians. For how […]

Dowsing for Submarines September 17, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Dowsing for Submarines

Beachcombing, in his hoarding way, has been storing up references to the military use of dowsing over the past months: indeed, he has already posted on the question of British dowsing for machine guns in the Second World War and hopes to come soon to the fraught question of dowsing for land mines this fall. […]

‘English As She is Spoke’ September 16, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
'English As She is Spoke'

Beachcombing offers today not a review but a celebration of Pedro Carolino’s O Novo Guia da Conversação, em Português e Inglês, em Duas Partes, [A New Guide to Conversation in Portuguese and English in Two Parts] (1855). This was a translation of an earlier and absolutely competent Portuguese French conversation guide by José da Fonseca […]

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