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  • In Praise of North Korean Pop Music November 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    In Praise of North Korean Pop Music

    We need to be grateful for North Korea. In a world where communism has crumbled like a biscuit in milk, where even Cuba is getting excited about the market, where there are scores of Chinese billionaires, then good old North Korea is there to remind us of just how god awful state run life can […]

    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs November 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Misericordia Polyptych Meets Allied Bombs

    The Misericordia Polyptych is a talismanic work of art by Piero della Francesca, today, and for most of its history, kept at Sanselpolcro in eastern Tuscany near the border with Umbria (Italy). It took PF seventeen years to complete the polyptych, yet it would have only taken a second for an Allied bomb to blow […]

    Sunk Three Times in an Hour November 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sunk Three Times in an Hour

    Beachcombing’s grandfather was sunk three times in the last World War. But the three times in question were spread out over seven years… Imagine, instead, being sunk three times in just under an hour, not only that, we are not talking about lonely frigates or minesweepers, these were three British battleships: HMS Cressy, Aboukir and […]

    Italy’s World War Disaster November 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Italy's World War Disaster

    Italians and World Wars don’t really get on. A combination of poor military culture and one of the most macho yet incompetent political classes on the planet made for messy interventions, and amputations rather than extrications. However, even by sorry Italian standards, the six weeks beginning 28 Oct 1940 and ending 7-8 Dec 1940 were […]

    Falling in Love with a Seventeen-Year-Old Revolutionary November 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Falling in Love with a Seventeen-Year-Old Revolutionary

     Marina Ginesta was seventeen when, in 1936, the picture above was taken by Hans Gutmann on top of the Hotel Colón in Barcelona. The Spanish Civil War was now underway and Marina, from a French family settled in Spain, had joined up with the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia. She did not habitually carry a gun, […]

    The Dominions and WW2 November 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dominions and WW2

    The Dominions were a precise administrative category within the British Empire. They referred to the territories that had reached, according to omniscient London, the ability to govern themselves with minimum interference from the motherland. With many of the racist assumptions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was believed that only white populations […]

    Roma Fairies at Blackpool November 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Roma Fairies at Blackpool

    There is not much to comment on here, just a very unusual passage in a classic Roma book, The Book of Boswell: Autobiography of a Gypsy (1970). The edition referred to here is the 1973 Penguin. Now to the fairies. Notice how they jump in rather matter of factly. Our author is remembering an idyllic […]

    Index Biography #12 October 31, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Index Biography #12

    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 individual’s life. We offered up previously here Sheridan le Fanu and Joseph […]

    The Poison Duel 11#: Poison Duels in Plays and Conclusion October 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Poison Duel 11#: Poison Duels in Plays and Conclusion

    Woe, the poison duel series is over, at least till someone else finds some new evidence. Here though are two bits of supplementary evidence, poison duels in plays. This slightly bitchy review appeared in 1835. Another new burletta, entitled An Affair of Honour, was also produced during the week at this theatre. The main interest […]

    Churchill Urinating in Germany October 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Churchill Urinating in Germany

    An unseemly story as the title suggests. 24 March 1945, Churchill visited the first occupied areas in Germany and more particularly the famous Siegfried Line. He was travelling with several British dignitaries including Montgomery and Brooke. An American, Lieutenant General William Hood Simpson asked Churchill, some miles prior to Germany’s last line of defence, whether […]

    The German Non-Saluter Myth October 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The German Non-Saluter Myth

    This picture has appeared periodically over the last few years. Its popularity is easy to understand. A crowd is slavishly announcing the thousand year reich but one man, can you spot him, refuses to lift his hand. The picture has become associated with August Landmesser, a member of the Nazi party who made the error […]

    Bombing Roulette October 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Bombing Roulette

    In the early part of the Second World War the bombing of cities was deadly but piecemeal. The result was a ghastly kind of lottery as a split second of difference in letting the bombs away would decide the difference between the destruction of this street or that street: Roald Dahl has some fine short […]

    Sham Virigins, Trainee Shamans, Phantom Storms and Medieval Conversion October 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    Sham Virigins, Trainee Shamans, Phantom Storms and Medieval Conversion

    We are in the Middle Ages beyond the banks of the Rhine in the pagan communities there. A young man has had a great disappointment, he has married a woman only to discover that she is not a virgin. There follows a wretched series of illnesses that lead the young man towards death. In all […]

    M. R. James’ Invisible Library October 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    M. R. James' Invisible Library

    M. R. James is among the finest of the English-speaking ghost writers, finer even perhaps than Le Fanu and so much better than Howard Phillips L in style and in dialogue. But there is one undoubted problem with his canon: it is small, a mere thirty four stories. The quality is consistently high but fans […]

    The Truth about Mussolini’s Death? October 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Truth about Mussolini's Death?

    There is no more controversial minute in Italian history. The sixty seconds took place around four o’ clock in the afternoon 28 April 1945 at Villa Belmonte (picture shows a man tracing bullet holes there). In those seconds a wrecked man, old before his time, and his much younger lover were shot dead. The man was, of […]

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