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  • Deciding Canadian Policy with Seances? March 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Deciding Canadian Policy with Seances?

    Numerous politicians have dabbled in spiritualism in and out of office. There are claims, for example, that Lincoln in the US, Arthur Balfour and possibly Gladstone in the UK, not to mention Alfred Deakin in Australia all went to mediums and possibly were influenced in their decisions by séances. However, in this catalogue none come […]

    The Last Foodtaster in History? March 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Last Foodtaster in History?

      Beachcombing has long thought that food tasting must have been among the very cushiest jobs to have had in the Middle Ages. Why? (i) No one is going to be stupid enough to kill a monarch or a duke by poisoning their food if they know there’s a taster around. You are safe. Beachcombing doubts there’s […]

    Review: Behind the Palace Doors March 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Behind the Palace Doors

                          Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery and Folly from Royal Britain by Michael Farquhar has a title that threatens scandal and titillation. But it is fortunately much more than that. It is a brilliantly-written psycho-history of Britain’s royal family […]

    Nationalising Women on the Volga March 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Nationalising Women on the Volga

      Beachcombing has been remiss in picking on the Soviet Union recently, his last efforts came in October of last year. However, yesterday’s post on Women Service sparked a memory within a memory and sent Beachcombing running to his book shelves. The work in question was Frederick Bailey’s brilliant Mission to Tashkent. Bailey – a British spy […]

    Toasting Poland February 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Toasting Poland

      Beachcombing has always had a bit of a thing about the Poles: a nation of warriors and survivors. It is difficult not to get a little teary-eyed then when, in 1918, Poland officially becomes, after 120 years of dreaming, a nation again. Unlike Italy’s pretend risorgimento – to have a ‘resurrection’ you need to […]

    Review: Lost Worlds February 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Lost Worlds

      Beachcombing has, on several occasions, had the experience of justifying (or trying to justify) to a television or publishing company an idea. Essentially you the ‘artist’ are beholden to write on one side of A4, preferably in Times New Roman, a succinct pitch, explaining why the public will go into ecstasy on purchase or […]

    Bierce’s Second Act February 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Bierce's Second Act

    Poor F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, in a novel that he could not finish, that there are no second acts in American lives. However, Beachcombing has always wondered about a possible exception in Ambrose ‘Bitter’ Bierce ‘the Devil’s lexographer’, short-story writer, journalist, poet, sceptic and general stand-up guy. Bierce had, by any standards, an undeservedly crappy […]

    Childhood, Memory and Lies February 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Childhood, Memory and Lies

      Beachcombing usually limits autobiography in this blog to the absolute minimum: just enough to give a blurred soap opera of his life. However, today, in part to celebrate his ninth anniversary with Mrs B and in part because, as previous posts have shown, he is obsessed by the limits of memory, he has decided […]

    Total Eclipse February 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Total Eclipse

      A reader – Moonman to friends – has written in to remind Beachcombing of the old ‘cover thy face’ trick whereby ‘the civilised’ with knowledge of an eclipse, show their power over the elements by ‘ordering’ the sun to disappear in the presence of the unenlightened. Beachcombing knows this trick from Hergé’s Prisoners of […]

    Surviving Decapitation January 31, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Surviving Decapitation

    Beachcombing was traumatised in early childhood by seeing his father execute several hens on a Pennine farm. Even now he smells the metallic tang of their blood and sees the mess of heads and bodies and the feathers sticking everywhere. (Honestly, Mrs B won’t even let the younger Beachcombings watch SOS Nanny, what was Beachcombing […]

    Review: Night Climbers of Cambridge January 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Night Climbers of Cambridge

    [Note: Beachcombing apologises for any emails he’s not answered but the local internet provider has been down again for the last week: and he only has a couple of minutes with term beginning to rush in and put up posts at work. As soon as service returns he’ll be writing.] Another classic from the vaults […]

    Review: The Codex Seraphinianus January 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The Codex Seraphinianus

    Luigi Serafini, Codex Seraphinianus (numerous editions…) Beachcombing has Ricardo R. to thank for an introduction to the Codex Seraphinianus, a guide to another world. First published in 1981, a copy from the original series now runs at about 8000 dollars. Beachcombing, who is a bit strapped for cash, did the barbaric thing and read it in […]

    Silly Sieg Heils January 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Silly Sieg Heils

    The Nazi and ‘Roman’ Salute have been traditional signs of the extra-parliamentary right since the 1920s. Claims have been made that these salutations are more hygenic, more beautiful and also of shorter duration than the handshake. Well, Beachcombing is certainly no fan of palming… However, he finds – memories of the Great Dictator? – the […]

    A Werewolf in 1960s Italy January 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Werewolf in 1960s Italy

    Regular readers will know that Beachcombing has no great love for sociologists, who are to historians (or should be to historians) what garlic is to a vampire. However, he makes an exception for Belden Paulson’s brilliant The Searchers (1966) a description of life in a small Italian town, Castelfuoco (not its real name!), in the […]

    Atlantis in the Far East January 15, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Atlantis in the Far East

    Naive Beachcombing set out in an earlier post his ambition to create a list of all the locations in the world that have been claimed over the years as the ‘true’ Atlantis. However, while writing this piece over Christmas he ran into a problem that he had not frankly anticipated. There are just so many places that […]

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