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Giving Birth in a Coffin June 18, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Giving Birth in a Coffin

Beachcombing has recently been toying around with the idea of a publication on ‘buried alive’ stories from Boccaccio to Poe. It would be a short volume, but one that would keep most of us awake past our bedtimes. Any suggestions for vaguely literate buried-alive tales please contact: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beachcombing has got […]

Jousting with Medieval Tanks June 16, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Jousting with Medieval Tanks

  Leonardo da Vinci: what isn’t there to like? Beachcombing certainly has always found LdV much more entertaining company than the obnoxious and pitch-perfect Michelangelo. And as a tribute of sorts  Beachcombing thought that today he would share Leonardo’s attempt to build a tank four hundred years before the Cambrai front was swarming with them […]

King Arthur In Australia? June 15, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
King Arthur In Australia?

The Beachcombings are overjoyed as they have finally found a new aupair, an Australian tango dancer (truly). And in her honour Beach thought he would offer up today an obscure, indeed, an almost forgotten source for the Arthurian legend,  a twelfth-century poem by the name of Draco Normannicus (Norman Battle Standard) with an almost impossibly […]

St Andrew and Scythia June 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
St Andrew and Scythia

Patron saints have a strange habit of not coming from the countries that they are supposed to represent. England’s Saint George was Syrian, St Patrick was born not in Ireland but in Britain, Portugal’s patron saint lived all his life in northern Italy… Usually there is a logical enough explanation. St George, for instance, was […]

Unusual Riots June 12, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Unusual Riots

A long day ahead of Beachcombing as the family prepare to celebrate Little Miss B’s third birthday with an uneasy coalition of villagers and local think tank wonks and the confusion of their progeny. Think Farmer Pickles talking about the price of wheat, John Balls describes the demographic replacement rate, while master Pickles and master […]

The Strangest Instrument June 5, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
The Strangest Instrument

In his forlorn attempts to bring the bizarre into melody Beachcombing has done a little browsing through music-history books in the last six months. And one of the manila files that he consequently opened – now stored in the rusty filing cabinet in the downstairs bathroom – was entitled ‘weird instruments’. Beachcombing is going to […]

Animal Effigies and Indian Mounds June 4, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Animal Effigies and Indian Mounds

  Beachcombing has long been attracted to the so called ‘animal effigy mounds’ of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Louisiana. Across these states local Indian populations built a series of giant mounds in the shape of animals. Dating is almost impossibly difficult in such cases, but many archaeologists have placed the creation of these mounds […]

The Impostor June 2, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

For ten years a mother and son are separated – war, a prison sentence, the grand tour… – and then  reunited. Only there is a problem. The son is not actually the son, but an impostor. What are the chances that the mother will be taken in? This scenario and the subsequent question appear asinine. […]

Converting Martians May 31, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Converting Martians

***This post is dedicated to Ypres Soup*** When scientists speculate today about whether intelligent life exists on other worlds the  questions that come up reflect typical modern preconceptions: Will they like us? Will they dress like us? Will they eat us? Etc etc. And these questions have changed little since the late nineteenth century when […]

Marco Polo Meets a Dragon? May 30, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval

Beachcombing still mouse hunting so a brief and curious passage in Marco Polo 2, 40. It is an extract that scholars – depending on their proclivities – try and ignore or enjoy overly. Leaving the city of Yachi, and traveling ten days into a westerly direction, you reach the Province of Carajan [modern Yunnan on […]

Against All Odds May 26, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

Another in the Weird Wars series: what victory in military history was achieved against the greatest odds? First some ground rules. 1) The two armies have to have comparable technologies. So the British and Empire troops at Rourke’s Drift (1879) were outnumbered by something like twenty to one by their Zulu adversaries. However, the British […]

Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition May 21, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Bad Ass One-Liners from the Epic Tradition

There is, across the world, an epic literature, sometimes in prose more often in poetry, celebrating the deeds of men who lived, in happier times, caught between the gods and the earth. The ‘shapers’ who sang the heroic ages of the world – in pre-Christian Scandinavia, Homeric Greece, prehistoric India… – had none of our […]

Origins of the Two-finger Insult May 19, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Origins of the Two-finger Insult

The sun is in the heaven, term is over and with the good luck that characterises him Beachcombing has come down with a cracking summer cold. Indeed, as he walks up and down the stairs he feels as if his head is banging on the walls on either side. In this emergency situation he thought […]

Vampire Mermaids and Migraines May 17, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Vampire Mermaids and Migraines

A Roman charm from, of all places, Carnuntum in the Alps offers one of the earliest recorded cures for migraine. Written on a piece of silver (and badly eroded) it does not discourse on low-dairy diets or darkened rooms. Rather… Well, Beachcombing will quote from the translated Greek: ‘Antaura came out from the sea. She […]

Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China May 13, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Manned Kite Flight in Medieval China

**This post is dedicated to Ricardo R. who put Beachcombing onto the Chinese kite** School’s out for ever! Well actually just for ten days before the summer students arrive and another course  is pushed off the cliff… Still for now it feels like for ever and Beachcombing is properly grateful. So much so that he […]

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