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  • Burning Lesbians September 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Burning Lesbians

      Christianity has never been particularly friendly to homosexuality, but from the thirteenth century things started to heat up immensely. There were some footling differences between sodomy and other ‘sex crimes’, but if a man was accused of having sex with a man in any form then there was an excellent chance that both would […]

    Cauls in the Deep South September 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Cauls in the Deep South

    Beach has been obsessed the last couple of weeks with baby’s cauls. The caul for readers who don’t know (and Beach was vague previous to the obsession) is the amniotic sac which holds us in our mother’s belly. In some very few cases, a baby is born with a caul in place, in the same […]

    Professional Pipe Smoking September 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Professional Pipe Smoking

    The strange sports series continues. So far we have enjoyed naked running, clowns playing cricket, homicidal basketball and, of course, purring. This time we are in a weird little corner of the South Pennines in northern England. In this particularly nineteenth-century village the highlight of Wakes week – working man’s summer holiday – was the […]

    Imaginary Kingdoms September 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Imaginary Kingdoms

    Beach has often featured forgotten kingdoms on this blog. But what about imaginary kingdoms? There seem, in the lives of some children, to be a moment when the young create a magical world for themselves that takes on a permanent form: perhaps a more (or less?) elaborate version of the invisible friend? These are often […]

    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through August 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through

    Hydropathy was one of Victorian England’s most interesting errors, the belief that by ‘taking the waters’ various serious conditions could be cured. Stuff and nonsense? Well, according to modern medical science, yes: and Darwin in the nineteenth century himself experimented with hydropathy (for his mysterious health condition) concluding that any success was really just a […]

    Fear and Black Dogs August 30, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Fear and Black Dogs

    Black dogs – and we’ve covered a few posts on this subject with fairy dogs and the black dog of Bungay: why are they so frightening? Ian McEwan’s best novel is probably Black Dogs in which idealism destroys evil catches the terror of big black canines perfectly. But Beach was terrified too in his recent […]

    Victorian Lesbian Cobblers August 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Victorian Lesbian Cobblers

    A week in which this blogger has had a thrilling time reading works on the history of lesbianism: some surprisingly good books out there. Anyway, one of the most fascinating facts about sexuality in western Europe and later European colonies is that way that there was one standard for male homosexuality and quite another for […]

    Knock on Wood/Head August 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Knock on Wood/Head

    Victorian and, to a lesser extent, Edwardian writers loved explaining superstitions with bold comparative examples, sweeping generalizations and daring exegeses. However, more recent scholars have been less sure of our ability to unpick  the origin of our taboos. Take this brief passage on superstition from Keith Thomas in his Decline (747-748): The virtue attributed to […]

    The Amphibiotic Ablutionists August 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Amphibiotic Ablutionists

    *** Sorry late, Beach family reunited today*** Diving in the freezing water is now a fairly common guarantee of guts and eccentricity. But in early nineteenth-century England it was the height of weirdness. Beach stumbled on these healthy souls while searching for more information about hydropathy.  Beach is going to put up a five dollar […]

    The Golden Ghost of Mold #5: Against the Golden Ghost! August 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern, Prehistoric
    The Golden Ghost of Mold #5: Against the Golden Ghost!

    An attempt follows to draw the not-so-golden threads of the Golden Ghost together.  We have definite evidence from Rev. Clough that in 1833 when the grave was dug that there was the story in the locality of a golden ghost associated with the tomb. However, there are a number of problems with this. First, only […]

    Do Black Dogs (with burning eyes) Hate Fairies? August 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Do Black Dogs (with burning eyes) Hate Fairies?

      Beach is very gradually dipping his big toe into the world of black dogs: those fearsome creatures with eyes as big as saucers burning like fire seen out and about in the British countryside. The key guide is Trubshaw’s Explore Phantom Black Dogs that has a number of fascinating essays including an introduction by  […]

    The Golden Ghost of Mold #4: Ludlam’s Account August 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern, Prehistoric
    The Golden Ghost of Mold #4: Ludlam's Account

    Another from our series on the Golden Ghost of Mold. This report dates from 1966 and from Harry Ludlam’s fun The Mummy of Birchen Bower. Ludlam was a ‘gifted amateur’ with a better grasp of facts, in this case, than the Oxford published Walter Johnson, who we were a little rude about in a previous […]

    The Longest Sentry Duty August 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Longest Sentry Duty

    Beachcombing is not a huge fan of Bismarck (what’s there to like?), but his memoirs have some great passages. This story is one of those WIBT (Wish I’d Been There) moments and relates to a visit to St Petersburg in 1859. If Beach had read this at second hand he would have pressed the ‘legend’ […]

    The Golden Ghost of Mold #3: The Golden Woman of Mold August 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern, Prehistoric
    The Golden Ghost of Mold #3: The Golden Woman of Mold

    In two previous posts we have discussed the traditions (ahem) behind the Golden Ghost of Mold. Now we want to look at the person who was buried in the tomb and another problem for the Golden Ghost tradition: the tenant was almost certainly an itty-bitty Welsh woman rather than a mighty warrior. How do we […]

    Two-Hundred-Year-Old Memories of Dunbar? August 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Two-Hundred-Year-Old Memories of Dunbar?

    Beach did a horrible thing yesterday and made fun of the supposed oral transmission of information across four millennia. Even at New Grange that sort of thing seems unlikely. But he does have a lot of sympathy with the possibility that stray details might make it through two or three centuries in a rural community, […]

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