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  • Maximilian’s Shirt June 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Maximilian's Shirt

    ‘Emperor’ Maximilian was a scion of the Hapsburg dynasty who was parachuted into Mexico (1864) as Imperial Ruler in the Old World’s last concerted attempt to meddle in the Americas. Maximilian was not quite the patsy though that many in Europe and  monarchists of Mexico had hoped. He was one of those men who had […]

    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 […]

    Blind Mice and Licking Knives May 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Blind Mice and Licking Knives

    Beachcombing is writing this post with a certain anxiety. The moment he finishes it he is going to have to clean out a small priest-hole, hidden at the back of his study, where a family of country mice have settled. The Beachcombing’s don’t have a cat – thankfully – but these mice foolishly refuse to […]

    Last Words of the Executed May 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Last Words of the Executed

    Beachcombing will not deny it: he’s been in a real Last Words mood recently. So when a friendly book dealer sent him Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed he was hardly going to complain: even if, by a bizarre error of the printer’s art, the index had ended up being bound in the […]

    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 […]

    A Frightening Roman Cat May 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Frightening Roman Cat

    ***This post is dedicated to Invisible who sent the reference and the picture in*** Beachcombing was going to do a post on early parachutes today but he got caught up, instead, in a disturbing cat portrait and legend thanks to an email from Invisible. This nasty little moggy – look at it! – will simply […]

    True Lies May 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    True Lies

    Beachcombing has recently been reading and enjoying David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory has Shaped Modern History. For those who have not heard of the book, AD takes an unremittingly hostile look at the many conspiracy theories that have characterized the last two broken centuries. Beach certainly doesn’t always like DA’s caustic tone. But, […]

    William Herschel and Trees on the Moon May 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    William Herschel and Trees on the Moon

    Born in Hanover,  but living in Britain for most of his adult life, William Herschel (obit 1822) was a celebrated astronomer in the century after Newton. WH has crossed Beachcombing’s radar not just because of his great achievements – discovery of Uranus etc – but because of some of his more curious speculations. For centuries, […]

    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 […]

    Giving Corpses Acrid Enemas May 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Giving Corpses Acrid Enemas

    Beachcombing has a substantial file on individuals being accidentally buried alive and a second file full of strategies employed to avoid such unpleasantries. Being buried alive is, after all, something of a human preoccupation. Thrillers end with heroes in tiny underground boxes, cinema epics – including a notable recent effort – have been filmed in […]

    Scotland’s Sandy Pompeii May 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Scotland's Sandy Pompeii

    The Barony of Culbin was, in the early modern period, one of the richest agricultural lands in north-western Scotland. Up to sixteen farms worked this coastal territory of between three and four thousand acres under the rule of the Kinnairds. In the late seventeenth century, the rental of the estate was 2,720 Scots pounds – […]

    Last Words: Last Lies May 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Last Words: Last Lies

    Beachcombing has wasted literally days of his life looking at last words of the famous, the infamous and the simply anonymous. There is something so fascinating about utterances from the edge of the cliff. But how many of these gilded sentences are genuine? And how many simply the blather of post-mortem spin? Take Voltaire (obit […]

    Shelley, the Cat, the Kite and the Bolt of Lightning May 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Shelley, the Cat, the Kite and the Bolt of Lightning

    Beachcombing thought that today he would combine a recent obsession – cats, with an older obsession – lightning and a coming obsession, kites. The party guilty for bringing these three unlikely subjects together was none other than Romantic brat extraordinaire Percy Bysshe Shelley (obit 1822 – ‘I fall upon the thorns of life, I bleed’ […]

    Viking and Pirate Black Cats May 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Viking and Pirate Black Cats

    ***This post is dedicated to BAY and Raspberry Beret*** Beachcombing would be the first to admit that he has been overdoing it with cats recently: this despite not even particularly caring for moggies, being much more a dog and tortoise person. But an email from BAY on Beach’s black cats – unlucky for some piece […]

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