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  • Travelling to Another World from Nineteenth-century Rochdale September 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Travelling to Another World from Nineteenth-century Rochdale

    Rochdale is a rather frightening town in northern England in the County of Lancashire. We have visited the religious eccentrics of this part of Britain on several occasions before: including the search for the wandering Jew in Burnley (on the wrong side of the Pennines), and Christ in an egg in Leeds (on the right […]

    Horse Whispering Witch September 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Horse Whispering Witch

    A weird witchcraft story published in 1984, recalling an event in 1908. The date, the subject matter and the place, East Anglia, are all quite surprising as are the horses. Don’t really know what to make of this one, though it is fun to read. In 1908 I was a blacksmith’s helper working for Mr […]

    Spectacle in the Victorian Theatre September 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Spectacle in the Victorian Theatre

    The Victorians had a wonderfully superficial streak, which somehow went beyond mere materialism and teetered on the sublime. There are few times where this comes out more than in their theatre spectaculars where content was sacrificed ruthlessly to effect and appearance. You want to put on Anthony and Cleopatra? Great, gut about seven of the […]

    Review: The Hikey Sprites September 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Review: The Hikey Sprites

    Review of Ray Loveday, The Hikey Sprites: The Twilight of a Norfolk Tradition (Norfolk 2009) The Hikey Sprites (aka Hyter Sprites) were Norfolk fairies that were summoned up by parents and grandparents to corral children into decency: ‘you be good or the Hikeys will get you’; ‘get home before dark or the Hikeys will get […]

    Hooping Cough Cures September 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hooping Cough Cures

    We are in 1862 A correspondent transmits the following account of a superstitious ceremony which took place the other day at Neilston [Lowland Scotland]. The jolly blacksmith there is in possession of a fine young she ass, which, with her frolics, has caused great amusement amongst the boys of the town, while some calculating old […]

    The Things We Couldn’t Say September 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Things We Couldn't Say

    A heartbreaking story yesterday. A friend works with the terminally ill, helping those suffering and family members ‘survive’ the process. She is a trained psychologist and a very energetic and capable, elderly woman came under her care. As part of a therapy of ‘release’ this elderly woman, with a steadily growing malignant tumour inside her, […]

    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 […]

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