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  • The Green Devil of Quimper June 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Green Devil of Quimper

    Beachcombing was taught many years ago not to trust Breton sources: there is (an almost Gaelic) tendency to colour over the terrible monotone of reality with illusory rainbow details. This rule probably holds good if you are dealing with a twelfth-century saint’s life written about a sixth-century saint (many other posts, many other days). But […]

    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 […]

    Immortal Meals 4#: Eating a French King’s Heart June 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals 4#: Eating a French King's Heart

    There are great men among great men (Plato, Galileo, Einstein…)  and great eccentrics among great eccentrics. For this second exclusive club Beachcombing’s candidates would include the charming and irrepressible William Buckland (obit 1856), Victorian geologist and zoophagist and, towards the end of his life, inmate in a mental asylum. Buckland – unlike his more mannered […]

    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 […]

    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 Dauphin’s Heart June 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dauphin's Heart

    Beachcombing is for ever rabbiting on (and on) about how time destroys memory, how everything we are told is unreliable. But the untrustworthiness of history applies not only to memory but also to objects. And what better example of this than the heart of the last dauphin, poor Louis XVII. Louis was collateral damage in […]

    Druids’ Eggs June 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Druids' Eggs

    An interesting text from Pliny: (29, 3*) There is also a sort of egg, famous in the provinces of Gaul, but ignored by the Greeks. Innumerable snakes coil themselves into a ball in the summertime. Thus they make it so that it is held together by a bodily secretion and by their saliva. It is […]

    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt June 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt

    Time brings its chopper down on generation after generation, annihilating almost all memory. How little we know of our grandparents’ lives, how very little of our great grandparents’: while most people living in the west today have no idea where their great grandparents lived or, indeed, their names. Yet every so often history gives evidence […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

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