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  • Review: Atlas of Remote Islands March 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Atlas of Remote Islands

    Judith Schalansky, Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will (Penguin 2010). St Jerome, long ago, said that books should not be treasures and Beachcombing, is happy to subscribe: he wants cheap functional paperbacks with a lot of glue on the spine. However, every so often someone produces […]

    Mermaids Sighted from Early Submarine March 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaids Sighted from Early Submarine

    Beachcombing promised a month ago a mermaid text from the Isle of Man that would amaze one and all. And what Beachcombing particularly likes about the following eighteenth-century description is the way that the we have not only mermaids but also a ‘submarine’, using the word very loosely, that makes an appearance a century before such vehicles had […]

    Lancashire Kick Boxing March 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Lancashire Kick Boxing

      Old time readers of this blog will know that Beachcombing once expressed an interest in ‘purring’ or ‘clog fighting’ when in the nineteenth century the natives of Manchester, Preston and Liverpool in the north-west of Britain were alleged to settle their disputes through kicking contests. Back when he wrote this post Beachcombing expressed some […]

    Jesus Christ and an Egg from Leeds March 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Jesus Christ and an Egg from Leeds

    Beachcombing has recently become curious about a passage in Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (160). ‘A panic terror of the end of the world seized the good people of Leeds and its neighbourhood in the year 1806. It arose from the following circumstances. A hen, in a village close by, […]

    Immortal Meals #1: Keats, Wordsworth, Haydon, Lamb, Monkhouse, Ritchie and the Comptroller March 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #1: Keats, Wordsworth, Haydon, Lamb, Monkhouse, Ritchie and the Comptroller

    Beachcombing spent yesterday looking for modern food-tasters and, in so doing, found himself inspired by another question. What meal  in history would he most want to have eaten at? Now, of course, there are two ways that the best meal might be judged: either in terms of the food eaten or in terms of the company. […]

    Killer Ice-Cream! March 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killer Ice-Cream!

    Beachcombing’s friends over at foodinitaly (Zach and SY) have put up a post from that magical period 1880-1900 when ice-cream was leaving the dining rooms of the super-rich and reaching the streets of northern Europe and North America. As with all new foods there is a period of chronic anxiety when the food in question is given unreasonable […]

    Review: Behind the Palace Doors March 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Behind the Palace Doors

                          Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery and Folly from Royal Britain by Michael Farquhar has a title that threatens scandal and titillation. But it is fortunately much more than that. It is a brilliantly-written psycho-history of Britain’s royal family […]

    The Problem of Pygmy Fairies March 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    The Problem of Pygmy Fairies

    Beachcombing has been having a bit of a fairy phase recently, played out in his evening readings after he’s put little Miss B to bed. And he has particularly been interested at the different explanations that our ancestors – distant and recent – offered to explain the fact that ‘little folk’ lived in the cairn […]

    Queen Victoria Drinks Blood from a Skull in Tibet March 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Queen Victoria Drinks Blood from a Skull in Tibet

    Leaders who think that they are gods are par for the course: the ancient Egyptians, the Persians, the medieval Japanese, Idi Amin… The insidious eastern idea of divine rulers even leapfrogged the Levant and seeped into Greece and Rome in antiquity. Alexander encountered and enjoyed the privileges of divinity as he pushed his armies east, having his […]

    Cat Music and Cat Organs February 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cat Music and Cat Organs

    **This post is dedicated to the Mad Monk who has supplied Beach with several references over the months and who put Beach onto the precious secret of the Cat Organ.** Beachcombing has complained before about the strange absence of bizarrism in music and he has never been satisfactorily contradicted. This absence is particularly painful in ‘classical’ […]

    Catching Mermaids on Man February 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Catching Mermaids on Man

    Different peoples build their identity around different facts: the Italians around their food, the French around La France, the Poles (at least in times gone by) around their Catholicism. The Isle of Man, between Britain and Ireland, meanwhile, built its identity, at least in early-modern times, around a belief in the wonderful (phantom dogs, water […]

    Review: Lost Worlds February 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review: Lost Worlds

      Beachcombing has, on several occasions, had the experience of justifying (or trying to justify) to a television or publishing company an idea. Essentially you the ‘artist’ are beholden to write on one side of A4, preferably in Times New Roman, a succinct pitch, explaining why the public will go into ecstasy on purchase or […]

    Bierce’s Second Act February 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Bierce's Second Act

    Poor F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, in a novel that he could not finish, that there are no second acts in American lives. However, Beachcombing has always wondered about a possible exception in Ambrose ‘Bitter’ Bierce ‘the Devil’s lexographer’, short-story writer, journalist, poet, sceptic and general stand-up guy. Bierce had, by any standards, an undeservedly crappy […]

    The Last Unicorn in Medicine February 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Last Unicorn in Medicine

    One of the most important things about mythical animals is that they are ‘rare’. Being rare means that anything to do with them is valuable and in previous ages that meant that their body parts were (a) good for showing off and (b) dragged into the world of medicine. Unicorns were particularly appreciated in medicinal […]

    Cabinet of Curiosities from Eighteenth-Century London February 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cabinet of Curiosities from Eighteenth-Century London

      One of the sheer joys of bizzarism is collecting disparate lists and just enjoying the sound of them or the look of them on the page. In this spirit Beachcombing offers today a collection of curiosities brought together in an eighteenth-century London coffee house. He has included perhaps one in fifteen of the marvels gathered there. […]

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