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Juliana Jumps April 8, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Juliana Jumps

In 1119, a woman jumped off a castle wall, in Normandy, and, against the odds, escaped from her father who intended to kill her. However, before we get to this noble’s life-saving acrobatics some background and be warned as most things to do with the Normans it is complicated and bloody. Juliana of Fontevrault was […]

The Evils of Chess! April 7, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
The Evils of Chess!

Chess! The taut, horrid syllable is enough to unveil the rotteneness at the heart of that most dreadful of games. Avoid it! Turn from it! Ostracise those who play it! Ok, Beach is playing out here, but he recently came across this extraordinary quotation from an Anglican vicar from Essex, at the death of his […]

Death By Basketball April 6, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Death By Basketball

Humanity is extraordinarily ingenious in terms of the different ways it has found to execute people. We’ve reviewed on this blog before elephant executions; Mike Dash has recently given space to the Viking’s blood eagle; there is necklacing in Sub-Saharan Africa (a lynching rather than judicial capital punishment); the brazen bull in ancient Greece (another […]

Why Isn’t Modern Fairy Fiction Frightening? April 5, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
Why Isn't Modern Fairy Fiction Frightening?

In appalling fevered sleeps during a recent bout of flu – an approximation of hell – Beach dreamt constantly of fairies and witches. This had nothing to do with two fairy horror books he had supplied himself with – Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy (1999) and A Kind of Enchantment (2012) – and everything, instead, […]

Shakespeare’s Missing Head April 4, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Shakespeare's Missing Head

We’ve already enjoyed some of the adventures of Orville W Owen in Bacon land, most particularly digging up the River Wye in search of treasure. The New York Times article that we quoted there ends with the accusation that some journalists have misquoted Orville. Then, again, [Orville] is quoted as expressing the belief that Bacon, […]

British Witch Initiation c. 1970 April 3, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
British Witch Initiation c. 1970

Witchcraft became a force to be reckoned with in Britain after the Second World War. There is a lot of writing, but most by the witches themselves (who can’t be trusted) or by CofE bishops who are just too silly for words because they take said witches seriously. Intelligent third-party descriptions like the following are […]

The Postcard Terrorists April 2, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Postcard Terrorists

The German resistance to Hitler was trifling and for the most part misdirected: the maniac, after all, survived till the end of the war, while taking apart his country bridge by bridge and bombed-out-town by bombed-out-town. But let’s celebrate if not the achievement then the courage of Otto and Elise Hempel, the Postkarte terrorists. Naturally, […]

Beachcombed 34 April 1, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
Beachcombed 34

Dear Reader, March was a dark time in the Beachcombing family. Snow-white the family hamster died under unfortunate circumstances: actually my fault. Elder daughter began collecting worms. Younger daughter teeth. The adults had an enjoyable bout of flu that led this blogger into low grade hallucinations on his sick bed: violets falling from the sky… And […]

Review: Secret of Kells March 31, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Review: Secret of Kells

Part of being a twenty-first century parent involves the ability to watch cartoons repeatedly with your children (discuss). Most of these cartoons are trash. A minority are witty: Mega Mind, Toy Story… And a  handful – Shrek, Bambi, Totoro, Kiki the Witch… – make modern art house films look like third-rate romantic comedies: they really […]

Lords of Karma and Military Reincarnation March 30, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Lords of Karma and Military Reincarnation

In 1964, Hugh Dowding, hero of the Battle of Britain, wrote a nostalgic letter to Canadian millionaire Lord Beaverbrook. Dowding recalled how he and Beaverbrook had been in the right place and the right time in the summer of 1940, for the good of the Empire and of the world. Any normal military hero in […]

Non-Existent Werewolf Boy and the Lord of the Forest(s) March 29, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Non-Existent Werewolf Boy and the Lord of the Forest(s)

Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions is a wonderful sources for witchery and bizarre history, but Mackay is a poor historian and, a bit like this blogger, references nothing. Take this passage that fascinated Beach. One young man at Besançon, with the full consciousness of the awful fate that awaited him, voluntarily gave himself up to […]

The Lonely Cottages: Ancoats March 28, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
The Lonely Cottages: Ancoats

Beachcombing has a bit of a thing about unsuitable placenames: placenames that may once have been efficient but that by now are simply inappropriate. A favourite example of this is Ancoats in central Manchester. Ancoats for those who have never had the chance to walk on its dirty cobbles was once one of the most […]

Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches March 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches

London legends rarely stretch back beyond the 1800s which is why this one, which is perhaps based on an Elizabethan legend, is such fun. The extract dates to 1841. Let any man walk into Cross-street, Hatton-Garden, and from thence into Bleeding-heart Yard, and learn the tales still told and believed of one house in that […]

Decisions Within March 26, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Decisions Within

History takes place between societies, within societies and among groups of individuals. Historians have proved quite competent at measuring these interactions. But what happens when history takes place strictly within a single human heart, in a place where there are no records, no archives or scholars with searchlights, when one decision changes the track of […]

The Cipher Wheel, Bacon and Digging Up A River March 25, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
The Cipher Wheel, Bacon and Digging Up A River

There is perhaps no worse sign of enthusiasm than a talented man or woman finding ciphers hidden in celebrated texts. The Bible, Shakespeare, Milton… All have been examined with such passion that only the unimaginative could fail to notice that peculiar patterns emerge when you take the second final word from each penultimate sentence. Beach […]

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