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  • St Patrick and Confusion March 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    St Patrick and Confusion

    Beach has always been fascinated by questions of uncertainty in history, in part because these teach modesty, in part because they are a useful way to annoy colleagues. And, in tribute to question marks past, he thought that he would celebrate St Patrick’s day – finally a correct date for an anniversary! – by concentrating […]

    Fairies and Vegetation March 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fairies and Vegetation

    Yes, sorry, Beach has not respected his only one-fairy-post a week rule. But this just proved too interesting to let go AND it was keeping him awake while Mrs B was gently snoring besides him. First the facts. In many modern works fairies are portrayed as ‘nature spirits’ actively working for trees, flowers, gorse bushes […]

    Churchill, De Gaulle and Waterloo March 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Churchill, De Gaulle and Waterloo

    Today a bit of modern British history/myth. Beach will write it out as it was told to him. He would be interested to see whether there is any basis to the tale: it sounds very Churchillian, but it also has the exquisite stench of cobblers. Towards the end of his life Churchill was visited by […]

    Procopius, Brittia and Britain March 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Procopius, Brittia and Britain

    Procopius is one of the most interesting writers of all antiquity: his discussion of the orifices of Theodora and his detailing of his own walk-on role in the Italian wars proving particularly memorable. But in the thousands of words of his Greek that survive there are many, many other passages that deserve a wider audience: […]

    Pulling Things Out of Rivers March 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Pulling Things Out of Rivers

    Rivers are useful guardians of the past: often thousands of years roll by (and millions of tonnes of water) before things that have been thrown in are fished out (sometimes literally) several hundred or thousands of years later. Here are Beachcombing’s favourite they-were-found-in-river things. Others would be welcome: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com 1) Claudius’ […]

    Fairy Sighting on Skye, c. 1880 March 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fairy Sighting on Skye, c. 1880

    The family crisis continues here and so Beach offers a modest little post on a fairy sighting in Skye: perhaps Beachcombing’s favourite witness account of the ‘good folk’.  This was written out in the early 1960s that puts the experience back c. 1880. In the darkening of an Autumn evening over eighty years ago a […]

    Breathing Out the Spirit: Another Modern Witch March 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Breathing Out the Spirit: Another Modern Witch

    Catastrophe in the Beachcombing household. Our beloved aupair has just heard that her mother has been involved in a serious car accident in the States, so we have spent most of the last twelve hours looking for flights and looking for a replacement. She is going tomorrow or the day after: and just last night […]

    From North Carolina to Chad: Families and Food March 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    From North Carolina to Chad: Families and Food

    An ‘ill’ day with interesting complications in the throat area  so Beach is going to go off topic with this  extraordinary book he recently stumbled upon: Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (Peter Menzel 2005). This exercise in photo-journalism has a fair bit of manipulation behind it: but the idea itself is an extraordinarily simple […]

    A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England March 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England

    ***Dedicated to Stephen D*** Our knowledge of the ancient and medieval movements of peoples depends on extraordinarily inadequate contemporary sources and the  deadly (and often unsupported) prejudices of historians and archaeologists. But now, with the use of DNA sampling and other techniques, including isotope analysis, science is coming to the rescue: giving us surprising insights […]

    Japanese Torpedo Boats in the Baltic March 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Japanese Torpedo Boats in the Baltic

    In 1904 the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, ordered his Baltic navy to travel around the world to take on the Japanese (who had already destroyed Nicholas’ Pacific fleet). It proved an extraordinary ‘voyage of the damned’ as almost forty Russian ships, including five capital ships sailed towards their doom at the hands of the able […]

    The Psyche Fairy Fake March 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Psyche Fairy Fake

    ***Dedicated to Mike Dash (who practically wrote this piece) and to Kithra*** In Beachcombing’s recent gambol through the records of false fairies, he put up the picture above and confessed that he had no idea where it had come from, though it was frequently ascribed to witches in Devon or Cornwall in his sources. For […]

    Christ’s Execution in a Marble Jar March 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Christ's Execution in a Marble Jar

    Beachcombing must yet again apologise to his readers for a brief post, but the last exams before spring break need to be corrected (hurrah! hurrah!) and in any case the Huntsville Daily Times (29 Jan 1911: MO) wanted to do all the talking for him. George Carter, son of the late I. M. Carter and […]

    Gravestones: The Disparate Couple March 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gravestones: The Disparate Couple

    Beachcombing has a thing about Italian cemeteries, which tend to be far more gaudy than their British equivalents, but are often also more moving. There the visitor will find paper or fabric flowers on every tomb, photographs of the resident dead, the graves cared for on an almost weekly basis by relatives, the ‘Christmas lights’ […]

    Escaping the Guillotine March 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Escaping the Guillotine

    Capital punishment: it’s been a while. Beachcombing was thinking about close escapes from death penalty. There are two types of these, of course: either royal screw ups on the part of executioners or daring escapes at the point of death.  The first category would include John Lee and a few others who somehow survived a […]

    Witchcraft Murder in Modern London March 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Witchcraft Murder in Modern London

    Beachcombing has spent rather more time than is good for him over the last year looking at cases of, what are in legal terms, child abuse. Nineteenth-century Irish families who (to use an inadequate word) ‘punished’ children because they believed that they were fairies or ‘changelings’: the real child had, the families believed, been spirited […]

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