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  • Geologist Galivants with Spirits and Fairies May 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Geologist Galivants with Spirits and Fairies

    John Beaumont (obit 1751)  was a celebrated, to use an anachronistic word, geologist. He also experienced ‘the other side’ with a rush of spirits and ghosts that would have thrilled a wind-sock. One passage from his An Historical Physiological and Theological Treatise of Spirits, Apparitions, Witchcrafts, and Other Magical Practises are well known because they […]

    Aggressive Ghost in Fourteenth-Century Germany May 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Aggressive Ghost in Fourteenth-Century Germany

    Beach is taking a long trip today on a plane with his three-year-old daughter: a first visit to the patria with Little Miss B who is thrilled because she is going to see otters AND eat fish and chips. In this time of holiday and reduced writing he has lined up several reserve posts taken […]

    Selling Wives May 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Selling Wives

    One British author writes in 1910 ‘Within the last twenty years there have been at least a dozen cases reported in the press of men in a low station in life who have sold their wives, under the impression they could legally do so if all parties were willing. One husband parted with his spouse […]

    Indecent Lifting and Heaving May 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Indecent Lifting and Heaving

    Beach recently came across the custom of ‘lifting’ for the first time courtesy of Invisible and Two Nerdy History Girls (an excellent blog should you get the chance). The girls describe an instance of lifting in Shrewsbury. This is part of the relevant extract: the full extract is to be found chez Nerd following the […]

    The Last Invasion of Britain? May 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Invasion of Britain?

    It is sometimes said that the last invasion of Britain took place 22 April 1778 at Whitehaven in Cumbria. On that date, John Paul Jones, a Scot and an American patriot led his ship, the USS Ranger, against the small Lakeland Port (another post, another day) in an unlikely annex to the War of Independence. […]

    Lost in Transmission May 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Lost in Transmission

    Words echo through the centuries like coins dropped down an infinite well. And as they are passed on they are smoothed and confused in the mouths of the people. The best examples we have of this are, of course, placenames: in the space of eighty generations Londinium becomes London, Mamucium becomes Manchester and Euboricum becomes […]

    Zombie Planes May 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Zombie Planes

    ***Dedicated to Ricardo*** Beach is properly modest about his knowledge of aeronautics – apart from perhaps the prehistory of flight. But he is as moved as the next man to see the spitfire test in First of the Few or (1.37.40)  or, for that matter, Corky sweating in Tales of the Golden Monkey as a […]

    The Babel of History May 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Babel of History

      The past according to a much worn-line is ‘a foreign country, they do things differently there’. Of course, if this were all then history would be a doddle. It would be enough to fill the Cutty Sark with sabres and give the natives music sheets for their acres. But, unfortunately for those who like […]

    Beachcombed 23 May 1, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 23

    Dear Reader, 1 May 2012 This has been one of the busiest months on record. Aupairs came and went, students declined and fell into exams and, though Beachcombing couldn’t bear to write about it at the time, there was a rat’s nest under the stairs: they had their young in some loveletters from two decades […]

    Victorian Osiris Kills Father and Paints Fairies April 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Osiris Kills Father and Paints Fairies

    Now that the happy days of summer are here Beach is running away, in his mind, with several projects. There are the bat boxes, visits to the animals’ secret garden in the woods (with elder daughter), an attempt (probably vain) to get a carpenter to put up some shelves and then, chief among Beach’s preoccupations, there […]

    Pyramids in Italy April 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Pyramids in Italy

    The pyramids of the Etruscan king Porsenna (fl c. 500 BC) are one of the great mysteries of antiquity. What does this passage ‘mean’? What did they really look like (try and visualise them)? Where were they? Hell, did they ever really exist? [Porsenna] was buried below the city of Clusium in the place where […]

    The Popess: A Female Pope? April 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Popess: A Female Pope?

    There are popes who had children, there are popes who took part in orgies, there are popes (at least one) who did not believe in God. However, Beachcombing has so far avoided the most remarkable pope of all: Pope Joan. The story is quickly told. Pope John VIII went out to bless the people of […]

    Shadowfax: A Fantasy Horse April 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Shadowfax: A Fantasy Horse

    J.R.R. Tolkien ‘horsed’ his world with some wonderful creations. There was Roheryn the stallion of Arogan, Arod a steed so strong that he carried an elf and a dwarf together on his back and even the hobbits’ loyal pony Bill. But most memorable of all was Shadowfax, who bears the mage Gandalf, ‘like the north […]

    Fairy Shysters April 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Shysters

    One part of Beach’s fairy fascination with Ireland has been the whole question of what might be called ‘fairy shysters’. Sharp swindlers who, in the nineteenth and twentieth century, went around taking innocent and usually vulnerable men and women for  ‘a ride’. Beach has gathered some remarkable examples together, including three extraordinary instances of ‘fairy […]

    Honey and the Anvils of Women’s Thighs April 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Honey and the Anvils of Women's Thighs

    Beachcombing has been enjoying some reading in Arabic aphrodisiacs: aphrodisiacs understood as any food that creates desire or that deals with problems of desire from impotence to disinterest. The Arab world seems to have been pre-eminent in this field and opusculi were written with such wonderful titles as the medieval The Book of Exposition in […]

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