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Dark Age Haunting in the County Durham November 14, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Dark Age Haunting in the County Durham

Beachcombing likes to think of the little village of Shincliffe sometimes as night is falling, particularly if it’s raining. True, he’s never been to this particular corner of the north of England. But he’s done the next best thing – looked at google earth and several OS maps. And he suspects that he knows it […]

French Kisses, Guinea Pigs and the Spanish vice November 13, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
French Kisses, Guinea Pigs and the Spanish vice

Beachcombing had a terrifying dream last night. A great voice told him to find a bizarre story on turkeys, presumably one of the last shadows of his recent obsession with birds? Beachcombing has decided, however, not to do so because his subconscious has, frankly, been getting on his nerves in the last weeks. Instead, Beachombing is going to look at […]

Tennyson Loses Poland November 12, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Tennyson Loses Poland

In the encylopedia of burning libraries Alfred Tennyson’s lost long poem Poland is a minor entry, but it is still one that deserves to be written and perhaps even to be read about. It also brings together three of Beachcombing’s favourite themes: Poland and Tennyson – obviously - but also the incomparable William Allingham whose diary is the […]

The Three-Thousand-Year-Old Toads of Hector of Troy? November 11, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
The Three-Thousand-Year-Old Toads of Hector of Troy?

Beachcombing greatly enjoyed, a month ago, looking at one of the world’s oldest surviving animals – the tortoise Harry/Harriet that Darwin brought away on the Beagle and who – bless her - died in 2006. He received, from readers, notice of several other historical tortoises that he hopes to come to in time. However, he thought that for today […]

Review: Darwin’s Tortoise November 10, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Review: Darwin's Tortoise

Beachcombing has cash flow problems at the moment. Several newspapers that normally pay him bundles of nice green notes have been taking their time to slap the readies down. Book buying has, therefore, been severely curtailed. The purchase of Darwin’s Tortoise by Robin Stewart is though one exception that Beachcombing is glad to have made. RS covers the story […]

Crow Bombs: Avian Missiles in the Medieval World November 9, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Crow Bombs: Avian Missiles in the Medieval World

Beachcombing has spent the last few hours enjoying a medieval work named the Book of Fires (Liber Ignium). The author’s alleged name, Mark the Greek is not certain and the text survives in Latin that means we cannot be certain either that it was originally written in Greek: though the structure of the Latin sentences would suggest […]

On Church Fathers and Peacock Flesh… November 8, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
On Church Fathers and Peacock Flesh...

Beachcombing doesn’t much care for the greatest Church Father of them all, Augustine. Perhaps its what ‘the Confessor’ did to his mother and his concubine. Perhaps it is his rather smug treatment of Britain’s first fanatic, Pelagius. Perhaps it is his Latin that is so tiresomely balanced and his apparently imbalanced thinking. But Beachcombing must […]

Mystery Chinese Weapon from 1277 November 7, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Mystery Chinese Weapon from 1277

Beachcombing recently came across this extraordinary passage from the Chinese Sung Shih. In 1277 Lou Ch’ien-Hsia was besieging a fortification held by two hundred and fifty defenders. Frustrated, Lou Ch’ien-Hsia ordered his men to bring up a huo p’ao – a word Beachcombing will come back to. ‘He lit the huo p’ao and a clap of thunder was heard, […]

Hot Chocolate at High Mass November 6, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Hot Chocolate at High Mass

Beachcombing was doing some research, trying to catch up with a student’s reading on the origins of chocolate and came across this gem. It is the story of a bishop, Bernardino de Salazar, who was poisoned because he tried to stop the women in his congregation from taking chocolate drinks during high mass. Our narrator is […]

Baby-Eating Eagles November 5, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Baby-Eating Eagles

When Beachcombing first came to Italy, many years ago, he spent a summer in a room with an enormous wardrobe – the stuff of C.S. Lewis fantasies. This wardrobe was not only huge, but it also had a memorable print on the front. An eagle was being attacked by a weepy mother and in the […]

The Moas of Cannibal Gorge November 4, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Moas of Cannibal Gorge

Beachcombing is in an ornithological mood this month. It all started off with the druidic ravens at the Tower of London, then came the hibernating swallows, the parrots of Orinoco, swan-necked Mary Beard and today, to round off the series, he turns to one of his favourite bird stories of all time: the moa of the Cannibal […]

Rant: Lost Works, Mary Beard and ‘the Survival of the Fittest’ November 3, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
Rant: Lost Works, Mary Beard and 'the Survival of the Fittest'

‘Mary Beard’, ‘Mary Beard’..: even now, twenty years on from the beginning of Beachcombing’s infatuation (naturally unfulfilled), the words are enough to send a lightening bolt into that blogger’s overstrained central cortex. Beachcombing still remembers seeing Mary’s swan-like body for the first time, in the reading room at the UL: indeed, Beachcombing trembled as Britain’s most beautiful […]

The Parrots of the Atures November 2, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Parrots of the Atures

  Since beginning this blog five months ago Beachcombing has noticed a monotonous pattern. He takes out a long-treasured fragment of bizarre history, all fired up to write a cracking whiz-bang post. And then, when he comes to triple-check the facts, he discovers that the event never happened – that it was based on a misunderstanding […]

Beachcombed 5 November 1, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
Beachcombed 5

Dear Readers, 1st November, With the spirits of sacharine-hungry children rolling around the streets of Little Snoring last night – Halloween and all that – Beachcombing had been planning to post some triumphal stuff up about his new (if as yet slight) Bizarre Bibliography and a record thirteen thousand visits in October! Instead, he has been […]

The mystery of the hibernating hirundines October 31, 2010

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The mystery of the hibernating hirundines

Humans create ideas to explain natural phenomenon. Most of these explanations are worth little more than the cinders that Beachcombing nightly sweeps up from the fire. These explanations are then superseded by other explanations – that typically bear as little relation to truth – and so knowledge marches heroically on… Inevitably, though some branches of […]

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