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  • A Newland to the West of Iceland 1285? December 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Newland to the West of Iceland 1285?

    Those stray British, Scandinavian and Dutch references to exploration in the medieval northern Atlantic have frequently been set out on this blog: remember the inventio fortunatatae, or the incest island, brave bishop Erik or, for that matter, Vinland the Good?  Occasionally there is a hint that adventurers or, more typically, storm-driven sailors had stumbled into […]

    English Vampire in Spain December 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    English Vampire in Spain

    This article comes from the later 1860s and describes the misfortunes of an Englishman who the locals decided was a Vampire. You have to cross the straits of Gibraltar and probably the Sahara to get this kind of incident today: memories of that fine Luise White book Speaking with Vampires. Lorcea is Lorca in Murcia. […]

    The Inevitability of the First World War December 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Inevitability of the First World War

    And so it begins… 2 August 1914 German troops begin to pour into Belgium and Luxembourg. French troops prepare their border defences. Serbian irregulars are marching towards battle. Austria-Hungary is preparing itself for the inevitable Russian attack. Britain is wringing its hands and calling up its naval reserves. The most horrific war in human experience […]

    The Most Dysfunctional Family in History: the Ptolemies December 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Most Dysfunctional Family in History: the Ptolemies

    The most dysfunctional family in history? The Tudors in England showed peturbing signs of genius. The line of Augustus in ancient Rome degnenerated into madness and murder. The Neo-Flavians were pretty confused too. The Borgias bless them… But, let there be no ambiguity, no one comes close to the Ptolemies,  the last dynasty of Greek […]

    The Durham Lights 3#: The Margaret and Jane December 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Durham Lights 3#: The Margaret and Jane

    To finish off this series on the mystery of the Durham Lights we turn to the description, in late December 1866, of the Margaret and Jane’s misfortunes at Whitburn. The public inquiry offers one of the clearest accounts of what mariners actually saw when they talked of ‘false lights’. First, though the ship. We have […]

    Finns, Snow and Magic December 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Finns, Snow and Magic

    The earliest eyewitness account of the Laplanders (the Sami) to leak into European writing comes in Alfred’s translation of Orosius (late ninth century). It depends on the testimony of one Othere (aka Ohthere), a Viking who had travelled along the freezing coast of Norway and who had encountered the peoples of the White Sea. Note […]

    Was Nessie a Kelpie? December 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Was Nessie a Kelpie?

    A post a couple of weeks ago on the kelpie of Loch-na-Bestie got Beach thinking about the most famous kelpie in Caledonia. Who else but that stalwart of Scottish tourism, that gift to fake photographers everywhere, the greatest floating log of them all, Nessie?  Yes, it is true that Nessie has been seen, photographed and […]

    Carter, Poland and a Translator December 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Carter, Poland and a Translator

    In 1977 Carter visited Poland on his first trip abroad as President. Poland had long been in the US’s cross-hairs. It was the country in the Eastern Block that was most likely to cause the Soviet Union problems and the reputation of the Polish people for resisting foreign tyrrany, of course, went before them. By […]

    Montanelli and the Martyrs of Spielberg December 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Montanelli and the Martyrs of Spielberg

    A wonderful story that could probably only come out of Italy. First, some necessary background. Indro Montanelli was perhaps the finest Italian journalist of the twentieth century: he was able to interview and work with Andreotti, Berlusconi, Hitler, John-Paul II, Mussolini and many other notables whose deeds changed the peninsula and Europe (mostly, being notable, […]

    The Durham Lights #2: The Candidates December 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Durham Lights #2: The Candidates

    In a previous post we set out, with some help from Charles Fort and David Clarke the history of the Durham Lights, shipwrecking lights that turned up on the jagged coast at Whitburn (North-East England) in the mid late 1860s and that were only banished with the opening of the Souter Lighthouse in January 1871. […]

    Tens of Thousands of Egyptian Mummies in English Soil? December 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Tens of Thousands of Egyptian Mummies in English Soil?

    For the hundreds of thousands of cats and kittens brought up for mummification in ancient Egypt life was brutal and short. Most lived six months to a year and then were either hammered on the head, or more typically had their necks wrung before being tightly bound and sold to the religious perhaps particularly pilgrims, […]

    Swan Courts? December 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Swan Courts?

    A previous post offered up the legends of magpie parliaments and other collections of birds in assemblies. Here, instead is a medieval equivalent. Any knowledge of swans acting in groups in this way? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The events described here took place at Ongar in Essex probably in the twelfth century. The writer […]

    Flying Boy Across the Mersey? December 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying Boy Across the Mersey?

    This interesting but very confusing passage comes from Aubrey’s wonderful Brief Lives. It is, more specifically, from the chapter on a Lancastrian mathematician named Jonas Moore who had been taught by one William Gascoigne (this becomes important). Aubrey includes several fascinating facts including the unforgettable sentence that: ‘Sciatica: [Sir Jonas] cured it by boiling his […]

    The Durham Lights #1: Introduction December 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Durham Lights #1: Introduction

    The Durham Lights (aka the False Durham Lights or the Whitburn Lights) are a nice example of a few chance and unclear facts morphing out of control and spawning suspect Forteana. From 1864 to 1870, particularly though not exclusively in the winter, wrecks became common on the Whitburn Steel, some aptly named rocks, between Sunderland […]

    The Gannet Club: Parachuteless in WW2 December 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Gannet Club: Parachuteless in WW2

    Jumping out of a plane without a parachute is never a good idea. But it is striking that some individuals walk away, or more likely are carried away, with a few token broken bones and a story to dine out on for the rest of their lives. Most modern examples are of parachutists who have […]

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