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  • 2012 and All That January 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    2012 and All That

    The Beachcombings’ last aupair but one wanted to go back to school and get a degree as a midwife (which in itself begs all kinds of questions) but was holding off till 2013: ‘I don’t want to waste my time if the world is about to end’ she usefully explained. Beach should add that she […]

    Remembering Bologna January 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Remembering Bologna

    Beachcombing doesn’t normally have much time for railway-stations, but for Bologna he’ll make an exception. It is not the edifice itself that catches his attention, but the way memory has been built into its very fabric: the memory that is of 2 August 1980. At 10.25 on the morning of that day a bomb went […]

    What Religion did Fairies Follow? January 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    What Religion did Fairies Follow?

    Beach’s endless reading in the literature of fairies has led him to a couple of unusual passages. He honestly doesn’t know that to make of them. In truth, they frighten him. The first is from a south-western fairy tale where a man is reunited with his ‘dead’ fiancé who is actually trapped in fairy land. […]

    Review: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret January 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

    In 1766 Jeanne Baret, a young Burgundian, joined a round-the-world trip, a French mission to claim territory in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Her experiences, the subject of a recent book by Glynis Ridley, would have been remarkable in itself given her gender and the date. But as the French navy did not allow women […]

    Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections January 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections

    Historical blindspots: every age has them. Take the relative lack of interest in folklore prior to the eighteenth century. When folklore heats up in the later nineteenth century you cannot walk across the parlour without tripping over a book on fairies or witches. This means that anything written before say 1860 is particularly precious and any loss all […]

    Hauntings and Technology: the Teflon Effect January 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Hauntings and Technology: the Teflon Effect

    Not a month ago Beachcombing reflected on the strange way that Roman ghosts are a modern invention and the way too that there are apparently fashions in which historical periods haunt and which do not. Beach thought that today he would reflect, instead, on a different but surely related phenomenon, the apparent allergy that new […]

    Medieval and Ancient Rats January 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Medieval and Ancient Rats

    One of the mysteries of the Black Death in the Middle Ages is how the victims never – with one curious Scandinavian exception – cottoned on to the fact that rodents, particularly rats were disease bearers. In some cases there were infestations of rats before the disease struck and many rats also died, which should […]

    Vintages Past January 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Vintages Past

    There is a beautiful scene in the junky teen fantasy Highlander (1986) where Connor (the decapitator) opens a bottle of eighteenth-century brandy in late twentieth century New York. ‘1783’  states our hero ‘was a very good year. Mozart wrote his Great Mass. The Montgolfier brothers went up in the first hot-air balloon. And England recognized […]

    Napoleon in a Pot January 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon in a Pot

    Anyone who love history has a little black list of people they would have gladly have seen choked at birth: Hitler, Ida Amin, Verdi… Fairly close to the top of Beachcombing’s is that jumped-up world destroyer Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who ‘could by industrious valour climb/ To ruin the work of time/ And cast the […]

    Throne Room Tricks January 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Throne Room Tricks

    Beachcombing previously had some fun describing the tricks the ‘civilised’ use to frighten ‘savages’ in jungles and deserts far from the capital cities of Europe. But what about – today’s subject – the tricks that the civilised used when ‘savages’ came to visit them on home ground. Take, for example, the shenanigans found in the […]

    Mermaids, Ahoy! January 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaids, Ahoy!

    Beachcombing still hyperventilating from the terrifying task of talking in front of 200 plus ‘new’ students yesterday. Only syllabus writing is worse. Anyway, back to the far more serious task of charting the perversions of the human imagination. Beachcombing had been going to spend the Christmas holidays writing serious academic ‘stuff’ about Marco Polo. But, […]

    Israel Saved by the Soviets in 1973? January 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Israel Saved by the Soviets in 1973?

    In 1948, 1967 and 1973 Israel fought wars that could conceivably have seen the destruction not only of the Israeli state but also of the Jewish community in Palestine. None of these wars came closer to Arab success than the last, the Yom Kippur war. Egypt and Syria (with Iraqi backing) managed to achieve almost […]

    An Eagle, A Basket and A Boy January 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Eagle, A Basket and A Boy

    Beachcombing probably owes his ever patient readers an apology today. This post hardly counts as bizarre history: but there are eagles (much visited in previous posts, particularly involving children being carried away) and a young man’s hair turning white and a classy illustration to go with it. The story relates to the West of Ireland […]

    Jesus Lived to 114 in Japan! January 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary
    Jesus Lived to 114 in Japan!

    Beach has long been hearing rumours that Jesus Christ was actually buried in an obscure Japanese village of Shingo. But it was only this morning that he finally decided to climb up this particular mountain of madness and see what was really happening up in the mists. According to local ‘tradition’ (always a slippery word) […]

    Outlaws on Ice January 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Outlaws on Ice

    Beachcombing has just, through extraordinary and characteristic, incompetence lost a week of his life. He thought that he began teaching the 23 Jan, when, instead, it seems that he is to start on the 16. He now has two days to write three academic articles. Given this emergency situation he was planning (ha!) to type […]

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