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The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring February 25, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Most Beautiful Folk Cure: An Epilepsy Ring

***for Tacitus on sabbatical*** There is a little to be said for many folklore cures in terms of efficacy unless we call out placebo. However, some cures are winners, even spectacular winners in an aesthetic sense. I recently ran across this very curious nineteenth-century Welsh cure for epilepsy (‘the cure of fits’): it appeared in […]

History and Earthquakes February 21, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
History and Earthquakes

I’ve recently been wasting my time reading about earthquakes in British and Irish history. This does not reflect a new interest in geology, or local plate tectonics. It has rather to do with my perennial fascination for the way that historical sources are utterly unreliable and utterly skewed. When do earthquake records begin? Well, as […]

The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919 February 19, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Most Exciting School Trip in History: 21 June 1919

School trips are often fairly maudlin affairs: go to a local zoo, don’t pet the lions; walk through a city park, buddy up as you pass the homeless people; polish the sun-washed floors of the local museum with fifty infant feet… But one school trip that any of us would have wanted to be on […]

Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood) February 15, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Interview: Invasion Scares (Harry Wood)

I am very happy today to be able to invite Harry Wood of the University of Liverpool, historian and blogger, to talk about his speciality, British invasion scares, something we looked at last month. Harry, thanks so much for joining us for this brief discussion. You run a very enjoyable blog, Island Mentalities, and you […]

From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat) February 5, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
From the Grenadier to the Beer Shop (via Mickey Mouse and Pussy Cat)

***Thanks to Mike L for drawing my attention to this classic series*** In Henry Carey’s Namby Pamby published in 1726 there is the following verse Now he acts the Grenadier, Calling for a Pot of Beer: Where’s his Money? He’s forgot: Get him gone, a Drunken Sot. Now consider, instead, this rhyme collected two hundred […]

The Royal Navy and Dogs of War January 29, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Royal Navy and Dogs of War

Military services are closed societies with their own rules, sensible, silly and bizarre by turn. Few of these military cliques have, however, the traditions to rival the UK’s senior service, the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy, indeed, had everything from the banal (piping officers aboard), to the curious (the different toasts on different nights of […]

The British and Invasions January 13, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
The British and Invasions

I watched a few years ago an even then old documentary in which a  celebrated/notorious British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell interviewed (God knows how they pulled this off) a Soviet general and shared with him an unusual geographical philosophy. EP said that Britain and Russia were both protected by geography, one by water ‘as […]

ROLFUDRETUS and Last Country Standing January 11, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
ROLFUDRETUS and Last Country Standing

This is a bad period in Italy. The self-employed, a quarter of the population, are presently being taxed at about 50%. The public sector is inefficient and weighs the country down. The law – always a relative concept in Italy – has become a simultaneously braying and defecating ass. And the Euro is crushing Italian manufacturing. […]

Miraculous Survival with Parachute January 7, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Miraculous Survival with Parachute

***in his long tradition of blogging incompetence Beach accidentally put up two posts yesterday including, briefly, an incomplete post on folklore and the Nessie legend. That will come in the next month! Apologies!*** A late supplement to the post on those who survived jumps from planes without a parachute. This is the most remarkable instance […]

German Invasion Force in London, 1909! January 2, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
German Invasion Force in London, 1909!

All the European nations suffered bouts of craziness leading up to the First World War: one of the reasons that so many men in jackets started throwing straw hats at each other in August 1914… However, in many ways the most endearing and incredible was the conviction in Britain that Germany was planning an invasion […]

Review: Party in the Blitz December 30, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Review: Party in the Blitz

Elias Canetti was a Bulgarian-Swiss-British writer, who wrote autobiography, a particularly twisted form of central European sociology and who penned one important modernist novel, translated into English as Auto-da-fé. He won a Nobel Prize in 1981, which is, of course, no guarantee of quality: Dario Fo and the EU did, Borges and Calvino didn’t. But […]

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 […]

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 […]

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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