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  • Mermaid at Exmouth Eats Boiled Fish September 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid at Exmouth Eats Boiled Fish

    Beach is crashing into his autumnal flu so here’s a bit of mermaid that requires relatively little writing. Most mermaid accounts from the British Isles come from the Celtic fringes. How refreshing then to come across this from the gentile waters of Exmouth Bay in 1812. The day of yesterday being very fine, I joined […]

    Meteor Destroys Pub September 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

    Several months ago Beachcombing became interested in incidents of meteors intervening in history or, at the very least, scaring the eeby jeebies out of humankind. He was particularly interested in the way that the perception of meteors changed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This text comes from the key period when scientists […]

    Alan Turing’s Breasts September 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Alan Turing's Breasts

    Alan Turing’s efforts at code-breaking at Bletchley Park 1939-1945 led to Enigma decrypts and gave Britain and later the US a window into Hitler’s parlour in crucial years, allowing, inter alia, victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. Indeed, it is sometimes said that Turing was one of three or four individuals without whom Britain […]

    Secret Weapons September 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Secret Weapons

    Ideas for books very often begin with nagging questions that compulsively irritate authors and that they then work through – think of it as therapy – by writing tens or even hundreds of thousands of words. Beach suspects that the nagging question that saw Brian Ford pen Secret Weapons: Technology, Science and the Race to […]

    Burning a Shed in Wales September 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Burning a Shed in Wales

    (Image Alan Fryer) For Beachcombing, the Welsh are one of those elect nations who, along with the Maoris and the Finns, stand at the right side of the throne of God. Yet Welsh history in the last century has been quiet and uninspiring: in marked contrast, say, to that country’s Gaelic neighbour, Ireland, which sweated […]

    Deviant Burials September 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Deviant Burials

    The dead are prepared for the after life in almost every way imaginable. In some cases they are eaten, in some cases they are burnt, in some cases they are fed to animals, in some cases they are embalmed and in some cases they are buried in the ground. Beach has not yet come across […]

    Plagiarism, Sock Puppets and Wikipedia September 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Plagiarism, Sock Puppets and Wikipedia

    Here follows one of those contemporary japes which may have escaped the attention of Beach’s non-British readers: excuse the lack of history, bizarreness there is though a plenty. The story so far: Johann Hari, gifted English journalist jobbing for the rather boring but worthwhile Independent has been caught taking quotations from other authors and inserting […]

    A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia September 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Dragon in Medieval East Anglia

    Beach had a fabulous evening trying to convince his elder daughter (3) that dragons do exist. This involved placing a small bean bag draco at various inaccessible points of the house and creating a domestic dragon mythology: dragons only eat salted foods; dragons hate men; dragon baby’s mothers steal keys etc etc. The picture above […]

    Death in the Garden September 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Death in the Garden

    It is a gentle summer evening in York in 1108. Archbishop Gerard nods his head at a couple of monks, smiles beatifically at the veiled wife of a local well-to-do and then passes into the cathedral rose garden. Here, however, his expression changes. He now has the face of a man who knows what he […]

    Population Games and Rorschach Tests September 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Population Games and Rorschach Tests

    Beachcombing had some fun the other day writing about ancient history and population estimates. Last night reading in the ‘wee hours’ he came across another lovely example of this: the insane modern debate about the population of Roman Britain. Now post-war estimates for the population of Roman Britain  have gone as low as 200,000 and […]

    Eccentric British Funerals September 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Eccentric British Funerals

    Given Beach’s almost constant obsession with death – we’ve done capital punishment, human sacrifice, wills and last words in the past year… – the funeral had, sooner or later, to make an appearance. Here then is a small collection of last rites from the eccentric side of the English nineteenth century: actually one is from […]

    The Safe Battle at Burnley, 1860 September 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Safe Battle at Burnley, 1860

    When we think of vicious advertising campaigns today the chances are we think of burger chains and the cola fraternity. However, back in the nineteenth century across the Western world, the most intense rivalry was perhaps between different safe makers. This was, after all, a period when technology in locks and metal making had grown […]

    Mystery Discovery on the Isle of Dogs August 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern

    Mysterious golden spurs discovered on Isle of Dogs, London about 1800: do they perhaps have a Celtic origin?

    Cornish Mermaid – Half Priest, Half Fish August 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      First the good news. Robert Stephen Hawker (obit 1875) was the eccentric’s eccentric: a vicar who lived most of his life in the wild Cornish parish of Morwenstow. This was a man who hung a mouse for breaking the sabbath, believed that birds were ‘the thoughts of God’ (Beachcombing adores the sentiment) and, yes, […]

    Funny Fairy Stories August 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Funny Fairy Stories

    Beachcombing wants to start this post with an apology. He has been writing madly on fairies the last few days, hoping to get some ‘real’ work done before term begins and while Mrs B and the kids are away at the sea. The result is that he has not had time to deal with emails […]

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