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  • Buried In a Fish’s Belly June 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Buried In a Fish's Belly

    This is an almost unbelievable story that made a splash in the UK in the late May of 1833. We quote one G.S.Gowing who was the owner of a ship, but who was not a witness. On Monday last, the 20th inst., a fishing vessel belonging to Lowestoft [Norfolk], Robert Gowing master, engaged in the […]

    The Horror of 69 Charlotte Street June 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Horror of 69 Charlotte Street

    One of our occasional series of ghost stories from the English press. This one appeared in 1940 – as if a World War wasn’t enough to keep you busy – and relates to Devonport (Plymouth) in the south-west. Note that the south-west is over-represented in English newsreports of Fortean affairs. Relieved peace once more reigns […]

    Prodigious Portrait of a Seven-Headed Monster June 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Prodigious Portrait of a Seven-Headed Monster

    This peculiar creature appeared in a seventeenth-century English pamphlet. The pamphlet limits itself to two pages and tells a simple story. The true Portraiture of a prodigious Monster, taken in the Mountains of Zardana [in Syria]. the following Description whereof was sent to Madrid, Octob. 20, 1654, and from thence to Don Olonzo de Cardines, […]

    Immortal Meals #14: Food Orgy on Twelfth Night June 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #14: Food Orgy on Twelfth Night

    From long before the times of Trimalchio there have been extraordinarily sumptuous banquets. These died away with the shriveling of economic possibilities in the early Middle Ages but then returned with avengeance in the fourteenth and fifteenth century. A British contribution to the category of exaggerated banquets and one for the immortal meal tag was […]

    Remembering and Forgetting Robert Herrick June 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Remembering and Forgetting Robert Herrick

    Robert Herrick is famous today for his bit part in The Dead Poet’s Society, where he makes Robin Williams look good (briefly). But he had a much greater range, writing about sex, alcohol, sex, death, sex, folklore, sex and (rather unconvincingly) God. Basically, his poems smelt of semen and noone who has ever read his […]

    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon? June 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon?

    Challacombe is a small village to the west of Exmoor in Devon in the south-west of the UK. On the edge of the moor there are many ‘hillocks of earth and stones, cast up anciently in large quantity’, i.e. prehistoric burial mounds. So far so normal, this is a classic landscape in a marginal agricultural area, that […]

    The Non-Discovery of Shuck May 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Non-Discovery of Shuck

    Shuck (aka shock) was a demonic hound that haunted much of East Anglia in the early modern period: and in the absence of satisfactory ancient and medieval records may have been running around with blazing red saucer sized eyes, since the time when the druids were the new kids on the Neolithic block. However, in […]

    The Cuckold’s Horns May 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Cuckold's Horns

    ***Thanks to Ricardo and Neil for help with this post*** The cuckold’s horns is a sign, usually indicated by two fingers placed over the head, of a man whose wife has been unfaithful. In many countries – not least the UK, see photo – the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains. […]

    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery May 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery

    Governments and multi-nationals have long had problems with locals (particularly criminally-inclined locals) stealing their wire. Most collectors get out their pliers because, say, copper is worth a lot of money. But in the early years of electricity and telegraph wire there were other reasons for stealing: more principled and practical reasons. Take Thomas Stevens’ description […]

    Homemade Beer at the Vampire Inn May 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Homemade Beer at the Vampire Inn

    Every so often, as your eye is running down the columns of documents past, you run into an unlooked for detail that you just can’t leave alone. It happened to me a week ago when I was checking through the records of bankrupt British businesses from 1869 (as you do). In that year on Hampton […]

    Father Degan and the Dancers May 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Father Degan and the Dancers

    Recently came across this beautiful list of dancing advice, which reminds me of the kind of manners post I love from the two nerdy history girls. I wanted to make gentle fun of this, but it seems that the author, a priest, had a certain amount of common sense and lacked the easy dogamatism of […]

    In Search of Doggerbank: The Island of the Damned May 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    In Search of Doggerbank: The Island of the Damned

    Most countries have a lost realm that nationals can get teary eyed about: Italians beating their chest over Istria, the Spanish spitting blood for (and all too often on) Gibraltar, even Islamists weeping about the orange trees of Granada. Britain is no exception: the difference is that the UK’s lost territory was not taken by […]

    Power and Ageing: Blair, Bush, Clinton, Obama and Thatcher May 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Power and Ageing: Blair, Bush, Clinton, Obama and Thatcher

    It is well known that power corrupts but what does power do for the ageing process? To judge by President Obama’s rapidly whiting hair (and kudos for not getting out the dye too often) then there is nothing more likely to make you old before your time than to be in charge of a major […]

    Love Goddess #9: Damian Hirst’s Madonna May 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Love Goddess #9: Damian Hirst's Madonna

    ***Thanks to Invisible for sending this one in*** Damien Hirst, media-savvy horseman of the post modern art apocalypse and the Madonna, mother of Christ, eternal sweetness and light, whose breasts produce condensed milk for the faithful. What would happen should these two contrary forces come together? Well, there is no reason for speculation because in […]

    Facts, Myths and Jean McConville May 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Facts, Myths and Jean McConville

    The Jean McConville case is now history in as much as it took place over forty years ago: but it is living, bleeding history and in the last days it has landed an important Irish politician in the cells and rocked the peace process in the six counties. For non-British and non-Irish readers, who may […]

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