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  • Fidel Castro is a Jesuit Spy! [sic] July 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fidel Castro is a Jesuit Spy! [sic]

    Beachcombing often speaks of his rusty filing cabinets in which the treasures of a couple of decades of bizarre research have been placed. However, there are also regrets. Sometimes  Beach realizes that he has missed out on two decades harvesting through lack of foresight. An example of this that causes him particular pain is what […]

    The Midsummer Oak and its Skeletons July 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Midsummer Oak and its Skeletons

    **This post is dedicated to New Moon who sent the oak story in** Here is a little bit of Sussex folklore which manages to combine English zombies, the delicate whiff of cobblers and, best of all, a famous oak. The oak tree in question is the Midsummer Oak at Broadwater, Worthing and the legend in […]

    Cave Art Cobblers? July 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    Cave Art Cobblers?

      Cave art has always been plagued by accusations of fakery or exaggeration: the fate of any discipline that lacks coordinates. So the original discovery of palaeolithic wall art at Altamira in 1879 by Don Marcelino de Sautuola (or rather his daughter Maria – another post another day) was universally decried as a hoax or […]

    Review: The Great Pretenders June 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: The Great Pretenders

    Don’t tell Mrs B but Beachcombing is presently suffering from a rather silly teenage crush. The subject of his desire is a Scandinavia rheumatologist named Jan Bondeson who writes books in his spare time about strange things. It all began last month. Beachcombing bought twenty odd different volumes from various online sources – several of […]

    Christian Orgies June 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Christian Orgies

    On rainy nights, when the children have gone to bed and Beachcombing wants to provoke his ultra Catholic wife, there is little he loves more than to quote from the following early third-century Christian text, where some of the first pagan criticisms against the upstart religion are aired. As well as describing how Christians eat […]

    Giving Birth in a Coffin June 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Giving Birth in a Coffin

    Beachcombing has recently been toying around with the idea of a publication on ‘buried alive’ stories from Boccaccio to Poe. It would be a short volume, but one that would keep most of us awake past our bedtimes. Any suggestions for vaguely literate buried-alive tales please contact: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beachcombing has got […]

    St Andrew and Scythia June 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    St Andrew and Scythia

    Patron saints have a strange habit of not coming from the countries that they are supposed to represent. England’s Saint George was Syrian, St Patrick was born not in Ireland but in Britain, Portugal’s patron saint lived all his life in northern Italy… Usually there is a logical enough explanation. St George, for instance, was […]

    The Dauphin’s Heart June 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Dauphin's Heart

    Beachcombing is for ever rabbiting on (and on) about how time destroys memory, how everything we are told is unreliable. But the untrustworthiness of history applies not only to memory but also to objects. And what better example of this than the heart of the last dauphin, poor Louis XVII. Louis was collateral damage in […]

    The Impostor June 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    For ten years a mother and son are separated – war, a prison sentence, the grand tour… – and then  reunited. Only there is a problem. The son is not actually the son, but an impostor. What are the chances that the mother will be taken in? This scenario and the subsequent question appear asinine. […]

    Blind Mice and Licking Knives May 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Blind Mice and Licking Knives

    Beachcombing is writing this post with a certain anxiety. The moment he finishes it he is going to have to clean out a small priest-hole, hidden at the back of his study, where a family of country mice have settled. The Beachcombing’s don’t have a cat – thankfully – but these mice foolishly refuse to […]

    Against All Odds May 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern

    Another in the Weird Wars series: what victory in military history was achieved against the greatest odds? First some ground rules. 1) The two armies have to have comparable technologies. So the British and Empire troops at Rourke’s Drift (1879) were outnumbered by something like twenty to one by their Zulu adversaries. However, the British […]

    True Lies May 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    True Lies

    Beachcombing has recently been reading and enjoying David Aaronovitch’s Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory has Shaped Modern History. For those who have not heard of the book, AD takes an unremittingly hostile look at the many conspiracy theories that have characterized the last two broken centuries. Beach certainly doesn’t always like DA’s caustic tone. But, […]

    Origins of the Two-finger Insult May 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Origins of the Two-finger Insult

    The sun is in the heaven, term is over and with the good luck that characterises him Beachcombing has come down with a cracking summer cold. Indeed, as he walks up and down the stairs he feels as if his head is banging on the walls on either side. In this emergency situation he thought […]

    Last Words: Last Lies May 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Last Words: Last Lies

    Beachcombing has wasted literally days of his life looking at last words of the famous, the infamous and the simply anonymous. There is something so fascinating about utterances from the edge of the cliff. But how many of these gilded sentences are genuine? And how many simply the blather of post-mortem spin? Take Voltaire (obit […]

    Hill Hill Hill Hill May 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Hill Hill Hill Hill

    Placenames, like history, are as much a product of human incompetence as human genius. Take the phenomenon of pleonastic placenames – an intimidating word signalling the limitations of language and understanding. Rather than explain what is meant it is best to give an example, the Yorkshire placenames of Seamer Water (pictured above). Working backwards, generally […]

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