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Review: Running with the Fairies January 28, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
Review: Running with the Fairies

Scholarly fairy books are rare indeed: they average at about one every four years. Not many at all when you think that a score of volumes on Vietnam are published each month. This infrequency means that it is always extremely exciting when a new member of the fairy family shuffles onto the stage. So, with […]

Review: Goodwin Wharton October 31, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Review: Goodwin Wharton

In the spring of 1683, a disgraced scion of an English aristocratic family, Goodwin Wharton met Mary Parish a woman in regular communication with fairies (‘lowlanders’), angels, the dead and, of course, the Almighty. Mary was down on her luck having alienated her spirit guide, having argued bitterly with the royal family of faery and […]

Mud, Blood and Poppycock October 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Mud, Blood and Poppycock

Beach has a question that he always enjoys asking first year American university students:  did World War One/World War Two/the Cold War represent a fight between good and evil? Class after class, semester after semester the pattern repeats itself. The Second World War is almost universally held up as such a war. Usually a quarter […]

Review: Walter Starkie, Raggle Taggle September 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Review: Walter Starkie, Raggle Taggle

When Beach first picked up Walter Starkie’s Raggle-Taggle: Adentures with a Fiddle in Hungary and Roumania (1947) he was looking for a reference to fairies. The book was to be a literary one night stand: 300 closely printed sides, ten minutes of flicking. But already in ‘the Preface to New Edition’ a more serious relationship […]

The Triumph of the Dilettantes: Top Ten Fairy Books July 7, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
The Triumph of the Dilettantes: Top Ten Fairy Books

Beach has spent this summer putting together a bibliography of fairy texts. And while doing so he found himself wondering ‘what are the best of these hundreds of titles?’ The question has, in fact, been building up in him and after some reflection he has jotted down here ten books that offer the most entertaining […]

Electrifying Sheep June 3, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Electrifying Sheep

Beachcombing has a terrible secret. He is not very good at science. Yes, he receives emails about astronomy and nuclear physics, aviation and genetics on a daily basis. But, while being fascinated, he understands almost none of what he reads there. In the autumn of his years it is simply too late to put this […]

Review: I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student May 13, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
Review: I'm the Teacher, You're the Student

University campuses have seen many changes in the last fifty years: digital technology, new teaching methods, ‘political correctness’… But the change that really matters has been the extraordinary growth in student numbers. Take the UK and the US. About 60% of young men and women now undertake third-level education in these two countries, whereas in […]

Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye April 15, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Freedoms Fliers by J. Todd Moye

Wars have the habit of shaking up the social order in a way that a hoary old conservative like Beachcombing finds rather disturbing. Children join militias: think the moving photographs of fourteen and fifteen year German ‘soldiers’ guarding the Atlantic wall or ‘that scene’ in Doctor Zhivago. Gender relations are bent in knots: women are […]

John Lukacs: The Legacy of the Second World War April 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
John Lukacs: The Legacy of the Second World War

John Lukacs’s The Legacy of the Second World War is, like most books by that brilliant and maverick historian, a bit of a mess. The chapter headings say it all. Chapter One, ‘Seventy Years Later’ and Chapter Two ‘the Place of the Second World War’ can pass muster. However, then everything is thrown off kilter. […]

Perrottet: Sinners’ Grand Tour March 23, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
Perrottet: Sinners' Grand Tour

Tony Perrottet, The Sinner’s Grand Tour: Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe (2011 in paperback) Broadly-speaking all humans have three reactions to forms of sexual activity: (i) frenzy, (ii) comic indifference or (iii) disgust. Beachcombing, for example, has to (i) contain himself when confronted with sultry Mediterranean beauty. He finds it (ii) amusing that […]

Review: Five Days in London December 19, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Review: Five Days in London

John Lukacs, Five Days in London, May 1940 (1999) has a simple thesis. The United Kingdom could not have defeated Hitler alone, but she could have lost the war before the Soviet Union and the USA entered as Allies. And she never came nearer to this, according to Lukacs, than 24-28 May 1940 – the […]

Case of the Cottingley Fairies December 2, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Case of the Cottingley Fairies

Joe Cooper, The Cottingley Fairies, 1990. The story is a simple one. In the First World War a young girl named Frances Griffith saw fairies at the brook where she played in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley. In 1917 she and her older friend Elsie Wright were stung by their parents’ refusal to believe Frances. […]

Review: The Middle Kingdom November 8, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Review: The Middle Kingdom

As regular readers will know Beachcombing went a little fairy mad this summer. Indeed, as we speak two academic articles have been accepted for publication and four more are still waiting the judgement of tetchy referees spread out from Edinburgh to the Pacific Coast. In the process of writing these articles he read most twentieth-century […]

City of Ravens: Boria Sax October 31, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
City of Ravens: Boria Sax

The story so far. An ancient British myth going back to ‘ye olde Celtic times’ states that while ravens reside at the Tower of London then Britain will prosper. However, turn the neatly embossed tourist sign with ‘ye olde Celtic times’ over and there is a ‘Made in Taiwan’ marker stamped into the plastic. Translated? […]

Secret Weapons September 22, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern