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  • The mystery of the hibernating hirundines October 31, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The mystery of the hibernating hirundines

    Humans create ideas to explain natural phenomenon. Most of these explanations are worth little more than the cinders that Beachcombing nightly sweeps up from the fire. These explanations are then superseded by other explanations – that typically bear as little relation to truth – and so knowledge marches heroically on… Inevitably, though some branches of […]

    Elizabeth Siddal: poets behaving badly October 19, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Elizabeth Siddal: poets behaving badly

    Beachcombing has a distant day almost constantly in mind - one that he fears tremendously - when little Miss B will arrive home from school prom or a disco or a walk in a wood with an ear-ringed possibly nose-ringed man on her arm, only to announce in dulcet tones: ‘Mum, Dad this is John, he is a poet’. For […]

    Victorian Poacher Sparks Will o’ the Wisp Scare August 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Poacher Sparks Will o' the Wisp Scare

            About six weeks ago Beachcombing gave space to a Victorian gamekeeper’s description of a Will o’ the Wisp (or something similar) seen in a wood one night. Tonight Beachcombing gives, instead, an account from the other side of the tracks. A poacher whose tricks might explain several nineteenth-century accounts of floating lights […]

    Purring – a Lancashire Martial Art? July 19, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Purring - a Lancashire Martial Art?

          Nineteenth-century clog-fighting: did it really exist? First some background. Clogs, of course, at least in their English incarnation, were wooden-soled shoes typically used in factories or in mines by the working classes in centuries gone by, because they kept their feet warm and because they were cheap Some claim that factory workers would tap […]

    Invisible Libraries: a Victorian Contribution July 17, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Invisible Libraries: a Victorian Contribution

                        There is a respectable literary tradition dating back to the end of the Middle Ages of scholars, writers and fantasists creating libraries of books that might or that should have once existed. To the best of Beachcombing’s knowledge this tradition begins – where else? – […]

    Mad Coin-Burying Halliday July 4, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Mad Coin-Burying Halliday

                Beachcombing has noted, over the years, with great and punctilious interest, objects and people that archaeologists and historians have found in places where they almost certainly should not have been. Buddha statues in Viking Denmark, Viking weapons in pre Colonial Minnesota, American Indians in Europe… Some of these may be […]

    Nineteenth-Century Witchcraft in Hebden Bridge July 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Nineteenth-Century Witchcraft in Hebden Bridge

                    The British town of Hebden Bridge is to be found deep in the South Pennines. The town itself is merely quaint – it has, Beachcombing seems to remember, cobbles. But the countryside thereabouts is the stuff of Xanadu. Indeed, over-travelled Beachcombing is of the opinion that Hebden Bridge’s wooded valleys are Masada at dawn, […]

    Oft hung John Lee and an urban legend June 30, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Oft hung John Lee and an urban legend

                        Beachcombing has recently had a bit of a thing about human sacrifice and capital punishment. But it is. he promises, a passing phase and has now reached its climax with a reading of Mike Holgate and Ian David Waugh’s superb The Man They Could Not Hang: The True Story of […]

    Victorian Venus Spokes June 9, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Venus Spokes

                        Beachcombing has had a gratifying amount of correspondence over his recent article on Martian Vegetation. He thought then that he would call into cause another planet, Venus and the great Percival Lowell (1855-1916) who wrote on both planets in works including Mars and Its Canals […]

    Victorian sewer pigs June 7, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian sewer pigs

              Beachcombing has a natural and commendable enmity towards sociology. Sociologists are the foes of history and must be resisted on the beaches, in the city and in the hills. (It does not help that his father-in-law is of that profession.) But he finds some of the nineteenth-century proto-sociologists intriguing and […]

    Orgies in Victorian Skipton! June 5, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Orgies in Victorian Skipton!

            Walter White (1811-1893) wrote about his journeys around the British Isles and Continental Europe in such classics as Holidays in Tyrol and Eastern England: from the Thames to the Humber. He was perhaps not the most exciting travel writer being rather prone to detail. But that very ability to give details […]

    Victorian Will o’ the Wisp June 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Will o’ the Wisp

              Beachcombing is in a Victorian country mood this week – the kind that comes and goes. It should be no surprise then that he’s decided to give a short extract from one of his favourite Victorian country books, the autobiography of John Wilkes, a gamekeeper based (for much of his professional […]

    Vegetation on Mars June 2, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Vegetation on Mars

                    Mars has a long history of befuddling human minds. Think of Giovanni Schiaparelli mapping out the ‘canals’ of that planet. Poor Perceval Lowell wrecking his scientific reputation with such publications as Mars as the Abode of Life. Nevermind all those hopped up Americans taking to the streets […]

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