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  • The Leper Prince May 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Leper Prince

    Monarchies are not perhaps the worst systems of government. But they suffer from one serious drawback. Even the best dynasties – with immaculate DNA and good schooling – throw up an idiot or a weakling once a century and if that idiot/weakling coincides with a famine or a plague or a spot of class warfare […]

    Julian in the Desert May 6, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Julian in the Desert

    Beachcombing finished his last exam yesterday and, with the exceptions of the long and frankly tedious work of correction, term is now all but over. Hurrah! Hurrah! By way of celebration Beachcombing thought that he would visit this morning one of his favourite hinge moments. The death of Julian the Apostate and with him the […]

    Misplacing Masterpieces at Railway Stations April 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Misplacing Masterpieces at Railway Stations

    Beachcombing heard today that his father – pater Beachcombing – will soon be coming for a visit to the Beachcombing house in Little Snoring – the first time in a couple of years, so a cause of celebration. Beachcombing’s favourite story about his father is that once while travelling by train to his publisher in […]

    Immortal Champagne Toast April 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Immortal Champagne Toast

    Beachcombing continues his series of Immortal Meals with a mere liquid lunch, a short champagne party from 29 August 1991 in Whitehall, London. Of course, champagne parties in London are two a penny: but this one was rather unusual as all those in attendance were (i) ostensibly at work and (ii) they were members of […]

    Barbecuing Friars in Late Medieval Florence April 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Barbecuing Friars in Late Medieval Florence

      Beachcombing promised just the other day that he would leave blood alone for at least a month. He wants then to be very clear that this post will not involve bloodshed. It will describe though one of the last ordeals by fire of the Middle Ages, an attempt to use flames to judge a human […]

    Playing Solitaire in Hitler’s Bunker March 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Playing Solitaire in Hitler’s Bunker

      Crisis in the Beachcombing household tonight. Yesterday it was discovered that every member of the family save Beachcombing himself had been stricken with head lice. And so Beachcombing has spent most of the last six hours combing what look like wood ants from his darling wife’s and elder daughter’s fair locks. By way of […]

    Cabinet of Curiosities from Eighteenth-Century London February 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cabinet of Curiosities from Eighteenth-Century London

      One of the sheer joys of bizzarism is collecting disparate lists and just enjoying the sound of them or the look of them on the page. In this spirit Beachcombing offers today a collection of curiosities brought together in an eighteenth-century London coffee house. He has included perhaps one in fifteen of the marvels gathered there. […]

    A Pillar and an Archer in Medieval Alexandria January 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    A Pillar and an Archer in Medieval Alexandria

      Ancient pillars survive even when associated buildings collapse. Many Greco-Roman pillars, indeed, are still standing today: a testimony to the durability of early Mediterranean civilisation. The medieval dwarfs looking back at the achievements of the classical world often got excited by pillars. Pillars were probably in part responsible for causing an early English poet […]

    Beethoven and the Fire from Heaven January 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Beethoven and the Fire from Heaven

    Beachcombing recently offered three posts on the subject of lightning, trying to dig up some occasions when a bolt has changed, however modestly, the course of human history. Beachcombing must confess though to being slightly disappointed that lightning has not done more for (or against) humanity: any other lightning offers – drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

    When Muhammad Kissed Ferdinand January 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    When Muhammad Kissed Ferdinand

    What do Beachcombing and Osama Bin Laden have in common? Diabetes? Permanent facial hair? Exclusive education in London? Start up fund from the CIA? No, no, no, no and no. The answer is, of course, a love of Al-Andalus. Al Andalus, as Osama himself would tell us were he a blogger, was the last Muslim kingdom […]

    Vasari’s Corridor December 12, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Vasari's Corridor

    Beachcombing had – notwithstanding his recent rudeness about Giorgio Vasari - the fortune of the devil yesterday. He managed to tag onto the work group of Mrs B (absent because too heavily pregnant) as they went to one of the most exclusive tourist destinations in the world, Vasari’s Corridor in Florence. Florence, as any who have […]

    One Man’s Tulip, Another Man’s Onion December 10, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    One Man’s Tulip, Another Man’s Onion

    Tulip production was, in early Modern Europe, a challenging affair. For one the tulip itself was not an indigenous plant. It had come, with so many other items – including curiously goods from the New World – through the Ottoman Empire. Next, growing a tulip from seed takes from six to twelve years. These were […]

    German Naturalists, Electric Eels and Horse Fishing December 8, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    German Naturalists, Electric Eels and Horse Fishing

    Beachcombing mixes and matches his posts. If Beachcombing gets carried away with a theme – he has to confess to an Atlantis itch this week – then he tries to let at least a few days pass before he returns to that subject. However, every so often the excitement gets too much for him and he […]

    Image: Arresting Trouble December 4, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Image: Arresting Trouble

    The Beachcombing family has been shook tonight by phantom (?) contractions and Mrs B. is  upstairs wondering whether or not she is about to give birth. Beachcombing is a nursing a frullato downstairs confident that the baby is still a month away. But then Beachcombing is wrong about almost everything and that leads him nicely to […]

    The Crocodile, the Dog and the Wardrobe December 3, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Crocodile, the Dog and the Wardrobe

    Beachcombing always enjoys the passion with which nineteenth-century naturalists captured and then observed their prey, from sugaring early gas lamps to taking out the rifle whenever a rare bird flew into their garden. He particularly enjoyed this passage (just sent in by a correspondent) from the works of that German polymath Alexander von Humboldt (1859), […]

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