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  • Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

    ***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

    Welsh Candles and a Ghost October 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Welsh Candles and a Ghost

    A couple of weeks ago we travelled to the Church Porch at midnight to see who would die in the coming year. Here is a Welsh equivalent (kind of). Down to the last hundred years it was usual in many a district in Wales to burn candles in the parish church on the eve of […]

    Majorana’s Mysterious Disappearance October 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Majorana's Mysterious Disappearance

    ***Dedicated to Cristiano and Mau*** Ettore Majorana (obit ?), a Sicilian who mysteriously disappeared in 1938, was an almost-genius in the field of theoretical physics: many of his ideas proved so insightful that they are still being explored today. The reminiscences of those who  worked with Majorana show that he was not only a remarkable […]

    The Origins of One-Foot September 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Origins of One-Foot

    ***Dedicated to Leif*** Humanity has the habit of peopling the edges of its maps with unusual creatures: the ‘there-be-dragons’ phenomenon. We have previously on this blog looked at dog-heads, for example, both in relation to India and Ethiopia. Dog-heads can be explained, as perhaps can unicorns and even dragons and cyclops. But how do you […]

    Negosanu and the Countess September 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
     Negosanu and the Countess

    The following story relates to events in the late nineteenth century. It is about a place that Beach has visited from time to time; though no one, he is sad to report, has ever asked to feel his muscles there. The hero is a huge gypsy from Romania: Negosanu. Let’s hope that the tale is […]

    African Pygmies and European Fairies September 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    African Pygmies and European Fairies

    We have sometimes visited in the past the early modern and very popular late Victorian theory that fairies were nothing more than a pygmy people who dwelt on the fringes of society. By the early twentieth century Empire sorts were so keen on this theory that they were proving it with reference to the customs […]

    Accidental Hanky Panky in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland August 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Accidental Hanky Panky in Late Nineteenth-Century Ireland

    This was a cute little story that turns up in a late nineteenth-century folklore collection from Ireland. A visitor is out and about looking for the ‘bed’ of ‘Dermot and Grania’, the mossy bower where a mythical couple from Irish legend escape to love and live away from society. Dermot for those who have never […]

    Prolific Souvestre and Allain August 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Prolific Souvestre and Allain

    Beachcombing is back from his time at the top of the mountain. His ‘restful’ reading material there included Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain’s Fantômas, the first in a series of French pulp novels from the teens of the last century. For those who have not been initiated Fantômas is a master criminal who works without […]

    Gluten, Famine and the Slow Crawl of Medical Knowledge August 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Gluten, Famine and the Slow Crawl of Medical Knowledge

    ***Beach wants to salute his readers for a couple of days as he is going on his yearly retreat (hermit’s cave etc): he’ll see you on the other side, if the wolves don’t come*** Wheat is the grain of the west. The crop that has followed Europeans wherever they have gone for the simple reason […]

    The Terror of the Cow Charmer August 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Terror of the Cow Charmer

    A cute fairy post from the west of Ireland in the nineteenth-century. The narrator is a visiting sportsman. I heard, when passing the porter’s lodge, that the gate-keeper’s cow was ill. As she was a fine animal, the loss would have been a serious one to the family, and hence I became interested in her […]

    The Immortal Major Fraser August 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Immortal Major Fraser

    OK here is an atmospheric little passage from a nineteenth-century description of the fifth most beautiful city in the world. Major Fraser, though he never dined there, spent  an hour or two daily in the Estaminet du Divan [in Paris] to read the  papers. He was a great favorite with every one, though none  of […]

    The Mysterious Island of Chronos/Cronos: Stonehenge, New Hampshire or Lundy!? July 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The Mysterious Island of Chronos/Cronos: Stonehenge, New Hampshire or Lundy!?

    One of the most peculiar texts that Beachcombing has ever read is the description of the Island of Cronos – the titan pictured here with thanks to Goya – in Plutarch (c. 120 AD). Much has been made of this island and attempts to fix it on the map have been undertaken frequently: some have […]

    The Cow-Man of Wicklow and His Sad End July 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Cow-Man of Wicklow and His Sad End

    A paddy-bashing story from one of the nastiest Irish-haters of them all: Gerald of Wales. In the neighbourhood of Wicklow at the time when Maurice Fitzgerald got possession of the country and the castle, an extraordinary man was seen – if indeed it be right to call him a man. He had all the parts […]

    The Crown of the Queen of Serpents July 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Crown of the Queen of Serpents

    A curious little episode from a very obscure English autobiography. The individual being described here is August de Haxthausen (obit 1866), friend of the brothers Grimm.  De Haxthausen ended up in Britain in the 1840s in the house of a little girl, Janet Ross, who would become one of Beach’s favourite cookery book writers: but […]

    The Christian Wolves of Ossory July 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Christian Wolves of Ossory

    We all know that medieval chroniclers and sensationalists love wonder stories. Beach has a private rule that even if a medieval tale takes place with a ‘reliable’ witness in living memory, then he still looks the other way. But the following story clearly ‘happened’ (though there may be a way to reread it) in that […]

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