‘A teardrop on the cheek of time’

The famous Indian Nobel-winning writer Rabindranath Tagore described the Taj Mahal as ‘a teardrop on the cheek of time.’

In 1631 Mumtaz Mahal, the third wife of Emperor Shah Jahan died during the birth of their 14th child. The emperor was so sad that he ordered a tomb to be built for her. The Taj Mahal was finished in 1648 and is now the tomb of both Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan.

This is a picture of Mumtaz.


Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is more than 350 years old. It is near the city of Agra in India, not so far from the capital city New Delhi. Maybe you can see that the four towers are not straight, they lean away from the main building. This is because if there is an earthquake then the towers will  fall outwards and will not destroy the building!

It is one of the most famous buildings in the world.


Longest Reef

Here is another beautiful taken in Australia.

It is a tiny sand island in the longest reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef. A reef is mostly made from dead coral, but coral is not a plant, it is an animal!



In ancient Egypt there were seven known planets: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Each planet had a special day, and so the 7-day week started. Later the Romans also used this system, which we still have today.

However we now understand that the Sun is not like a planet, it is a star. And we have also decided that the Moon is not a planet because it does not orbit the Sun, it orbits the Earth, and is therefore a satellite.

Nevertheless the Sun has a day named after it: Sunday. The original Roman word was ‘solis’ which became ‘soleil’ in French and ‘sonn’ in German, and the Germanic goddess of the sun was ‘Sunne’, which is how the English word became ‘sun’.

The picture below is an old German ‘sun’ made from metal.


Mobile phone problem solved

Last April I wrote about my mobile phone problem.

Basically I was very happy with my phone, but  even though I didn’t use it so much, the battery needed recharging every evening. I tried to buy a new battery but my phone was three years old, a dinosaur, so this battery was no longer available. But I realised I was paying 300 yen a month for an internet/e-mail service, which I never used. So I canceled this service and saved the money.

Now I finally have a new phone. With all my points and the money I had saved it was free. I got a nice model with large keys and a bright screen, which are the most important things for me.

World’s highest structure

Although the Burj Dubai is the world’s highest building (now about 575m) it is not the world’s highest structure. This is the KVLY TV antenna in Blanchard, North Dakota, USA, which is 628m high.


This photo was taken a few kilometres away, and you can just about see the antenna in the centre of the picture

But the Burj Dubai is not finished and it is planned to be over 800m high, so it will probably become the highest structure some time later this year

High or tall

‘How high are you?’ is not the right question to ask if you want to know someone’s height. The right question would be ‘How tall are you?’

The adjective ‘tall’ is mostly used with people, trees, buildings, chimneys and electricity pylons, for example: ‘Look at those beautiful, tall trees’ and ‘The Dubai Tower is the tallest building in the world’.

In other situations ‘high’ is used, for example: ‘My garden has high walls’ and ‘Mt Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan’.

Here is a picture of the Burj Dubai, the Dubai Tower.


Year of the Hedgehog?

I must admit that I thought that hedgehogs were members of the rodent family, along with the mouse, rat and capybara etc.

But this is not the case. Hedgehogs belong to the Erinacid family, so it is certainly not the year of the hedgehog!

Here is a photo of one taken at the same place as the capybaras.


Year of the Capybara

2008 is the year of the mouse. The mouse is a member of the rodent family, and the largest rodent in the world is the capybara.

The capybara can grow to 130cm long and 65kg in weight. It is a herbivore and lives in watery areas in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia in South America. It can swim underwater for 5 minutes and it has no tail!

I saw some capybara in a park near Shimoda in Izu, they are really quite big, it is very strange to think that they are a relative of the mouse.