Bodiam Castle

Today Manoocher Samii came to visit for the afternoon, the sun managed to start shining through the clouds so we headed out to find a nice place for a walk… I got a bit lost driving through Tunbridge Wells and found myself miles from where I had intended to be, so we ended up visiting Bodiam Castle.

Built in 1385, most of the interior of the castle has been destroyed but the exterior shell is still largely in tact and enough remains of the rooms and spiral staircases to make it a fun and throught provoking visit. Today it was quite quiet and thus very peaceful. Although Bodiam was built as a defensive castle it was also used as a home and is beautifully surrounded by not only a complete moat but also many hills. It was a slightly rushed but certainly pleasant use of thirty minutes.

Clicking on the photo above will lead you to more photos taken on our visit to the castle, or for more information you can visit the castle’s page on the National Trust’s website.

UK Two Pound Coin

Standing on the shoulders of giants

For a long time I have had a web page about the origin of the inscription on the outer edge of the UK two pound coin “Standing on the shoulders of giants”, so I have recorded the most important information from that older page here before removing it.

The quote is generally attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, the famous physicist, mathematician and more, who wrote in a letter to his colleague Robert Hooke on 5th February 1676:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”

The phrase is understood to mean that if he (Sir Isaac Newton) has been able to discover more about the universe than others then it was because he was working in the light of discoveries made by fellow scientists either in his own time or earlier. There is some suggestion that the phrase may have also had a sarcastic undertone as some historians report that Robert Hooke began to disagree with many of Newton’s theories and Hooke himself was reportedly of quite short height.

Whilst the exact phrase above is attributed to Sir Newton, the main idea to which it refers can be traced back many centuries earlier, at least to Bernard of Chartes who died around the year 1130. The following is attributed to him:

“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more than they do, indeed even farther; but not because our sight is better than theirs or because we are taller than they. Our sight is enhanced because they raise us up and increase our stature by their enormous height”

My thanks to Alan Williams for leaving a note about the quote from Bernard of Chartes in my old guestbook.

FREEVIEW doesn’t cover my area

…at least that’s what their website says.

A couple of years ago I had that longing for 24 hour news and more chances to see my favourite BBC comedies but Freeview were insistent that they did not cover my postcode and they had no plans to do so in the near future.

I started studying the information that this section of the Digital Television Group web site provided me with, it still claimed I would not receive all the channels but has a link for more details displaying exactly which channels I might get if I did have a Digital Terrestial Television receiver. Depending on which receiver my aerial was pointing at it became clear that I should receive at least a few extra channels with a receiver.

Now, I have often taken the dangerous attitude that I know better than the staff of many companies about their own product, and so I decided to ignore the advise from Freeview and grab myself a receiver anyway. In Dixons, where I bought it, they said I must do a coverage check before purchasing one, so I said I had done it online… which I had… I didn’t mention the check came up negative. The freeview web site, the DTG website and my, then new, Grundig GDT2000 box all had warnings that I may need an aerial upgrade in order to receive the digital signal, but I figured that although my aerial must be at least 5 years old it gets a pretty good signal on channels 1-4, so I ignored that warning as well as the advise that there was no coverage where I live. On opening the box to my new toy I was faced with a warning again… an Important Notice… that before I unpack the product I must check my postcode for reception and even if the postcode is covered I may need an aerial upgrade… I had it in mind I might buy a signal booster to see if that worked rather than a new aerial, but by now I was starting to worry that I had been very foolish in spending 90 pounds on this box out of some blind faith in this new DTT technology that was not shared by Freeview, Grundig, or Dixons and only vaguely shared by the DTG (Digital Television Group).

Still, as foolish as my actions had come to seem I plugged it all in and watched the auto setup sequence commence… I stared at the screen as it searched for channels… “0 new services found” was written at the bottom as the red bar slowly moved across from left to right, it was taking a very long time, it was more than half way across and still reporting no channels when I decided to pop out of the room nd make tea in the hope that if I didn’t look at it everything would be fine, in the same way that sometimes when something above you starts to fall you might flinch, scrunch up and close your eyes as if not seeing the object fall will mean that it can’t plunge down and hit you on the head. When I came back into the room – I can’t remember exactly what it said on the screen now – it had clearly finished searching for services and there was TV coming through my new receiver.

I paged up and down the channels, I had Channel 5 which was previously unobtainable where I live, I had BBC 3 so I had the comedies I wanted, I had Sky News so I had the 24 hour news I was longing for… it was a success! In fact, it was a huge success… no aerial upgrade and I was receiving every channel that Freeview offer, not just a selection from one transmitter. I do live fairly high up and one of the transmitters is in line of sight from my roof, which is a factor that fed my blind optimism in the first instance, but I am sure this is true of everyone in my postcode.

I believe that many retailers now use the DTG website to do their coverage checks so that they can show people which channels they might receive (and make a potential sale) rather than warn people away because they might not get anything.

Two years on and both the Freeview and DTG sites continue to say there is no coverage where I live, yet I am enjoying the benefits of being a DTT viewer almost daily. Every channel that has been launched since has been succesfully added to my channel lineup, clearly Freeview does cover my area.

Travel Links

I love to travel, though my heart and wallet are somewhat at odds with each other over where to go, my heart says South America, India, Asia, Africa and my wallet reminds me that there are plenty of interesting places and beautiful views within a short walk or drive of my home. These are some of the links that I use to convince my wallet that travel needn’t always be expensive.


The first places to look for medium or long haul flights:

  • SkyScanner – flight finding service that seeks out good deals
  • Thomas Cook – not the most intuitive design for flight only searches, but competitive  fares.
  • Travelocity – flight finder by the owners of
  • Opodo – another flight finder
  • Kayak – offers some very nice fine-tuning options
  • eBookers – allows you to search for and book the cheapest flight on their database.
  • Expedia (UK) – search for and book the cheapest flight on their database.
  • Cheap Flights – this site helps you search other flight finding sites.

The above sites don’t generally include fares from the so-called “cheap” airlines, and even with the regular airlines the fares are often cheaper booked directly than through an above agent. Don’t assume that the no-thrills airlines will have the best prices, in my experience it is rarely the case unless you are flying mid-week or require a one-way ticket. My favourite airline for any journey is British Airways, even though the food and service on their domestic routes does not match their long and medium haul services, that said there are of course many I haven’t flown with yet, including Virgin. When looking for a flight also remember to think about the cost of getting to and from the airport at each end and any parking fees you may have to pay, there is no point choosing a flight that is 10 pounds cheaper if the extra requirements for petrol, parking and food are going to cost you another 40.

  • British Airways – So many routes at such competitive prices too, their own web site makes it clear when you should travel to get the best deal.
  • Ryanair – Really cheap prices if you fly at the right times.
  • easyJet – You pay them, they fly you, that’s it. Genuinely thrill-free service.
  • flybe – An airline that has some cheap flights, for a cheaper return consider using a different airline in conjunction with them.
  • BMI – Always ofering fairly reasonable prices.
  • KLM – Often have cheap flights to European destinations or via Amsterdam to the rest of the world.
  • Lufthansa – Fly to Germany or connect there for longer haul journeys.
  • Virgin Atlantic – Often have good sale fares on their site.

If you’ve never flown an indirect route before be warned that airports can be very boring places. At best you will have the chance to buy snacks and eat them on a comfortable chair, most likely you will only be able to sit on a metal chair for hours on end and try to find some interesting shapes in the dull architecture of the building. Direct flights, or flights that only have domestic connections in your own country, are worth a little extra. Don’t pay too much attention to the reputation an airline had for service several years ago, they change, the ones that are behind catch up and the ones that are ahead can fall behind, if you’re taking a long flight and there are several companies offering good deals ask around for recent expereinces of the airlines on offer.

  • BAA – Flight information, parking facilities and other aiport details for most UK airports
  • Luton Airport – As above, for Luton airport
  • Manchester Airport – As above, for Manchester

Finally on the subject of flights, British Airways have a Courier flight programme offering a limited number of flights at highly discounted prices to New York, Miami, Bangkok and Tokyo. Couriers must carry an envelope of paperwork on BA’s behalf for the duration of the flight, they must be over 18 and dress smartly. For more information call the British Airways Travel Shop on 0870 606 11 33, Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm. There is no longer a recorded message on this number outside these times.

Feet nearer the ground

Orville wished that he could fly, but he couldn’t. Keith Harris though that Orville could fly, but he couldn’t. Not to worry…

  • National Express – timetables and booking for coach travel in the UK and Europe
  • UK Railways – UK rail timetables and boking service
  • Deutsche Bahn Travel Service – impressive European train timetable database.
  • Eurostar – Not cheap but fairly fast, direct, and offer good prices on package deals.
  • MultiMap – Great site giving street maps of UK towns and cities
  • UK Street Map – Not as thorough as MultiMap but larger maps of London possible

Local Information

Sometimes it helps to do some research about a place before you travel there, if nothing else it is good to check for known scams that take place at airports… for example in Cairo it is said to be a common scam for taxi drivers to claim that your hotel has been closed for refurbishment and then kindly offer take you to another hotel of similar quality from which they will get a percentage for your stay.


As the day nears an end you will want somewhere to rest your head and fall asleep, preferably in the style of a king but within the budget of a pauper. Most of the sites above have links to accomodation, one of the very best is Expedia, sometimes it is worth typing the name of the hotels with the best deal on Expedia into Google to see of they have a web site that offers an even cheaper price, or ask a travel agent on your high street for some good hotel names, maybe pick up a brochure, and then look for them online, you may have to email for an up to date quote.


If you just want to visit one place and there are no really cheap flights available then the next best deals are often available as a hotel and flight package. I end this post with just a few links to help you find a package deal, there is another really good one for European breaks that I will add when I have found it.

  • Expedia (UK) – Usually has some very good deals
  • Eurostar – Offers package deals within its destinations
  • British Airways – Hotels and tourist acitivities can be booked online as well as flights
  • Thomas Cook – “Don’t just book it…”, Holidays and late deals
  • Thomson – “Thomson look after number one…”, Holidays and late deals
  • – Easy to browse lists of late deals to popular tourist destinations.

Recently watched movies

A few quick reviews of films recently seen.

City of God ****

The “City of God” is a poor suburb of Rio de Jeneiro in Brazil where the drug trade is the most appealing industry for children to build their carreers in. This film follows the life of Rocket – a boy who loves photography and is motivated to build an honest living for himself while living in a suburb corrupted by drug related warfare and crime. As the film tells Rocket’s story it also tells shorter stories of those that have an impact on his life and in doing so creates several sub-plots to hold your interest throughout the film. In addition to a lot of foul language and some scenes of a (mainly implied) sexual nature there is a lot of strong violence in this movie which often sadly involves very young children, yet apart from an occasional bit of bad acting nothing seems out of place or over the top in this movie, which is made all the more moving for having been based on true a story. This is not a “must see” movie since I can see no reason to assault your senses with the horrors of a city’s slum culture from over 20 years ago, but if your curiosity demands such a journey then this film is able to provide it.

The Martins *

The Martins are a city dweling family with little money and many pressures. When they fail to win a holiday in a competition the father decides to steal it from the real winners. This much, and more, you will learn from reading the case the the film comes in, unfortunately there is not much more to the plot than that, the film doesn’t have a real ending, or a moral. The Martins is mainly a comedy and is not short of comedy talent, the lead role is played by Lee Evans of whom I am quite a fan, yet there are few genuinely funny moments. There is a lot of swearing, most of this can be seen as realism for the kind of family shown but some of it is wildly out of place, perhaps that was supposed to be funny. Watch the trailer for this film and you will have seen all the funny parts, what is left of the plot isn’t really worth seeing.

Mona Lisa Smile **

Take Dead Poet’s Society, change everyones gender and swap the dramatic scenes of a boy whose parents refuse to let him be creative with some uninspiring scenes of a teacher choosing which man to spend her time with and you have Mona Lisa Smile. An arts teacher, played by Julia Roberts, brings liberal views into a traditional girls school in the 1950s and hopes to bring about changes over night that the governors believe should take the course of years to come about, if at all. The teacher questions her own values in the light of all that is happening around her but any resulting changes are subtle. The film is okay of you’re stuck for choice, it is never boring, but it doesn’t really go anywhere that interesting either.

Phone Booth **

Virtually all of this film is set at a phone booth in New York, so you have to know from the start that there are not going to be many different scenes in this film and that in fact not very much can really happen. A man answers a ringing phone to find there is a sniper somewhere in the street with a gun trained on him, he must do as the man says or face the consequences. There are very few twists in the plot and the biggest one is quite obvious, to the point that you’ll possibly already be thinking there are some very stupid characters in the film for allowing the twist to be possible before it is revealed. Aside from a weak ending, some excessive revisiting of ideas and some questionable activities and decisions on the ground the film is gripping. It is hard to think that the makers set out to achieve anything more than a sense of tension over the fate of the man who answers the call, and this they have very much suceeded in. Watch this one with low expectations to get the most out of the tense decision making taking place in the phone booth.

Calcium Kid ***

When a British boxer gets injured in training his inexperienced sparring partner steps in to take his place. It’s a comedy and stars Omid Djalili as the manager of the Calcium Kid, a professional milkman whose first real boxing match is to be against a world champion. The Calcium Kid is played by Orlando Bloom who manages to act some of the simpler comical sequences so brilliantly that they are funny enough to laugh out loud at. This movie is meant to be a bit of fun and that’s exactly what it is, just sit back to enjoy it and you may also find it is a little bit ( though only a little) cleverer than you were expecting.


Free calls using Voice over Internet Protocol

I have recently been looking at voice over IP and thought I would share some information on the facilities that allow you to talk free of charge to other computer users over a broadband connection.

There are two popular technologies available at the moment, SIP and Skype. What they have in common is that they both offer reasonable quality phone calls between any two computers with an Internet connection, for free, so long as the computers have either a sound card with a microphone and headphones (or preferably a headset) or a phone is somehow attached (VoIP phone adapters and phones that plug into a USB port or the sound card can be purchased). Both technologies offer much higher quality than was previously available using software such as Microsoft NetMeeting, MSN Messenger, ICQ etc for voice communication. They also offer pre-pay services to call normal telephones around the world at “reduced cost” using the same technology – however I am not convinced that the price or quality of this service is quite as impressive as some of the cheap telephone to telephone services available such as OneTel or 18866 (from the UK). With any VoIP service you are able to use your number anywhere in the world that you can set up the software or connect your computer to the Internet.


Skype’s main advantages are that it allows for instant messaging, online status checking and most impressively voice conferencing for up to 4 additional contacts free of charge, you can also add non-computer participants to a conference so long as you use their pre-pay service to pay for the call. If you are familiar with messaging software such as MSN Messenger or ICQ then this software is very similar but for the addition of voice communication. The only real drawback of Skype is that it cannot be used to communicate with the growing number of SIP VoIP networks.

Links: Skype


There are many networks that use SIP, among the most popular in the UK are FreeWorldDialup and Gossiptel. With these services not only can you call out to other VoIP users on their computers free of charge and other normal telephones for some small fee, but you can also have a standard 0870 telephone number that can be used to call you on your PC (some alternative SIP services can offer you a US number instead). Gossiptel, which is a fairly new player in the market, also has the very big advantage of offering free customisable voicemail, so if you are away from your computer, your computer is off, or you simply fail to answer a call, it will go through to a voice mailbox, voicemail is sent by email and can also be checked using the VoIP system or by calling the service through an 0870 (BT national rate) number . I am not aware of any free voice conference facilities using SIP. You can call between SIP networks (such as FreeWorldDialup and Gossiptel) quite easily.

Links: Gossiptel, FreeWorldDialup, SIPPhone

So far I have only tested the services calling my wife and myself at home and by using features provided by the service providers. My views on PC to PC VoIP are widely supported by others who have reviewed the technology but I do not know if my hesitance over computer to land line calls is so widely shared.

In a nutshell then, if you want to call between friends or colleagues free of charge by making the most of an Internet connection then VoIP is coming of age, quality is greatly improved and delay, between computers at least, is down to a minimum. Skype has the advantage of offering Instant Messaging features and conference calls free of charge, Gossiptel has the advantage of offering voicemail free of charge. Skype and SIP technologies can exist alongside each other on the same computer.

I have a number on both services. Email me if you want to know the details.

USB phones can be found on ebay by searching for the keywords voip usb and phone.

Mr. Aziz Yazdi

Aziz Yazdi

Mr. Aziz Yazdi, who passed away on 19th April 2004 at the age of 95, was one of the greatest examples I have encountered of a loving human being.

I was honoured with meeting him in Haifa on a Baha’i youth pilgrimage in 1987 and then very briefly in Manchester a little while later during a conference and the love that issued forth from his eyes and face left an enduring mark of faith upon me and confirmed for me that human beings could truly reach toward the example laid out so clearly by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in many of his texts.

BWNS: Youthful experience inspired service

“In every dispensation, there hath been the commandment of fellowship and love, but it was a commandment limited to the community of those in mutual agreement, not to the dissident foe. In this wondrous age, however, praised be God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth fellowship and love, consideration and generosity and loving-kindness to every community on earth. Now must the lovers of God arise to carry out these instructions of His: let them be kindly fathers to the children of the human race, and compassionate brothers to the youth, and self-denying offspring to those bent with years. The meaning of this is that ye must show forth tenderness and love to every human being, even to your enemies, and welcome them all with unalloyed friendship, good cheer, and loving-kindness. When ye meet with cruelty and persecution at another’s hands, keep faith with him; when malevolence is directed your way, respond with a friendly heart. To the spears and arrows rained upon you, expose your breasts for a target mirror-bright; and in return for curses, taunts and wounding words, show forth abounding love. Thus will all peoples witness the power of the Most Great Name, and every nation acknowledge the might of the Ancient Beauty, and see how He hath toppled down the walls of discord, and how surely He hath guided all the peoples of the earth to oneness; how He hath lit man’s world, and made this earth of dust to send forth streams of light.”

(From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha)

Why warble?

The domain name was registered in thinking of my desire to hasten the day when the following promise of Baha’u’llah’s would be fulfilled:

The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight, that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody.” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 118)

Baha’u’llah is the prophet founder of the Baha’i Faith. The first pages held on were about this Faith, including an introduction to the basic teachings and links to the then scarce Internet resources around the world. Since then official sites have appeared around the globe but still has played host to web sites dedicated to Baha’i youth for many years.

Now is more a collection of old and disjointed pages. This is to change in the not too distant future. Currently I am in the process of getting married, after that I hope to use some of the teaching skills of my wife to develop a more interactive forum for discovering more about the Baha’i Faith.

When I stop for a moment to reflect on the word warble, which I see every day in my email address as well as my web sites, I see it as a call to live a Baha’i life and live it joyously. The Baha’i Faith promises that exciting and wonderful days are on the horizon for this troubled world that we live in, and by living a life informed by this knowledge and in accordance with the principles that the Baha’i religion enshrines, we are already making part of the contribution expected of us to help bring about a new world civilization.

Another quote that includes the word warble, this time from ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah:

It is incumbent upon thee to assemble continuously with the beloved of God and to meet with those whose faces are illumined with the light of the love of God. Verily, I supplicate to God to make thee sincere in this love, to illumine thee with the light of His Kingdom, and to destine unto thee the illumination by the light of His attributes, to make thee a sign of mercy, a bird warbling the verses of unity; that thou mayest be nurtured in the bosom of His providence, and become a growing tree bearing fruit in the Paradise of El-Abha.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 361).

For me it’s a call for Baha’is to be Baha’is!

I’m not sure what bizarre array of unrelated articles may appear in this blog, but welcome to the show!

personal blogging