Topping Diaeresis

I recently finished reading ‘The Luckiest Girl in the School’ by Angela Brazil. I’ve been using the mobipocket e-book reader on my Nokia N95 smartphone.

The book is set during the Great War of 1914-1918, and seems to have been written about the same time. I imagine that at the time it may have been described as ‘an improving book for girls’. Or possibly ‘gels’.

The language used in the dialogue is marvellous. It reminded me of Harry Enfield’s Mr Cholmondley-Warner.

At least two characters use the word ‘topping’. From ‘The Cassell Dictionary of Slang’ by Jonathon Green:

topping adj. [early 19C+] excellent, enjoyable, first-rate. [SE top, 20C use is either ironic or consciously archaic]

I also encountered the word ‘aëroplane’, which I assumed was an umlaut over the first e. In fact it turns out it’s a diaeresis (or trema). From the Wikipedia:

It indicates that two adjoining letters that would normally form a digraph are actually split over two syllables. To put it simply: the diaeresis indicates that a vowel should be pronounced apart from the letter which precedes it.

For example, in the spelling coöperate, it reminds the reader that the word has four syllables, not three.

Noël Coward is pronounced No-el rather than Nole.
Noöne is no-one rather than noon.

A topping story and discovering a new feature of English, now that is tip-top!

UPDATE: Who knew that getting WordPress to deal with accented characters would be so difficult?


Last night I went to the last of this season’s late-night (starting at 22:15) Proms at the Royal Albert Hall to see Penguin Café.

In a previous life and a previous generation, this group was known as the Penguin Café Orchestra.

Whereas the PCO was led by Simon Jeffes, the newly reconstituted PC are led by Simon’s son Arthur. Simon passed away at a tragically early age in 1997.

The music was excellent, and it was absolutely fascinating to see. It turns out that I had no idea what a harmonium looked like!

The Penguin Café’s music style is described in the Programme as ‘unclassifiable’. Possibly their most popular piece is called ‘Telephone and Rubber Band’, which features repeating overlaid ringing and engaged tones that Simon Jeffes heard when he got a crossed line sometime in the 1970s. Simon recorded the tones and wrote the musical accompaniment. It was used extensively in recent T-Mobile adverts on TV.

Having missed the Proms completely last year, it was fabulous to be in the Royal Albert Hall once again.

A thoroughly enjoyable concert, it was very well summed up by the lady sitting next to me as ‘bringing back memories of my youth’. You can’t say fairer than that :-)

Milan Linate Lounge Update

I realise that this post may not be relevant for many people, but if you should find yourself in Milan’s Linate airport with access to a lounge, the Priority Pass lounge has moved and is now called the Leonardo lounge.

The good news is that the new lounge is much nicer than the old one, it has a very modern vibe. The loos are fabulous :-)

The range of food on offer is very good, and there is free WiFi (ask for a card at reception).

Probably the best place to be when your flight is delayed :-)

Eurostar and Mobile Telephones

For the first time I was on the Eurostar and it was still light outside. This means that you can see much more clearly just how fast you’re going. 186mph/300kph is Properly Fast!

Speaking to a colleague at work, I’m told that making phone calls on the Eurostar when it’s at full speed is problematic to say the least. It seems that switching from one cell to the next only works if the handset is travelling at 155mph/250kph or less. So at full chat, you’ll be able to make the call but as soon as your handset tries to switch to the next cell it will drop the call.

Who knew?

How Long?

Gosh, I’ve just noticed how long it’s been since I posted anything here. May 2009 is the most recent post before today.

In my defence, I have been rather busy :-)

I married the very lovely Ruth on October 21st last year. In the Las Vegas Hilton. And oh my goodness, it was fabulous.

We stayed at the Luxor the first week we were away. Dr Jan’s Tip From The Top – don’t. The Luxor was a really depressing place :-( OK, the pyramid is a fantastic building, and inside it’s an enormous atrium – all the rooms are around the outside. There are many buildings within the pyramid, which look good when you’re down on the floor walking around. However, when you are walking to your room along a long balcony overlooking them, all you can see is the dirty, scuzzy back walls which are not even clean, let alone decorated.

There are no elevators, they have ‘Inclinators’ instead, which slide up and down the inclined walls in the corners of the pyramid. Unfortunately the inclinators look exactly like elevators when you’re in them and I can’t help feeling they missed a trick by not building windows in to the cars and shafts.

We flew down to San Diego for the weekend and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay, which was completely marvellous in all respects :-) The main thing it did was make me realise how depressed I had become staying at the Luxor.

We flew back to Vegas on Sunday and saw the Jersey Boys show, which we both enjoyed a huge amount. Then we checked in to the Las Vegas Hilton. Due to a cock-up with our booking we had been upgraded for our entire stay to a suite. Except that actually it was two suites in one :-) We were on the 25th floor, right at the end of a corridor. We had a suite on each side of the passageway, but there were double doors which could be closed across the end of the corridor, effectively making the last 10 feet of the corridor our entrance hall :-)

We’d seen my parents before we went to San Diego, but most people started arriving on Monday, which was a really exciting moment for me. Suddenly everything stopped being a never ending list of things to be done and started being a fabulous time with fabulous people.

Tuesday we had arranged a limo trip of the strip for everyone. Given that there were 16 of us altogether, we had 2 limos. So, naturally, there was a Boys limo and a Girls limo :-) The trip was surprisingly good – we stopped off to see the erupting volcano at the Mirage, the “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign as you enter Las Vegas (where we saw Elvis) and then the dancing fountains at the Bellagio. We ended up at the Freemont Street Experience, which was excellent.

Wednesday we got married :-) (Email me if you want links to the photos)

Thursday we were taken on a surprise trip in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. It was absolutely magical and we all had a fabulous time. Even though I’d flown over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter on a previous trip, this one was made special by the people I was with and the fact that we stopped for a champagne picnic near the bottom of the canyon.

Friday we flew to San Francisco for a week’s honeymoon. We stayed at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay, which is nice, just not anywhere near San Francisco :-)

We flew to and from America with Virgin Atlantic on their Premium Economy service. Well worth the extra money, and a fabulous experience.

Since then we decided to move house (to High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire), and we’re still in the middle of packing, moving and unpacking more stuff than you can reasonably shake a stick at.

Adventures with Broadband

I recently had to change my broadband provider, mainly as a result of moving house.

Previously on Twin Peaks I was with Virgin Media. I had a fibre-optic cable in to the house which provided cable TV, phone and broadband services. The broadband ran at a nifty 20Mbps (20 mega bits per second) for downloads.

In my new abode I’ve had to resort to ADSL. So now I have a shiny new BT Home Hub, which seems to manage about 4Mbps most of the time.

Cool things which I like about the BT Home Hub:

  • it looks cool
  • it has a VOIP phone handset which charges up when sitting in the integrated cradle
  • I’m automatically a member of BT FON

Let me tell you about FON :-) The idea is that a tiny bit of your bandwidth is made available on a completely separate WiFi network which is open to anyone (with valid credentials) who happens to be within range of your WiFi router.

In return for providing this service for people in my area, I can connect to any other FON hotspot in the world (and there are many) for free. So if I’m out and about with my smartphone and I notice I’m in range of a FON hotspot, I can log in with my BT Broadband credentials and browse away. Magic :-)

BT FON is enabled by default on all new BT Total Broadband packages which include the Home Hub.

As you can see from the FON website, it’s not just BT who are doing this. I think FON started in Spain (although I’m less sure of that now) and have expanded from there. Their routers are called ‘La Fonera’. Which is nice :-)

So, if your stuck with ADSL, BT seem to be a reasonable option to take.

Good Guestage

I first heard the word ‘guestage’ on BBC London 94.9 (formerly GLR – Greater London Radio), the BBC’s local radio station for London on the Gideon Coe show. Something like “…we have some excellent guestage coming up this afternoon…”.

It’s a fabulous word which just invites you to create lots of new words in a similar vein. I’m just in the middle of some prime quality bloggage, for example.

I’ve just seen a tweet from Saint Stephen of Fry:

Good guestage today on QI: Bill Bailey, Danny Baker & Jeremy Clarkson as well as @alandavies1 of course

which pleases me greatly :-)

Life’s An Adventure – Dress Accordingly

Easter Monday I went with selected friends and family to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert, a musical in London’s West End starring Jason Donovan.

Everything about the show was completely fabulous! I haven’t had such a good time for ages :-)

Of course I loved the outrageous costumes, the fantastic footwear and the marvellous men, but for me, the star of the show was the bus. When the three main characters paint the bus, it becomes pink by virtue of a huge matrix of pink LEDs (Little Electric Doobreys) lighting up as the brushes pass over the surface. And this is just one of the amazing things which happen to the bus :-)

The show follows the story of the film fairly closely, which is quite an impressive feat given that the film is essentially a road-movie.

If you get the chance, go and see this show. It’s fun, the outfits are incredible, and the songs are predominantly well-known disco classics. Chaps, get in touch with your feminine side and strut your funky stuff – and if you forget your feather boa you can get one in the foyer!

I haven’t just topped up my Fabulousness Quotient for the year, I’ve got enough in stock for the next ten years :-)

The Beast Lives!

I’m pleased to report that the Benz Is Back! The Mercedes-Benz C43 AMG is in rather better shape than it has been of late :-)

Side view of The Beast

Previously on Twin Peaks, the battery had become completely flat, mainly due to a complete lack of driving activity. I have been in the habit of taking it out for a drive every month or so to keep everything in working order and the battery topped up. Unfortunately, it was a bit longer than usual between drives, and when I went to open the car recently the battery was completely exhausted.

Rear view of The Beast

On the C43 AMG the battery is in the boot, partly to improve the balance of the car, but mainly because there’s no room left under the bonnet once you’ve squeezed a 4.3 litre V8 in there. Normally in this situation I’d pop open the boot using the special button on the key-fob and attach the battery charging device directly to the battery, leave overnight and try again in the morning.

Front view of The Beast

However, in this instance, because the battery was completely without life, none of the buttons on the key-fob were functioning. I reverted to backup manual procedures and used the key to open the driver’s door. There is a switch on the centre console which opens the boot remotely, but unfortunately it’s electrically operated. It is at this point that I discovered that the manual lock on the boot lid was corroded beyond the point where it could be operated. Boo!

I spoke to the always excellent George Fraser, who revealed that under the bonnet on the passenger side, near the bonnet hinge there is a small black plastic cover which, when opened, reveals a fairly substantial electrical connection to the battery. Hurrah!

The Beast\'s engine bay.

I connected the battery charger and was then able to use the interior switch to open the boot. Unfortunately, the alarm siren was also activated, so I removed the charger. Now the boot was open, I re-attached the charger directly to the battery and turned it on. Although the alarm siren was re-activated, I was assured by the owners handbook that opening the car using the key-fob control would silence it. That turned out to be a lie. The handbook also mentions that putting the key in the ignition and turning the ignition on will silence the alarm. That also turned out to be a lie.

So, with desperate measures called for, I jump started the Beast from the Xantia. I’m extremely pleased (as are my neighbours) to say that the alarm eventually fell silent. In retrospect, I suspect that the alarm sounds for 30 seconds and then resets, and until I started the car it hadn’t been on for 30 seconds consecutively.

Having successfully started the Beast, the only thing to do then was take it out for a drive. So, just a quickie, about 30 miles or so. Now I’ve re-attached the charger and will try it again tomorrow.

The Beast\'s dashboard.


I drove the Beast in to work today and it was fine. I pumped up the tyres (the fronts were down about 5 pounds, the rears somewhat more) and filled up with fuel. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to drive! You can fairly fling it around corners with no problem. And there is always a mountain of torque on hand. Driving at 70 in the Beast feels like 40 in most other cars. 70 is not even half vmax (it’s electronically limited to 155mph or 250kph) and it feels like it just wants to leap ahead all the time. You have to be very restrained to keep at 70 :-)

So, now I need to get it serviced and MOT’d (what a strange expression – “I’d like a Ministry Of Transport for my car please”). Then it’s ready for a new owner :-)

Open Street Map…

…and use.

I’ve recently discovered It’s a collaborative wiki-style map of the entire world. Google maps (and pretty much every other variety available on the web) are very restrictive in terms of what you can do with them. They have to be, because they are, in turn, restricted by their licence agreements with the suppliers of the map data.

OpenStreetMap is a free map which anyone can update. Go and search for your house now. If you create an account, you can then update the map. There are several tools available, both downloadable (the excellent josm for example) and on-line (the potlatch editor). I’ve mainly been using potlatch. It will show you aerial photo images from Yahoo maps ‘underneath’ the map, similar to the Google Maps hybrid view. This means that you can simply ‘trace’ the roads and other features from the Yahoo images, which seems to be acceptable use. If you have a suitable GPS-enabled device you can record ‘trails’ and upload the data. Then you can trace your GPS trails to create roads and other map features.

The road I live in was completely absent from the map, so I’ve added it in, along with some other missing local roads. I used my Nokia N95 phone with the very excellent Nokia Sports Tracker application to generate the GPS trails. Then I was able to email the generated .GPX files directly from the phone to my PC. From there I uploaded the files to OpenStreetMap and used them in the potlatch map editor to create the roads on the map.

Even if you don’t have access to GPS equipment, it’s still very easy and useful to update road names (and possibly numbers) for features you know well and are sure about. The main caveat is “don’t use any existing maps as a source”, otherwise you’ll almost inevitably be infringing copyright.

All in all, a very interesting and worthwhile project in my opinion :-)