He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

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I am. Happy



Destination Nürburgring (Part Two)

Part two of my road-trip travelogue...


I’m pleased to say that today I achieved an ambition. After five and a half years of training, I passed my black-belt (1st Dan) grading.

A small selection of blurry-legged images are attached below so that you can get a vague idea of what’s going on. I felt that I generally didn’t do bad at all - I held my own and it was one of the better gradings I’ve done for a while. Am I pleased? Definitely. It’s the only sporting achievement I’ve ever managed.

However, it’s time to go back to practising hard, because there’s still plenty of room for improvement and nobody’s going to care about your black-belt if they can still punch you in the face...


Destination Nürburgring (Part One)

At the beginning of this year, I went on a 2,000 mile road-trip across Europe in my Smart Roadster. Since my trip to the U.S. back in 2008, I'd discovered that I quite like road-trip holidays and decided to do a European version. What you'll be reading here is part one from the first week, which I composed on the road at the end of each day via Blogger (Google). To cut a long story short, I've transferred all the posts onto my own site for your reading pleasure.

Be warned, this is quite a long document with a fair amount of pictures in it. If you have a slow connection then it may take a while to download. Additionally, instead of merely regurgitating what I'd already written back then, I've added a few more pictures and words - so even if you've read it before you might find something new, although you may not see some of the original pictures (yet), as I'll be publishing a gallery with all those in quite soon.

Enjoy reading.

Catching up...

It would be fair to say that dalliard.net has had quite a significant time of outage - about six months, if you've been counting. The reasons why this happened are quite numerous, but if you've been reading my ramblings for the last few years it won't be that much of a surprise to you - so consider this some form of half-arsed explanation. At the same time, I can give you a potted summary of what's happened to date, because there's been a fair bit. Really, there has.

FIrst of all, in a move that may surprise you, I now have no internet connection at home. This is because it's reasonable to assume that internet access is prevalent enough in the rest of the world, so I dont actually need to pay for it any more. Hell, you can ever wardrive down the street these days. As an aside, the other thing that bugged me was that I had to pay for a phone-line that I never used just so I could have an internet connection. By killing both off, I've saved myself a good bit of money. Anyway, my cheap and cheerful USB dongle will give me access if I ever get stuck....

As I no longer had an internet service provider, I needed to find other means to host the site. My site is now hosted with a reliable company that only cost me a couple of quid per month and I've used them for years on other projects, so I knew they were a good choice. With the exception of a few minor setup niggles, the transition to the new sever has been relatively painless and everything appears to work. I was starting to lose confidence in my previous ISP anyway, so the decision to jump ship was long overdue.

Apart from all this, you'll obviously have seen from my last posting that I'm going to be a father - and that's all still going to plan. Ms Dalliard is doing nicely and feels like she's about to explode, but I'm looking forward to it all. Things are pretty much set-up and ready for the infamous call of the stork at my door. Expectations are that I'll be getting an early Christmas present - and I couldn't ask for anything more. Grumpy old man I may be, but I love Ms Dalliard and her bump.

Of course, that's not all. I've changed job three times, had a spot of surgery (the stitching of an epigastric hernia) and at the same time have managed to keep my ju-jitsu training going. I shall attempt my black-belt grading in approximately three weeks time.

It's fair to say that it's been a fairly action-packed six months.

Nonetheless, with the transition to a new server now complete and things a bit more settled, I'm hoping that my posts might get a bit more frequent again.

But the big question is - will you still be coming back to read them?

I hope so.

All change, please...

I guess I should offer an explanation for my near two-month absence. Apologies aplenty will follow once I’ve got my thinly-veiled attempt of an excuse out of the way.

It all started one day near a public toilet in Paddington Station a few weeks ago. Whilst you’re probably thinking that I was ready to commence an act of George Michaelesque indecency, I was actually looking for something else - namely platform nine and three quarters*, Paddington Bear and sushi. I found two out of the three, but instead of finding owls, wizards and Robbie Coltrane, I discovered something of greater significance.

One usually visits a public toilet in order to perform their ablutions when in dire need. A public toilet is not the throne of choice, especially as it costs thirtty pence for the privilege. There’s nothing like your own, as they say - and that could not ring more true today, but needs must when the devil squeezes your bladder.

I sat on the concourse bench just outside the conveniences and waited. I should add that the bench was not my throne of choice, merely a place to pass the time whilst I waited for somebody else. And lo, a few minutes later, a pink-haired figure walked towards me with a piece of plastic in her hand, the sort of plastic that I am reliably informed is the most advanced piece of technology that one can urinate on. The pink-haired lady showed me the window. Urine dribbled down the stick. Advanced technology it may be, watertight it aint.

“It’s a positive”, she said.

And at that moment, a smile popped on my face, as I realised I was going to become a father. A provisional date of the 29th of November has been given**. Expect to be bored with more info shortly.

Sorry for being slack.

*OK, Pedants - I know Harry Potter was at Kings Cross Station, but really, I don’t give a jewel-encrusted arse.
**No, smart-arse - the wee-stick isn’t that good. That’s something called a midwife - they don’t require batteries. Well, perhaps just when they’re off duty.


For the last few years now, I’ve had a certain amount of money saved up. This was my special “rainy day” fund for the house, enabling me to get all those things that needed to be done, done. If you know what my place was like when I moved in, you’ll also know that it’s had something of a transformation. I’ve had the windows replaced, had a completely new bathroom, a chunk of the kitchen done, soundproofing work, interior doors placed and I’ve created new storage spaces. It’s coming on nicely, but my attention has been drawn to the exterior of the building, which has been suffering in the recent bad weather.

In short, I need new guttering, fascia boards and soffits. This is no small job. To get access, the job would require a significant amount of scaffolding, along with the added complication of trying to build it over my neighbour’s property. It’s not an easy one, but there’s plenty of work there for the person who wants to do it. I know it’s not going to be a five minute job - and I don’t need any bloke to suck breath repeatedly through their teeth to tell me that. Hell, all I care is that an expert does the damn thing before the house starts to leak, bits fall off or my neighbours lose their rag with me. Easy enough, you’d think - especially as I’ve got the cash up front.

So back in December, I started to source a builder to do the job - I made six phone calls to different builders to get a quote for the work.

  • Of the six, three didn’t even return a call.
  • Only two actually came to have a look.
  • Only one finally wrote a quote on a bit of paper.

When I asked the final chap for a breakdown on his quote, he never returned my calls either.

So I tried a couple others. One who did return calls quoted a price that was plain stupid - evidently to put me off using him. One guy turned up, looked at the job and never put the paperwork together - maybe he was just bored and wanted a look around someone’s house? Who knows. One other guy, who said he would be here on Wednesday came a week later, then said he’d provide the quote after a few days - I’m still waiting after two weeks. It’s slackness of the highest degree.

I find this all rather hard to understand. Builders are essentially a law unto themselves. I can’t think of any other industry in which it would be tolerated if the company didn’t give the remotest fuck about the customer, fobbed them off with craptalk, didn’t do what they said they were going to and just picked to do what the hell they wanted. Most firms would go under - which I suppose leads me to my next point.

With gloom and doom aplenty in the media on the subject of the economic climate, we are also informed that the construction industry is finding life hard at the moment. I’m not surprised. If they can’t return calls, are workshy, have the administrative abilities of a poorly-trained chimp and the customer service skills of a goblin, then my sympathy is very short-lived - possibly even non-existent. What they’ve failed to compute is that one good job probably deserves another, that actually I could just be dipping my toe into the concrete to see how they fare, with the potential of a whole pile of other work in the offing - I’ve got plenty to keep them occupied. There’s a significant amount of work that needs to be done and I just want someone competent to do it, is that too much to ask?

It would seem so. Of course, if you’ve got a good builder recommendation, feel free to drop me a line. In the meantime I’ll sit tight, ready and waiting for the leaking to start, until someone deigns they can be bothered to get off their arse.

mrdalliard's mixed-metaphor meal menu

The internet has a lot to answer for. With all this communication stuff going on, the world really has got a bit small - if you’ll pardon the cliché. We can now share videos of trampolining foxes and stoats having fits in seconds with our distant “loved-ones”. Miraculous, eh? Thanks boffins!

Of course, it’s not just communication that’s benefited from all this internet stuff - it’s food. If you compared the contents of your fridge to what you had in there thirty years ago, you’d probably notice that it’s got a bit more of an international flavour. Indeed, as I sit on my Japanese futon, drink Italian cappuccino and eat Russian blini*, I’ve had a moment of realisation - food is just going to get more boring. We’ve probably discovered just about everything. There’s nothing new left to discover, is there?

To illustrate my point, think about curry. I had my first curry at the age of six - thirty-ish years ago. At this point, it was something new and exciting. Nowadays, I’m eating the damn stuff all the time and it’s become the norm. It’s the British national dish. It’s just so easy to become bored with something when you’ve tried it all before. We need something new. New experiences are the basis of what makes life interesting, but unless we have visitors from another world in the near future, I doubt that Earth-cuisine is going to radically change.

But fear not! I think I’ve come up with a short-term solution to this food-boredom dilemma - how about mixing our food-related metaphors?

Think about it, there’s a whole pile of weird names out there. There’s Pigs in blankets, Toad in the Hole, Spotted Dick and Angels/Devils on Horseback. All we need to do is mix the metaphors up and then we’ve got an entirely new menu.

  • Cock in the hole = chicken in batter.
  • Toady dick = sausage-based sponge pudding.
  • Leekie Angel = Scallop/oyster and leek/potato soup.
  • Spotted blankets = Vine fruits in bacon.

I’m sure you could think of more - there’s plenty of possibilities out there.

Don’t mock. All I shall say to you is this - what you scoff at today, you will be scoffing tomorrow.**

*For illustrative purposes only.
** Of course, you may be thinking this was a thinly-vailed attempt to produce innuendo-esque meal names. You’d be right.

Jump-leads for two.

About three weeks ago in a random cafe just outside Liege, I made a resolution - I wasn’t going to drink lousy coffee ever again. My European experience highlighted one key fact - that in Britain, we positively suck at making good coffee. We rely on machines that splut awful brown liquids into a cup, manufactured by a guy whose second-cousin might have once seen a coffee bean. Then, when we want a “good coffee experience”, we give nasty chain-establishments money to serve a sub-standard product made from the naffest (and cheapest blend) of beans available. It’s not a good state of affairs at all, especially when the chains generally fleece us for the privilege of drinking it. Most prices are about 50% higher than our European counterparts - even if you allow for our currently sucky pound-euro exchange-rate.

If you’ve read my travelblog, you’ll already know that I thought Liege blows. Nonetheless, in that cafe, I was still enjoying good coffee. Good coffee is pretty much synonymous with most countries in Western-Europe (apart from you, Germany, get to the back of the class). It doesn’t take a brain the size of a planet to work out that if a country has good cafe-culture, it probably does good coffee. In fact, I’d almost go as far as to say that the worst French coffee I’ve had is still infinitely better than virtually any British attempt. We British are lazy and cut corners. I recently had the misfortune to buy a coffee from somewhere that used premixed-liquids inserted in a machine - and it’s just wrong. Where’s the skill and craft in that?

When my cappuccino-maker recently exploded*, I decided steps had to be taken and started looking through t’internet to find a suitable starter machine. It turns out that you can spend as much as you like on a proper coffee-machine, with prices easily going into the thousands. At the moment I’m merely dipping my toe into the brown-stuff and don’t want to exchange a kidney** for a £3k Gaggia machine just yet. So, with some money in one hand and a pile of internets in the other, I made my wish-list of features:

  • Takes normal coffee - not any of that pod-crap that forces me to buy my coffee-pods from a company who can decide to hike up the price whenever they want.
  • Uses a pump-system to do the brewing.
  • A reasonably decent milk-steamer.
  • A solid, non-cheap looking unit, but not too huge. My brown-stained kitchen is quite small, after all.

Then, one day whilst out shopping in a supermarket which shall remain nameless, I happened to stumble on this - a DeLonghi EC710.

Coffee Machine

As a starting point, this got reasonable reviews and was generally recommended as a good n00b’s coffee-maker. At £75, it was also half-price. If the machine is a mistake, it’s only a £75 mistake, not a £150 one. I decided to go for it.

Now we come to the quality bit. Sure, you get some free Illy coffee-pads in there, but I’ve had better results with using my own stuff. It’s got a cup-warmer on the top and doesn’t do too bad a brew, as long as you ensure the system is thoroughly warmed through first. The system is also fairly idiot-proof, with a nice little “OK” indicator light when it’s ready to go, something that usually takes less than about thirty seconds. The pump isn’t the quietest, but I’d expected no less - I’m at the amoeba end of the coffee evolutionary scale. Nonetheless, having used it for a few weeks now I’m pretty happy with it. The espresso is reasonable, with a bit of crema on the top. Nonetheless, it’s a vast improvement over most of the coffee I’ve had recently and as I’m now regularly brewing real jump-leads for two, I hope never to touch a drop of instant again.

* It did, don’t laugh. In a Vesuvius style eruption, black coffee erupted over my kitchen ceiling. The ceiling needs repainting to remove the brown stains I couldn’t scrub off.

New Feed

Most people that know me know I have many pet-hates. One pet-hate near the top of my list (the list in my head, that is) is my dislike of social-networking sites. I’ve been virulently against the likes of MySpace (though that’s mostly a design aesthetics issue), Facebook and Bebo for quite a while now. I’ve seen many people take it way too far - to the detriment of their working and personal lives. Shame on you, you silly boys and girls. No supper and straight to bed for you.

It would therefore strike you as odd that I should decide to join one, because yesterday I started twittering. My argument would be that it’s not really so much a social-networking site, more of a micro-blogging tool - but I understand completely if you think I’ve sold-out and broken one of my taboos. Hey - what am I going to do to convince you otherwise? Come and give you a good kicking? I think not. Anyway, you look like you could have me in a fight and your wife looks quite hard too, so I’ll just distract you by changing the subject as to why I quite like doing it.

The joy of twitter is that it forces you to think long and hard about what you write. You’ve only got 140 characters to get your message across, after all. Add that to my ingrained laziness, which coerces me into blogging with as little effort as possible and you get the idea. I can tweet to my heart’s content with text-messages whilst out and about. The subject matter will be random and won’t just be a breakdown of what I had for lunch that day. Irrelevant and sporadic are the words to consider here, along with the words gusset and philtrum, although I might be using those a bit less.

So, should you wish to follow my twitterings, feel free. I’m listed under dalliard_dotnet. There’s also a local twitter page should you prefer the alternative presentation.

But if you think the whole thing is shite, good for you - at least you’re sticking by your principles.

Pining for the fjords...

As you’ll have seen from my previous posts, I’ve now disappeared on my european road-trip.

If you’d like to keep up with what’s going on whilst I’m away then check out this link, where a (more or less) day-by-day update will be posted.

Update (29th January 2009) - I’ll be moving the entire travelblog to this site in a couple of weeks. Once I get it into Rapidweaver (my blogging tool of choice), I’ll tart it up a bit and proof-read it so that it actually makes sense in places.


As the new year arrives, it’s time to make the final preparations before I commence my road-trip and head to Denmark - I leave the UK on Sunday.

Since I booked the ferry crossing back in October, a lot has changed - most importantly the pound is now worth nothing on the international currency market, so I’m going to have to perform the trip on a very tight shoestring - so I’ll be taking the following steps to stretch my pound whilst I’m away:

1) I will be making use of Europe’s extensive youth-hostel network in conjunction with another jolly useful website that allows me to hunt down cheap bed’n’breakfast accommodation. I shouldn’t have to pay more than £25/night for a bed and a meal, plus youth-hostels allow me to mingle and get a bit of social interaction whilst I’m travelling. YHA membership, along with the power of word-of-mouth should help in getting some discounts whilst I travel.

2) As the whole point of the journey is to explore, I can’t say I’m really that fussed about gastronomic experiences in über-expensive restaurants, so I’ll be doing a lot of self-catering - Lidl, here we come!

3) I’ve scaled down the distance that I’ll be driving over the fortnight, from 2,500+ miles to little more than 1,500. This’ll save on fuel costs. I wanted to go to Liechtenstein, but this probably isn’t a realistic option now.

I’ve got loads more ideas for money-saving up my sleeve, but I’ll leave those for you to read about when I commence my travelogue. No doubt my tightwad antics will keep you entertained.

As you’ll have seen from my previous paragraph, I shall be writing a travelogue whilst I’m away. With my trusty eee netbook and a USB broadband-dongle, I should be able to keep you suitably updated on my progress. If there’s one thing I learnt from the U.S. trip, it’s that you can’t expect to write up your adventures after the event and still expect it to be a good-read (hence, the reason why you’ve not seen a summary from that trip).

Before I leave on Sunday morning I’ll post the travelogue address for you to follow - in the meantime, have a Happy New Year.