The British Council for Offices' Barcelona do was an opportunity for the industry to exchange views, get robbed and become horribly, horribly embarrassed
To sunny Barcelona, for the British Council for Offices' annual conference. A perfect time for a gaggle of 600 contractors, quantity surveyors, architects, clients and assorted hangers-on from the legal and financial services professions to discuss their role in the economic order of post-industrial capitalism, swap thoughts on the philosophy of property and ownership and speculate on the social forces that would shape the workplace of the future. All of which mental wizardry was accomplished on a diet of overpriced champagne while lying on a beach, playing golf, or visiting one of the city's early morning sex shows.

More about the sex shows later.

The title of this year's shindig was Urban Survival – which some of us thought was a reference to the state of the UK office market. We later found out that it might just as well apply to the problems of paying for a hotel room and getting home after one's wallet and passport had been pickpocketed by local entrepreneurs.

The conference itself was kicked off by veteran broadcaster Laurie Taylor, whom, I'm told, gave a very witty speech berating gloommongers for talking down the market. Your correspondent arrived late, thereby earning a personal tongue-lashing from Taylor for missing the biggest story of the conference. "It's like John Simpson being on the plane while Baghdad fell." If you say so, Laurie.

Taylor listened to musings on the housing crisis from cuddly Paul Finch, the CABE deputy chairman, as he sat on a panel discussing the design quality of office buildings. Finch vouchsafed delegates an insight into his own office life, and more particularly his email inbox, which was full of "messages from Hong Kong porn organisations". He was followed by a professor Frank Becker from Cornell University, who was asked the difference between UK and US business people. "Americans are more politically correct and we drink less than you," he observed.

Paul Morrell raised the biggest laugh by advising us to send our minions to next year’s do. It’s in Manchester

The debate ended with an opportunity for delegates to intermingle, for architects to complain about how little office work there was, for those QSs who'd survived deep vein thrombosis to boast about how cheap their flights were and for a particularly smug services engineer to tell us all how his Les Arts accommodation had been upgraded to an apartment on the 40th floor.


Finally, there was the excited contractor, who had just hot-footed it from an early morning establishment. The place to go, he said, was Baghdads on the Barcelona beachfront, which he likened to the tasteful venues situated on the seafront of our own dear Blackpool. Guests entering this venue were, he continued, greeted by the sight of live sex on stage – either shocking or gratifying, depending on your attitude to such things. According to our man, revellers were offered the opportunity of joining the debauch. This was, it seems, an opportunity taken up by one highly inebriated member of the audience. This led to considerable embarrassment for him: you see, a young woman was attempting to, erm … actually, on second thoughts, I'd better not go there. Family magazine, and all that.