Dinosaurs, foreign languages and having friends in pharmacy are among the topics discussed over a few pints and glasses of wine in Holborn

My taxi driver reliably informed me he had been ferrying a “whole lot of people” to the Whippet pub in Holborn of late. It certainly seems to be a popular venue. Recently re-opened, the Whippet - an inviting, wood-panelled and real ale affair - was teeming with people on the Tuesday evening I met the crowd from Appleyards and its French parent company Artelia.

We start with a topic that’s hard to beat - dinosaurs. Specifically a couple of the Artelia-ites have been to see the comically inaccurate Victorian-era statues of dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park in south London. Unveiled in 1854 - six years before Charles’ Darwin’s On the Origin of Species - the statues were based on very few dinosaur bones and very little knowledge - leading to bizarre results, plus a lot of over-sized turtles and crocodiles. Anna says her four and eight-year-old, dinosaur-mad children were “not impressed”.

Appleyards boasts the unusual distinction of being a French-owned consultant after it was acquired by Artelia last March. So how is the French coming along? Julian admits he had really good intentions to learn French a few years before the takeover and signed up for classes at an adult education centre but gave up in a matter of months. C’est la vie!
It’s not just French and English spoken at Artelia UK, though. Natalia - born to Italian parents in Argentina - says she’s trying to limit the amount of Italian she uses as she has a tendency to chat to two fellow speakers in the office in the language and the others can feel a bit left out. Still, good for gossiping, I imagine.

Julian admits that his evening classes in French only lasted a matter of months. C’est la vie!

It must be nice visiting the company’s global headquarters in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Paris? Yes and no, I’m told.

The team points out that they enjoy their trips but the office is a fair distance out of town in a business district in the shadow of France’s national sports stadium Stade de France. Hardly a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower. A bit like being told you’ll work from an office in London only to find yourself having to schlepp over to Chiswick.

Still, this lot have been fitting in their fair share of globetrotting outside of work. Malay, one of the more junior members of the team, has a number of travel stories to tell. He worked for a time, straight out of university, at a Basque engineering company. The only hitch with this situation was, he said, that his colleagues “only spoke in Basque and I didn’t speak a word”. He reassures us that he did pick a bit up after a while.

He’s also not long back from a trip to the US, where he took in Las Vegas with a friend who’s started a life for himself there as a pharmacist. He claims the two of them were able
to jump queues and were given discounts at various exclusive venues - including the famous Bellagio hotel - because he is known around town as a pharmacist. Who knew pharmacy came with similar perks to movie stardom?

Less recently, Michael tells us of a scout jamboree he attended when he was younger which took in surfing and hiking in Brazil and Chile. Which is slightly cooler than cooking pancakes with an upturned tin and a candle in a windswept British campsite.

Chosen watering hole: The Whippet, Holborn
Topics discussed: Dinosaurs, foreign languages, having friends in pharmacy
Drinks drunk: Four glasses of wine, 24 various pints
Who was there:
Julian Hunt project manager
Gareth Stewart  project manager (hotels)
Natalia Delfino  project manager (Shell)
Malay Lakhlani  graduate quantity surveyor
Maggie Llewelyn associate
Bill Phelps director of project management
Michael Ayres project manager
Anna King external PR
Iain Withers Building