… for Halcrow

After a frantic journey to rectify a situation in which Halcrow and Building had spent 15 minutes sitting in different branches of chain bar Corney & Barrow, the first thing on the engineers’ minds was the heat of the Tube.

“I know they tell you to take water, but it’s so nagging, it’s like in winter when your mum nags you to wear a scarf,” says Richard, a middle-aged man who should probably be responsible for his own woollies by now. “They need a proper way of cooling it.”

Bob thinks he has the answer: “Chiller wagons,” he announces happily. “Like a big refrigerator on the back of the train. It pumps cold air around the Tube, so by the end of the journey it contains the hot air from the carriages. You can change it for another cool one at the end of the line.”

Richard, however, quickly spots a flaw with Bob’s chillers. “What about the Circle line? It just goes round and round. You couldn’t change the fridge.”

Bob is thoughtful. “Circles are bad for fridges and timetabling,” he says, nodding sagely.

“Going round and round means things aren’t regulated. You get bunching,” says Gareth. Then a more fundamental problem with Bob’s idea strikes him. “You’re carefully billing this idea as yours, but you’re on Halcrow time. We’re taking part in its further development over a few beers. It can’t be your copyright.”

David, silent until now, has been busy plotting his own masterplan. “Tubes act like pistons. The sustainable method is air inlets …”

“That’s a little technical,” interrupts Gareth. He prefers Richard’s next idea: “If you gave everyone a beer it would be alright. You wouldn’t mind being stuck for two hours.”

At this point, a giant screen showing the build-up to Wimbledon kicks into action, prompting Richard to go to management to complain about the volume.

Bhavini is appreciative: “I’m avoiding sport. Blocking it out. I did feel sorry for David Beckham, though, crying after Portugal. He’ll lose a lot of advertising revenue.”

Gareth is pleased by Richard’s intervention, which has secured a lull in the wails of Sue Barker. “There’s too much technology around. My stepdaughter sits on MSN with her mobile to her ear, and the house phone in front of her in case it goes off.” He complains about his £150 phone bill. “I listened to her the other day. She didn’t convey one useful piece of information.”

For a moment, it seems Richard has a solution. “I’ve heard of this scheme where you swap your children with some from a local university in term time, then swap back for the holidays.” He pauses. “But then you’d just have someone else’s awful kids in your house.”

  • Location: Outside Corney & Barrow, Liverpool Street 
  • Ambiance: Upmarket, summer-in-the-City bar 
  • Bar order: Kirin (bottles – no pints for sale), Ivanhoe (the closest thing they had to bitter); Pimm’s, lime ‘n’ soda (pah!), red wine, four packets of crisps 
  • Principal topic: London transport

Those present …

Richard Thiemann Halcrow’s regional director
Bob Allison project director
Bhavini Vyas engineer
David Cubas senior engineer
Gareth Hardwick project director
Sarah Richardson Building reporter