for Sanderson Weatherall

A few hours before meeting Building, John Reyers instructed his colleagues not to say anything embarrassing that could appear in print. Within seconds of arriving, John declares: “I really like that little hamstery girl, Sophie Ellis-Bextor.” Hmm.

The topic is fashion, in light of a report that day that Madrid Fashion Week would not allow any models on its catwalk with a body mass index of less than 18, which is technically underweight. How John moved on to his lust for Ellis-Bextor is anybody’s guess and the comment momentarily stuns the party.

Back to the fashion debate, John points out that “Sophie Dahl is Rubenesque”. “She was,” sneers Claire, leading Rob to reminisce that Dahl once had a “Marilyn Monroe look”.

Rob then moans that his figure is pear-like, so he has to buy different-sized jacket and trouser combinations. Like a predator awaiting its prey, this admission gives John the opportunity he’s been waiting for. Pointing to Rob’s slightly fleshy mid-section, he attacks: “Look at that gut. We’ve invested heavily in that. He calls it ‘networking’.”

Rob thinks there is little wrong with his lifestyle, preferring to blame Mother Nature’s unfair distribution of physical attributes: “John eats pie after pie, drinks glass after glass of wine.”

The latter certainly seems true. Building buys a pint is called just that to keep down the expense of this little exercise, but John mocks that notion by ordering a bottle of wine.

Having witnessed him wreck our our expense account, Building is delighted to report that the ladies, who have hitherto been fairly quiet, launch into John’s dress sense with gusto. The tie he is wearing, a pink and blue number, prompts the backhanded compliment from Rupa: “At least it’s not the other one.”

John runs through a list of his ties as he tries to work out what the monstrosity that is “the other one” could be. A particularly hideous sounding piece of neck furniture featuring a gold-dotted brown knot is dismissed, with Claire remarking: “Oh no, John, there is another one.” As it turns out, it is a grey beast designed by Vivienne Westwood.

Having rapidly descended into farce, the team see no point in defending their reputations. Rupa admits that staff at the chartered surveyor frequently swap ties and borrow jackets as they try to assess how well dressed they should be for particular clients.

It turns out many of their clients are old school, expecting them to be perfectly attired, while others, such as Google, are in John’s words, “very funky”. Best that Rob doesn’t work with the web giant then, having ventured the opinion: “What’s wrong with M&S?”

  • Chosen watering hole: Browns, Mayfair 
  • Ambience: Slick, shiny faux-Victorian 
  • Principal topic: Fashion triumphs and disasters 
  • Drinks drunk: Two double gin and tonics, one double vodka and Coke, one bottle of sauvignon blanc (two glasses) and one pint of Erdinger Weissbier

Those present …

  • John Reyers director
  • Claire Holbrook building surveyor
  • Rupa Vandra CAD technician
  • Robert King associate director
  • Lydia Stockdale Building magazine
  • Mark Leftly Building magazine