… for Como

“So we’re talking about whether the industry has a drink problem, right?” says John, ripping his tie off and slinging it on the back of a chair. There’s a glint in his eye: “We’d better get the whisky chasers in then – helps me think more clearly.”

This, fortunately, is a joke and his colleagues fall about laughing. Robin is the first to recover. “It’s not like it was when I first started, 20 years ago,” he says, soberly. David and Lee sneak each other a knowing look while John nods sagely. “There was a lot more boozing in those days,” continues Robin.

John agrees and proceeds to recount his own experiences of the industry’s in-their-eyes-now-cured alcohol obsession.

“When I first started, everyone was a hardened drinker. They used to go on all evening. The foremen would drink all night and then go on site the next day.”

He pauses, suddenly enlightened, and adds: “So that means they must have still been drunk on site the next morning. That’s dangerous, that is…”

He trails off, lost in thought.

David is indignant that his counterparts across the industry are looked upon by the outside world as a bunch of alcoholic ne’er-do-wells. “If you look at the finance industry, they have a much bigger problem than us – especially with drugs,” he argues.

“That’s probably because we are poorer,” John quips.

But David won’t be put off. “I’ve never been offered drugs at work or any industry do, but I have when I’m with my finance friends.”

Lee, who has been observing quietly from the corner, thinks he knows why the industry, apparently, doesn’t drink as much now. “There are more breakfast meetings these days,” he decrees. The others couldn’t agree more.

Lee continues: “It’s a very macho industry so people used to drink a lot. But now it’s unacceptable to come back to work drunk, so the days of boozy lunches are gone.”

“It is harder these days not to come back to the office and carry on working after lunch,” David interjects.

As Building buys a second round, the conversation turns to the Como team’s pet subject – sustainability.

“This carbon offset thing,” Robin begins. “It’s bit of a fudge, isn’t it?”

And they’re off. Over the next few drinks, it’s pencils made from recycled plastic, compulsory two-sided photocopying and a ban on air-conditioning in the office.

“On the few days a year when it’s too hot for no air-con, we just send someone on an ice cream run,” explains David. “We’re fine after that.”

Strangely, this topic elicits much more enthusiasm from them than chats about booze and women. Perhaps the industry really has changed after all …

  • Chosen watering hole: Paternoster, Paternoster Square
  • Ambience: City fringes pub, mixed crowd, annoying dance music
  • Principal topic: The industry’s drink and drug problem
  • Drinks bought: three pints of Spa bitter, three pints of pale ale, three bottles of Peroni, two pints of Fosters

Those present …

  • John Morriss, construction director
  • Lee Penlington, commercial director
  • David Flight, divisional director, Como Homes
  • Robin Harris, sales and marketing director
  • Vikki Miller, Building reporter