It’s a brand new year, and we’re giving up being gloomy, sowing discord, drinking champagne and getting people’s company names wrong. Starting next week, of course

I predict a riot

It’s not often that my musings provoke a shareholder revolt, but the bother over the Bellway bosses’ bumper bonuses that made headlines last week was first noted in December in this very column. Investor watchdog the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has denied claims it has made a scapegoat of the housebuilder (see page 19), but this isn’t entirely borne out by the facts. Redrow announced bonus payments of £216,000 to four directors last November despite losses of £194m and a 550-strong headcount reduction. Where was the

ABI then?

Oh, that M&S I recently received a seasonal missive from Movers & Shakers chairman David Jennings, whom we inexplicably named as head of Marks & Spencer in the last of 2008’s Hansoms. “Thank you for the promotion,” writes David. “Has anyone told Stuart Rose? If you could get to him to clear his desk, I will start on Monday.” Quite how we mixed up a department store and a networking club is too bizarre to explain, but rest assured the only M&S we will be visiting this month is the Dorchester breakfast with Boris Johnson on the 23rd. Apologies …

Paint it black

In response to our call for more Rolling Stones-related place names (19 December), Tom Iles has written from George Brownlee & Partners. “In the current climate I believe ‘It’s All Over Now Drive’ is appropriate.” In a similar vein, an anonymous reader suggested the “Gimme Shelter Housing Association for recently sacked construction workers”. Cheer up, chaps!

She’s a card

Full marks to Liz Male Consulting for the wittiest Christmas card of the season - an official-looking December addendum to the Building Regulations entitled “Festive Structural Amendments”. These incorporated “Miracles and other minor works”, “Heavenly host requirements” and “Protection against impact of season”. The card can be seen on

Ain’t no sunshine till they’re gone

As if things weren’t difficult enough for housebuilders, they are now accused of standing in the way of environmental progress. Literally. Peter Dean, resident of Stow-in-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, has complained that a new development by Beechcroft Properties is blocking the sunlight needed to power his home’s solar panels. Dean, who spent £30,000 greening his house, claims the homes are 10ft higher than they ought to be and wants them demolished. Come on, Peter – hasn’t the sector been through enough?


Not to be outdone by the BBC, online voting for the Strictly Building dance competition has not been without its irregularities. Just as the polling was heating up, one of my esteemed colleagues received an urgent email from Colin McLoughlin of General Demolition and Forcia’s Francine Vella exhorting all and sundry to give them top marks. However, this undue pressure did not steal the popular vote from the winning couple, Mott MacDonald’s Maurice Gidwani and Rachel Hardisty, who got full marks from 91% of voters.

Metaphor and chips

Those of us still in London in the days leading up to Christmas had a terrific time at Pringle Brandon’s Champagne and Chips party on the 23rd, where revellers spent an afternoon glugging bubbly and guzzling fried potatoes with festive abandon. According to partner Jack Pringle, the annual party originated some years ago when a particularly lucrative job was completed on Christmas Eve. We rather thought it a fitting metaphor for the changing times – the last of 2008’s champagne, accompanied by the only food any of us will be able to afford in 2009.

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