This week our diarist mixes the gravitas of a barrister with the technical competence of an architect, the generosity of a cladding manufacturer and the easy charm of an Ann Widdecombe ...

Credit: Scott Garrett

The secret life of barristers

The legal teams on the Cleveland Bridge vs Multiplex case clearly have higher things to consider than the dispute at hand. During breaks in the trial, barristers could be heard discussing go-karting and the film The Devil Wears Prada, and exchanging ribald anecdotes. One of these concluded with: “And then it fell into the toilet!” Cue much laughter, followed by a junior barrister’s pertinent question: “But surely that’s not the same wig you’re wearing now?”

Beating the brand

Ann Widdecombe made a gaffe at the launch of Stannah Stairlifts’ advertising campaign in the Commons last week. It seems the politician formerly known as Doris Karloff has bought a stairlift for the benefit of her elderly mother. Widdy was full of praise for the ambulatory aid, but cheerfully admitted to the crowd of journalists and PRs that hers wasn’t a Stannah. All eyes turned to managing director Jon Stannah. “I thought we agreed you weren’t going to mention that …” he said, reddening considerably.

I think there’s something wrong with Brad Minerva knows who to have on the guest list if you’re throwing a big party. The developer’s new year’s bash was attended by a host of A-listers including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Kylie Minogue, Julia Roberts and Mel Gibson to name but a lot. Although the celebs didn’t have much to say (OK, they were waxworks at Madame Tussauds) the humans present had a ball with them. The guys from City of London spent much of the night hovering around a pole-dancing Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz proved almost as popular in plastic as in real life.

The truth about Make

Now into its fourth year, Make has established itself as one of Britain’s hottest architects. Last week, it held its third birthday party at the Edwardian pile of Middlesex Hospital in central London, which it plans to redevelop on behalf of Candy & Candy. So why is such a high-flying practice still a sub-tenant of Arup on a side street off Tottenham Court Road? The answer, I gather, is that Make has come to rely on Arup to troubleshoot its computer gear. Without this perk in the lease, Make would be unable to churn out all those dazzling visions that prove so irresistible to developers and planners.

Who’s in charge?

So, how important is PFI to Labour now? I only ask because after the Treasury was forced to extend Richard Abadie’s contract as head of the private finance unit until the end of March (no suitable replacements could be found at the end of last year), it turns out that he’s only there two days a

week. The rest of the time he’s at PriceWaterhouse Coopers. I understand that a mandarin, John Russell, is boss the other three days, but will not be asked to take on the role full-time.

Very special guests

Journalists invited by Schüco to the giant Bau building exhibition in Munich last week were amazed to find themselves sharing an aeroplane with 200 architects and contractors, all invited to the same curtain walling product launch. And the day before, another 40 British fabricators were flown to the same event. Could this be Schüco’s attempt to muscle in on the demise of competitor Schmidlin last summer? No, I’m told, the trip had been planned well before that. Whatever the reason, though, British architects and engineers on the trip can regard themselves as privileged, as none of their colleagues in other European countries got a mass invitation.