We have an informative and educational selection of items this week, from stripped pine in the Gulf to Libyan seafood … although I expect you’ll go straight to the one about bear wrestling with Sarah Beeny

Putin and Pidgley

What does Tony Pidgley have in common with Vladimir Putin? More than you might think. It was considered something of a coup when he rose from chief executive at the housebuilding plc to chairman with barely a whimper from shareholders, despite the “wide-ranging concerns” aired by PIRC, the corporate governance group. But my spies at the Resi 2009 event last week heard that housebuilding’s most colourful boss had hoped to become chairman and chief executive, à la Sir Stuart Rose of Marks & Spencer. “They wouldn’t let him,” the source said, “hence the Dmitry Medvedev option.”

All that glitters …

I note with interest that the biggest Ikea in the Middle East is being planned for Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. How will this new temple of pine wardrobes and gravlax be marketed in the UAE? Presumably, Ikea won’t be repeating the “chuck out the chintz” advice it gave to British consumers. No, it’s more the abundance of fake gold that characterises the UAE – you see it on everything from shop windows to towers. So would a more fitting slogan be “bin the bling”? If it can do that, it may even be able to persuade monied emiratis to self-assemble their own chests of drawers.

Bearing all

It’s not often that TV mega-stardom knocks on the door of the structural engineering profession. No surprise, then, that Channel 4 was flooded with applications to be resident consultant on Sarah Beeny’s Home Rescue show. One applicant for the role, which involves accompanying Beeny around houses suffering from damp and leaks, was Paul Metcalfe of Curtins Consulting. Eager to stand out from the crowd, Metcalfe sent in his CV wrapped around a fake brick; one side setting out his credentials and the other describing his other life as a “transglobal thrill-seeker”. Sadly even his encounter with a man-eating bear on Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus did not prevent his elimination in the final round. Channel 4 is keeping the winner’s name under wraps – if you’re the lucky one, let us know.

No free lunches

When the Cabinet dropped in on the London 2012 Olympic park recently, it held a meeting in Balfour Beatty’s office at the aquatics centre. I hear Gordon Brown even joined Balfour’s site operatives in the canteen for a spot of lunch. As this was before the prime minister admitted he would be cutting public spending after all, we were unable to confirm reports that he ordered a large helping of humble pie.


We’ve reported how difficult it is to break the Libya market but Aconex, which sells project management software, appears to have cracked it. The secret, I’m told, was the firm’s Antipodean staff. The Aussies decided to invite the head honchos of a couple of Libyan clients to a good old fashioned barbie. To their surprise they turned up, along with sizable entourages, sending Anconex scrambling for rather more prawns to chuck onto the grill than originally anticipated. But the firm’s Libyan business has been flowing ever since, so they must have done something right.

Mucking in

It’s always nice to see contractors and their subbies helping the local populace. Wates held its annual community day last week, but sadly the housing part of the firm’s Building Schools for the Future project in Luton is in its early stages so it didn’t have specialists to draft in. Luckily, though, HTA Architects, consulting engineer Mason Navarro Pledge and Scott Wilson’s services people stepped in. I hear they slaved all day doing the garden at The Mount nursing home, bringing tears to the eyes of its manager. Who says consultants never get their hands dirty?