Asprey, jeweller to the rich and famous, is about to adopt a rather striking new look. It has hired Foster and Partners to revamp its headquarters in London's Old Bond Street with its trademark steel and glass. This is likely to be followed by a roll-out of Foster-designed outlets around the world. I hear Foster was keen to take on the Old Bond Street job – which is rumoured to be worth about £20m – because he feels retail is the one sector where he hasn't yet made an impact.
I'm something of a connoisseur of modern art, so I'm delighted to hear that a series of paintings by elephant-dung artist Chris Ofili, depicting different coloured monkeys, may be bought by the Tate Modern. The only trouble is, the 13 canvases are presently housed in a rather beautiful, walnut-clad box designed by hip young architect David Adjaye. The tennis court-sized box, complete with entry tunnel, was created for Ofili's show at north London's Victoria Miro gallery, and it would be a shame for the paintings to be separated from their dramatic container. No problem: I hear the Tate is keen to buy the box as well.
The saga of our creaking railways is having an unexpected knock-on effect. A trackside prefab housing development by the Peabody Trust in Stoke Newington, north London, is being held up because Railtrack keeps cancelling maintenance work on the line. The project is being built out of factory-built modules, and the workers need to wait for the line to be closed so they can crane the modules into place. So far, Railtrack has given them three dates – then changed its mind at the last minute each time. Meanwhile, the units are sitting on lorries in a car park on the M25. Oh well – at least the modules aren't arriving by rail.
I believe the word is 'doh!'
I hear a major contractor's site has been prey to a gang of rather cunning thieves. The site, at Askern Colliery near Doncaster, was being guarded by a single security officer in a caravan. One night, the guard heard a suspicious noise – but when he got up to investigate, he found the caravan door was bolted shut from the outside. The guard then watched from the window as a gang of thieves carted off their haul. The unfortunate chap was still there the next morning when the workforce arrived. Poor blighter – but haven't these people heard of mobile phones?
The past 12 months have been tough for firms in the leisure sector. Following last year's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, several hoteliers postponed their construction programmes. On one site, construction was interrupted for a month, after which the project team was ordered to complete the job to its original deadline. That was one thing, but I understand the cheeky hotelier then asked the team if it would reduce its fee to compensate it for its loss of earnings. I am delighted to hear that the reply was a less-than-cordial "no".
And the winner is …
I have been overwhelmed with responses to the Cavity Man competition I set in the last issue. If you recall, I requested amusing suggestions for captions to this photograph of Tony Blair talking to cavity wall insulation operative Neil Jones. I like Phil Brand's suggestion that Neil is saying: "Solve the affordable housing shortage with these blow-up homes – how many do you need?" Mark Ridge from the finance department at Dudley council thinks Neil is saying: "We did think of having red boiler suits, but prefer more Conservative colours."
Phil Harding from Devon Fire and Rescue Property Services reckons Neil's remark is: "Honest prime minister, I know the wall was only built this morning but you are safe to stand there while I whack the pressure up to maximum."
The sauciest entry comes from Jeff Howell: "The trick is, Tony, to pull it out just before you finish, so you don't have any little accidents."
But the best comes from Ian Sheppard, technical adviser at Tarmac Topblock. Tony is saying: "Look, I gave my lunch money to the other bigger boys!" A bottle of bubbly is on its way to you, Ian.