Come with us on a magical journey to hear indescribable Swedish music, gratuitously insult the French and visit some very special houses in Darlington
Poor is the new rich
Ken Livingstone's office has conceded that it may have to drop its insistence that half of all new housing in the capital be affordable if, as predicted, the London market slumps. But what exactly are we to understand by "affordable"?

I hear that Barratt Homes is marketing a shared ownership scheme at Virginia Quay in Docklands. To qualify, single owners will need an income of at least £30,000 year.

Peeping George
Site workers at Canary Wharf be warned: you are being watched. "My office looks directly over the site," said Wharf chief executive, George Iacobescu, at the topping-out ceremony for Lehman Brothers' 30-storey headquarters last week. "I have strong binoculars in my office and I find it difficult not to keep an eye on what's going on."

Plus en-suite septic tank
Residents at the Oakland Lodge estate in Darlington, County Durham, are kicking up a stink over their Persimmon Homes. It would appear that the developer has yet to connect them to the sewer system. The problem, I understand, is that the pipes have to cross local authority land and the developer did not have permission to carry out the work. So the residents of the "quality family homes" must place clothes pegs on their noses while a sewage wagon turns up several times a day to take away all the effluent. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel: the works have finally been given the go-ahead. All's well that ends smell.

Abba it ain't
I hear reports of strange musical goings-on in Sweden. Last week consultant WSP hosted a bash in Stockholm to celebrate the takeover of local firm J&W (now rebranded WSP Sweden). As the J&W flag was lowered, group communications director Siv Axelsson tootled tunelessly on a horn. Then a troop of bagpipers joined in. Finally a barbershop quartet offered an a cappella rendition of Wham's Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. The night climaxed with a Swedish prog-rock combo, featuring the teenage son of a J&W staffer. In future, I suggest UK firms think twice before buying Swedish outfits.

Going, going, Gann
Top research scientist David Gann has for some years been the mainstay of the housing and construction group at SPRU – Sussex University's science and policy research unit. But not for much longer. It seems that he is off to join London's Imperial College and, what's more, he's taking SPRU's housing and construction researchers with him. I'm told that, in research circles, this is the equivalent of David Beckham moving to Arsenal – along with the rest of the Manchester United squad.

Ne mentionnez pas la guerre
London's National Gallery is trying to persuade more of those French tourists who hop across on the Eurostar to visit its art collection. After all, the trains terminate a short walk from the gallery.

However, Edward Jones, of architect Jeremy Dixon.Edward Jones, points out a flaw. First, les visiteurs will arrive at Waterloo, then they will have to cross Waterloo Bridge, which will take them to Trafalgar Square and a prominent statue of Lord Nelson (whose catchphrase was "you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil"), before they reach the gallery and its huge paintings of Wellington's defeat of Napolean at Waterloo.

But, after all this historical humiliation, the considerate gallery will give the French something to make them feel at home – a stylish continental cafe in the basement.

Wayne loves Wimpey
After lambasting fellow fashion designers in the papers recently, Wayne Hemingway is taking an increasing shine to housebuilders. I hear that he has been invited to Wimpey's Total Quality Awards by Ronnie Baird, managing director of Wimpey Homes, the firm that is developing the Hemingway-designed housing scheme at Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. This is a dinner at which the housebuilder recognises and rewards its staff – and while it promises to be a good night, it's not exactly cocktails at the Met Bar.

But apparently Wayne has accepted.

He'll be driving around in a battered white Transit van next …

Getting the vote out
Thanks to all my readers who, after my exhortation last week, have voted for Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the BBC's Great Britons series. When I checked earlier this week, the great man had edged ahead of Princess Diana to top the poll. But further votes are still needed to secure victory. Add yours by calling 09011-221066 or by pointing your browser at greatbritons.

Is this a private party?

London Underground staff uneasy about joining the private sector now have reason to hope the PPP deals go through. At the moment, consuming alcoholic drinks is prohibited for all LU staff – even the office-bound ones. But it seems that consortium Tubelines has a more liberal attitude to a occasional lunchtime tipple. At a recent power lunch between Tubelines and LU, it was suggested that a couple of bottles of wine might help proceedings. The men with the caps and whistles declined, citing the alcohol ban – to which Tubelines staff gleefully responded: “We don’t have that rule.”