This week: delicious irony, stale hobbies, a traditional Suffolk Christmas dinner and a minister with his fingers in his ears going la-la-la-not-listening
Boy, oh boy
Many congratulations to Ken Shuttleworth, the former Foster and Partners design supremo, on becoming chairman of design review at CABE. Regular readers of this august journal will no doubt be aware that Shuttleworth left Fosters last year to set up his own marque with a couple of colleagues. I bet Ken can't wait to review one of Norman's designs. And neither can we, Ken.

No Cannes do
One individual reported to be in serious training for the MIPIM schmoozefest is the industry's own dear Nigel Griffiths, whom I'm told will be popping along to launch CABE's Creating Excellent Buildings: A Guide for Clients. However, those who were wanting to have a word in the little fellow's ear should be prepared for some disappointment. I'm told the minister's busy schedule means that he doesn't have time even to speak to gentlemen from the press.

Urban 4×4s
Architects in Leeds have coined their own definition of 4×4. Ian Tod, partner of the city's Allen Tod Architecture, has come up with a programme of four public debates by four thinkers and doers. This year, the 16 speakers include John Thorp, who is a design adviser for Leeds council, architect–developer Roger Zogolovitch, architect–prophet Bill Dunster and Lesley Chalmers of English Cities Fund. The theme for the first talk is "Masterplanning – What's it all About?" Anyone thinking of going along can find out more from Ian on 0113-244 9973. And if any of you do find out, could you give me a call?

Hello, hello, hello
Advance tidings reach me of The Mail on Sunday's "Rich Report", due to be published on Sunday. My eye was caught by the fact that Conservative Party treasurer and longtime Building columnist Alistair McAlpine (pictured) figures in the list, and is described as a collector of "old police truncheons". Which is funny, because my sources tell me he "doesn't have two pennies to rub together" and collects only African and Indian textiles …

The drawing board is that way
News reaches me of an East of England Development Agency competition shortlist for an artwork to put East Anglia on the cultural map. My money is on Eastgate – the Movie getting the nod. According to the website, Eastgate is "a film that focuses on an American airbase in the East of England with a plot centred around a Christmas dinner party, memories of past loves and stories of strange lights in the sky". Not quite Anglia's answer to the Angel of the North, I fear.

Cry God for England …
Breaking news from Willmott Dixon's annual five-a-side tournament. Andy Geldard, the firm's new PR, is to organise it, and he tells me he's thrown down a challenge to his predecessor, Garry Hague, now with EC Harris, to meet upon the waxéd board in dubious battle, and damned be he who first cries … (continued page 194)

It’s grim out east

I was rather underwhelmed by the Thames Gateway Convention, which I attended last week. Instead of the swanky QE2 conference centre in Westminster, delegates had to trek out to the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (CEME, pronounced “seamy”) in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Dagenham, east London. The only way to get there was by car, and the CEME hall was (a) largely unheated and (b) fitted with a PA system that made it impossible for the speakers to hear questions from the floor. Friendly advice: we may like to regenerate the Gateway, but we don’t want to actually go there.