More heartwarming stories of everyday xenophobia, madness, greed, buck passing, fraud, sin, error, confusion, doubt, marble and identical twins
Halliburton blues
More news about giant US contractor Halliburton, which is presently looking to enter the UK's healthcare PFI market. The firm is regarded by the leftwing press with the same respect and esteem as its former boss Dick Cheney, the man who, when a congressman, voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela. It is also, of course, facing criminal investigation for fraud as a result of its work in Iraq. Anyway, it has now been namechecked in the latest album by Faithless, whom I'm told are a happening beat combo. Not surprisingly, the reference, in the song Mass Destruction, is not overly complimentary: "Whether Halliburton, Enron or anyone/Greed is a weapon of mass destruction". How very true.

An eye for architecture
Our pictures of the Scottish parliament a couple of weeks ago were met with a mixed response from you, dear readers. I showed the first picture of the piece, a dramatic night shot of the main elevation, to one contractor, who asked me if they were the "site huts".

Call back
Some good news for all of you concerned with changes in market trends and the need to keep low-paid service jobs in this country. An IT source tells me that a herd of blue chip institutions (Axa, JP Morgan, Dell, Lehman Bros and Capital One, to name but a lot) are moving their call centres back to this country from India. The problems seem to be proposed changes in tax rules and the fact that you have to retain almost as many Britons as before to help the Indians pronounce "Sawbridgeworth" and what have you. And it seems that India wasn't quite what some were expecting. A manager with JP Morgan told the press: "We were paying twice as much rent as in Tokyo for a dreadful building with no lift, no fire escapes and no management. Our landlord was insane, and sat in our reception all day to make sure we didn't alter anything."

The man in black
I hear Paul Hinkin, until now a director at Chetwood Associates known for his sustainable building designs, has set up a practice with two fellow architects. Apparently it's called Black Architecture due to Hinkin's penchant for wearing said colour. He and his two partners apparently turn up at meetings dressed as if for a funeral. Surely he's missing his true calling?

Ein, zwei, Di

I hear the team behind the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, due to open in Hyde Park next month, had a tricky decision to make. It seems that three quarries were shortlisted for the 545 chunks of granite needed for the job – one in Germany, one in France and one in Cornwall. Clearly a tabloid backlash would have ensued had a tribute to the Queen of Hearts been marmorialised in foreign stone. The team bravely decided to pass the buck to the client, in the person of culture secretary Tessa Jowell. After mulling over the cost and quality issues for a couple of nanoseconds, Tess plumped for Cornwall.