This week: hard-hitting, up-to-the-minute gossip truffles snorted from the moist earth by specially trained news pigs and delivered directly to your brain

Dear, dear

I was intrigued by the first publication of MPs’ expenses out last week. Good to see Nigel Griffiths is hard at work: he claimed a cool £135,282 last year, £27,000 more than the average MP. This was bettered by our previous minister, however: Brian Wilson got through £145,518 of our money, £31,074 of which was on travel. Those two pale in comparison with Labour MP “Costly” Claire Curtis-Thomas, who has been lobbying to end retentions. She posted the highest expenses total of all – £168,889. The former mechanical engineer’s claim for postage and stationery, part of which was firing off anti-retention letters to the Treasury, came to £19,038. The question is, have her claims been paid in full, or has some been held back until she proves she has completed her job?

Snappy comeback

Proof that regulations minister Phil Hope (expenses £125,559, if you’re interested) is quick on his toes came during a speech he was giving for the Civic Trust last Tuesday. While he was waxing lyrical about sustainable communities, the MP’s pager went off, throwing him momentarily off his stride. Quick as a flash, Mr Regulations recovered his composure: “That’s John Prescott telling me not to say too much,” he quipped.

When shall we three … ?

A good time was had by all at Whitbybird’s 21st birthday party last week at the Science Museum, west London. I see that, as well as joint founder Mark Whitby, present at the soirée were Peter Rogers and Stef Stefanou. As you may remember, this was the trio that joined with Bob White from Mace to attack the industry’s institutions last month, calling for them to be stripped of their royal charters unless they reformed. Is their revolutionary plot gathering pace, I wonder?

Caption competition

I was impressed with the response to my call for captions to the amusing picture of the octet of adjudicators and arbitrators in front of an antique steam train, published last week. There can only be one winner, however, and the bottle of plonk goes to Martin King of East Anglian QS and surveying firm Castons. He has the train driver saying: “Gentlemen, please sign this before boarding the train: ‘The driver shall not be liable for anything done or omitted in the discharge or purported discharge of his functions as a driver unless the act is in bad faith, and any employee or agent of the driver shall be similarly protected from liability’.” Well done, Martin.

Talking about emails to Hansom, I received one from a reader who had been trying to get some information about Constructing Excellence, and "Googled" its new address, which is Warwick House. As I verified for myself, this brings up a link to a venue in Earl's Court run by one "Madame Mandy". I must say, I thought I

knew all about this kind of thing, having lived in London for 160 years, but this gave me palpitations ...