In tough times, it’s important to distract yourself with such activities as theatre rehearsals, horse racing and … er … whatever a former construction minister got up to in the House of Commons


You might remember that Doyle chairman and horseracing enthusiast Stef Stefanou gave Building’s readers a successful tip for the Grand National winner last year. The only problem was that we printed it the week after the race. Sorry ’bout that. This year our man in the know has kindly given us another tip, which we are printing in time for the actual race. According to Honest Stef, the smart money is on Character Building (14-1 as we went to press). He notes, though, that the filly romped home at Cheltenham and no horse has ever won both races in the same year. He also tips State of Play (22-1) as a finisher. “No guarantees, mind you,” he adds. Happy gambling, readers!

Financial crisis

Tony Pidgley was left red-faced while out and about with David Jennings, chairman of networking group Movers and Shakers recently. The pair were collecting the Berkeley chief executive’s car after a lunch and discovered that the only way to get it out of the car park was to pay the valet in cash. Pidgley had to sheepishly ask his lunch companion for a £20 loan to cover the costs. Why? It turns out the chief executive of the only cash-rich volume housebuilder left in the UK no longer carries money on his person, nor even a wallet. Apparently there is no need to do so when your expenses are settled on pre-authorised accounts. It’s one way to save money, I suppose.

Careless talk costs jobs

A colleague was sitting in the reception of a large consultant the other day, waiting for a meeting with a chief executive who has recently announced a swath of salary cuts and redundancies at the firm. As said chief executive approached, the receptionist loudly announced that “the recruitment agency’s been on the phone again because it still hasn’t been paid”. Whoops! We thought we ought to preserve the consultant’s modesty by withholding their name, but no prizes for guessing who’s next for the chop.

Dangerous liaisons

For anyone who missed the News of the World’s front page last weekend, it seems that married former construction minister Nigel Griffiths has drawn a bit of unwanted attention to himself by inviting a mystery brunette back to the House of Commons for what the newspaper describes as a “sex romp”. This could be considered a triumph for a man known in the industry as the “seven-minute minister”, a nickname gained after his brief appearance at an industry event at the 2004 Labour conference. You can only hope he spent longer on this assignment.

Give of yourself

All charities rely on people making generous donations, but architectural charity Article 25 is asking philanthropists to spend only a penny to help remedy the shortage of shelter in Darfur. It has appealed to Sudanese men, women and children to donate their urine to mix the bricks needed to build new homes in the deprived area. “It’s like going into a little voting booth,” explains Article 25 trustee and ex-RIBA president Maxwell Hutchinson. “You make your donation, the urine is treated to get rid of the smell and then used as a binding agent. It works very well indeed.” Waste not want not, eh?

Kitchen sink drama

Kitchen sink drama

A new play is about to open in London chronicling the horrifying ennui of suburban life and its ability to turn sane men mad – or even murderous. And where better to rehearse such a play than a Barratt Homes estate? The cast of Parlour Song, which opens at the Almeida this week, spent a long weekend on a half-completed Barratt development rehearsing and getting into character. It seems that it’s not just Barratt’s lenders being driven to the brink of insanity.

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