This week we try to work out the thinking behind Richard Simmons’ eloquent attack on the motion he was supporting, EC Harris’ coffee policy and MPs’ mourning of Rick Stein’s dead dog

He’s a walking contradiction

The audience at last week’s Building Better Schools seminar was surprised by comments made by Cabe chief Richard Simmons. “I actually went to a crap school, but I got three degrees and am now running Cabe,” he said. “The building didn’t matter at all really.” That may be so, but it seemed to have slipped Simmons’ mind that the seminar was about the importance of good design to the £45bn Building Schools for the Future programme – which Cabe had jointly organised with the British Council For School Environments. He added quickly that, of course, it was all about achieving one’s potential … and who knows how many Nobel prizes he’d have won if he’d gone to a less crap school?

Trivial pursuits

One of the more surprising successes of our Safer Skyline campaign has been the backing it has received in parliament, where 36 MPs have signed an early day motion supporting it. This is 16 more than the one applauding Milton Keynes’ 40th anniversary, and 34 more than another commiserating with celebrity chef Rick Stein on the death of his “colourful jack russell, Chalky”. Is this really what we elect and pay MPs to do with their time?

<b>Not-so-instant coffee</b><p>
Credit: Scott Garrett
Not-so-instant coffee

Visitors to EC Harris’ swish new headquarters – excitingly entitled ECHQ – have been left thirsty and not a little sleepy by the firm’s coffee policy. Apparently, any beverages required for meetings must be ordered 24 hours in advance – as must any refills. So woe betide those who glug it too quickly without prior notification. The consolation is that this provides a useful excuse to hit the in-house bar early.

Who is that masked cone?

There are lots of jobs in construction that are considered unglamorous, but if you work in administration you usually escape anything too strange. Unless, of course, you happen to work for Bovis Lend Lease in Scotland. As an engaging part of their school programme the Scots have a yellow cone-shaped mascot, aptly called Coney, who teaches the pupils about safety on site. But who is the mysterious Coney? Let’s just say that a bright yellow costume can often be found hanging by the desk of the secretary in the Glasgow office ...

Imagine my disappointment

My colleague was very excited to discover that David Dickinson, the daytime TV antiques expert with the orange hue, had landed a job on the board of the West Northamptonshire Urban Development Corporation. But alas, the Dickinson in case turns out to be an old Stanhope hand …

The bagpipe blues

To the Construction Trade Contractors Society’s Burns night at the Savoy, where the bags were piping, the haggis was hot and the conversation was flowing – a little too much for the liking of one of the musical turns. They walked off before the end of their set because people weren’t paying enough attention.

What a guy

Well done to Robert Higgs OBE for trying to inspire the young with his tales of dedication to learning. At a recent awards presentation for trainees, the chief executive of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association confided that the day he’d won “my award” was one of the proudest of his life. The

award to which he was referring was, curiously, not his OBE but an obscure acknowledgement for which he was awarded a dictionary. So what about that other honour? “I only like to talk about that if someone else brings it up,” he explained. So talented, and yet so modest.