Housing ministers, newspaper photographers and 7ft rats are left floundering in the dark, while the bright lights of the Sheds conference attract a merry horde of musicians, pranksters and talking frogs

The irony of it

The reign of housing minister Caroline Flint got off to a less than illuminating start last week in her first official appointment in the job. She was due to speak at a Fabian Society event at the Electrical Engineers Federation (EEF) in London but the entire event had to be shifted at the last minute across the road to the Institution of Civil Engineers. The reason for the switch? The power had failed at the EEF and there was not an electrician to be found for love nor money …

Can we have our ball back?

To the ever-rowdy Sheds conference in Newport, south Wales, where event sponsor Gazeley did its best to make the do a classy affair. Not only did they redecorate one of the hotel suites as a jazz bar complete with ice statues, cocktail bars and musicians, they brought along a giant inflatable ball to sit in front of the hotel welcoming delegates to the event. Unfortunately, the Gazeleyball mysteriously deflated on the first night. Rumours of the involvement of pranksters from rival developer ProLogis were, I’m sure, all hot air.

Enter the rat

The humble rat has had a rather checkered career when it comes to health and safety, what with the Black Death and Weil’s disease and what have you. This may be about to change, however. Rumour has it that one construction union has a 7ft inflatable replica of ratus ratus waiting in the shadows to come out and protest about dodgy construction sites whenever the opportunity arises. In the States inflatable rats have appeared during strikes on sites in New Jersey, Florida and New York. What next? Sustainability snakes?

Bringing the shed down

Still with sheds, and Walter Hens, executive director of developer Segro, brought the house down with a timely gag. According to Hens, two attractive ladies wandered out of the Sheds conference and into the woods, where they chanced upon a talking frog. “If you kiss me,” it said, “I will turn into a handsome property developer.” One of the two picked up the frog and scooped it into her handbag. “What are you doing?” said the other. “I’m keeping it,” she said. “In the current financial climate, a talking frog might be worth a lot more than a property developer.” Ho ho – although the audience may have been laughing more at the idea of two attractive ladies attending the Sheds conference in the first place …

The camera does occasionally lie

London’s second sustainable light festival was hotly anticipated by the Evening Standard, which sent a photographer to cover the big switch on. An impressive double-page image of HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge duly appeared the next morning, but there was one problem. A technical hitch meant that the start of Switched On London was delayed until after the photographer had left. What readers actually saw was a picture of Tower Bridge as it appears on a normal evening. Still a pretty shot – but not sustainable. For images of the LED lights go to www.building.co.uk/gallery.

Joint venture

One press officer at training body ConstructionSkills is an expert at making joints. No, it’s not what you think. He tells me he undertook a joinery course in his spare time but never got round to completing another term, leaving him with lots of bits of wood but no furniture. Perhaps he should be seconded to the organisation’s Constructionarium at Bircham Newton, Norfolk, where pupils can build replicas of towers like the Gherkin.