What’s the best way to keep cheerful through the downturn? A quick game of golf, a few fireworks and then a glass of bubbly back at the in-office bar sounds good to me

When you say nothing at all

After the inaugural meeting of the CBI Construction Council this week, the demeanour of the construction bosses who attended said as much about the state of the industry as their words did. John McDonough, Carillion chief executive, reclined in a chair with a hand curled around his coffee cup – with 80% of his work from the public sector, perhaps he has good reason to be at ease. James Wates, deputy chairman of Wates Group, seemed slightly tense – particularly when the subject of recent redundancies from the company’s fit-out business was brought up. Meanwhile Keith Miller, boss of Miller Group, sat hunched pensively over the table – with a large housebuilding operation and a fifth of his company in the hands of HBOS, you can guess why. Perhaps the non-attendance of two council members, Barratt’s Mark Clare and Taylor Wimpey’s Pete Redfern, said even more.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Now if you really wanted to grab a project by the scruff of the neck would you appoint: a) someone working nearby, who will focus solely on it, or b) someone with a portfolio of other responsibilities in an office at the other end of the country? Well, if you’re the soon-to-be-formed Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), it’s the latter, apparently. Step forward Eamonn Boylan, the new deputy chief executive of the organisation, who will be in charge of the controversial £9bn regeneration plan for the Thames Gateway, working out of his office in, er, Warrington in Cheshire. The HCA said Boylan would spend a lot of time visiting the south of England. Most of it on the train, I imagine.

Home is where the heart is

Housebuilders have recently resorted to a variety of tactics to get buyers to sign on the dotted line. However, Persimmon has made its campaign personal – it is targeting prospective buyers’ pets. Those of you unable to shield poor Rover or Sooty from those nasty, noisy fireworks on bonfire night should have glanced at Persimmon’s handy guide to doing just that. Among the pearls of wisdom were: “Buy low-noise fireworks”, “Close windows and perhaps pop some soothing music on to mask the noise”, “Don’t act scared as it will encourage fearful behaviour” and, my favourite, “If you have small caged pets, partly cover the cage with a blanket”. Whoever said that housebuilders don’t care?

The Candy men can

Luxury property developers Nick and Christian Candy have had a rough week, first giving up their role on their flagship London project, Noho Square, and then defaulting on the loan on their Beverly Hills hotel project. But at least they can lick their wounds in decadent surroundings. Their new Westminster office comes complete with all the latest mod cons – and we’re not just talking shiny, quick-boil kettles. It features black and silver walls, velvet banquettes and the largest plasma screen TV in the world. There are “bat chairs” – leather seats with wings and black marble corridors so dark and shiny you could easily walk into a wall if you don’t slip on the polished floor first. Then there is the Candybar – a canteen full of fifties swivel chairs with silver curtains, and daytime TV projected onto a cinema screen on the wall. Credit crunch, you say?

One-hour golf break

News reaches me that King’s Cross-based architect Squire and Partners is bucking the market trend and expanding its repertoire. Not content with owning its own thriving restaurant, the company has snapped up a controlling stake in a company called Urban Golf. “We’ve been involved since day one and had a 10% stake,” says Michael Squire. In an effort to boost its new business, this week the firm sent out invitations to “play golf without leaving London”, at a generous discount. “People might find they have more use for this now the day out to play at Wentworth might not be so affordable,” says Squire.

Send any juicy industry gossip to hansom@cmpi.biz