Balfour Beatty appeases God’s wrath, Lafarge sweetens up its concrete and Yvette Cooper denies she’s a totalitarian dictator – all to the accompaniment of a Polish accordion and high-altitude dad rock

The contractor’s mite

As the church bells rang on Sunday morning I was reminded not of almighty God but of Balfour Beatty. Sources tell me Metronet incurred the wrath of The Man Upstairs after labourers damaged some pillars at a grade II-listed church called St John on Bethnal Green in east London. When the church then pursued it for £1,000 worth of damages, Balfour Beatty – the workers’ employer – revealed itself more willing to swell Church of England’s coffers than prop up Metronet, and duly wrote a cheque.

Yvette Cooper: ‘I’m not as bad as Stalin’

The government’s plan to build 10 eco-towns is a “Stalinist” solution to the nation’s housing crisis. That was the accusation directed at Yvette Cooper by one member of her online audience during a webchat with the nation, broadcast on the Number 10 website last week. But, as the minister gently pointed out, the bloodthirsty Soviet dictator didn’t tend to ask local authorities to come forward with sites, as she has done.

Timms beats the bell

Stephen Timms, the construction minister, has clearly been doing his homework. At an awards ceremony for students who got good marks in the pilot construction GCSE, he reeled off statistic after statistic about hospitals, Canary Wharf and Crossrail. It’s just a shame students probably couldn’t understand it owing to his super-fast delivery, just before a super-quick exit. Perhaps he had some swotting to do.

Credit: Scott Garrett

Lafarge’s secret recipe

In its thirst to develop new products, French materials giant Lafarge has developed a quick-setting concrete. With a setting time of just two hours, ready-mix concrete truck drivers in the UK might be concerned about the results should they get stuck in traffic. But rest assured: I’m reliably informed that a household bag of sugar thrown in the back of the mixer will keep the mix nice and moist. Add a few currants, and you might even get some nice rock cakes out of it …

Together in perfect harmony

Music is truly an international language, as workers building the Hungate neighbourhood in York seem keen to prove. British colleagues made a real song and dance about their 40 Polish and Romanian friends by buying them an accordion from eBay. The idea came from Tony Walker, who works for subcontractor PJ Carey. Apparently it’s got them all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Rocking on top of the world

Gardiner & Theobald has brought a different meaning to encouraging staff to hit new heights. One of its surveyors, Garrie Renucci, is off for the next three weeks to Nepal where he will be drumming in the world’s highest ever gig, at 18,000ft on Mount Everest. Joining Renucci will be Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, The Fixx and the splendidly named Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats. I’m sure it won’t be lost on the audience that the band might be, erm, slightly past its peak …

An Oscar for Sir Stuart

To the Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge for a celebratory lunch for developer Sir Stuart Lipton, who was receiving the prestigious JC Nicholas Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. Lipton became the first Brit to be awarded the prize, presented by the US-based Urban Land Institute. Accepting the award from veteran US developer Gerald Hines, Lipton likened developing to making films. “Like films, you often have endless retakes in the design process; and like films, on some developments you win money and on some you lose.”