It’s only February but the team at NG Bailey are already psyching themselves up for Little Britain. Gary’s so keen he’s signed up for a two-day skipper’s course.
“We’ve been there for several years now and this will be our third year racing,” he says. “We’re hoping to improve on our position last year – I’m not going to tell you what it was. All about taking part? What a load of rubbish!”
Later investigation reveals they came well down the field, but there is some cause for optimism. This year they have an evil genius look-alike as their leader – Tom realises that Gary is a dead ringer for Doctor Evil, the scheming nemesis of Austin Powers, International man of mystery. “I’ve looked at you many times but it’s only tonight I’ve realised the similarity!”
Gary rises to the bait and does a scarily good impression. “We are going to use our Laser to take over the world,” he cackles. Raj tries not to choke on his drink, while Gerry shakes his head in embarrassment.
Despite the occasional grimace, everyone seems pleased to be here – quite a relief, considering they claim to have put aside other – not entirely believable – commitments to meet for a drink this evening.
“You gave up basket weaving tonight didn’t you, Tom?” says Gary. “My goat’s cheese-making club was meant to be on,” he continues, “and I missed my Laser club!”
In an abrupt change from the bizarre to the mundane, talk turns to the construction skills crisis. “People stacking shelves in Tescos earn a lot more money than someone in an apprenticeship – that’s wrong,” says Tim. “Someone’s got to make what we do more attractive – we’ve got to up the ante.”
Everyone nods in agreement and wonders what will happen to all the Polish workers. Will they continue to fill the skills gap or go back home as the Polish market heats up?
Gary doesn’t foresee an exodus anytime soon. “We did a project in Poland at the end of last year. The economic situation there hasn’t improved enough for everyone to be interested in going back,” he says.
There is, however, some concern about who will build the London Olympics. Tom reassures the team that they’ve been digging big holes in Stratford for a while and everything will probably be fine.
If not, Doctor Evil may just have to bring out his laser beam …
Chosen watering hole: The Chepstow, London’s West End
Ambience: Gastropub for professionals
Topics: Little Britain, Dr Evil and the skills shortage
Drinks drunk: Too many to count
Tim Cunningham operations director
Rajesh Sinha technical director
Gary Edgar project director
Chris Bailey marketing manager
Gerry Carroll director of market development
Tom Holbrow business development manager
Eleanor Goodman Building