This must be some sort of a record. No, not the drinks tally, which is tame by some standards, but the distance that tonight’s group has travelled. Representatives from architect Quattro Design have made the trip all the way from the West Country – Bristol and Gloucester to be exact.
Chosen watering hole: The Albany, London W1
Ambience: Cavernous and dark with golden pillars and a blow-up sheep above the bar
Topics: Flooding, sailing and the credit crunch
Drinks drunk: 3 glasses red wine, 4 Peronis, 2 ciders, 2 pints London Pride, 2 cokes, 1 cranberry juice
At first, Linda seems concerned I might not know where Gloucester is. “It’s that place that’s always flooding,” she helpfully points out, before painting a vivid picture of last year’s downpours that submerged electricity substations and left thousands without power for days. “Our office was just a whisker away from being flooded,” she says, recalling how walls of water swept down the roads, leaving colleagues stranded in their cars all night and the office without water. But architects are a resourceful lot. “We brought in a chemical loo and lots of bottled water,” she says.
Hugh, on the other hand, was oblivious to it all – the first he heard about the floods was when he landed on the TV. It turns out he was sailing merrily around the north-west coast of Scotland while his colleagues were battling for survival back home.
Walls of water swept down the roads, leaving colleagues stranded in their cars all night
Sagra suggests that it might have been useful if he had been around. “You could have rescued everyone in your boat,” she says. Martin, though, can’t resist pointing out that Hugh doesn’t actually own a yacht – to a chorus of laughter from the others.
“I do have a dinghy,” he retorts as the group titter into their pints. Hugh is clearly a pragmatist. “It’s much cheaper to sail other people’s yachts than buy your own,” he says. Even the landlubbers around him can’t fault this logic.
I ask if all this flooding makes designing buildings a bit tricky. It does. “I’m working on one at the moment which is purposefully designed to flood,” says Hugh. He explains that it’s an outdoor activity centre and the plan is to put all the accommodation upstairs and use the ground floor for storing the canoes. “At least they’ll be able to get home if it does flood,” quips Martin.
I’m working on a building at the moment which is purposefully designed to flood.
Inevitably, conversation turns to the credit crunch. Linda has a plan. “We’re just going to power through this one,” she insists, with a bang of the table. The others agree with this gung-ho approach and begin animatedly discussing the virtues of working on public sector projects, perhaps with a view to diverting Hugh’s reminiscence about recessions of yore. “I can remember working a three-day week. I became a house husband,” he recalls, misty-eyed.
From the state of the economy, the discussion turns to the Severn Barrage and the company’s office jollies and meals, including the regular team breakfasts. “I can never get up in time for the breakfast, though,” admits Sagra – and with that thought everyone realises it’s already time to head for Paddington to catch the last train for the long, long journey home.
Linda Martin director
Hugh Nettelfield director
Michael Court project architect
Sagra Diaz office manager
Stephen Kennett Building