for McBains Cooper

“I don't believe binge drinking exists,” declares Julian, launching into the topic of the day with fervour – a news report published that morning claimed binge drinking accounted for one in every seven sick days.

Adrian believes the report doesn’t apply to the construction industry. “You can’t be drunk or hungover because of health and safety issues,” he says. “The problem certainly isn't as prevalent as it used to be.”

Julian disagrees: “It’s still a beer and bacon sandwich industry though.”

“Yeah, but in the old days ...” Adrian begins to argue before he is interrupted by Barry, who mimics: “In the olden days ...”, much to the others’ amusement.

Mabs points out that binge drinking is widespread across all professions: “Young professionals do binge drink. They go the whole week without a drink, but as soon as Friday comes they’re at it.”

Gareth empathises with the poor overworked masses. “It’s because the weeks are so busy,” he explains. “The weekend is time to relax, have a few drinks, then a few more … and a few more.”

“It’s the culture,” remarks Julian, matter-of-factly.

A cosmopolitan Barry points out they don’t have the same trouble in Europe. “In France, they drink all day long, and they drink and drive, it’s a way of life there,” he suggests.

“It was the same here until the sixties ...” says Adrian, who immediately cringes – he knows what’s coming. True to form, another “old man” joke from Barry makes the others laugh.

“You’re probably older than me, I just look haggard,” Adrian retorts.

A waitress approaches and asks if the guys would like another drink. They order a second round. Gareth uses the interruption to introduce a new topic.

“The biggest issue for us at the moment is the skills shortage,” he says. “We’re finding it difficult to get really good people.”

The others bite and abandon binge drinking to discuss the more pressing issue.

“In the nineties the construction industry was not trendy, and we’re feeling the effects of that now,” says Julian, thoughtfully tracing the source of the problem.

Barry explains it is very rare to find someone in the industry who doesn’t have a family background in construction.

“To some extent, I grew up on a building site,” he says.

The others shake their heads. They’re all the first in their families.

Adrian takes this chance to have a dig at Barry “It’s a shoddy statement,” he says.

“What made you get into it then?" Barry hits back. “Binge drinking at college?”

As the conversation turns full circle, Barry disappears to find a waitress. On his return, a champagne bucket is positioned at his side.

“Oh no!” the others groan, “You’re joking?”

“Last week they bought champagne,” he laughs, referring to the previous outing of this column when King Sturge indulged in pink champagne at the top of the Natwest Tower, albeit at their own expense. “It needs to be changed to ‘Building buys the bubbles’.”

But before Building decides how to react, a gentlemanly Gareth has quietly asked for the bill and paid for the whole thing.

  • Chosen watering hole: 5th View, Waterstone’s Piccadilly
  • Ambience: Sophisticated yet relaxed with panoramic views
  • Topic: Binge drinking, bubbly and skills shortages
  • Drinks: Nine bottles of Pilsner, two bottles of Guinness and a bottle of Laurent Perrier champagne

Those present …

  • Gareth Hird director
  • Adrian Bates director
  • Barry Goode associate director
  • Julian Symons associate director
  • Mabs Choudhury electrical engineer
  • Lydia Stockdale Building magazine