This week we get into a swordfight with the ODA, a bunfight with Nigella Lawson and a turf war in the West Country before getting ourselves mixed up in some kind of Russian espionage mission

The visitor from the East

Word reaches me of a clandestine Russian investor who is prowling around London sniffing out opportunities in the construction and property world. There are numerous questions that our eagle-eyed consultants are keen to ask the mystery shopper, such as “Who are your backers?” and “How many oilfields did you say you owned?” However, I suspect that top of the list after last week’s round of Champions League football action will be, “Any tickets for Moscow?” Somehow, I sense that Chelsea fans might just have the advantage over their Manchester United counterparts on this one.

The meaning of happiness

Finger-sucking culinary diva Nigella Lawson opened London’s first Maggie’s cancer care centre last week and soon felt right at home as tea and cake were served for all. But Nigella was having none of it when the chocolate sponge only got as far as the centre’s architect Richard Rogers. “Sorry, I have to do this,” she said as she grabbed a fork, launched herself across the table and swiped a large chuck of the architect’s gateau. “Mmmmm,” she moaned, sinking back into her seat, eyes closed, as she devoured the morsel, “good cake.” Good to know her TV show is true to real life.

Slashing costs

Slashing costs

The Olympic Delivery Authority has confirmed it will not now be building an 8,000-seat fencing hall, despite having already run a design competition for it. Instead, it will let Olympic swordspeople compete in the Excel Centre in Docklands. According to John Armitt, the ODA’s chairman, this move has saved the grand sum of £70m. It is entirely coincidental, of course, that the discrepancy between the ODA’s desired cost during negotiations for the aquatics centre (£170m, as reported in Building) and the actual cost agreed with Balfour Beatty (£242m for the centre itself) is almost exactly the same figure.

I accuse…myself

One director has particular reason to be embarrassed by the Office of Fair Trading’s investigation into the industry’s bad habits. According to that distinguished journal of record Private Eye, Lord Blackwell, chairman of implicated services provider Interserve, also acts as a non-executive director of … well, the OFT, actually. And Blackwell is not the only OFT board member with ties to the industry – Wilson Bowden non-exec Alan Giles is also on the 12-strong board. Just as well that firm isn’t on the list of 112, then.

We wish you a merry Easter

Bristolians have been forced to live with the soulless concrete muggers’ paradise known as the Broadmead shopping centre for a couple of generations now. But not for much longer. After two-and-a-half years Sir Robert McAlpine’s replacement will open in time for the crucial Christmas shopping season. Or will it? Rumour has it that a load of cladding recently had to be taken away because of a mix-up with the building regs and the deadline is generally said to be “very tight”. You can bet the developer is praying that Santa Claus really is coming to town this year.

Doing business with the Taffia

The Welsh construction market is famous for favouring its native contractors. One source at a Bristol firm recently told me he only crosses the Severn “by invitation” of the client, so pointless is it otherwise to table a bid without a Welsh address. I asked him why more English contractors didn’t simply rent a front office in Cardiff? How naive of me. “They’ll soon find out if you try that on,” he told me. You have been warned.