Nothing stands still for long in this industry, and threatening to cross a line this week are Abu Dhabi’s borders, a surveyor’s kilt, Italian visitors and construction rockers’ waistlines

The art of leadership

Rob McGregor, the former Apollo Group boss is, it seems, an art lover. So much so that before he departed the company last month, he dispatched an employee to buy some Chinese prints; I gather a five-figure sum changed hands. Now, there’s nothing wrong with spending your own money in whatever way you see fit, of course, and McGregor has done very well down the years as Apollo changed ownership. I wonder, though, how it would have played among the staff at a company where belts have been tightened more than a couple of notches since a refinancing deal this year. I only hope the prints were hung somewhere prominent.

Borderline decision

As Cityscape Dubai draws to a close this week, I hear that one rumour is being passed on quicker than a luxury apartment on the Palm Jumeira. The eyebrow-raising story is that the $20bn bail out loan that Dubai obtained from Abu Dhabi, its oil-rich sister emirate, came with a stinging condition. It is said that Dubai had to agree to cede land to Abu Dhabi. If this is true, it must have been a bitter blow to Dubai, which has no oil and bases its economy largely on real estate and tourism.

Ancient Scottish joke discovered

One might think the sight of a building surveyor playing the bagpipes in full Scots drag would best be kept behind closed doors. As opposed to being put on show at Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth last Sunday. Apparently, the besporanned noise polluter was Marc Chapman of Gleeds, who was taking part in artist Antony Gormley’s exhibit, which involves giving a hour’s plinth time to anyone who wants it. As he stood on that lofty platform in high winds, I pray Chapman broke with one particular Scottish tradition …

Meat loaf nirvana

Speaking of impenetrable subjects, I witnessed construction professionals transformed into rock gods as they took to the stage for the second year of the industry’s battle of the bands. Construction Rocks 2009 saw performances from Cyril Sweett’s “Cyril Sonic”, act as well as WSP, with their, ahem, “Wild Sex Party”. The latter elicited whoops from the crowd as they opened the night with a Stereophonics cover. I did note however, that despite the bands’ apparent improvement since last year, the loudest cheer went to the night’s sponsor – the West Cornwall Pasty Company – arriving to deliver its goods. Despite the temptation, this column will, I assure you, resist any rock ’n’ sausage roll based puns.

Deer sir …

The cost of work in construction is obviously a touchy subject in these worst of times, so it was refreshing to see a colleague getting straight to the point. Last week a group of Italian students visited the Constructionarium training facility in Bircham Newton in Norfolk, but this landmark occasion could easily have been derailed by a confirmation email sent to the centre’s Robin Holdsworth by the Italian organiser, Angelo Lorusso. “Most Expensive Robin,” began the possibly auto-translated missive, “How it goes?”

What women want

Commuters and tourists travelling through St Pancras were bemused last Thursday, as more than 100 Emcor construction operatives gathered at the station wearing bright pink hard hats. Spotting a chance to turn the tables, a few passing girls wolf whistled the builders, whose stunt was staged as part of Breast Cancer Care’s awareness month. Asked what would become of the 1,000 specially made fuchsia headpieces, which are to be distributed across 28 Emcor sites, managing director John Matthews joked that the lads were welcome to wear them as long as they liked. Judging by their grins and the female attention they were getting, expect to see pink helmets for some time yet.