A spell-binding 348-page account of PFI standardisation, the equally long-running saga of David Cameron’s home improvements and a rather jolly chinwag with the Tory MEP for Gibraltar

The greatest story ever told

The sexily titled SoPC4, a document that updates the standardisation of PFI contracts, sneaked out beside the Budget a couple of weeks ago. In case you haven’t got your copy yet, I can tell you that the long-awaited sequel to SoPC3 is an impenetrable 348-page tome that has even baffled the people who’s job it is to read such things. One of the country’s leading PFI practitioners gave this verdict: “It’s written in ancient Sumerian and is just as interesting. It falls into the ‘you’ve mistaken me for someone who gives a damn’ category’.”

The lights go out over Europe

I was in Brussels for the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome last week and was having a rather jolly chat with Giles Chichester, the formidable Tory MEP for the South-west and - ha! - Gibraltar. He was telling me that energy is the most discussed topic in EU parliamentary circles at the moment, given the Continent’s dependence on imported oil and gas. The Gods then proved his point by cutting all the lights in the European parliament. “There’s an energy crisis in this place,” Chichester laughed. “This always happens when it gets hot.”

Vacuum cleaner sucks up budgie

Did you know that national pet month starts this weekend? Thought so – after all you’re a well-informed bunch. But I bet you didn’t know that Persimmon Homes has issued tips to ensure that house moves are easy for pets. Guidance includes “making allowances for all accidents” shortly after the move. I suspect that, if there were any accidents on my new carpet, the beast would be having a consequential mishap of its own …

Credit: Scott Garrett

Join the jamboree

Calling all former boy scouts! We at Building have been sent a press release asking for volunteer plumbers, builders and electricians to help out at the Scout Association’s 100-year anniversary and 21st world jamboree this summer. The release adds, enticingly, that it might even be an “opportunity to complete your residential Queen Scout award”. Go on, email build@scouting2007.org.

You couldn’t even make the coffee

It may require seven years training to qualify as an architect but Sir Alan Sugar doesn’t appear to think that matters. In the new series of The Apprentice, the contestants may have to redesign a building. Apparently, the Building Centre was approached several months ago by the production team to see if it could offer a crash course in designing a house. If the challenge is included, let’s hope the candidates’ grasp of figures improves. In last week’s episode, an astrophysicist calculated that 200 litres of milk would be required to make 800 cups of coffee.

Tilting at wind turbines

Last week was a bad one for David Cameron. First, it was revealed by a Channel 4 film that he had described wind turbines as “gigantic bird blenders”. Then his own wind turbine had to be removed from his west London home after it was put up on the wrong side of his chimney. Could this latest run-in with the builders spell the end of the much-heralded Tory green crusade?

How Foreign Office became hot property

It takes talent and a bit of guile to set up your own architectural practice. When Foreign Office Architects started out, for example, it worked out of a kitchen that was miraculously transformed into an office for client meetings by the strategic placement of polystyrene boards across the work surfaces. A cunning plan, and one that was only foiled when the hob was accidently left on and a board went up in flames …