As Monty Python so clearly showed, our worlds comprise just a few basic elements: learning, work, sex, war, recreation and wondering what on earth it’s all about anyway. And construction’s got the lot

Define ‘debt’

Architects have been known to fall on the wrong side of barking when it comes to fluffy ideas. And it seems the disease is spreading. A project by Birmingham City University to place a “philosopher in residence” in various construction firms has co-opted a group of normally straight-talking types: contractor Thomas Vale and consultants Rider Levett Bucknall and Mouchel. Which leads me to ponder: did Mouchel bamboozle its banks into changing the terms of its covenants through the power of philosophical argument? Something about how many pounds of debt you can pile on the head of a pin, perhaps?

Oh dear, what can the Mattar be?

I gather outgoing Kier chief executive John Dodds has virtually relinquished the reins of power now that new man Paul Sheffield is in place. Apparently it leaves Dodds with some free time on his hands and by the middle of the afternoon he is ready to go home to begin savouring his retirement. This has, moles tell me, led him to wander into the office of his wife Deena Mattar, Kier’s finance director, before heading off. A good opportunity to spend some time together, you may think? Apparently not – Mattar reportedly finds Dodds’ visits distracting.

Linear logic

Regeneration efforts in the area around the Olympic park have been in turmoil since the collapse of the property market. The latest proposal to fall victim, I hear, is a non-stop cycle route from the M25 down to the Thames along the Lea Valley canals, known, interestingly enough, as the Fat Walk. The area’s development corporation is keen to press ahead, but local sources say the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority has so far not agreed to contribute to the upkeep of a key section. This is despite the fact the idea, known by Greater London Authority policy spods as the “linear park”, is part of the London plan. Ah, there’s nothing like joined-up government is there?

We’ll miss you

Not often do we get to use the phrase “sex scandal” here at Building, which is why we will be eternally grateful to Nigel Griffiths, surely the raciest of the gaggle of construction ministers to have graced us with their presence these past 12 years or so. Griffiths, it has emerged, is to quit as Labour MP for Edinburgh South after 23 years. According to a party statement, he is leaving to pursue a “once in a lifetime opportunity … as director of an international educational institution”. Nothing to do with last year’s News of the World report that he cheated on his wife in a “House of Commons sex romp”, then. Or his expenses claim for a TV, DVD player and digital radio. Oh Nigel, you were ours all too briefly …

Doughnuts and diplomacy

We reported recently that David Adjaye had found a way in to the war-ravaged Somali city of Mogadishu, to complete his set of photographs of African capitals (currently on display at London’s Design Museum). Mysteriously, the architect’s office refused to say how he had swung this. My theory that the Somalis were impressed by Adjaye’s masterplan for the Watford Cultural Renaissance gained ground last week with the news that the proposal had been opened for public consultation. Reports that a delegation of warlords will attend sessions presenting the plans, which according to Watford council include “a pavilion and cafe type building, next to a water jet event space and retained pond”, remain unconfirmed.

Let Hansom fleece you …

London fashion week is later this month, so what better time for JCB to bring out its new range of “hardwearing yet fashionable” workwear. Although it bares almost no resemblance to site gear at all, it still does the job, I’m reliably informed. Building particularly loves the Tamworth Soft Shell jacket, an elegant black piece in polyester with fleece liner and – so “right now” – velcro fastening cuffs. We’ve managed to acquire five Tamworths and will give one away to the first five readers to send an email headed JCB with their address to