Disappointment all round this week as Christmas parties are called off, summer parties downgraded, guests turn up to wait in endless queues and some escape to Mongolia in whatever they can afford

How’s that for hospitality?

I hear that the “private” opening of Frank Gehry’s Serpentine Pavilion last week was anything but. Each guest received an invitation requesting their company but most arrived for the 7pm start to find they couldn’t get past security. It seemed the pavilion was already filled with non-guests who had been let in earlier. A sea of legitimate guests seethed at the entrance as they were asked to join 200 other people queuing for entry. Most just gave up and left, but for those who persisted, another blow was yet to come. The director of the gallery prefixed her speech with the remark: “If some of you want to head off early nobody will be offended.” The crowd glared back, some only a single sip into the warm white wine they had paid £4 for at the under-staffed bar. The looks on their faces suggested that offence had definitely been taken. Perhaps just as well that Gehry himself wasn’t able to attend.

Success to swear by

In contrast, Taylor Woodrow’s evening three days later celebrating the completion of Gehry’s pavilion was a serene affair. The tinkling of champagne glasses was only interrupted by calming classical singing and the sound of back-slapping among Taywood staff. But a lapse of etiquette threatened to darken the occasion when a subcontractor from Swiss timber firm Nüssli asked for three glasses of “fucking champagne”. Taken aback, the host asked why he had spoken in such a manner? “It’s because I’ve worked with Roy Page,” he joked. Page, of course, was the plain-speaking Taywood project manager responsible for delivering Gehry’s ambitious structure in just 12 weeks. He’ll probably need a stiff drink, too.

Trading down

It’ll be a lean Christmas for the property industry this year as bosses are having to adopt a Scrooge-like approach to the festive season. The credit crunch means many will be swapping their swanky parties in central London hot spots for a value pack of mince pies and a bottle of cava down the local. According to a popular London nightclub, 20% of their current bookings for Christmas parties have been cancelled as companies – particularly finance and property groups – tighten their belts. Foxtons, the estate agent, is just one of the many which has been forced to downgrade its do – and not just in December. The agent has apparently also dramatically scaled down its summer party. Forget the champagne and oysters, looks like the company’s fun and games will be the only thing on ice this year.

Mattock’s Mongolian marathon

This week Chris Mattock, cost integrator at BAA Gatwick, embarked on a charity rally from London to Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia. The journey, which he’s doing to raise money for Mercy Corps Mongolia, will cover 10,000 miles.

It’s set to be an epic trip through perilous mountain passes, over rocky roads, raging torrents and so on, which Chris has chosen to undertake in a van for which he paid £92. Far be it for me to make any obvious jibes about taking the man out of cost consulting … Indeed, I hope you’ll wish him luck – and follow the ups and downs of the trip through Chris’ blog on our website.

Pssst, fancy a psalm?

The decline in religious values in this decadent land has been commented on by many, but you would have thought St Paul’s Cathedral, at least, would still be able to draw in the crowds. Not so, it seems.

On arriving to celebrate Structure Tone’s anniversary at Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece last week, my colleague was surprised to be approached by two cathedral representatives who eagerly asked if she was planning to attend a service. Is the great cathedral reduced to poaching its evensong congregation from a fit-out contractor? Whatever would the Daily Mail think?

Send any juicy industry gossip to hansom@cmpi.biz