… common Chinese phrases, negotiating with Americans, hosting a Hampstead dinner party, and how to look good in a diamanté-encrusted swimming cap

You should have read the first draft …

James Wates gave an impressive speech at the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) annual dinner last week – particularly as it was partly in Chinese. The chair of the UK Contractors Group’s stab at bilingualism was in honour of CIOB president Li Shirong and the dozen or so Chinese nationals who had flown in for the event at the Guildhall. It was, I’m told, well received, thereby dispelling Wates’ fears about making a gaffe. He was later overheard saying: “I practiced it because I didn’t want to stand up and say, ‘I have a pair of massive testicles’.” Quite.

Their tanks in our meeting rooms

US engineer Aecom is stepping up its pursuit of Davis Langdon, with the firm’s power brokers flying into London this week for talks with the British QS. There are predictable murmurs about the impact a deal would have on Aecom UK’s relationships with firms such as EC Harris and Turner & Townsend. However, what has irked some inside Aecom’s British operation is that the Americans have block-booked its London meeting rooms for most of the week and if anyone had a prior booking, tough puppies. DL might want to ask the Americans if the same thing would happen at their premises if the deal goes through.

Give us a twirl

To London Fashion Week, which is not something I’ve often had cause to say in my career as a construction hack. But I was delighted to accept Gleeds’ offer to attend designer Ada Zanditon’s show last week. Some of the industry guests looked quite at home, especially architect Julian Hakes, who has segued into shoe design and was brandishing a prototype stiletto. It was slightly bizarre, however, to see some of our elder statesmen – the likes of Sunand Prasad and Richard Steer – rubbing shoulders with the Zoolanders of this world, particularly the man sporting a diamanté-encrusted swimming cap. Stylish and practical.

The Crossrail crunch

Rob Holden, the boss of Crossrail, said before he joined the project that he would bring it in below the publicly announced budget of £15.9bn. This must have sounded good at the time, but it seems that he is now ruing his rashness. As he told a recent legal seminar, all his suppliers took that announcement as an invitation to extract every possible penny up to and including the sum named. “The worst thing that ever happened on the project was disclosing the funding,” he said. “It’s like inviting everyone to find ways to spend that money, and the contractors to bid up.” You’ve been warned.

An idle boat

Plans to bring materials into the Olympic park using London’s waterways appear to have hit, er, choppy waters. A delivery company said a boat ferrying materials to Balfour Beatty’s aquatics centre ran aground recently. “What should have taken 48 hours to deliver took us a week,” a source said. The waterways now appear to be seeing little traffic. The Olympic Delivery Authority says it is exceeding its target to bring 50% of materials to the park by sustainable transport, but it does not say how much is coming in on boats – only that “several” deliveries have been by water. Good job they didn’t spend millions building a new lock or anything. Oh, er, hang on …

Currying favour

Readers of Building’s Come Dine with Me experience at Christmas might recall some ire from contestants that one of their number, legal columnist Rupert Choat, chose to host his meal at Cameron McKenna’s corporate flat rather than the Hampstead pad he claimed to own. Well, word reaches me that Choat has finally bowed to pressure and hosted a reunion last week. The existence of both the flat and Choat’s lovely Russian wife have been independently verified; however our man’s culinary skills have not – the cooking was courtesy of a local Indian restaurant.