This week, Laing Homes turns Chinese, forklifts at dawn in East Anglia, Tube fat cats uncovered – and other stories The Daily Express may be interested in
Into the lap of destiny …
In the aforementioned Sheffield One birthday bash, Alison Nimmo unveiled a glamorous project to convert two of Sheffield's Victorian grammar schools into upmarket housing. It seems that surveying the buildings allowed the project team to rifle through some old school reports. One of the former pupils turned out to be none other than publicity-seeking nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow. "A resourceful pupil with a good head for figures," wrote a perceptive teacher in 1959. "He will go far." And so he did, unfortunately.

The unusual suspects
Readers who live outside the capital may have missed the London Evening Standard's vituperative coverage of the quasi-privatisation of the Tube. Last Thursday, the paper exposed "The 10 fat cats set to make billions on rebuilding London's Tube". "They line up," the paper gushed, "as a cast of fabulously rich international jet-setters, entrepreneurial self-made millionaire engineers and fat cat utility bosses who made their money from privatisations."

Wow. So who are these sinister men with Dick Dastardly moustaches and secret underground headquarters? Well, they include Amey chief executive Brian Staples, who has a "colourful private life" and was once "one of the king fat cats of the utilities". Then there's "excitable" Balfour Beatty chief executive Mike Welton, who "admits to being distressed at how his staff were pilloried over the firm's contract to run the rail line on which the Hatfield disaster took place". Or how about Mike Jeffries, the "millionaire boss" of WS Atkins? A successful businessman, yes, but he's hardly in the Matt Barrett league.

Journalism the easy way
I was intrigued by an exclusive article in the world's greatest newspaper (aka The Daily Express) last Friday that revealed how sports venues such as the Wimbledon tennis complex are being inspected for their vulnerability to a biological terror attack. Shocking stuff, but I had the feeling that I'd heard it somewhere before. Indeed, I had. The story was lifted from this magazine's four-page cover feature two weeks ago, quotes and all. So, not such an exclusive after all, then.

Building muscles in on TV
I was delighted to see a reference to our esteemed journal in a BBC sitcom. A recent episode of All About Me includes the sad tale of a frustrated son who is keen to join the building trade despite objections from his father, played by Brummie funny-man Jasper Carrott. The son tries to subscribe to Building, but an unfortunate communications breakdown leads to him receiving Bodybuilding instead. One trusts that none of our subscribers have had similar trouble.

Aren't you ever happy?
As my colleagues reported last week in an article about political lobbying, one of the industry's recent triumphs was the Construction Products Association's bid to have government responsibility for construction shifted from the old DETR to the DTI. Nearly a year on, I gather that leading material producers are not so sure this was such a great idea. "The DTI has got absolutely no interest in construction," snarls the chairman of one leading producer, "and they've got even less power than the last lot."

Was he ratty?
Bubbly WS Atkins boss Robin Southwell had to suddenly break off during a recent interview with one of my colleagues last week. The caller was his wife, who was phoning his mobile to make sure the great man was available for a critical appointment in the evening. It was his daughter's theatrical debut in the Wind in the Willows. "She plays a rabbit," the proud father added. "She's been eating carrots all week."

Oh, really
News reaches me that Laing Homes is trying to gain a chic vote among discerning buyers. The firm has hired feng shui expert Carolyn Tudin to cast her eye over a 36-house development in Oxford. Surprisingly, given that the firm has advertised her analysis of the development on its website, Tudin has come out in favour of the houses, praising their flow, connectedness and seamless living space.

Self-raising flowe
You might be relieved to hear that the Full Monty mentality is alive and well in Steel City (see feature, pages 32-35). Introducing the second birthday bash of the city's urban regeneration company, Sheffield One, chief executive Alison Nimmo announced: "We haven't got a cake, and I won't be jumping out of it."

After noticing the crestfallen response from her audience of grey-suited, middle-aged men, she added: "But there's always next year."

I gather that Octagon Healthcare is delighted with its spanking new £200m Norfolk and Norwich PFI hospital, which was completed within budget and four months ahead of schedule.

This is partly due to the management skill of contractor Laing, but also thanks to healthy competition among the teams on site. One group of glaziers was so keen to get on with the job that it intercepted lorryloads of windows destined for another team. However, the second team hit back by taking control of the forklift truck necessary to install the windows.