Oh no! Here comes Building’s crapulous diarist, staggering over with tales of drunken rows, boozy lunches, flying beer and ricocheting champagne corks …

Uh-oh …

A recent story in Building has created quite a storm in Whitehall. We reported that Kajima’s modular housing development in Leeds may have to be evacuated after Arup warned that predicted severe weather conditions could blow it down. This announcement led to some hasty meetings at the ODPM. With just a few weeks until the Treasury’s pre-Budget report is to be published alongside more Kate Barker announcements about the future of modern methods of construction, it’s not really surprising that the ODPM is getting a little nervous.

Have at thee

Willmott Dixon staged a drinks reception with a medieval twist last week, hiring out London’s Armourers’ Hall for a “Knight to Remember”. As guests mingled among armour and weaponry, your correspondent was alarmed to find himself under attack from a pointedly aimed champagne cork, which hit me a low blow above the left ankle. I would have sought satisfaction in suitably heroic fashion, but was cruelly prevented from doing so by the glass cases surrounding the halberds and poignards. Another time, Mr Willmott …

Life’s a gas

If guests at Building’s Sustainability Awards did not know who Dave Hampton was before last week’s ceremony, they certainly did by the end. The low-energy guru was holding a huge purple balloon as a bemused Michael Portillo presented him with the award for Sustainable Leadership. He explained to a packed ballroom at the Hilton that the balloon represented how much carbon each of us generates in an hour. Guests at the front certainly got the message. After Hampton batted the balloon into the crowd, it flew in the direction of the top table and burst with a deafening bang in the vicinity of the dignitaries. And why, according to Hampton, did the balloon burst? Excessive stage lighting, of course.

Dangerous liaisons

Next to the Brick Awards at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. Magician Paul Zenon was on stage and his routine was in full swing. Literally. For one trick, he places a full pint of beer onto a snooker triangle, attaches a chain to it and swings it high above his head while the audience look on in amazement. At the climax of this trick, Zenon walks among the audience, still lustily whirling his ale. As he did so on this occasion, one guest tried to adjust his seat just as the beer sped towards him. The audience gasped as triangle and pint missed his skull by a hair’s breadth. I didn’t stay to find out what he does for an encore.

Winner takes nothing

Will Alsop kept the organisers on their toes at the Association of Consultant Architects’ Art by Architects exhibition this week. “I’ve always wanted to do this,” announced a clearly excited Alsop while opening the envelope for the best sculpture award to find out the winner’s name. However, after removing the card, he extravagantly tossed the envelope aside without realising the prize money was in it, leaving winner Carol Mancke’s £250 strewn across the gallery floor. Needless to say, he did not repeat the trick for the subsequent awards.


It was good to see Kier boss John Dodds and his finance director Deenar Mattar at Building’s Specialist Contractor Awards last Thursday. The duo were on fine form and looked particularly pleased when one of their colleagues pulled out his mobile phone to reveal that Kier’s shares had reached £11.93p – an all-time high.

Four’s company

I understand that David Joyce, chief operating officer of Vinci, has two good friends in the construction industry – John Dodds of Kier and Peter Brooks of Edmund Nuttall. Every few months, the trio meets up for lunch at Mayfair’s Guinea Grill, where they spend the afternoon putting the world to rights. For some time, they have been looking for a fourth person to balance the table numbers, but have failed to agree on whom to sign up. Apparently, their hand was recently forced when one debate became “tired and emotional” and a row broke out. Little wonder that an eminent construction lawyer has been drafted in to fill the fourth place …

Colin Wheeler
Colin Wheeler