A melancholy tale of thwarted hope this week, for a travelling bank manager, Gulf ex-workers in search of liquid comfort and the poor Yorkshire lass who’s taken a fancy to my prose

Coffee americano

A host of American architects are currently in deep negotiations over who will design the new US embassy in Battersea. As Building reported, no British architects could apply owing to stringent security rules. Nevertheless, the shortlisted firms were encouraged to bring Brits in as executive architects. We hear a few high-profile firms have sniffed at offers to, as one architect put it, “do someone else’s working drawings and make them coffee”. But no such upturned nose from Hopkins Architects, which we understand is lending its prestige to one of the shortlisted teams. Very sensible. Better make sure the espresso machine is in good working order, though.


I was pleased to see a fine example of joined-up government thinking this week – on compost. Wrap, the quango launched to promote recycling, proudly announced that the 2012 Olympic media centre would sport a green roof grown from kitchen and garden waste. But a rather nonplussed Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), perhaps envisaging “Olympic venue a load of rubbish” headlines, swiftly dismissed the story as “totally inaccurate”. Judging by the subsequently depressed tones of the Wrap publicity team, there may have been sterner exchanges behind the scenes. The lesson? Never cross the ODA – not even for the sake of the planet.

On yer train

And now a tale to lift the soul of anyone plagued by an overzealous bank manager. One construction boss was recently paid a visit by his banker because he was due to breach an overdraft covenant. Sadly for the banker in question, the company had several million pounds in the coffers and had never needed to use the overdraft on which it had incurred the technical breach. Even more sadly, his journey to the meeting had been a two-hour train ride. The boss said: “I told him: ‘There’s an easy way to solve this. Scrap the overdraft and get on the train home.’”


It truly has been a momentous week. Yes, for the first time in more than 100 years, I received a Valentine’s message, “in confidence” from a Yorkshire-based female reader. “Every week I laugh at your little diddies,” she writes breathlessly. (“Diddies” is apparently Shires slang for, er, columns.) “Last week’s page had me giggling for more hours than normal. Either you are pure genius or my mind is on other things.” Nurse! The pills!

They need a hero

The competition is hotting up among our architectural fraternity to find out who’s the biggest Le Corbusier fan of them all. Last week, London’s design community packed at high density into the Corb-inspired Barbican arts centre to celebrate an exhibition on the master’s work. One celeb notable by his absence, however, was RIBA president Sunand Prasad, who was off on a trip to Corb’s Chandigarh buildings in India. But the pilgrimage prize must surely go to Building Design Partnership, which managed to hold its directors’ annual meeting at Corb’s jealously guarded Heidi Weber House in Zurich – while another firm, one Foster + Partners, was reportedly turned down.

A sobering situation

One of the many downsides of losing your job in Dubai is that the recently unemployed cannot even comfort themselves by, well, getting plastered. The Dubai expat has to have a licence to buy beer which must be stamped by their employer. One recently jobless told me: “As I don’t have a company any more, I can’t get my license stamped, so am beerless.” Apparently, one option is to drive to Ajman (another emirate 60km away that doesn’t require a licence) and then bootleg it through Sharjah. Unfortunately, Sharjah is a dry emirate, so you risk getting banged up if stopped by the police. Never thought I’d be so grateful for the simple freedom to pop down to Threshers for a six pack and a packet of wine gums.

Send any juicy industry gossip to hansom@ubm.com