To the RIBA conference in Venice, where we encounter, if not death, then at least disease and depression, while closer to home an industry leader feels distinctly queasy on a site visit …

You’re late, Darling

The London 2012 Olympics select committee meeting, held last Tuesday in the House of Commons, proved immensely popular. Not only was the room packed to the rafters but journalists and even witnesses were forced to wait outside as the police operated a strict one-in-one-out policy. But it was good to see there was no favouritism. Alistair Darling, secretary of state for trade and industry, was also left in the adjoining room for 10 minutes, frantically doing a bit of last-minute cramming before his own grilling.

Scaling new heights

I hear that Dennis Walker, construction’s latest senior civil servant at the DTI, has taken to his new job with enthusiasm. Walker has been keen to take a look around a few building sites and was accompanied recently on a tour of London’s finest by Stephen Ratcliffe, chief executive of the Construction Confederation. Apparently, the visit was going very well until Walker decided he wanted to climb to the top of an unfinished structure for a better look. The request, however, was met with horror by vertigo sufferer Ratcliffe who decided that it was probably best that Walker carried out this part of the trip alone.

Absent friends

Superstar architect Zaha Hadid surprised nobody at last weekend’s RIBA conference in Venice when she failed to show up for her keynote speaker slot an hour after Lord Foster (who did grace us with his presence and was his usual charming self). Word was, she had the flu. A poor soul from her office was told to step in at the last minute and had to spend all night preparing a talk – and working out how to get to Venice.

Old Misery Guts

Old Misery Guts

It’s official. Far from being the all-action sea-faring adventurer pictured here, RIBA president Jack Pringle is prone to melancholia. Following a talk on the subject of happiness at last weekend’s RIBA conference in Venice, he declared that he worked long hours, was single and spent lots of time indoors. “Apparently, I’m a miserable bastard,” he told a bemused audience. “I’m just off to slit my wrists …”

Quite a reception

Reception area art is normally a dull affair but not so at decoration contractor IDM. As a Building scribe sat waiting to meet directors Peter O’Brien and Garry Reynolds she was a bit shocked to spot a painting of a man groping the breast of a naked woman. Our hack was told that nobody had ever asked about the artwork before. Whether or not we are allowed to view the private collection remains to be seen.

Super sub

There must have been a lot going on behind the scenes to prompt the out-of-court settlement between the FA and Wembley contractor Multiplex two weeks ago. Indeed, word reaches me that Chris Booy, the man who sold consultant Symonds to Capita in 2004, was drafted in by the FA to act as troubleshooter. Well known for his ability to bang heads together to get a job done, sources close to the sorry saga say that he was instrumental in the settlement.

Star struck

Lunching in the fine restaurants of Westminster is always good for a spot of celebrity spotting. While dining with an industry trade association at Indian restaurant the Cinnamon Club last Thursday, my colleagues spotted former chancellor Kenneth Clarke in one corner and in the other Salman Rushdie holding court at a table of six. It is good to see the industry keeping such good company.