YOU USED to be able to spot a cowboy by the way he flung your gate open like a saloon door, squirted a jet of tobacco juice into the hydrangeas and offered, in a Texan drawl, to resurface your drive.
They've got a bit more savvy since the good old days. If you live in Dorset, the local cowboys are easily mistaken for bona fide public sector workers. At least one vehicle sporting bogus Highways Agency livery has been observed in the Dorchester suburbs, eager to off load a tipperload of bunce blacktop.
To be honest, most private householders wouldn't know the Highways Agency from the Highwayman's Agency. But most people are to some degree in awe of officialdom. Therefore, all you have to do is convince the man in the street that you have been instructed by Whitehall to resurface his drive at a giveaway price and you're laughing.
The sensible thing for the householder, therefore, is to refuse all unsolicited offers.
But if one of these dodgy characters knocks on your door and offers to build a four-lane in situ concrete flyover across your front lawn it would probably be wise to take his number. He probably is from the Highways Agency.
WITH THE icy wind of World Cup humiliation still making English cheeks smart with shame, now might be the time to rem ind readers that we have another, even greater, sporting opportunity awaiting us: the 2012 Olympics. OK, we've got another World Cup in the meantime, but let's not complicate things.
In any case, the Olympics are quite different from the World Cup. In particular they represent a massive opportunity for the construction industry to prosper, rather than a massive opportunity for the industry to skive.
This, then, is the biggest test so far of the new-style non-adversarial collaborative construction culture.
It's just over a year since we won the bid to host the Olympics and the body set up to oversee the project - the Olympic Delivery Authority - has now published its 12 principles of sustainable development. That's about one a month - not bad!
Quickly, then, here's a summary:
1. Energy - be energy efficient and have a small carbon footprint (well, that's what it says here).
2. Waste - don't create waste, but if you do, bury it somewhere on site.
3. Materials - use socially responsible materials. Whatever those are.
4. Biodiversity - enhance the wildlife of the Lower Lea Valley, using ASBOs and tagging if necessary.
5. Land, Water, Noise, Air - delete as applicable.
6. Global, local and internal environments - spot the odd one out.
7. Culture, heritage and built form - achieve the first by replacing the second with the third.
8. Transport and mobility - get in, do your sport, get out again.
9. Housing and amenity - see 7.
10. Education and employment - more sports centres.
11. Health and well-being - more sports centres.
12. Inclusion - anything else we've missed out.
CONSTRUCTION workers are likely to suffer higher levels of work-related ill-health than the all-industry average, says the HSE.
Well it's hardly surprising, is it?
These are all-industry statistics, which means construction is being compared not only with hazardous activities like quarrying and deep sea fishing, but also with jobs like estate agency, interior design and journalism.
It might seem like I'm self lessly putting my health on the line every time I pick up a pen, but take my word for it: writing about construction isn't as dangerous as you might think.