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Signoff: David Taylor

I WONDER how many readers have heard of FOCOPE?

If it sounds a bit dodgy, just try saying it with a French accent? does it sound just a little bit rude?

If you haven't heard of FOCOPE, let me explain. Its full t itle is the Forum in the Eu ropean Parliament for Construction and its aim is to connect people in the industry with EU legislators so they can exchange views and have some influence in legislation.

There, I bet you wish you'd known about it now.

This is the body that gives you direct access to those numbskulls in the European Parliament who pass the daft laws that are rigidly enforced in the UK and largely ignored elsewhere.

Through FOCOPE you might be able to bang a few heads together and knock some sense into them.

I'd give you the FOCOPE website address so you could learn more, only I'd be wasting my time. A colleague of mine, dutifully logging on to glean the latest news from the FOCOPE site, found himself unexpectedly being offered the opportunity to renew the domain name or to bid for it? 'NOW!'.

Something was awry.

The explanation came from Den Dover, MEP, FOCOPE president and a former civil engineer. He explained that all the EU websites have been purchased by a get-rich-quick merchant who is trying to sell them back to the clients and web providers.

Mr Dover is, to say the least, highly embarrassed and not a little angry about it. 'It's almost as bad as all our spam filters losing a week of our emails a few months ago, ' he said.

But you've got to laugh.

There's that British hacker about to be extradited for trial in the US after doodling about on the Pentagon's computer system, while here in Europe the EU Parliament is letting people appropriate their websites and hold them to ransom. Better st ill, it's all legal.

Now try that pronunciation again ? that's right, you've got it: F***UP.

TALKING of the internet, I recently took a short online test to find out if I'm a gambling addict. I'm a bit worried about it, I confess.

To my surprise I scored zero ? I don't gamble, according to the experts.

But they're clearly quite wrong because my mortgage endowment policy is with Standard Life and my pension is with Equitable Life. Hence I not only gamble: I lose.

So I am eminently qualified to advise on the best location for Britain's first regional super-casino. My advice is to locate it in the City of London ? preferably in premises currently occupied by a life assurance firm.

ON THE subject of gambling, I noticed that all too familiar story the other day: another plant hire company sinks into receivership having spent a bit heavily on f lashy new ego-boosting kit for which there's not enough work ? or rather not enough work at a viable hire rate.

It always puzzles me how companies in such a capital-intensive business as plant hire can keep going for as long as they do on the m icronthin margins they generate.

I mean, these days it'll cost you more to hire a DVD from Blockbuster than a 50 tonne all-terrain from Kwality Krane Hire. OK, I exaggerate.

But not much.

Still, not to worry because they're never out of business for long. You usually find that as one door closes another opens ? often on the very same day.

And guess what, the big difference is that behind the new door there isn't a pile of unpaid bills.