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Signoff: David Taylor

I WAS REALLY confused for a while. There's one story saying John Laing has expanded its PFI portfolio and is doing really well, then there's news from accountants KPMG telling me two of its blokes had just been appointed joint receivers of John Laing 'following a request by the company's directors'. To begin with I didn't believe either of them. I thought Laing had got out of building when it sold off its construction division to Ray O'Rourke for £1.

What's it doing with a PFI por tfolio, for goodness' sake?

Then I read on a bit further and discovered Laing's biggest PFI concession, the £300 million Newcastle hospital job, is a joint venture with Laing O'Rourke.

Pausing to swallow a couple of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and a paracetamol chaser, I reflected that my long-standing opposition to gratuitous name-changing might after all be misguided or at least a bit too uncompromising. If ever there was a case for changing a company's name for clarity, surely this was it.

But there's still this question of KPMG and John Laing's insolvency.

A call to KPMG brought welcome relief ? it is administering the business of John Laing of Hawick Ltd, a manufacturer of highquality cashmere garments. I know I shouldn't have done, but I cheered.

ART CAN reach into every part of our lives but we often overlook it, which is a shame. We'd all be enriched with a bit more art in our working lives.

I'd better confess I don't know much about art. But I know what I like. I like that Turner picture of the old boat being towed away. And I like that Manet of the posh tart lying on a bed wearing nothing but a black choker and a pair of shoes? Yeah, and what's wrong with that?

I even like some modern stuff. I like Damian Hirst's pickled shark. Nobody sneers at that stuffed pike hanging above the bar in the Bricklayers Arms, do they? So why sneer at a 12 foot tiger shark?

Art makes you think. It stimulates creativity; it improves your quality of life. Artist Helena Ben-Zenou understands that. She's just opened an exhibition of paintings focusing on the industrial environment and has kindly sent me a press release all about it.

Ms Ben-Zenou paints industrial landscapes, such as the steelwork going up at a new shopping centre.

She brings out the geometry and colour we usually take for granted.

But be warned: you might be so affected by this insight that you are reduced to a gibbering wreck. Just look what Ms Ben-Zenou's art did to the Barnsley poet Ian McMillan, quoted in her press release: 'There are straight lines here.

And this is an understatement; the straight lines are dancing their straight line dance. And that was an understatement. The straight lines are living in their own city, the city of straight lines. And that might be a statement, but there can be no overstatement when it comes to straight lines'.

Poetry is probably also beneficial in the workplace but, as this snippet proves, you have to choose your poet very carefully.

ACCORDING to my dictionary, Armageddon is the final battle between good and evil, when God returns to Earth, gives Satan a damned good hiding and takes control of things. But according to court papers in the dispute between Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge, it appears Armageddon can also be when a main contractor comes down to site, gives a key subbie a good hiding and takes control of things.

The main difference, of course, is we cannot yet be sure in the latter example which party represents 'good' and which is 'evil'.