THERE'S a tough time around the corner ? at least that's what my biggest client has just told me ('though whether out of concern for my welfare or to pre-empt any request for a rate increase, I'm not quite sure).
Well, if it's true, then forewarned is, I suppose, fore-armed.
Construction has had it pretty good for most of the past decade and in a cyclical industry a downturn is inevitable. It's just a quest ion of when.
A reasonably good indication that it might be quite soon is the decision by airport operator BAA to cut 700 jobs in middle management. As the biggest private sector construction client in the UK, BAA's financial health is of acute interest to anybody in the industry, so if it's having to shed a fifth of its off ice staff, that's bad news. I'm no economist, but when an employer does this, it usually means that sales are down by a hefty margin and the business is losing money. Isn't that what happens in a recession?
On the news, BAA chief Mike Clasper prefaced his excuses by explaining that the Gate Gourmet dispute and the London bombings were major factors in the decision to sack employees ? before explaining that revenue is up more than 6 per cent and profits up almost 10 per cent.
Well, as I say, I'm no economist.
STILL, if there's a recession on the horizon I'd better look for other sources of income, and ? what a piece of luck ? here's an offer that's too good to pass up. Gordon Masterton, in-coming president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, wants to give me a big wedge of his own money!
Mr Masterton is nothing if not an innovator. No sooner has he got his feet under the president's desk than he declares that he has no time for the old-fashioned method of promoting the profession. So instead of muttering pointlessly to his friends and colleagues and droning on interminably at industry events, Mr Masterton is taking a radical ? even shocking ? new approach.
He is stumping up £10,000 of his own cash as the prize for any scriptwriter, playwright of other scribe who can create a character in a television or radio drama who is a civil engineer.
His logic is compelling: 'If either of the Ross or Rachel characters in Friends had been a civil engineer, I have no doubt we would be attracting more applicants into our profession' ? so they too can experience the glamour of designing foundations.
Ever since I received the press release outlining Mr Masterton's challenge, I've been racking my brains to create a convincing character who can infuse the engineering profession with the glamour of a Jennifer Aniston or a David Schwimmer. But I can't.
Looking again at the press release, I wonder if perhaps Mr Masterton's solution isn't closer to home. The press officer at the ICE is one Paul O'Grady ? which of course is the real name of outrageous drag queen Lily Savage.
Picture it: a brassy, peroxide blonde Scouse tart with a mouth like a sewer creating havoc ? with hilarious consequences ? on a major bridge project? I think it'll work!
FINALLY, here's another exciting press release. It's announcing the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway in London to celebrate the architecture of Norway.
Beats me why she'd want to come all the way to London to celebrate Norwegian architecture ? unless she's over here anyway for the shopping.
The RIBA is hosting a big exhibition and reception for Her Majesty which will include a lecture on the work of Norway's leading contemporary arch itect. Snohet ta is not only designing the Freedom Centre at Ground Zero in New York, it's also responsible for the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate. You can say one thing about Norwegian architects: they're not proud.