Friday, October 12, 2007


My missus didn't recognise me with my clothes on!

I’m not the sort of bloke that’s comfortable in a suit. Weddings, funerals and the occasional exceptionally important business meeting are the only reasons for surrendering my usual outfit of casual shirt and jeans. So the odds on me dressing in what is referred to as “Evening Wear” in educated circles and a “Penguin Suit” by the son and heir would normally be slightly more generous than those offered on Nessie to be seen riding a Harley Davidson down the M6 with Elvis riding pillion and Lord Lucan in the sidecar.

However, one of the better annual award events has a “Black Tie” policy, which doesn’t actually mean “wear a tie that is black”, but “wear the most uncomfortable shirt you can find and with it a bow-shaped noose that constricts the throat”, so, if you want to take part in the fun and games, you have to wear the comedy outfit.

All of which explains why, on Wednesday night, an awkward, discomposed and self-conscious-looking ex-contractor could be seen lurking outside Manchester’s resplendent Palace Hotel, waiting for his generous hosts from Charcon to find their way to the big city so that they might confer the award for “Public Project of the Year” on a worthy recipient.

The Builder and Engineer awards recognise achievement in the commercial and public sector, and the focus this year was very much on wider environmental concerns and carbon footprints in particular. A total of 14 awards are doled out, offering varying degrees of interest to someone from a civils/hard-landscaping background, from almost-none to quite-a-lot. The full list of categories, nominees and eventual winners can be found on the Builder and Engineer website, but a couple are worth mentioning. The Charcon award (or Char-sonne, if you prefer the MC Mike Shaft pronunciation) for Public Project of the Year went to Birse Civils for the A58 Blackbrook by-pass on the outskirts of St. Helens, notable because a colleague of mine was involved in some of the kerb-laying and also for being the source of the JCB that unwittingly led my Father’s funeral cortege along the East Lancs Road last December, an incident that would have amused him greatly.

Civils Contractor of the year went to Alfred McAlpine in recognition of their work on widening the M60 Manchester orbital car park with a enviable record of having two periods covering in excess of 1 million man hours without a single notifiable accident, which, when you consider we’re talking about groundworkers, navvies, digger-drivers and blacktop gangs, is nothing short of a miracle.

Product of the year, for the second year running, overlooked a bloody clever idea from Advanced Sewer Products and went instead to some scaffolding/formwork gizmo. If you have any involvement at all with sewers or drains, I urge you to take a look at the CamStopper and CamPole products, because they will make your working life safer and easier.

Some interesting gossip, as there always is at these events.

Charcon marketing boss, the ever-genial Fraser Higgins, let me have one of the first copies of the new SUDS design manual, which I’m planning to review in more detail over the next few days. At first glance, it’s very, very impressive and is certain to become the design manual by which the others are judged. Watch the News pages for the review towards the back end of next week.

The tame CBP makers at Charcon have come up with what might be considered a spiffing wheeze. I was shown a new block a couple of weeks back, on condition that I swore a solemn vow to keep me trap shut. However, I’m fairly confident that I won’t be shot at dawn for revealing that it’s damned clever and very, very attractive. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s the best new CBP I’ve seen in 4 years. Latest news is that development is ploughing ahead at full speed and trial sites are being sought. If you have a 100-300m2 commercial/retail/housing site ready to be paved in the next month or so, and would like to be considered as a trial, drop me an email with details of the project and I’ll pass it on to the Charcon block boffins.

Also some surprising news from the Bradstone camp, but I’m not sure whether it’s embargoed, so I’ll say nowt until I’m told otherwise. Suffice to say it’s a disappointment, but I can understand the reasoning…sort of.

Thankfully, the rather disturbing photos of yours truly in a penguin outfit are not fit for publication, so you’re spared that horror, but I’d like to thank Fraser and everyone at Charcon for inviting me to enjoy their munificent hospitality, to offer sincere congratulations to the award winners, and thank my lucky stars that I didn’t win the Chubby Brown tickets in the “Good Cause” raffle (which raised in excess of three grand for the chosen charity, Caudwell Children).

The pleated shirt and bow-tie can now go back into hibernation…or I could put them on EBay, I suppose!
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