Back to the future

One of the most eye-opening, exhausting and enthralling few days I’ve spent lately involved trawling through 25 years – that’s about 1250 issues – of Inside House magazine for its anniversary issue. The world – and social housing – was a very different place in 1984 under the Tories but, by the time I’d read all the way back to the present, the irony of where New Labour’s policies have ended up was overwhelming.

Lies, damned lies and insurance fraud

Fraud costs insurers millions every year, so detecting it is big business. I investigated “voice stress analysis” software, which is supposed to monitor micro-tremors in your voice to suss out when you’re lying. Some insurers swear by it, but others have found their teams of former social workers and police officers consistently outperform any computer. Meanwhile, scientists in the US have said VSA is about as effective as astrology, and there’s even an application for the iPhone. Why not try it for yourself?

On the frontline of the recession

The UK’s 4.7m small and medium-sized enterprises are bearing the brunt of the recession – according to BDO Stoy Hayward, five will close their doors every hour for the rest of this year. I wrote the lead article for Insurance Times’ SME focus, speaking to struggling business owners, financial advisers and brokers to find out what was really going on in this hard-to-reach sector. On a cheerier note, I wrote a separate piece on the retail sector, and found that despite high-profile high-street failures, small local shops weren’t doing too badly…

Just don’t mention Time Team…

Archaeologists may seem far removed from modern concerns, but they’ve been badly hurt by the property downturn. Much of modern archaeology is prompted by development and if no one’s building, there’s nothing to dig up. I interviewed three archaeologists for Construction Manager magazine about fighting with builders, the unglamorous side of being Indiana Jones and how they can survive the downturn.