My One Day In History - 0600-2359
- 17 Oct 06, 07:38 AM
The British Library is encouraging us all to blog about our daily experience today. If you want to have a go, click here. It's being done to promote "history" and you are supposed to include stuff about how history has affected your day. It will all be useful in 2207 they say. Since most of us are not lucky enough, like Samuel Pepys, to be able to write "got up, drank my morning draught, went to France to bring about the restoration of the Stuart monarchy, got drunk, snogged the housemaid..." it could be a tall order. However I am about to give it a go. For the entertainment and enlightenment of Newsnight viewers I will be updating this regularly throughout the day. If your blog intersects with mine - ie you see me on the bus, or I am unlucky enough to be put on telly tonight - put me in as a keyword, and Newsnight. Here goes....
0559: Woke up to DAB radio coming on. Today Programme with Jim Naughtie and Carolyn Quinn. Main story - Bush's advisers say he should call in Syria and Iran to help rule Iraq. But don't they already run most of it through allied militias anyway? Lie in bed with my wife listening to the news. At 0615 I have to pay attention as it's the business slot: very financially literate and detailed discussion of Macquarie Bank's strategy of buying infrastructure assets. And the BBC governors want us all investigated for doing too much "consumer" and "fat cat" stories - not at 0615!
My wife gets up first as she's going to the gym. I get out of bed around 0645 and make put the kettle on. I start sweeping sand into the bricks on our new patio which I laid over the weekend. My wife makes a pot of tea (Tesco Finest) and we drink it in the garden, me in my dressing gown (do you really want this much detail 2207???) The moon starts as a silver sliver against a misty sky but about five to 7 the sky in the east lights up pink and the sky goes blue. I look up again and the moon has disappeared over the rooftops. She goes off to work at 0715; I make toast and another cup of tea, this time just using the bag, and then I'm at my computer.
0735: Sit down at the computer which I leave on standby, but with the monitor switched off overnight. Log in. Get my personal emails (from POP server to Outlook on my PC): three overnight - a Google Alert on China news, a "new friend" request on MySpace; spam inviting me to invest in Texahoma Energy. Log in to BBC Webmail - a remote access version of work email that you have to usa an RAS SecurID tag to get into. type my login name, password, personal pin code then a six digit code generated by the tag. Only four emails overnight: (i) same Google China alert, (ii) a Spam alert from the server telling me it has intercepted 22 messages. I give you the top five...
Pablo Luna (walkermayzys@col.. Prescription free top med brand$ 10/16/06 3:35 AM
Scott M Bassett (imhotep@eng.. Re: Can you help me? Need Zyloprim . 10/16/06 5:02 AM
Thomas Salinas (westbayahfq@.. CIAlis (TADALAFIL) =-= $uper VIAgr@ 10/16/06 5:25 AM
Jana Gee (blake@embeddedwire.. Re: Check out for H0T NEWS! 10/16/06 5:55 AM
Sushil Higham (arlenelowder@.. Re: VmlAGRA 10/16/06 6:13 AM
...an email from Lehman Brothers research team called Daily Global Relative Value. It get this every day and its vaguely Marxist title cheers me up.It's a PDF, which I don't read and a kind of quiz for analysts to take part in. The question today is: "Which factor is most likely to induce “Goldilocks” to flee? (Please Open Report to Vote) A) Geopolitical risk B) Stubbornly elevated inflation C) Decline in corporate profitability D) Issuer-specific event E) Liquidity stall F) Aging business cycle." This is about the so-called Goldilocks economy - neither too hot (inflation) nor too cold (recession). Like I said, here at the beeb we are always concentrating on consumer stories and fat cats.
The final overnight email has been from a business consultancy called Yankee Group inviting me to a seminar in New York about "The Impact of Ubiquity on Networks, Service Delivery and Business models". On current budgets I won't be going.
Round about 0800 the post van arrives and rings my doorbell. I go down to collect a special delivery parcel containing the next three chapters of my book with corrections from my book editor. As the previous three chapters are still uncorrected and it's all due in a week's time, this is unwelcome. On the doorstep I say good morning to my neighbour, Caroline, a jazz sax player who is getttng ready to take her daughter to nursery in the time honoured urban bohemian fashion of a push bike: they are both wearing helmets. The postie calls me mate.
At 0800 I stop writing this and start looking at the websites of the newspapers to see if there's anything I might need to cover. More blogging due mid-morning.
11000 UPDATE: Not much in the papers. More on muslims: now the backlash against Labour's PR offensive has started (in the Telegraph, and on Newsnight last night). Veiled women pictures everywhere. Only article I bothered to read was this one, which was excellent. Being a daily news journo with access to the wires you tend to know what's going to be in the papers before you read them, so you mainly look for interesting comment or exclusives everyone else has missed.
I've spent about 2.5 hours correcting a chapter of my book (about the rise of syndicalism after the London docks strike of 1889, so definitely "touched by history" today), and half an hour talking to somebody in the NHS about a story I am working on: I may put more details in the "for posterity" version of this, but it was off the record so nothing here. Until just now I was still in my pyjamas - one of the luxuries of having a job where you know you may still be at work at midnight is to take a leisurely run at the morning until 1000.
Had a short conversation with today's output editor of Newsnight, Robbie Gibb. He tells me there is a six minute slot we need to fill tonight and that Peter Barron, the actual supreme leader of Newsnight, is keen on the story about Hinckley Point's boiler pipes turning dodgy. As I write this I am awaiting a call out of the eleven o'clock meeting. Let me explain: the output editors of the BBC News bulletins all go to a meeting at 0915: they compare notes but if you are the Newsnight editor you are also prone to hiding various exclusives and angles. After that they communicate with their minions. Then at 1030 in Newsnight's case there is a cramped meeting in the editor's office: Robbie and Peter go through what they are thinking and the desk producers - mainly people in their 20s and 30s - pitch stories. These are the people who will drive the news desk all day, not the onscreen reporters. We communicate by email and mobile phone, pitching stories, dissing others and depending on our mood volunteering to fill the six minutes not already allocated. It looks like I am in line to do something.
I've showered (green Dove soap, Aveda Black Malva shampoo) and dressed (jeans, old shirt) and am now going to chase down HSS Tool Hire who are supposed to be picking up a Wacker Plate and Brick Cutter from me - which is one of the reasons I am still working at home at 1100. 25 work emails since the last check, mainly useful. No more home emails. I've spent the last three hours in my study, not leaving my desk, but with a sub-audible Radio Four on on the next room which, as always during the daytime, seems to be about hedgehogs and women's problems.
Right, historians of the future, read this: I phoned the HSS call centre and gave them my order number. After only 30 seconds of muzak (actually a commercial radio-style ad for HSS) they told me the driver is on his way and will pick the stuff up in 20 minutes. Whatever you read about call centres and customer service in the 21st century, it's not true: hiring stuff, and even buying stuff is a doddle now - even at the roughnecked end of commerce, the building trade. The stuff I hired worked, did what it was supposed to do, did not injure me, was delivered on time (albeit by men with a marked reluctance to carry anything). Even the fact that I am supposed to be trained to work a vibration plate was not an obstacle to getting it delivered.
1151: The HSS man actually helped me carry both machines through the house to the truck. I suppose just in case in the year 2207 it is still an issue I will mention the detail that he was black; the postman was white, I am white, all my neighbours are white. The wacker plate was a Honda: when I asked him what make it was he looked at me gone out as if to say - why, you're not thinking of buying one are you!
I have just got a personal email from my local community organisation inviting me to an over-50s tea dance: Quadrille dancing with Elsa Perez. It is not funny - in four years time I will be able to go! It is 12 noon now and time to do something that does not involve Microsoft Word or Typepad.
1220: Nipped out for a quick lunch at my local Portugese greasy spoon. Took a call from someone pitching me a "survey based" story about gambling habits. Steak covered in "pizzaola" sauce with fresh veg cut up and boiled to taste like tinned veg. All in all a mistake - their cakes are good, as are their breakfasts, but I am on a diet. Sadly even the veg will not count towards the five portions my wife polices me to eat each day. In the cafe are: a builder in shorts; two office worker couples, all smoking; some burly plain cothes law enforcement types (my area of south London is home to many offshoots of NCIS and the Met). The counter mobbed by builders in hi-vis buying sandwiches. All four of the extended Madieran family behind the counter working very fast to keep up. The owner takes time to have a few words with me as he brings me the steak.
In the cafe I read the FT. Just for posterity I will give you a "reading" of what I saw, postmodernist style: lead story on Macquarie - right story, right line. Big second lead on flotation of Chinese bank - very FT, aimed at its supposed global audience. Phil Stephens comment piece on why generals should not intervene in politics (curious echo of Pepys here!) - my reaction? The voice of a Blair ally quietly making a point. Big comment piece by FT international editor - aargh, indigestible, Big feature on the succession plan at Berelsmann - very interesting. Real original take on a real major business. Most of the rest of it I have seen on the wires already. There are two supplements with the FT - the Companies and Markets section, which I scan and bin, and an advertising led thing which made so little impression on my that I binned it before taking in what it was about.
I have taken a phone call from an NGO activist I was working with to cover a planned backbench revolt by Labour MPs over the Company Law Reform Bill. It now looks like the revolt is fizzling out, as there have been concessions from the government. There will still be a dingdong in parliament later this week between Labour and the Tories over the substantive bill. NGOs disappointed more concessions not wrung out of the front bench.
I stick some washing in the machine, collect my suit from the local dry cleaners and watch the One O'Clock News. The One leads with Iraq Study Group planning escape routes for Bush, and with Blair "presser" - what we call a press conference - which is still going on. Looks like he's having a hard time. I email Robbie to ask if he wants to do the numbers game over NHS job losses tonight. We are now discussing this via email. I write "How many people are really being sacked this year - and why can't Blair or the chief exec answer it? Straight political fist fight off the back of a stats piece." He is thinking about it.
Meanwhile, on another story entirely I am asked by Jasmin the deputy editor to make a call to a key contact who we need to speak to. I make the call. That's the second interesting thing that's happened to day where I can't go into detail. I am beginning to realise it might go on like this all day.
Jasmin is my line manager and deals with my story pitches, whinges and workload: I am due a call with her about the NHS story I was researching earlier, which is not the same as the one Blair is dealing with. Since I have started with this ethnic identity thing, Jasmin is Sikh. Looking at my experiences today through 2207 hindsight, I think it is worth saying that with middle class people, and even to "assimilated" working class people, I find at least in London ethnicity is almost transparent - I genuinely hardly notice who is black, white or Asian. What you do tend to notice more is language and culture: so the Portugese/Madieran cafe's whole identity is wrapped up in who they are; and in London right now you can't move without hearing somebody speaking Polish into a mobile phone.
I am ironing a shirt and getting my suit on ready to go into work. It is exactly 1330
1500: As Erwin Schrodinger might have predicted, writing this blog has now started to affect what is happening to me. Arriving at work I get an email from my first ever girlfriend (we split up 28 years ago) who now works in the comms department of one of the organisations dealing with bad news today and we have a slightly edgy but funny email exchange where she tells me about her day so far, takes the mickey out of me and my patio, and chides me a bit over the way her story is being covered.
I walk in the office, Bush is live on News24 about Guantanamo. Another email informs me we won't do the NHS story today. News24 is now reporting on the blogging project.
On the tube journey here I remember seeing: a builder in a wooly hat with a spirit level longer than he was high; a young couple where the man had a walking stick and they both looked worried; a slightly intense looking woman who was taking up two seats with a giant bag of sewing; an actor type wrapped in a scarf despite the tube being boiling hot; a woman in a track suit carrying a violin case.
Going back a bit, on leaving the house I was dressed in: pink shirt (Aquascutum); blue suit (Kilgour); black shoes (Church's); watch (Zenith); cufflinks (Van den Berg). I know this sounds like an advertorial from GQ magazine but in 2207 they might want to know. Anyway it's the journalists equivalent of body armour and it means nobody is going to jerk you around on the reception desk of a major company should you need to turn up at one in a hurry. In my pockets there are: wallet; SonyEricsson P910i (battered and scratched and minus its stylus); keys; transparent plastic earpiece in case I have to do a live report; about £3 in change; Oystercard with some business cards. I am carrying about £40 in notes and quite a lot of plastic.
There is now a lot of business news happening but it will struggle to get on Newsnight because there are other big stories around: Tata bids for Corus; US PPI down...
1630: Following the second big editors meeting of the day, Newsnight is now going to cover the NHS job losses story and I am now working flat out on preparing somethign I have to record at 8pm. My producer Mark is hard at work scrounging tapes of Tony Blair from other frantic producers. SO there you go, it's as quick and decisive as "now we're at war with Eurasia" once the bosses decide something. More to follow...
1830: It is now half past six and I am deep in the detail of scripting graphics abotu NHS job losses, wading through party breifings and Treasury responses about who's saying what over the NHS. There is such a mixtur eof on and off record stuff in my inbox that I am not even going to go there. In the middle of it all I got a cal from another longterm contact offering me an exclusive on a political story. I know it all sounds like Walter Mitty - but basically since about 1530 I have gone into multitasking mode. Physically I am sitting at my desk and mainly talking to people (Labour, Tories, NHS Employers, Unison) via emissaries. I have ordered Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls from the takeaway: my other half will not be pleased at my fresh vegetable and fruit intake - it amounts to a solitary Cox's Orange Pippin I ate this morning. Set against that is the Twix I bought and ate as soon as I found out I had to do tonight's story - that hour between three and four pm is the journalistic equivalent to the hour when the secret police come and take people away into night and fog....
Right now, outside, it is dark. The big thing on Newsnight tonight is an exclusive story about the activities of the Janjawid militia in Sudan. At 1900 I will be interviewing somebody from the unions and then at 2000 I will record some of my piece for tonight. Then I'll go and edit it, eating the Chinese food somewhere inbetween. My car home is booked for 2300 and my first appointment tomorrow is 0815. I hope that technology has cut the TV correspondent's working day a bit by 2207 - in fact if you bear in mind that the way we work adumbrates the way most people will work in future, with work seeping into life and life into work, the whole concept of work hours will break down.
2215: They have not broken down yet however. It is ten fifteen and I am sitting in a small dark room with two other blokes: producer Mark Lobel and VT editor Clive Edwards...we are cutting together a piece which is part me standing in the studio, part me tracking over rushes, part footage of Tony Blair and David Nicholson, CEO of the NHS, trying to explain why they can't give an exact figure for the number of job losses in the NHS. Its all done except for an information graphic, which is being done by someone else. We have just watched the ten o'clock news cover the latest carnage in Iraq and it occurs to me that this is the third or fourth year of sitting in a dark room with other journalists late at night watching pictures of Iraq and quietly shaking our heads. The second story on the Ten O'Clock News is about, er, fat cat salaries.
Moving swiftly on, I am now psyching myself up to go and do a live top to my piece in the studio with Jeremy Paxman. See you on the airwaves.
2220: I get to the studio to record the top of the programme which involves just standing in a place. Paxman ribs me about this blog - implying that I should not be getting up at 6am. We have a conversation the conclusion of which is that both our lives would be better if we got more sleep. I spend the next 20 minutes in the "Green Room" with programme guests watching the more important stuff a the top of the programme and then, near the end, I am guided to the set to do my live bit. UNfortunately the 30 seconds allocated for me to slip onto the set and start speaking is too short, or goes too quickly, and I am not guided to the required spot so I start speaking in a kind of no-man's land. it is all over, like dentistry, before you know you have started. Had a long discussion with Anei our makeup woman about how to mend an ADSL router that has been struck by lightning - she was shocked that you could just go out and buy a new one, and did not have to rely on BT replacing the one that's broken.
I queued as usual to get my cab at BBC reception and Derek, the man on the desk who looks out for me, got it sorted. The cab took the usual dog-leg journey down through Chelsea to the embankment then along to Vauxhall bridge. This is a great journey to take in silence late at night with the river breeze in your face, in the back of a decent car. I have learned to use it to relax.
Arrived home at about 2340, poured a glass of port. Talked to my wife, who has seen a fatal cycle accident today and looks a bit shocked. Came to the study to write this, ending Bridget-Jones style with a list of medicines I am about to take: 20mg omeprazole, Gaviscon, Twinings Digestif Tea (1 unit). That's my day: I will post it up on the site and it will be here for posterity, or until the BBC rebrands us, or gets abolished: which will be long before 2207.