History in the making, online: A day in the life of Britain

Thousands of Britons were invited yesterday to create the biggest blog ever, entering for posterity what they did on 17 October 2006. We asked several people for their entries
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The Independent Online

Charles Saumarez Smith Director, National Gallery

I had a sleepless night fretting about the fact that I had a very public disagreement on the Radio 4 programme Start the Week with the historian Simon Schama. The disagreement concerned the best way to communicate ideas about art to a broad audience.

So, the first part of the morning was spent trying to repair the damage. He has been more forgiving than I probably deserve.

The second part of the morning was the press view for our exhibition on Velázquez. I have never seen so many people for a press view. Dawson Carr, the curator of the exhibition, gave a completely brilliant introduction to the exhibition and Velázquez's work. I was interviewed by German radio, by a man from Reuters who wanted to know if London was the epicentre of the art world, by a Spanish journalist who couldn't understand why there was so much public interest in the exhibition, and had a chat with Jonathan Miller as to whether or not the public would respond more enthusiastically to the early works of still life than the later works of court portraiture.

Lunch with Miguel Zugaza, the director of the Prado [in Madrid], Gabriele Finaldi, his deputy director, and Susan Foister, the National Gallery's director of collections. We talked nearly as much about how we handle our catering franchise as about forthcoming exhibitions. There is always a certain amount of not-so-gentle horse-trading about loans.

After lunch, I had a senior staff meeting, when I had to bring people up to date with discussions about the forthcoming comprehensive spending review: not a happy subject. Thank goodness our exhibition Manet to Picasso has been unexpectedly successful with huge crowds coming to see our 19th-century collection redisplayed.

I then went for the second time today to see how they are getting on with the refitting of the new National Café, which is due to open this morning. The tender was extremely tight and was due to be completed on Monday. This morning it still looked pretty chaotic. By this afternoon, at least one of the rooms had been set out with tables and chairs.

This evening, it's the second opening for Velázquez. I'm feeling a bit frayed having spent last night introducing the Infanta Cristina, the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca, to what felt like a thousand people. Tomorrow I'm off to Montreal for the meeting of museum directors of the world. Tonight, we've got dinner at the Spanish embassy and I've been worrying about where to park.

Rachel Batterham, 35 Obesity Researcher, University College, London

I spent the morning writing a grant application for a new research project looking at which diet works best to lose weight. Everyone knows the only way to lose weight is to eat less but the challenge is how to get people to eat less. If they eat something high in saturated fat, even a small quantity contains a lot of calories.

I have also been in the laboratory running blood tests to measure the hormones, insulin and leptin, in obese people as part of a study into what regulates appetite. I am giving a talk in Athens on Saturday on appetite regulation and I have to write it.

I left home in the Barbican at 8am. I don't eat breakfast but took a cup of coffee with me on the Tube. For lunch, I got a salad from Eat, as usual. I am very conscious of what I put in my mouth although I don't need to watch my weight.

I am also trying to persuade the hospital trust to set up an obesity service, offering treatment including stomach reduction surgery. But in the modern NHS I have to make a financial case for it, with projections of numbers of patients, cost of equipment and so on. There are not many centres in the UK and I have been seeking advice from abroad.

I will be here till 9pm as normal. I have people working for me I need to talk to before I finish my own work.

Clare Short Former International Development Secretary

I woke up at about seven o'clock, turned on the radio and listened, half dozing and half listening to the Today programme for about an hour.

I had some squeezed orange juice for breakfast and went for an Alexander technique lesson. It teaches you the tensions in the body so you can let them go. It's very nice.

I got the bus - the 87 - to the House of Commons and had a meeting with Cafod and mining exporters. We went to the Philippines in the summer looking at a threatened expansion of mining. There has been a lot of logging there and this could lead to people losing their livelihood. We are hoping we can make enough noise that it becomes more and more of an international issue.

At 12.50 I walked up Whitehall to the National Gallery where I met the guy who did my book to talk about the state of the world and whether I have another book in me. I hope there is - a why we are in a mess and how do we get out of it book.

I walked back and met someone about a trip I made to Ethiopia where I met politicians about NGO people who are in a lot of trouble.

Later I did an interview with Midlands TV who are doing a programme about poverty.

Ladywood, my constituency, is a constituency with a lot of poverty.

I tried to spend and hour doing some work in the office, before meeting one of the people who went to the Philippines with me for dinner. Then after the vote at about 10pm I went home, had a glass of wine, watched Newsnight and went to bed.

Louise Christian Human Rights Lawyer

First thing, a builder arrives to inspect a rotten sash window. Says it will cost £1,500 to replace. Not good.

By 9.30am, I was in my office taking a call from a distressed family. Their son, Michael, 23, was killed when a massive crane fell on him as he worked on his car at their council flats. The crane was on a building site for luxury homes, near the badly-built, 1960s blocks. Michael, a Romanian bus-driver, leaves a baby son and his partner, Angela.

The crane-driver landed on the car of a grocery store owner who witnessed both deaths. The block above her store was destroyed. The families face months of unanswered questions while the Health and Safety Executive investigates.

They are likely to be refused legal aid for representation at the inquest, because those involved are private companies, not public bodies. At midday, I discover that, after a long delay, the prosecution have still not produced papers to show their case against a 16-year-old Muslim client charged with terror offences.

After lunch, I worry about the latest financial figures for my legal aid firm, employing 50. A government report from Lord Carter says he expects us to do the same amount of work for 25 per cent less money. He does not realise how close to collapse the legal aid system is.

In late afternoon, I meet the Constitutional Affairs minister, Harriet Harman, to discuss inquest reform.

Joanna Moorhead 44-year-old mother of four, London

"Is it Saturday?" asks Treenie, four, as she climbs into our bed at 0630.

"Shush," says my husband, Gary, turning the radio up. "It's the news." "Dad, you're SO grumpy," moans Rosie, 14, half an hour later. I am grumpy too; why ever did we sit in the kitchen until 1am with a bottle of wine? Oh yes, I remember; we've got four kids, two jobs, a home to run, and last night Gary was working late and I was out at a film. If we don't talk at 1am, we don't talk at all.

For two hours, all hell is let loose in our house; as well as grumpy parents we have lost socks, no milk, homework to complete, a nametape to sew on and the early morning arrival of Edward, who has come for breakfast. Not until 0930, when I return from the walk to primary school, is the house finally quiet: and then, as I close the door behind me, I realise it is too silent. My husband is at work; my kids are at school - even little Treenie, who has just started in reception. The silence is deafening, and though I have longed for it I realise straight away that, though the day will fly by, I am already missing them all.

Graham Cassidy Chief Superintendent, South Yorkshire Police, Doncaster

I start my working day at 7am looking through the chief constable's log on my Blackberry for major incidents overnight. They include a murder involving domestic violence; serious wounding of a 14-year-old lad; an 80-year-old woman killed by a vehicle reversing out of a drive, and an armed robbery by two men.

I'm at work at 8am and discuss crimes of the past 24 hours. As part of the set targets, we are "allowed" eight burglaries to stay on target, we had seven so it was a "good" day. Burglaries this year are down 8 per cent.

At 8.45am, I am joined by my boss to promote a special constable. Toni Mournih is 23 and works with autistic children. She also does 20 hours a week of unpaid work as a special. She is a remarkable lady. Meeting at 10am to discuss performances and a scheme to reduce prostitution in Doncaster. We've had two murdered in eight years.

At 12.30, we say goodbye to an inspector who has been with us for 30 years. I grab a roast chicken sandwich. From 1pm, I deal with my e-mails. At 2.30 my son rang while on exercise with the Navy in the North Sea. He was 18 last Friday but missed celebrating at home because he was on the ship. We chat; he's doing well.

Spent afternoon on personnel and budget matters, and left about 5pm for the gym to try to get myself fitter. I'm on call overnight, so I can't have a drink and probably won't sleep well.

Georgina Harland Olympic Bronze Medallist in Modern Pentathlon

I've hardly had time for a diary today as I'm preparing for the World Championship, in Guatemala, which means training in shooting, swimming, running fencing and riding for 12 hours a day.

I train at Bath University's sports training village, which is the national centre for my sport. Some of the methods are very advanced including a computer-generated target for shooting practice and monitoring lactose levels as part of swim training.

I won't get home until about 10pm - and with so little time to unwind, I have a guilty secret about what I do for relaxation. I have just got Sky Plus, which enables you to record entire soap operas so when I get home I watch Home and Away or Neighbours.

Sport is at a very interesting time in Britain at the moment. It's such a buzzword and there is so much investment going on thanks to the Olympics and the hope is that passion for sport will be translated into more mass participation. It will be interesting to look back in 20 years' time to see whether that has been the case. Days like these mean you have no time for contemplation although when I get the chance I am going to get tickets to visit the Bath Spa, which finally reopened this summer.

James Dyson Inventor

Up at 7am. I should have gone for a run, but I'm still jet-lagged from a trip to Malaysia; maybe tomorrow. Drove across the beautiful Cotswolds countryside and arrived at the office in Malmesbury for 8.45am.

I spent most of my day with the engineers in research and development. They work on different technologies and I was in all the labs - including microbiology, pick-up, robotics and the anechoic chamber - watching tests and experiments on prototypes of technologies.

There's a lot to see and do because 420 engineers are working across different projects and each one has a new technology to integrate. This is what I love doing most. In the afternoon, I have meetings about the school I hope to build in Bath. We're slowly making progress.

I head home to Wiltshire at 7pm, spending a little time reading, before dinner with my family. After that, I am off to fly to Japan for a product launch and an engineering lecture.

Joss Garman Environmental campaigner and writer from Llandrindod Wells, Wales, 21

Today has been one of the strangest days of my life. I've spent it in a state of nervous - very nervous - excitement preparing to go on Newsnight to be grilled by Jeremy Paxman.

Last year I co-established Plane Stupid, Britain's first national direct action group against flying. We're trying to get short-haul flights banned and runways shut down. We're part of the last generation that stands a chance of doing something about climate change so a few weeks ago Plane Stupid invaded the taxiway at Nottingham airport and closed it down in a direct action protest.

Now I've been invited on to Newsnight because today Oxford University's climatologists have said we're right about the science. But I've got images of Jezza giving me his best Michael Howard treatment, asking me 14 times to justify why I should be allowed to even sit in his presence. I'm not sure I'll have an answer, other than to say we're talking about our ability as a species to live on this planet while the industry and ministers talk about their ability to live in Tuscany at the weekend. I'm bent over piles of statistics trying to memorise them and the clock's ticking closer to the time I have to leave.

One hundred and eighty-two million people dying from climate change this century in Africa alone. God, is that true? Yep, Christian Aid said it.

I'll try to use it. If I get a chance. How did I do? Go to bbc.co.uk/newsnight to find out.