Summer BTS, Insidious Advertising, Le Grand Dèpart, The benefits of time off.

I’m just back home from 2 weeks of annual leave. 2 whole weeks, with my whole family, without having to go to work. I think the last time my wife and I had 2 weeks off, together, back to back, was our honeymoon. In September 2000.

After one week off my e-mail inbox usually has about 600 unanswered messages, so it’s no surprise to find 1153 in there just now. But, despite me now answering them, and me not being at work, the hospital, and the medical school seem not to have fallen down, burnt down, ground to a halt, disappeared and reappeared on the moon. I suspect no-one has really noticed.

Two weeks off has allowed me to actually have a holiday – something I have to admit, I rarely manage. I think we underestimate the importance of taking a decent chunk of time off, as a single block, to unwind, chill out, and have a bit of fun with the family. I even took the kids to Alton Towers.

It looks like I have another few days of annual leave to take before the end of July, but I’ll have to spread them out, piecemeal throughout the next couple of weeks – I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll spend at least one of those ‘days off’ catching up with e-mails, going into the office to do a bit of dictation, having a quick meeting over lunch. Perhaps I should just go back to Alton Towers.

The Summer BTS was in York in the middle of my two weeks off. So yes, I did do some work in the middle of my ‘2 week uninterrupted block’, but the Summer BTS, as previously discussed, is a highlight of the year for me, so I don’t consider it too arduous – and the racecourse is only one stop round the A64 from the designer outlet village, which is always worth a punt. A real highlight for me was Jon Britton’s hugely engaging presentation on smoking cessation. I was only one of the audience who posted a number of tweets during his presentation – you can follow the twitter discussion on #BTSSummer (Incidentally, BT Sport were using the #BTSSummer and #BTSWinter hashtags to hold a poll on whether the World Cup should be in Summer or Winter – our Summer BTS tweets provided an unexpected bias to the vote).

Something I’d really not thought about was the insidious advertising that is seemingly endemic on our TV programs in the UK. Coronation Street was used as an example: the beer served in the Rovers Return is fictional; when the residents want to search on the internet, they use Poogle (or some such), but all the cigarettes displayed in the corner shop are real, likewise any cigarette boxes on tables, or just lying around. The cigarette display counter in the corner shop is at 90 degrees to where it would naturally sit in a real shop, otherwise it wouldn’t be in camera shot.

The recent film Rush, based on the real life events of the F1 stars James Hunt and Nikki Lauder shows the era-accurate F1 McLaren cars, sponsored by Marlborough. Fair enough, you might say. SKY movies made the effort to remove the branding from the cars on a shot by shot basis, so avoid any inference of advertising. Not something I ever thought about.

The question of eCigarettes was obviously high on the agenda for Prof Britton. He showed evidence that the uptake of smoking has not increased in under 18 year olds since the introduction of eCigarettes, going against the suggestion that they ‘normalise’ smoking. The availability of smoking alternatives, such as Snüss in Sweden, have reduced smoking rates, and, Prof Britton suggests, eCigarettes are no different. He accepts that they are probably dangerous in their unlicensed form, but the next moving is licensing, not banning them. He makes a compelling argument. Great lecture.

Then I was a TourMaker at the Tour de France Grand Dèpart in Yorkshire. I’m a keen cyclist, and I’m from Yorkshire, so this was a dream come true. I marshalled in a sleepy village outside Aysgarth, which involved very little actual marshalling, but the sense of excitement in the whole of Yorkshire was something amazing to be part of. The real joy, though, was seeing so many people out on their bikes, all through Yorkshire. The roads were closed in front of the tour, but the cyclists of Yorkshire didn’t get the memo – on the bus to get to the marshalling point, we must have seen 2,000 people cycling up the road. People of all ages, sizes, seriousness, all cycling up the road to see the tour. We’re constantly being told how we’re an obese nation, who we’re a sedentary nation; the nation I saw that weekend were neither. It’s easy for me to be a cycling evangelist – I love being out on the bike – but it looks like I’m not alone. I was a standard spectator on Stage 3 in Cambridge; it wasn’t just Yorkshire folk totally enthralled with the Tour. There’s thousands of bikes in Cambridge every day of the year, but the excitement of the tour was palpable. I do hope the enthusiasm carries on through the post-tour excitement, the cardiovascular health of the country can only be positively affected.

My 2 weeks of actual holiday are over. Back to those 1000+ emails, and who knows what remains on my desk. I’m glad I went away, though.

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