President’s Blog February 2015

Those of you who suffer to read my regular ‘copy’ as the publishers refer to it, will be used to the format of updates of College activity.

This month I thought I might adopt a more autobiographical perspective, reflecting on some of my personal experiences of the last 18 months. In consequence, dispel any notion of enlightenment and instead presume an ephemeral and inconsequential account of the experiences of a middle aged man.

I have spent a considerable amount of time travelling around the UK and Ireland to a range of meetings, conferences, events and departments. The reasons and outcomes of these visits, I have variously reported in CEM news. The incidental experiences are the subject of today’s missive.

The journeys themselves have been mercifully free of events in the main though the flooding of last winter reduced much of Somerset to an inland sea and threatened to create a new post of ‘President in Exile’. Fortunately the waters subsided and we trust the work of the Dutch engineers will ensure no repetition this year.

Most of my journeys begin or end at Paddington station, currently a monument to scaffolding and an obvious omission from this year’s Turner Prize shortlist. Ordinarily, I then take the Central Line to Chancery Lane, and the College, but as so often happens the train has been spectacularly late on only two occasions – these of course have been the most important events in my diary; but there is great pleasure to be derived in hopping in a taxi and declaring ‘take me to the Palace please!’

Scaffolding has become something of a regular sight for me. When I visit other Colleges I have not failed to notice that the RCP President has a panoramic view over Regent’s Park, the RCS President looks over the tranquil ‘oasis of green’ that is Lincoln’s Inn Fields and even the RCoA President has a magnificent view of the central London skyline. Not for me these aesthetic vistas; no my own office has an uninterrupted view of one of the largest demolition projects in Central
London – complete with sound effects (noise), atmosphere (dust) and support vehicles (lorries). My successor will be pleased to know that the work is due for completion in 2017!

Hotel rooms are the necessary residence of the regular traveller and my own ‘home from home’ is within the Ambassador’s Hotel, between BMA House and Euston station – a short 30 minute walk from the College. The name suggests grandeur and at least the promise of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate to adorn each pillow but sadly reality disappoints. My own request for a list of diplomats that have stayed at the hotel has remained unanswered. It does however do an excellent cooked breakfast.

Obviously other College Officers also stay at the hotel and on one occasion as Chris Moulton (Vice President) joined me at the check in desk we were asked if we wished for one room or two! Whilst always keen to avoid unnecessary College expenditure, both of us felt this was a step too far and we declined the money saving opportunities of the suggestion.

On a similar theme, at a central Glasgow hotel I was informed that I had been upgraded to a deluxe room. I expressed my gratitude and enquired as to the attendant benefits and was informed ‘you get two double beds’ . This seemed a rather pointless benefit for a single man travelling alone for one night though the rationale became clearer when I was asked how many room keys I would require!
Finally on the subject of hotels, my only personal regret followed my BBC Newsnight interview. Checking-in at around midnight I inexplicably decided to apologise for wearing make-up – remarking that I had just been on the television. The body language of the receptionist indicated that this was neither believed nor unusual!

And so on to luggage. Being a peripatetic president has meant that I spend a good deal of time wheeling a small suitcase. Recently I treated myself to a rather smart leather suitcase to replace a loyal but rather tired fabric model. My spirit is cheered as I gaze upon it perched on the luggage rack above me on a variety of different rolling stock across the railway network. ‘Luggage to befit a
gentleman’ has been my comforting (if a little conceited) thought. Imagine then my unalloyed pride when I attended a drinks reception hosted by the GMC at a club in Pall Mall recently. At the end of the evening, I collected the said suitcase from the concierge who commented “very nice indeed sir, we’ve been admiring it”! Surely a mark of genuine middle age when one can take comfort in complements paid to one’s luggage that in a previous decade might have been applied to the owner!

So as you can see the vicissitudes of the office of president are both many and grievous! The current incumbent draws them to your attention merely to offer an insight into the world of an itinerant EM doctor plying his trade as the elected representative of his profession.

Rest assured that next month’s CEM news will refrain from whimsy and anecdote – normal service will be resumed!

Dr Cliff Mann FCEM FRCP
The College of Emergency Medicine