James GRAY   Conservative MP for North Wiltshire

“You get a week’s holiday a year. But if you take it your career won’t be going very far,” as I was told in an interview with a hotshot American bank many years ago. I wasn’t offered the job, but if I had been I like to think I’d have turned it down. Work/Life balance in the modern cliché is terribly important, and holidays, and proper ones, are a crucial part of that. But it’s not just the time off; it’s what you do with it. Lounging around in front of the TV or computer screen in lovely weather is hardly likely to make you feel fit and healthy and ready for the demands of the year that lies ahead.

I’ve spent most of the Summer Recess at home in Wiltshire; doing a few constituency engagements, a bit of writing, catching up on the jobs left undone during the busy Parliamentary year. I’ve enjoyed my new bicycle, taken out my old horse on a few ambles around the fields and lanes; I’ve done a bit of gardening and had a couple of long weekends away. It’s been bliss, and as a result I feel thoroughly relaxed and invigorated and ready for Parliament’s return next Monday.

But I am full of admiration for those who truly make good use of their time. Wiltshire’s High Sheriff David Hempleman-Adams on Monday last completed his journey from Bristol via Murmansk, along 5000 miles of the North Siberia coast, dodging ice bergs, polar bears and monstrous seas which came close to engulfing the boat on one or two occasions. On Monday he made landfall at Point Barrow in North West Alaska thereby completing his journey through the ‘North East Passage’, which has never before been done by a British yacht. That alone stands evidence to the retreating Arctic ice.

David is now hurrying on down the ‘North West Passage’ – diagonally across Canada from Alaska to Greenland. It was the North West Passage which claimed the life of Sir John Franklin and so many other great British explorers of the Nineteenth Century as they fought to find a way through the ice. And if High Sheriff David completes the passage (which will not be easy), and then sails back to Bristol, he will have completed a circumnavigation of the North Pole, which has never before been done by a British boat.

It’s in the highest traditions of the great British Explorers, and an achievement of which we as Wiltshire people should be very proud. We wish David and his intrepid crew “God Speed” as they set off on the next hazardous leg of their epic journey. (You can follow their progress on www.polarocean.co.uk).

Now that’s a great way to spend your summer holidays.