David Bouchier

There's no emergency like a water emergency. It brings out our most primitive fears. We inevitably think about Noah's flood and the final deluge. When water runs out of control indoors, we have the worst kind of domestic crisis. When the plumbing fails, we panic.

It was 60 years ago that I bought my first motorcycle, and it felt like a liberation. For many years after that I rode a series of unsteady and unreliable machines all over Europe, and somehow survived. In the end I bowed to family pressure and common sense and bought a car. But my last motorcycle, a splendid and powerful machine called Triumph Trophy, lingered in my mind. Sometimes I imagined that it was still lurking in the back of the garage under a tarpaulin, and that I could bring it out for one last ride. Motorcycles have that effect on some people.

Summers used to last forever. It’s a cliché, so it must be true. People of a certain age can actually remember those endless summers, which were abolished sometime in the early 1960s. Our modern summers are much shorter, and much busier. Labor Day seems to arrive almost immediately after Memorial Day, and most of us are exhausted by the time we get here.

One of our first stops when we arrive back in the United States is always the local pharmacy. We want to be prepared for anything. We have been in France, which is rich in pharmacies of a sort. There are some 22,000 of them, each one marked with an illuminated green sign, and they have a virtual monopoly on the sale of medicines, all the way down to aspirin. If you are familiar with American pharmacies, the French version looks and feels like an entirely different kind of business.

Our long vacation in Europe is coming to an end, and it has been a luxury and a treat. A luxury because, having retired from almost everything except life itself, we can sometimes afford to be away for several weeks at a time, and a treat because the only real vacation is a long one. The memories we bring back are the main thing, and it takes time to build up good memories.