David Bouchier

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.

As we crossed from France to England last week I was half expecting things to be different. For years I had come to think of Britain as part of Europe. Now, after the decision to leave the European Community, known as 'Brexit,' that may not be true much longer.

I don’t know quite what I was expecting on the British side – fewer French and Italian restaurants perhaps, or patriotic Union Jacks on display outside people’s houses. I was suffering from a kind of pre-emptive nostalgia, mourning for a vanished world that hasn’t vanished yet, and shows no signs of doing so.

Ten years ago we moved into a house with central air conditioning, a luxury we never had before. It made me nervous at first. When I pressed the switch the house began to hum like a factory, and freezing air came roaring out of the vents. The electric meter was whizzing around like something in the Indianapolis 500.

Now we have this difficult choice to make every day in summer. When the air conditioning is on the house feels like an outpost in Antarctica, or a corporate office. When the system is off it feels like a Turkish bath, with President Erdogan turning up the heat.

Summer is a threat to our most cherished and perhaps our only national virtue: the work ethic. As the temperature rises a lot of otherwise puritanical and hardworking people will drop off to sleep during the hottest part of the day, and then feel guilty about it.

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