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Bless you, thank you, goodbye

    Last Tuesday morning I went to get a tube of toothpaste from my chemist, off Bond Street. A handwritten sign in the wood-framed olde worlde shop window read: 'We wish to thank all our loyal customers…' They'd closed down. Unbelievable! They'd been there forever. I was last there on Christmas Eve.

    "Yoshi," I'd said to the man behind the counter. "Which is the Colgate toothpaste? The one without the red or the blue stripe in the middle - the pure white one?"

    "I don't know."

    "What do you mean you don't know? You've been selling toothpaste since you were a teenager."

    "There are now so many toothpastes."

    How could they close down? They'd been there forever

    I took the top off a tube and squeezed it.

    "You can't do that."

    "If it's all white, I'll buy it. Relax, they want to be squeezed - they're asking for it!" I said.

    It was all white.

    "I'll take it!" I said.

    He's going to miss me.

    On Saturday morning, I went to a chemist near Baker Street to get my cholesterol lowering drug.

    "You'll like Rick, the owner," I told Lily, who came along for the ride. "He's a big fan of my JC column."

    Going into Rick's is like stepping back into the 1960s. The strip lighting is so bright you need Raybans. The six-feet-tall blonde Eastern European fashion model - acting the part of a chemist's sales assistant - sneezed as I walked in.

    "Bless you," I said.

    "Thank you," she said. She sneezed again.

    "Bless you."

    "Thank you."

    She sneezed again...

    "Bless you," I said, stepping backwards towards the toiletries shelf. "That's a bad cold."

    "She hasn't got a cold," Rick said popping up behind the counter. "She's got an allergy."

    "An allergy? You don't have to say 'bless you' for an allergy sneeze - only for a cold sneeze. She isn't sick! I could have gone on saying 'bless you' forever!"

    "Dad!" Lily said. "Please shut up! You're embarrassing me."

    "What was the last JC column I read of yours?" Rick asked. "The one in December - it wasn't funny."

    "What do you mean it wasn't funny!? I got an email from a reader; a Mr Bukhman in Montreal. He said it was one of my best. A 'comic classic', he said."

    "Trust me Peter, it wasn't funny. "

    "Rick has one of the finest comedic minds of the early 12th century," I said to Lily. "And that's also the time he last updated this shop."

    "And you're probably old to enough to remember that!" Rick said.

    I was being heckled by a pharmacist. He gave me my pills. Outside on the street, Lily said, "So Rick's a big fan of your column, is he Dad?"

    "You know something, darling? I think I need to smoke a cigar to relax," I said.

    There was a handwritten sign on the door of the olde worlde cigar shop: 'We wish to thank our loyal customers for their business over the last 164 years...'

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