... is the fact that the annual bout of hay fever is getting weaker and weaker. These days, I often go for days without taking the usual Loratadine pill, with no worse consequences than the occasional loud sneeze. When I was a young man - let alone a teen-ager - hay fever was a nightmare. I would get styes in my eyes, large enough to almost blind me; and I remember one occasion when I sneezed so hard and so long I was nearly dehydrated. I bought a 330-cl bottle of Kronenbourg beer and drank it on the spot. It made me feel better, but I am sure that all the good people on that bus in Rome must have thought I was the most desperate kind of drunk. Drinking from the bottle, in public, is never done in Italy, for any reason whatsoever. But I needed it and it helped. Now I just get a nasty itch over my eyelids every now and then, and of course the sneezing.