David Bouchier

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It has been reported, but not much discussed, that Norwegian researchers have discovered that intelligence, as measured by standard IQ tests, has been declining since 1975. I had been wondering about this myself, especially for the last couple of years. In the national league table of IQ tests, America comes in ninth, slightly behind Norway. In case you hadn’t guessed, Hong Kong and Singapore come in first. America’s average IQ score has gone down at about the same rate as in many European countries, which seems to suggest that intelligence is on the decline across the Western world.

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I must admit to having a mild phobia about shoes. It dates back to childhood, when every school year began with a new pair of regulation leather shoes, choice of black or black. After a summer of bare feet and sandals, our feet had to be "broken in" to these new shoes, and we hobbled about in agony for the first two weeks of school, taking small, careful steps and sliding like ice skaters on the smooth leather soles.

Diane Bondareff / AP Images for Homewood Suites by Hilton

So here we are at the symbolic end of summer, and the symbolic end of the vacation season. Personally, I love vacations, being lazy by nature. But I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. This summer I’ve had plenty of opportunity to study other people (and myself) in a state of leisure. While I am usually relaxed to the point of inertia, my fellow vacationers often seem nervous, anxious, and restless. In France I watched one busy professional, down from Paris for a couple of weeks, wash his immaculately clean car three times in three days, and vacuum the interior too.

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This past weekend thousands of teenagers left home for the first time to live in college and university dorms. It must be a moment of high drama, for them, and for their parents.

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England is always a surprise, even to those of us who are intimately familiar with it. What always strikes me, as soon as I drive out of the airport, is the sheer amount of countryside that still survives, how many fields and trees and charming villages, even in the tightly packed southeastern counties. It is a crowded country – the most crowded in Europe with 420 people per square kilometer – yet outside the cities it doesn’t feel that way.