This is a lovely story of how patients queued for hours to thank Dr Richard Hughes on his retirement. An ‘event’ such as retirement provides a focal point for gratitude – it seems a shame that many doctors receive a show of appreciation only at the end of their careers. One of the characteristics of the way we express gratitude, in Western societies at least, is that it often signifies the ‘closure’ of a particular transaction. (The word ‘transaction’ here seems freighted with economic meaning, rather unfortunately, but the rhetoric of gratitude is saturated with economic metaphors.) This closing shapes the framing of the act of gratitude as a ‘reward’ for past service: in terminis res, as it were, rather than in medias res.