Was there ever a golden age of medicine or medical education? When trainees worked 100 hours a week but loved it and still had time to put on a pantomime at Christmas for the patients. I never believed it and was at one with Ezekiel Emanuel when he criticised rose-tinted views of the past: ‘At the end of their careers, physicians tend to wax poetic about the art of medicine and how it is being lost. (The same art seems to be lost every generation)’ ( 2 ). But maybe I have been wrong. Perhaps I should have been reading Chekov rather than Emanuel: ‘Medicine is my lawful wife but literature is my mistress. When I am bored with one I spend a night with the other’ ( 3 ).