Eye Times and Misdemeanours

The winter of 2009-10 was as cold as the door of a bank safe. But it swung open in the springtime with a blast of gelignite sunshine.



Which was doubly fine as two great souls were getting married.



I learned a new word this year - pterygium! Apparently, I had one and it needed to be removed from my left eye.

The overnight at the hospital was the longest I've spent in a ward since I was born, and that was under the Callaghan Government! But it was an experience in which I was showered with love and goodwill that I'll never forget - particularly the spectacle of my high mileage parents driving down from Middlesbrough to check I could count how many fingers they were holding up (I never was very good at maths).



Days later I discovered a lady I love and respect deeply had been raising lion cubs in her garden. Check out the happy wolfhound!



A Welsh journalist of scarcely fettered brilliance made recuperative muffins worth more than any Fabergé egg and the magnificent Gareth Hughes helped me eat them. In the company of such great souls I realise, as I think Clive Anderson said of Jeffrey Archer, there is no beginning to my talents.



The whole eye-shebang meant that for the first time in my life I wandered around many places in sunglasses. And when the most marvellous quintet without a tuba, the Mullan family, swept through the Welsh capital I fear they may have thought I believed I was a surfer in Malibu. Ah, but they bring waves of altogether more wonderful warmth.



And it was a true delight to accompany a dozen or so people who a little while earlier had been living in China and India to Gower, a peninsula as otherworldly as it is beautiful.



It is quite unlike anywhere I know in Britain.



On a Saturday its great beaches are empty, almost. Here, you could nearly start believing in fairies.



And there's at least one sea-dog in the vicinity.



Somebody, please, tell me what's going on here.



Of course, a moment of monumental glory was the wedding of Mike & Alex, but before that there was the matter of the stag weekend. Mike introduced me to the concept of the smoking jacket a decade ago so I expected maybe a scramble up Pen y Fan before finding a great fire and some fine ales.

But within minutes of arriving, still clad in the cashmere socks a winsome dietician had dropped through my letter box, I was out of my canoe and floating down the River Wye faster than contraband from Canada. The next day we went gorge jumping and lunchtime was like a scene from the Deer Hunter (not one involving any deer hunting, I should add).



But it was a grand day...



...in the grandest of company.



I believe at this moment the trailer for the A-Team was playing on a very fancy phone.



But high culture and exploding helicopters can mix, and we detoured home via Dylan Thomas's boathouse. The man had a view of such untrammelled beauty, looking out across sandflats that blaze with fire when the sun sets, that you wonder why he said goodbye to Caitlin and the kids and left for New York. And yet, you take the short walk from his boathouse home to the writing shed from where he stared out at that horizon and you know why he went wandering.



We swerved through Cardiff Bay for a melting ice cream and a flash of the Senedd, and it was time to say goodbye to the kings of the road who had survived Wales' coldest waters, tasted its whiskey, and enlivened a nation. It was all over, as they say, in a blink of the eye.