It's a rare thing that a young man should find himself with occasion to spend any length of time in Wales. Rarer still that he should have two reasons to be there. But such was my lot last week.
I set off with most of my immediate family for the ferry to Holyhead, early on New Year's day. This was preceded by rather tame New Year's celebrations, consisting of two bottles of Duff beer (curiosity and branding pulled me in but seriously, don't bother) and a few funny chaps on the telly. We were headed for my great aunt's birthday party in north Wales. Now, I am not such a dutiful grand-nephew that I would normally attend such events, but this lady was turning 100 and they tell me you only do that once a century. There is a Chinese curse that says may you live in interesting times. My Aunty Kay has certainly done that, but I doubt she saw it as a curse. You don't need me to provide a potted history of the last 100 years, but I'll do so anyway.
Scat music, the birth of Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, continued advances in the field of corduroy trousers, the liberation of St. Kitts' and Nevis from the tyranny of a pack of less than benevolent werewolves, the deflowering of Maggie Thatcher, 'text' becoming a verb, George Michael, global contrariness, monkey tennis, the rise of synonyms, Betamax, Hank Marvin, Alvin and the Chipmunks, belly-button fluff, Nebuchadnezzars of champagne, the startling progress of smut, germ warfare, Jade fucking Goody and all that she represents, a man who would have been lucky to have a house (let alone a White one) a hundred years ago about to have a go at ruling the planet.
A mixed bag, the shamelessly clichéd might say.
Still, I don't see any of that when I greet her later that afternoon. I see cards from the Queen and the Welsh First Minister, and a lady with a ticking mind that made her Scrabble Queen of Anywhere She Pleased until about the age of 98. Still clasping hands gently and radiating the kind of warmth that will give our polar ice caps further cause for concern. Saying, "Do come and visit again. Soon."