All creatures great and small in an epic family get-together
I SYMPATHISE if you're shivering your whatsits off while I'm baking body and brain on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
But spare a thought for your humble columnist as he braves another busy day.
There's a huge breakfast to digest and only then can I can contemplate a three-course lunch and a three-course evening meal with a few nibbles thrown in at high tea.
There are shorts and T-shirts to be chosen, suntan lotion to be applied, sun beds to be adjusted, pools to cool off in and cocktail-carrying waiters to be summoned. If I don't move soon, the maid won't be able to clean my room and make the bed.
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But first I need to stretch out on the balcony of our apartment, read a book, fill a saucer with water so that the cheeky little yellow-breasted bird that lives in a palm tree a few feet away can take a bath – and work on my pitch for the job interview that will surely follow David Attenborough's retirement as TV wildlife expert.
Dozens of ants (wearing, I suspect, microscopic red, gold and green hats) are scurrying across the balcony rail.
Mobile-phone stopwatch in hand, I track one as it travels the length of the rail – a distance of 19.5 St Lucia guide books – in 53 seconds. Later, using a tape measure from a travel sewing kit, I'll establish that 19.5 St Lucia guide books equal 422 inches. Thanks to O-level maths – and the electronic calculator in my phone – I will then ascertain that, given sufficient stamina and concentration, the ant could cover a mile in just over six hours.
Impressive, eh? And that's just one of life's many wonders I've discovered in this tropical paradise. Did you know, for instance....
That it's possible to go a whole week without reading a newspaper, watching TV or surfing the internet?
That a 12st man, attempting to stand up to crashing waves when he should have the sense to dive into them, can be tossed about like a rag doll until, bruised and grazed, he's forced to crawl back to safety like some drunken crab?
And that someone who prides himself on confronting poor customer service and dodgy deals back home can be sweet-talked into parting with six quid for a sea shell by a Rastafarian beach bum?
This is no idle adventure, however. We came here for a momentous event.
This family holiday-of-a-lifetime peaked with the ladies dressed to kill (and the men scrubbed up nicely, too). We walked down a flower-lined path to a beach-side gazebo, serenaded by a guitarist and the sounds of surf lapping at the shore. Champagne and tears of joy flowed in equal measure. And there emerged a new Mrs Pheasant.
Our big boy's a man in every sense. He no longer needs mum and dad fussing over every move. But even though he'd been with his partner for nine years, there was a tiny voice inside my head as the wedding ceremony unfolded. It was asking something I should perhaps be ashamed to articulate: "Are you sure he's doing the right thing?"
Then they took their vows and, as that beautiful young woman looked long and deep into my son's eyes, I gulped, satisfied beyond a shadow of a doubt that they'd discovered a true wonder of the world.