IT'S going to be a big summer in Swansea and it starts this weekend with the Whitsun half-term and (hopefully) a week of bright sunshine.
I'm a big fan of the idea of days out on your doorstep, not least because in Swansea there's never a shortage of things to do or places to go. Sometimes — simply by virtue of the fact we live here — we forget how rich the opportunities are to re-discover vaguely-remembered places or enjoy a journey off the beaten track.
So when you're thinking of what to do with the children next week, don't forget there's plenty of options within a few miles of your own home, as the Evening Post has been recently pointing out — and most of them free! We've got four Blue Flag beaches (again), the 360 Beach and Watersports Centre, the Blackpill Lido opening for the summer, miles and miles of wonderful Wales Coast path. I could go on and on.
For me summer means more opportunities for fair-weather cycling. I was a keen cyclist until my arthritic knees put anything other than the flat or downhill beyond me! I think I will have to get an electric bike as I miss some of my favourite routes in Swansea and across Gower. Not only do you see things differently from the saddle of a bike, you see different things too. Things you'd miss behind the wheel of a car.
One of the great bonuses of cycling is that I get a different perspective on my own back yard, so to speak, and it's always a good thing. That's because I believe that if we want to make the most of this great, distinctive city of ours then we have to think differently and get a fresh perspective about what we want from it in the future.
The tourism stats tell us Swansea Bay is bucking the trend: last year we had more visitors than the year before and they were spending more cash here too. Last week's figures on outdoor tourism in Wales also tell a good story about the magnet that is South West Wales when people are thinking about surfing, walking, riding (bikes or horses) camping or climbing.
It is great news but we can't afford to stand still. Our city needs to continue to improve but, at the same time, progress should not be some kind of headlong dash for the latest (ie. soon-to-be outdated) fad or one person's perception of what modernity looks like.
In Swansea it's the people who live here who make our city what it is and it's those same people who should be having an influence on the character and shape of this ugly, lovely place by the sea in the years to come.
From my experience we're an eclectic bunch with lots of overlapping, sometimes contradictory, ideas and we're not shy of speaking up when asked.
That's why local experience is featuring so prominently in this summer's consultation on Creating the City of Culture, our review aimed at transforming the city centre into a major cultural destination.
Of course we could do what other cities have done and relentlessly chase the high street chain stores and create just another shopping centre you could find anywhere else in the world. But it wouldn't work in the long run and whatever it turned out to be, it wouldn't be Swansea.
We want to harness the distinctiveness that already exists in our city and think about how we can use it to inspire an environment where shopping, residential communities, office workers, cultural activities and just 'hanging out' rub along together. If we can do this we'll have a unique year-round attraction that is uniquely us, a uniquely, memorably Swansea.
We want as many people as possible to join in the consultation and debate. Schools, artists, architects and designers, residents with ideas — we can all join in the discussion on what out city centre should look and feel like.
Come the autumn we'll have a good idea of what people think and a two-day conference to consider the feedback and the next steps. We'll also report back to you on what we did with the ideas you offered.
So, as I say, it's going to be a big summer and it starts here. Now where did I put the Voltorol?