THERE are few things I love more than the sea in all its moods, whether a roaring maelstrom of untold turbulent power to placid paddling pool.

No matter how attractive the pool at the hotel, no matter how tasty the food at the snack bar, and no matter the hilarity of the poolside entertainment, Mrs Hextol and I will always head for the nearest stretch of sand within sight and sound of the sea.

For years, we spread our towels on the sand, and soaked up the sun all day long, absorbing the banter of the lookee lookee men as they switch effortlessly from colloquial English to German to Swedish in a bid to sell “genuine” Rolex watches for 25 euros.

These, along with Ray Ban sunglasses, silk scarves and gold bracelets that hardly turn your arm green at all.

These multi-lingual men from Senegal and other parts of Africa are masters of the art of selling and tramp the sands all day long, more heavily laden with dodgy gear than Del Boy’s Reliant Regal Supervan III.

Now we are older and creakier, getting down on to the sand is no problem, but getting up again is too much of a challenge, so we have to bite the bullet and hire a sunbed apiece.

Even for a skinflint like me, it’s become a price worth paying so I can survey all that is going in those blue waters and white topped waves.

There have been memorable moments and dramas aplenty over the years, including the magical occasion when three dolphins erupted from the waves on an Algarve beach and leapt and pirouetted through the surf for five minutes before disappearing.

There have been darker moments too, such as when a young man from the Dominican Republic was showing off on his jet ski, and attempted to beach it at high speed on to a rocky cove.

He hit a rock at a vast rate of knots, catapulting himself and machine high into the air before slamming down hard on the stony shore.

His foot took much of the impact, leaving a slice of flesh the size of a sirloin flapping loose, but with one exception, the people on the beach just stood and watched as the blood flowed.

It was the height of the Aids panic, when blood – especially foreign blood – was viewed as being as toxic as strychnine

The one person who reacted was Mrs Hextol, who ignored the squirting blood and the shudders of the onlookers to bind the flesh together with a tightly tied towel and her scarf, and send him on his way to hospital with his mates.

The lad hobbled back to the hotel some days later to thank her, and to tell her the doctors had said her swift actions had possibly saved his foot.

Despite my fondness for it, the sea does not seem to care for me all that much.

It is forever pulling stunts to injure, embarrass or inconvenience me.

Many years ago, I was paddling a little yellow inflatable boat off the north west coast of Scotland with my schoolgirl sister in law, when I realised that despite my furious rowing, we were being carried off in the rough direction of Newfoundland.

I could not swim at all well, but as I panicked, she jumped overboard, and towed us back towards the safety of dry land!

There are also lots of dangerous and unpleasant creatures in the sea, including those innocent looking blobs of nothingness jellyfish.

Once again, I was larking about in some mild Mediterranean waves when someone appeared to pour a vat of sulphuric acid over my left elbow.

I saw the blob of jelly floating malevolently away before the agony hit.

The pain was indescribable, and small children scattered as I ran from the sea clutching my arm and wailing like a banshee.

I still have the scars on my arm.

Another sneaky inhabitant of the briny which has it in for me is that spiky bundle of malice the sea urchin.

It looks harmless enough as it clings to the rocks and crannies of the rock pool, and if you leave it alone, it will do you no harm at all.

Indeed, if you find a dead one, and knock the spikes off, it makes a very handsome and attractive ornament.

However, brush against a live one with a foot or hand, and those spikes with the barbed ends drive deeply into your flesh, and are just about impossible to winkle out.