Monday: Our first day on Rosaleen's family farm on the edge of Lough Derg, County Clare. When the weather is fine I don't know of a more beautiful spot, but it's so remote that the road ends a mile or so from the house and drinking water has to be delivered in a barrel from the neighbouring farm. We gather mushrooms early in the morning. At the point of the peninsula a dead fox hangs in the branches of a tree, where it has been tossed, reminiscent of an image from Lord of the Flies. To help our friends find the farm, Tim makes a sign, copying Celtic lettering from a T-shirt.
Tuesday: Tim and I drive into Limerick to do the shopping. There's something romantic about being instructed to yield rather than give way, and I've always thought that Soft Margins would be a good name for a band or a title for a novel. I'm enthusing about the joys of driving in the country when we get stuck behind a farm vehicle with fearsome rotating blades. We give a lift to a young man who regales us with horror stories about crime in Limerick and how it's known as "Stab City". This does not match our experience of the place and we decide that this is a bit of rural hyperbole. In the supermarket I try not to be intimidated by the local cheese: Kilmeaden.
Wednesday: Rosaleen drives into Limerick to collect some friends from the station. On the way back she pulls over to allow a herd of cows to pass by. They are being driven by a boy of nine or 10, whereas there should be an adult at the front and back of the herd. All is well until one cow decides to go over the car instead of round it. It climbs on to the bonnet, thrashes around and slides off. Fortunately, no one is hurt. We spend some time locating the farmer and sorting out insurance details (make and model of other vehicle: three-year-old Friesian). In the evening we visit one of the local pubs, which bears no resemblance to the "Irish" pubs that have sprung up all over England.
Thursday: More friends arrive and we drive to Galway, our favourite city in the region. After a good meal in a fish restaurant I see a new career beckoning. I shall open a chain of Irish fish restaurants across London and name them Finnegan's Hake. We drive home via the towering cliffs of Moher, where the figures that we see, from a distance, perched on an outcrop, turn out to be Tim and his friend, Robert. After I remove my heart from my mouth we buy ice creams.
Friday: In the morning we take a boat across the Lough to Garrkennedy. Old Tim, one of the three brothers who own the adjoining farm and look after ours for us, hands me some lifejackets labelled Air Somalia. I make a mental note not to fly with them. In the afternoon we go to watch Paddy, another of the brothers, ploughing. Paddy does this with a hand-held plough, pulled by a horse. I take some photographs of a scene that could have been set at any time during the last 100 years and wonder how long it will be before skills like this disappear entirely.
David Meaden is an education adviser in an outer London borough