Donegal, Sat 20 October

Arrived at the ferry terminal in Cairnryan, 50 minutes ahead of schedule. Should have stopped for breakfast at the Kilmarnock Little Chef we were eyeing up. But we drove past, keen not to overdo the breakfast and end up hurtling down the last stretch of camera-infested road.

Now we would pay, as we settled in what passed for a cafeteria in the terminal. I watched the teabag turn the tepid water slowly yellow, and chewed on a bran scone, while Wiseman downed a cup of black liquid which advertised itself as coffee. I returned to the queue for a newspaper, and found myself behind an innocent bystander who was foolishly pressing the button marked ‘cappuccino’. I thought about warning him off, but held myself back. There weren’t many alternatives after all.

On the ferry itself, I noticed that the bar served Lipton Tea. I can’t help but think that Lipton Tea should not be served on a crossing between what must be the two biggest tea-drinking countries in the world.

Wiseman spent a fair bit of time on deck during the crossing. I suspect he was banking some solo time before having to spend an entire week in my company.

Once off the ferry, everything went smoothly until shortly after leaving Derry – the behaviour of the car made me think we were driving on an extended cattle grid. Turns out we had just crossed the border. The road surfaces in the Republic of Ireland are a wonder. Uneven to the point of corrugation, they can appear entirely normal to the naked eye, while giving you a driving experience comparable in comfort to riding a jittery horse bareback.

Arrived at the cottage in daylight, which allowed us some time to sit and watch dusk settle over the hills across the bay. Eased our travel aches with a couple of beers, before watching South Africa grind down England in the RWC Final. Learnt a new word from the Irish bookmaker who was interviewed for his thoughts before the big game. “Hockeyed”. As in “The last time England played South Africa, they got hockeyed.” (The score was 36-0 that time)

Lying in bed before going to sleep, I heard a familiar sound – the patter of tiny feet. A mouse. It appears to be running around in the room upstairs, or possibly between the floorboards and my ceiling. Looking forward to the girls arriving, as one of them will be sleeping in that room…

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