Clare. The County Clare. In the far west of Ireland looking out to the Aran Islands and the wild Atlantic. Here tracks weave out over the bogs and the limestone hillocks that form The Burren to hidden farms and cottages where lanterns dot the night under a million silvery stars. And then the rain comes in. Sideways rain. Rain in bucketfuls. Drizzled rain and grey rain that is half mist. It seeps into your bones.
Somewhere between Kilfenora and Ennistymon is where my brother Paul lives with Josephine and the two lads. A brook bubbles by and cows low deeply as morning sheds its pale light over the rolling fields. Vehicles pass at the rate of one an hour on a busy day.
Up in Kilfenora the Guinness flows at night. It sits lined up in pint glasses on the bar like black nectar waiting to be topped up. There's no hurry. You drink it down remembering the old ad slogan - "Guinness is good for you" - but did they mean six of them? By the end of the evening the thick County Clare brogue is like a foreign language but there are no subtitles.
Yesterday - Sunday - I took Paul and the lads up the coast to Black Head via Fanore. White horses were racing in and the coast felt elemental, the wind and the waves seeming to laugh at the pinprick silhouettes of human beings bending into the weather.
I have been here many times. I have seen it changing over the years. Seen pubs closing and bungalows being built - the influx of tourists who come to stay from Holland or France or Germany and Irish migrants coming home. I have heard the Celtic Tiger roaring and seen the village stores introduce new fangled products like rice and coffee and pasta. But while some things change "The deep heart's core" remains - the peculiarly egalitarian Irish sense of community and the humour that flows, the kindness and the music and the stories and beneath all of it - the land - as ancient as time itself - limestone pavements and caves and settlements where Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age people lived for the days they were living in, oblivious of a future that would contain aeroplanes and electricity and plastic and an arrogant belief that it has dispelled all mystery and magic.