A day that starts at 6.30am (with a wake-up at 5.30am to switch on the immersion as its timer has refused to co-operate with its owners) and continues until I step out of the car at the cottage after 7pm is, naturally enough, very tiring. When it’s the first day of the 12-week course at Ballymaloe, it is also incredibly exhilarating. Today was a whistle-stop tour of the large gardens and greenhouses at the cookery school, grabbing an Asian pear and a couple of sun-warmed dusky cherry tomatoes to eat en route, a fabulous lunch of products from local artisans and garden produce and an afternoon crammed full of demonstrations, all helmed by the ever-energetic Darina Allen.
There are 58 other students from seven different countries in the class, ranging from gap year students to people looking for a career change but, no matter what you’re there for, there’s one thing certain: days are going to be long. We start at 8.45am, will take turns at collecting the fruit and vegetables needed for the day’s cooking from 8am, can volunteer to milk cows at 7.30am – and that’s before we do any cooking. Tomorrow starts with kitchen tours and, with us cooking in pairs, making our own lunch. Now, it’s time for hot chocolate and bed.