"We're going for at least three nights," she said.
"That's a lot," said her dad. "If the weather isn't great we should maybe consider cutting it a bit shorter."
Birthdays turn the best of us into divas (well, me anyway) and there followed much weeping and wailing.
The big day approached and the logistics of keeping three kids happy started to become troublesome. Some family members (ie. one family member) was less than enthusiastic. But I had a secret weapon: I was counting on Roundstone, in Connemara, to melt the most teenage-rebellious of hearts.
As we drove through Connemara, I was gratified to hear the kids - all three - gasping at the beauty around them. The lakes, the mountains, the mist...even the stone walls, which look very different to those of Kilcolgan. They loved the hardy-looking horses and cows, who lounged about in tiny fields full of exposed bedrock and wild flowers, fields so hilly that they were lucky to find level areas big enough to lie down.
The evening was beautiful and we headed down to the beach which fronts the campsite. It was heaven. Liv's dad Marcel gave her an early birthday present, a Kelly kettle which you stuff with twigs to boil water, and they went foraging for sticks happily together. Then we barbecued steaks on an open fire, accompanied by wine from plastic tumbers and in general had a lovely evening.
The following morning it was raining, but it wasn't cold or windy. I put on a raincoat and took the puppy to the beach. Even though I've visited Roundstone since I was about ten years old (it's where my love affair with Galway began) I was astonished afresh at the beauty before me as I rounded each rocky promontory. I was all alone on the beach. My feet sank into the damp white sand, leaving great clodhopping holes in my wake, and the puppy left tiny pawprints beside my track that didn't sink at all. The water was unfeasibly clear in the raindrops and is always turquoise in Connemara. I felt pure happiness.
Back at the tent, the calming effect of Connemara was wearing off - how could it work its magic on people refusing to leave the tent and venture into the admittedly wet landscape? My eldest, Honor, started to cause trouble in the tent, being mean to her little sister. As it was raining, I couldn't escape into the wilds and sketch, so I snuck into the car for a bit of soothing sketching.
This didn't go down too well.
"You're doing nothing to keep the peace," said my husband. Then he brought me a cup of tea and while I felt a bit guilty, the tea was lovely.
Eventually I decided enough was enough and suggested the girls did some sketching. Within a few minutes peace had descended and they were drawing each other happily, producing some gorgeous work. Why can't they do this of their own accord?
Later on that evening I sketched the beach. It was full of Dubliners from the sailing fraternity. Very tanned men yakked about sailing and their favourite restaurants, and beautiful blonde boys called Noah and Levi scampered about. Groups of kids played unsupervised games of tag, with slightly violent overtones.
"So...if you're touched, you're on?" I overheard.
"No, you have to thump the person on the arm three times and shout Tig Tag Tattle, then they're on," said the leader.
Next morning I sketched the puppy digging a hole. He enjoys that a lot and has yet to stop digging ever-deeper of his own volition. A little poodle barrelled into me as I sketched, covering my paintbox in sand.
"Sorry!" said the owners. "She's got cataracts and she's blind!"
"It's fine," I said, but it turned out not to be fine. The paints become encrusted with sand, and every time I used them the sand went a little deeper. In the end I scraped it off with a sharp blade but found that a thick mortar had developed on the inside of the box, which had to be virtually chipped off. I don't mind when things like that happen, as it's an excuse to fiddle with new paints and colours.
"What a beautiful baby!" I said. "How old is he?"
"Nine months," she replied. "And yours?"
"Five months," I said, whipping off the jacket to reveal Reuben's furry white muzzle.
"Oh!" she said.
Little amuses the simple, I guess.
The next morning was Liv's birthday. Before she woke up I sketched the beach again.
Here is the remaining family, eating their brekkie in the tent.
By then, Liv was no longer insisting that we spend three nights camping, and was eager to get back home to open her birthday presents. This time our drive back through Connemara went unremarked by the birthday girl, who snoozed in the back.