A ‘short’ walk on the Brandon Way: A Short Story

It was an accident, the first time. Or a mistake. Either way it was completely
unintended. I mean, I’m a city girl at heart. The biggest hill I ever climbed was
nestled in the beauty spot that is the Dalkey/Killiney area. And, yes, that haul up to
the obelisk is real!

But this was different. It was early lockdown – before the 2k restrictions and serious
cocooning. Mid-March and a beautiful sunny Sunday.

“A walk,” he said temptingly, “a nice wander up towards Brandon,” and I, like a fool,

The first part was grand – uphill, yes, a steady incline, but doable. Thank God for my
recent Zumba classes or I’d have embarrassed myself entirely. We emerged from
the forested section and out through a gate to the expanse that was a heather filled,
Brandon vista. We began to meander left, following the route laid out by a handy
phone app I had, I thought, cleverly accessed. Oh God, would I ever rue the day. . .
Up we went. Slow and steady. Up. We passed a couple seated on a stone wall –
they were picnicking. In March. On a mountain. Their sandwiches looked ridiculously
appetising. The flask of tea a real torture. They were hardy and experienced.

They were prepared.

We trudged on. Or rather I trudged on. His nibs is a hill walker of long standing. The
Himalayas, anyone? Yup, that was my walking partner; no trudging there. We
reached the point-of-no-return spot – it was either turn back or keep going – the
place where decisions have to be made. The point where I really didn’t want to come
across as the wuss I really am. Where he says kindly that he doesn’t mind at all if we
go back, and wasn’t I marvellous to get so far.

Then I made an enormous error. I texted our grown sons with videos of the
incredible views. Oh, did I forget to mention how absolutely gorgeous the
surrounding landscape was? Well, that was because I was a hot sweaty mess. The
boys, so like their father, were thrilled I was even half way up. (The only other time I
climbed Brandon shall never be spoken of again in my lifetime.)

I took the plunge. We kept going. We had no water with us – sure, we were only
going for an afternoon stroll – and I was getting dehydrated. Not dangerously, I just
really wanted a long drink of cool, clear water to help me on my way. Not happening.
We kept going. At this stage hubby really deserved a medal. He encouraged and
supported me. He could have galloped to the top, like a veritable mountain goat but
he stayed only a few feet ahead, knowing I would get discouraged and collapse in a
whimpering puddle as, I kid you not, older folk strolled past. Sauntered on up ahead
of me as if this wasn’t the highest point in County Kilkenny.

By now I was gasping for breath. Every step up the rocky path was tough. Every
pace made me wonder what the hell I’d been thinking to agree to this. Sweat dripped
from every pore. I didn’t need a mirror to know the colour of my face. I’m sure the people
passing me either on the way down, or overtaking me on the way up, were
hoping there wouldn’t be a mountain rescue needed that afternoon. I’m not joking,
my face was on fire. My hands, swollen and uncomfortable.

“This part is known as the saddle,” he said helpfully. “That means we’re almost there.
You’re doing brilliantly. Just one foot in front of the other.”

Hah! One foot in front of the other – yeah, right. And then, miraculously, we were
there. The summit. Don’t laugh, it felt like a summit to me. I know it’s a hill, by
classification, but it’s still pretty damn steep!

It was spectacular. Stunning. Worth every gasp, every blister, every drip of sweat.
The pride I felt was incomparable. The video I sent to the boys was joyful and
unabashedly self-congratulatory. They were understandably amazed.

Going down I was in a glow – yes, some of it was the boiling red face, still on active
duty – but a lot of it was that inner glow of pride and a new found thrill with this very
specific type of achievement. We walked thirteen k that afternoon.

Six weeks on and I am happy to say I have climbed Brandon over ten times. We’re
so fortunate that it’s pretty much directly behind our house, so the recent social
distancing rules do not apply. And we discovered the shortest, most direct route
starts practically on our doorstep. Carrying water, a flask of coffee and, naturally, a
bag of Tayto, it’s an early morning walk most times, so that the climb becomes part
of our day. The call of the cuckoo, a fresh breeze and the odd glimpse of a hare
remain our only companions.

Am I still red faced? You bet. But, whispers this part, I enjoy it. It feels good. Right.
Precious and enriching.

Best happy accident ever.