We had one hour to play with and we decided to make it count. This was our first hour ‘off duty’ since becoming parents of two; our first hour of leaving ‘mummy and daddy’ behind and just being Ryan and Jo again for a little while. That’s a big parenting milestone by my reckoning, so it had to be an hour to remember.
Dumgoyne hill in the Campsie Fells is the most striking feature on our local horizon, and wedecided to use our hour to claim the summit. The schedule was a strict one: a 40 minute cut-off for the ascent, after which we’d have to turn back – summit or no summit – to rescue the babysitters. It was a race against the clock and the pressure was on!
At 427m, Dumgoyne is no mountain: but it’s steep! As hill runners, we’re rusty at best, so there was a serious question mark over the whole venture from the outset: could we make it in time? Dumgoyne is a hill of two parts: a short section across fields to the base of the ‘real’ climb, and then a sharp steep ascent to the summit. As soon as we reached the base of that second section, I knew we were going to manage it – and that it was going to hurt! Ryan is a stronger runner than me, but I’m a doggedly determined power-walker so we cat-and-moused our way up to the top before making the final push to the summit cairn, hand in hand.
The day was glorious and it seemed that all of Scotland was laid out below us. Goat Fell over on Arran, the Arrochar Alps, the distinctive pincers of The Cobbler, the length of Loch Lomond and the Highland peaks beyond. Checking my watch at the summit I saw that we’d beaten our schedule by a clear 13 minutes. That meant we were standing on top of the world less than half an hour after having set out – and already, real life seemed a thousand miles away. I knew that there was no better way we could have spent that special hour.
Any time gained on the ascent was lost on the way down – for me, at least. Ryan danced down the hill, but I’m an anxious descender with two left feet. He was lounging casually against the stile for long minutes before I joined him for the final trot back to the car. A quick sip of juice looking up at our new conquest, and off we sped: back to resume the roles of ‘mummy and daddy’; refreshed, re-energised, rebalanced; ready to give our best selves to our little family at home.
‘To make a new beginning, … Ourselves again, free willed again, not bad.’
Seamus Heaney, ‘Tollund’