There’s an old Irish prayer that starts – may the road rise up to meet you (and the wind always be at your back). For the full version see end of this blog but, for now, that will do. If you take the Connor Pass in West Kerry, the highest pass in Ireland, you may add, yes, but not rise too steeply. But if you’re on the pass, this would be a forlorn hope. It is very steep and also very narrow. I can’t quite understand why anybody would think it necessary to build a road through this pass anyway, it’s not as if it links anywhere to somewhere else that can’t be got to by a slightly longer, but much flatter and more sensible, route. I mean you can kind of see where the Irish got their legendary motorway building skills from with this kind of early project*.
Only problem is they got half way through building it ( the road up from Dingle is quite civilised) but then, having got to the top and looked down, thought Jesus I don’t fancy that but then we’ve got to do something with it having got this far, we can’t just leave it here. We’d better make an effort to go down the other side but, as they started down, then thought bloody hell this rock’s hard and whoah, that’s a long way down, that’s wide enough, let’s just leave it as it is. If Connor wants any more work done well he can dig it himself. I’ve included a photo here but it doesn’t really capture the knee trembling fear of negotiating the twists and turns not to mention traffic coming the other way. If you’re ever in West Kerry take a look but don’t do the descent unless you like a little terror with your drive. You can always turn round and go back at the top, have a beer in a Dingle pub and listen to some music.
It all started for us with St Brendan, an interesting man, a monk and an intrepid explorer but I’m damned sure he never drove a Land Rover over the Connor pass. In fact, given he lived in the 6th century (I think), I’d go as far as to say that nobody had yet uttered the words – I tell you what would look nice over that mountain. What’s that? A road. What? Just an idea. You’re right let’s have another drink and plan something more sensible like a railway from Limerick to Dingle, you’d always get people signing up for that.
So St Brendan has a few places named after him (although the spelling wasn’t great) and, for a man who reputedly discovered America in a curragh (I first wrote coracle until Mrs Summerhouse corrected me, crossing the Atlantic in a coracle now that would be an achievement) way before any Vikings or Christopher Columbus, at the age of 83, he no doubt deserves every one of them. His voyage supposedly lasted 7 years, plenty of time for him to make a few wrong turns, as indeed we did. Ah no, this is Greenland, you want America, straight on so, left at Canada and you can’t miss it. That’s grand and may the road rise up to meet you. Make that the sea but then again maybe a sea rising up isn’t such an encouraging prayer.
We were simply trying to find a different beach to walk the pups and there, on the map – one of those tourist maps, no use to man nor beast as they say – was a place called Brandon (yes, OK, they spelt it wrong but never mind the intentions were good) we ended up the first time at a place called Brandon Creek where he left from (very different from Brandon). The road ended on a narrow, concrete pier with a long drop into the water and no place to turn round. Cue hysterics from Mrs Summerhouse – you’re right near the edge on this side – that’s grand because so are we on this side. If I’d had hair it would have been quite raised at this point. As I say, this was reportedly the place he set off from for America. You could see why he would because turning round and going back would have been a bloody nightmare. We eventually made it off the pier (there was not a hint of any sandy beach) and ended up on the same beach we usually walked the pups albeit at the other end. We went home.
The following day, armed with the very same map but much greater experience, we set off for Brandon itself and the big yellow beach on the map, he didn’t have a lot of luck with the naming business. And that dear readers is how we ended on going over the Connor Pass. I was reminded of Antonio Conte’s, Chelsea manager, unlikely quote – ‘we shall either find a way or make one’. Yes, curious thing to say and apparently referencing Hannibal who was from that neck of the woods and referring to his plans to cross the Alps. I think elephants were involved somewhere and no, I don’t mean John Terry. I think, if I remember my history, Hannibal made it but I can confidently say that confronted with the Connor Pass he would have taken a look and said bugger this, let’s start off with something a little less steep. There’s no way my elephants are going up or down that.
You will be pleased to know that we made it, not to America or even across the Alps, but we crossed the Connor Pass and found the beach at Brandon and the pups, who seemed to have no understanding of how much effort it had taken to get them there, enjoyed themselves. And as we free-wheeled back into Dingle, the Irish prayer came to mind and all seemed right with the world, we had crossed the Connor Pass and lived.
Here’s the whole of the prayer and whether you believe in ‘God’ or not I think it’s rather beautiful.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
That’s the thing about retirement, so much more time to enjoy yourself.
*We had the pleasure of waiting while 4 of the ancestors of these men repaired the road from Dunquin to Dingle. One drove the lorry, two held up the go / stop signs about 50 metres apart and one of them spread the gravel. I can see them now building the M62 all those years ago.