A few weeks ago, I was invited to a birthday event.
I use the word “event” not celebration or party because what the
birthday boy, Kevin, wanted to do for his 35th was… go rock climbing.
“You don’t have to do it you know.” Kat said. “Not everyone is doing it.
You could just meet up with us afterwards at the actual party”.
Truth be told, I had actually been thinking about this possibility. But now
that my wife had mentioned it, it was obviously off the cards.
‘Why would you think that I would not want to do it?’ I asked,
“Because you’ve been huffing about it since you saw the email.”
‘That’s just not true’ I huffed. ‘And anyway, you’re doing it.’


‘So, I thought you liked proper parties with cake and alcohol, not
parties where you have to climb stuff.’
“Maybe I’m more adventurous than you.”
I gasped! How dare she! Everyone knows I’m the more
adventurous one. Adrenaline is my middle name. (It is not. John
is my middle name. But that it not the point.)
Now the truth is I used to quite like the idea of rock climbing. I
remember watching Cliff Hanger as a child and thinking that I
could probably do that, you know being the (ahem) alpha male
that I am.
Then, one fine day a few years ago, I was challenged to climb up
some cliffs as part of a feature that I did on the radio.
And it was horrendous. An easy twenty-minute climb turned
into an epic 3-hour rescue operation as I got stuck half way, with
only one thought going around and around my head: ‘I really
need to think features through before I do them on the radio.’
“Look, it is not going to be too difficult. His 12-year-old son is
doing the climb too. If a 12-year-old can do something, a grown
adult can do it, right?” Kat said, ignoring all the times we need
to skype our nieces in order to ask them which one of the three
remote controls actually turns the TV on.
So that is why, last week I found myself with ropes draped all
around my body as an incredibly muscular man who introduced
himself as Lars was giving us instructions and explaining that
the climb we were about to embark on was so easy, the easiest
of easy climbs, that we would all – without exception – be
enjoying the party in half an hour.
Without exception. Ha!
James, Kevin’s 12-year-old, was looking nervous. Scared even.
Me? I was the picture of quintessential calm.
“You look like you’re going to throw up” Kat said.
“Let’s go!” yelled out Lars.
And off we went.
I say “off”. Everyone one else went off. It took me a good few
minutes to figure out where to put my feet for the first upward
Fifteen minutes in, I was a whole ten centimetres off the ground.
Kat was already many metres ahead of me.
And twelve-year-old James was almost equal to her. I thought
he was supposed to be as bad as me at this?
I couldn’t believe it. Easiest of easy climbs?
‘Kat, slow down’ I yelled.

But she couldn’t hear me. Of course not. She was metres away.
I looked around. Where the heck was Lars? Then I looked up.
And saw him looking down, slightly concerned.

The I realised. He had already got to the top. He had finished the
What?! How was that possible? I had only climbed the equivalent
of a small step. I climb higher every time I get into a bath.
Lars sensing perhaps that I was struggling, scrambled down.
It took him three minutes. (Although maybe the fact that I had
moved half a millimetre up contributed.)
“Are you ok?” he said
‘Of course I am.’ I lied. ‘I’m just savouring it.’
“Ok” he smiled. “Enjoy!” And just like that he climbed off again.
By now most of the party had made it to the top.
In fact, there was only Kat, James, and I to go.
Then I watched Kat scramble over the top.
Then I saw the nervous 12-year-old boy who had never climbed
anything else in his life get to the top too.
I was the only one left.
Eventually, it took me four hours, five helpers, including Lars,
(who despite my protests realised that I was not “okay” after
two of those hours) and a bleeding knee to get to the top.
I finally stumbled in to the party just as Kevin was cutting his
And saying that he enjoyed it so much that he was inviting
everyone to go white water rafting for his birthday next year.


© 2018 – VIDA Magazine