My trip to Ireland a few years ago included the obligatory visit to the Blarney Castle to kiss the famous stone. I was with a friend who had no intention of joining me in this ridiculous pursuit, but good-naturedly waited in line with me. This was a line that you would happily join, since it wound its way up the stone steps of the castle’s tower, offering increasingly beautiful views of the lawn below you.
As we approached, my girlfriend said, “Are you actually going to do that?!?” The Blarney Stone wasn’t what I had been expecting. I thought you just walked up to it and kissed it. SURPRISE!
You have to lie on your back, put your arms over your head and grasp iron bars that reinforce the tower walls, pull to slide the top half of your body across the gaping hole left where the stone floor has crumbled away from the wall (until nothing above your rear is on the floor), and kiss the stone that’s actually the wall of the tower which is on the other side of the iron bars. Uh, huh.
Castle staff was on site to assist. The guy looked like he was 95 and he was supposed to stop me from plunging head-first down the tower wall? I can’t imagine how he even got to the top of the tower!
“Wow,” I said to my girlfriend, who eyed me skeptically as she walked off to enjoy the view. I remained in line, as I was committed. Everyone would see me if I didn’t do it! I told myself that it was just a matter of putting my mind to it. Everyone else was doing it. My turn came and I dutifully lay down, grabbed the bars, looked overhead at the stone and said, “I can’t do this!”
The old Irishman was incredulous. “You’re not going to kiss it??” I thanked him politely and walked away to enjoy the view. And mentally crossed the Blarney Stone off my bucket list . . .
My Irish ancestry comes from my paternal grandmother, whom I never met. Her surname’s heritage leads to County Cork and she sounds like a cartoon stereotyping the Irish: a hot-tempered redhead named Maggie whose family (I’m told) included drinkers and thieves. She died young from breast cancer. That’s all I know. I wish I could learn more from her over a pint of Guiness.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!