Put a Cork in it

Posted on October 7, 2014 under Storytelling with no comments yet

Blarney Castle (2)

Proof that I kissed the Blarney Stone



“If you ever go across the sea to Ireland…”

Galway Bay – Arthur Colahan

I was chatting with a friend the other day. It was a business meeting, but invariably these kinds of discussions always get around to the family.  I asked him casually, and a bit tongue in cheek, how many of his children were still “on the payroll”.  He knew what I meant.   As it turns out, his daughter is currently working for a year in Ireland, the home of leprechauns and Guinness beer.  She is employed in the city of Cork.

Upon hearing this I had an immediate flashback. I was lying flat on my back, holding on for dear life to two iron bars, kissing a stone that was centuries old.

Ten years ago I ventured to Ireland on a golf vacation. The first week I explored the island with my brother and we were joined for a second week by six lawyers from Vancouver.  Sounds like the start of a lawyer joke to me.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to arrive in Ireland (Shannon Airport, to be precise), take the wheel of a standard shift car rental and navigate your first roundabout … on the wrong side of the road? It is slightly disorienting and extremely nerve wracking.   Now try this with no sleep for the past thirty hours.  Welcome to Ireland.

On or about day five we headed for the city of Cork, the home of Blarney Castle. It would be deemed sacrilegious to pass through Cork without kissing the Blarney stone, not that either my brother or I needed extra help with “the gift of the gab”.  You see, our mother’s people were from Tralee so we already had the proper DNA to ensure verbosity.

We arrived on a particularly drab and miserable day. It was foggy, rainy and the air had a decided chill.  We saw the first sign for the castle.  It wasn’t the last.  Some places on this planet are simple to navigate. Either the streets are laid out on a grid or signage is easy to follow.  Let me say this to the Fathers (Mothers) of the city of Cork; your streets make no sense and your signs might as well be in Gaelic.  Oops.  Most of the signs were in Gaelic.

In most countries where we speak the language, asking for directions is a reasonably simple exercise. We hopscotched all over Cork trying to find someone who could explain to us (in English or a reasonably good facsimile) how to make our way to the Castle.  Oh, they all did a fine job explaining but we couldn’t understand a word they were saying.

“And the women in the uplands digging praties speak a language that the strangers do not know.”

Slightly exasperated, we arrived at the Castle, purchased our tickets and made our way to kiss the stone. To get to the top of the castle you have to navigate a very narrow, winding staircase which, in and of itself, is no big deal.  Except for one thing.  The stairs were a series of smooth stones completely exposed to the elements.  Treacherous does not even begin to describe the footing.  Walking on sidewalks after a mid-February ice storm is child’s play compared to our ascent to kiss the blessed stone.  Luckily they had stolen some huge ropes from local tug of war teams and these allowed us to reach the top.

The deed of kissing the stone was somewhat anticlimactic after several hours of trying to find the damn castle and risking life and limb to fulfill our quest. Travelling back down those same stairs was every bit as daunting an exercise as the ascent had been.  We were in dire need of refreshments.

With rain pelting on our backs we hustled to the car.

Our vehicle was locked. Not so unusual seeing that we were the ones who had locked it.  Problem was, the keys were inside the car.  And the downpour continued.

It took some time, skill and several strings of expletives to finally gain entry to the car.

We had indeed received the gift of the gab. Luckily it was “in a language that the natives did not know”.

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