It was a hazy July morning when we arrived in the grounds of the keep. There was a hustle and bustle about the busy little square and after squeezing the hire car into a ridiculously tight spot we marched; well, ambled through the streets, stopping for breakfast at a lazy café where some gyspy types were arguing with the staff.
I watched on as the row unfolded, apparently the customer is always right; according to the customer, but according to the waitress the customer was always an ‘arsehole’.
I let the noise wash over me, I was still tired from touring and I wanted to contemplate the end of my pilgrimage which awaited me less than a mile away. It’s good to savour the moment, let it build and gather momentum in your mind and heart so that when the destination is reached the fulfilment is a moment of unparalleled ecstasy.
My dad brought my attention back to the cafe; the gypsies had gone and my plate was empty save for a few bits of gristly bacon rind.
“Come on,” he said as he stood up, “the Blarney Stone awaits!”
A little Blarney 101 first. Blarney Castle was built by Cormac McCarthy and was completed almost 600 years ago. It is a major tourist attraction thanks to its legendary Blarney Stone – the stone of eloquence. It is rumoured that once you kiss the stone you’ll never be lost for words again.
Now this stone is at the top of the keep and is set into the wall over a sheer drop of go only knows how far. I didn’t know this before I went and neither did my dad who was sporting a filthy hangover after an all night session on Murphy’s in Cork.
There was a queue that stretched all the way to the ground floor and the tower itself was nothing more than four walls, a staircase and a few dishevelled looking floors which were roped off from the public. Luckily it wasn’t a slow moving queue but for some it wasn’t moving quickly enough and by the time we’d reached the top floor (which afforded some stunning views of the beautiful Irish countryside) the gypsies were racing to up the stairs to push in at the front.
Ahead of us was an American tourist; a huge man standing at seven feet tall who filled my field of vision with his white hair and colossal beard. Okay, that was an exaggeration but in my memory’s eye he was a Goliath.
Anyway, this American tourist was standing for none of the gypsy shenanigans and a huge fight broke out. My dad wash pushed and shoved so he pushed and shoved back. On another day, sans hangover he’d probably have been the first one to swing a punch but he was clearly feeling delicate that morning.
The Blarney Stone is said to imbue the kisser with eloquence and a veritable lexicon with which to dazzle listeners. Clearly the gypsies had been here before but it would be unwise to print their particular brand of eloquence here.
I stood and watched, not wishing to get involved. I didn’t want to incur gypsy wrath and be cursed with terrible bad luck for the rest of my days; being a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime, so I waited diligently.
The violence subsided with minimal fuss; the gypsies were carted off by police and security, and the American tourist still blocked my view (in my memory’s eye). We shuffled forward excitedly and it wasn’t until we rounded the last corner and the tourist strode forward to kiss the stone that we saw the truth of the matter.
Before I get to the crux of the story let me explain how I imagined the stone in my mind. I saw it as a kind of elliptical thing, not unlike the Dark Crystal from the film of the same name, but green because it’s Irish. I pictured it set in the centre of a square on a round plinth, not unlike a piece of Gaudi work.
So imagine my surprise when I saw it; a rectangle block barely discernible from the walls that housed it, grey and mossy suspended above a grate which didn’t look like it would stop me falling to my certain flatness.
My dad’s facial expression reflected mine only whiter and he opted out of the chance to extend his vocabulary there and then; the thought of this ‘hangover’ obviously even less appealing than the one he already had. He did offer to wait for me though which was good of him.
And so I took the plunge; no not through the grate to my certain flatness, but to the seat of learning where I was placed with my back to the mysterious and powerful stone. I put myself in the safe hands of the ‘tip people backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone man’ who tipped me backwards so I could kiss the Blarney Stone.
“This is it,” I thought, the moment I had waited for…
I felt nothing, saw nothing and knew nothing different but if you want proof that the Blarney Stone improves one’s ability to circumlocute, well just read back over these 870-ish words; that’s all the proof you need.
Have a great St. Patrick’s day and remember folks; drink responsibly.
Share your Blarney Stone experiences or your thoughts on mine by leaving a comment.
images: vinnierattolle.blogspot.com; fineartamerica.com; hauntedamericatours.com