Monthly Archives: March 2014

Everyone needs a little blarney in their life

Because of a deal made at the Blarney Castle a long time ago, the word blarney has come to mean eloquence, flattery or in plain words “the gift of gab.”  If you get to kiss the stone in your life time, you are blessed with this gift.  I kissed it twice on the same day, not to mention I had the gift of gab even before I kissed the stone. I remember my Dad talking about kissing the Blarney Stone.  He didn’t know much about it, but  in my head, I imagined a great, impressive stone that people would lay down on, and kiss.  It is nothing like that, and Dad did not mention anything about a castle. Never the less, this was the most important thing for me to see and do while visiting Ireland.

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Once through the ticket gate, we started the walk on a pathway surrounded by lush gardens with daffodils popping up all over the place.  There was a river that ran by the castle, and as I walked by it, I could see the draw bridge and the horses riding through in high style.  Ok, I was seeing scenes from Camelot in my head.  But  in days gone by this would have been the moat.

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As we got closer, and came around a bend, we see this tall stone structure looming in the distance.  It wasn’t quite my idea of a castle, more of a tower.  When we came to the bottom of the building we saw places that were labeled “dungeons, ” and more movie scenes started popping in my head.  Soon we were inside the gloomy castle and began climbing the steep, narrow, (doesn’t even begin to describe it), staircase. There were rope banisters with which you literally pulled your self up step, by step.  Did I mention steep?

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It winds its way up several levels of what were living quarters.  Near the top there was a room labeled,”kitchen.”  I couldn’t help thinking how convenient that must have been.

Stepping out of the stairwell onto an open area, we pause to catch our breath, and view the castle grounds.  It was beautiful to look out and down.  For once on our trip the sun was shining and it was a spectacular sight that was worth that climb.

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The next step put us out into the top, open floor of the square structure, with chest high walls surrounding the outside area.  You can look straight down to the ground in the open area in the middle.  On the far end is the famed blarney stone.

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By watching those who were in line before you, everyone knew what to do when it was your turn; take off your glasses, sit down with your back to the stone, beside the guy who is sitting right there to hold you around the waist.  Then you grab hold of the two bars above and beside you.  Next you lie on your back and put your head under the stone that looks different from all the others.

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Looking back you can see all the way to the ground.  Looking up you see the blarney stone and put your lips to it to complete the kiss.  Be careful when you bring your head up, because you can get a little dizzy. This is clearly documented by the look on my face. The reason I got to kiss it twice, was that there was no film in the camera the first time around.

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Looks like Nancy had an easier time coming up than I did.

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Just after we had all our pictures and were moving to the other side, a young couple came through, when she came up, he was on his knees proposing to her.  She said “Yes,”  we all cheered, and began the much easier trek down.

So that’s it for March, by the looks of today we are in high hopes of this unpredictable month going out like a  lamb.

 

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Nancy’s Irish Mom, with random pictures from Ireland

It was in February of 2006 that my friend Nancy asked if I would consider going with her to Ireland in late March.  To make a long story short, I said yes.  She and I would go with the tour, but the husbands would stay at home.  The plan was to drive to Baltimore, have dinner at her mother’s house where we would spend the night, and the guys would go back home.  Nancy and I would catch the bus early in the morning that would take us to New York where we would board the plane for Ireland.  Plan intact, the big day arrived, the car was loaded, and Richard and Dick took us  to Nancy’s house, which was very near the bus station.  We were Ireland bound.Ireland_0015

Stepping into Ann Nancy Smith’s home in March is like stepping into a little piece of Ireland.  We were greeted at the door by a short stocky, little lady with coppery red curly hair who still had one pink plastic roller clamped tightly to her forehead.   There are Irish trinkets and wall hangings scattered throughout the comfortable, carpeted house with a staircase going up the side of the living room.  One framed cross – stitch piece hanging in the kitchen, proudly stated “American by birth, Irish by the grace of God”.  Little did I know at the time, that this was the frame of mind that made up the whole tour.

Ann Nancy is an Irish Catholic and speaks much about her love for God and disappointment with the organized church. She loves to smoke cigarettes and play cards. Her “gift” is “holding” and evidently she has won substantially enough to prove it.  She has played in many tournaments over the years, even before it was legal, and has a few “raid” stories to tell as well.

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The kitchen table was set with Irish place mats and she had cooked us a wonderful meal of corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes and applesauce on the side.  By the time dinner was served, the roller was gone and we laughed at the  gambling stories and enjoyed the talk of Irish Saints.  The name Nancy comes from the word annunciation and she was named for Saint Ann, but goes by Nancy.  When she was born, good catholic families named their children after the Saints.  By the time her daughter was born, that was no longer necessarily the case, so they dropped the Ann.

It was such a pleasant evening and gave me an insight to the people from Baltimore that would be sharing my Irish experience.  This was my first trip, but I was traveling with seasoned Irish tourists who were indeed, “Irish by the grace of God.”  On a river boat, our last day there, I was delighted to hear Irish songs I remembered my parents singing.

My heritage is Irish protestant. My grandfather’s family came to settle in the Irish settlement of Armagh in western Pennsylvania. My mother considers Armagh her home town and in 1992 she attended the 200th anniversary of this small town.  Councillor Macartney and his wife, Iris, from Armagh in Northern Ireland were the grand marshalls of the parade for the celebration. On St Patrick’s Day, I usually wear Orange, with a little green to honor my Irish Catholic friends. I find that many people don’t know that orange is the color for Irish protestant.  So I do indeed have Irish ties, but they were not nearly so strong as those I met from Baltimore.  Upon arriving home, I told people that, these were the folks who drank green beer and marched in the St Patrick’s day parade, celebrating that holiday with the same fervor I celebrate the Super Bowl. OK, maybe more than that.

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Before retiring on the eve before our flight to Ireland, I looked through a large book on the dresser in my bedroom called “A Day in the Life of Ireland.” The pictures were large and breathtaking, the excitment was building.  I felt like my trip had already begun and I was staying in an Ireland Bed and Breakfast home.

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There is nothing more Irish than The Wild Irish Rose and kissing the famed blarney stone.  Join me next time and you will know why I have the “gift of gab.”

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The meaning of March?

What is the meaning of March?  When I think of the word, I think of high knees with one foot up and one foot down, and when I think of weather in terms of March, I think of it coming in like a lion, going out like a lamb, which is what usually happens rather than the other way around. March is full of meanings.  It means that spring is coming but not nearly here,  it means that green things will soon appear, but I am seeing white of new fallen snow.  It means I will soon have another birthday and I’m not getting any younger.  So what does March mean to you?  To me it really means great memories of a trip I took with a friend back in 2006.  I love that when March rolls around, no matter what the weather, I am always reminded of the green, green grass of —— Ireland.  Well it could be home, since my heritage is Scotch-Irish, and my first wish to go to Ireland was sparked by my dad telling me about the blarney stone. During the month of March I will be sharing some Irish memories, stories and pictures.

After arriving in Dublin and walking the streets, we learned quickly that the meeting place for most events, was at the

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Spire in the center of town.  My notes say that this was a gift to the town from the government to celebrate the new millenium in 2000, however it wasn’t finished until 2002 and then celebrated in January of 2003.  It has many mixed views, better reviews from the visitors than from those that live there. It does makes a great meeting place, because it is a little hard to miss.

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Soon we were riding around town in the big bus, looking at castles, churches and green, green lawns.

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Our tour guide talked about Bono, who lives in Ireland along with many other stars, and all the good work he does.   We passed Christ’s Chapel in the oldest part of Dublin where Handel’s Messiah was first performed.  She told us that the women were asked not to wear the hoops under their skirts and the men not to wear their swords because “the crush of the people was so great.”

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We drove through many areas with bright colors and I was often drawn to the bright doors and archways.  We passed one building that had an arch over it with a sign that said “public bath center.”  It is now a gym, but in the early 1900’s it was built by the government for the health of the public.  It was a place for the poor who had no other access for washing.  Our guide told us it was a major breakthrough for caring for the poor.

Later we stopped at this park with this large white cross that marks the place where Pope John stood to address the crowds when he visited Ireland.

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After the bus tour four of us caught a cab and headed to the Guinness Compound.  There is a museum with an observatory on the 7th floor where you can see the entire city of Dublin.  I was interested in the look out.  13ueros and 1/2 hour later we had arrived.  Another 14ueros we were on our way up to the 7th floor, taking a look through the glass panels at a few of the exhibits on the other floors. We stopped to have this picture taken of the blue crab.  I’ll take the crabs you can have the beer.

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Stepping off the elevator I felt like I stepped outside because of the view the floor-to-ceiling glass windows provided. Nancy and I were drawn to the varied scenes below us. The guys were drawn to the huge bar in the center that was giving out pints of the black beer.  The black ring attached to the glass-paper weight with a drop of beer encased in it was your ticket to a pint. Nancy had a 1/2 pint, I had a taste, even getting foam all over my mouth. I’ll bet you can’t wait for my assessment of the famed Guinness.

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It tastes like black licorice and has the consistency of motor oil.  A little of that went a long way with me and I gave my black ring to a more than grateful Brian.  Word has it that the world drinks 1.5 billion pints of Guinness a day.  People started clearing out just before 5 and the view got even better.  We spent most of our time up there because it was so neat to find all the sights we had just seen earlier, from that perspective.

The cab ride back was a lot of fun.  The driver talked to us about Irish names and if we were prodestant or catholic. They were all catholic except me. Brian said, then in keeping with the Irish ways, they could toss me out of the car.  Oh yes, the orange and the green of the Irish, at it again.

Stay tuned for more blarney in March.

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