When I saw that this month’s Travel Link up was “things you’d never do again” only one thing sprung to mind. I knew this one would be easy: The Blarney Stone. Yep. Ireland’s favourite yap-inducing masonry is on my piss list. Let’s all snuggle in and I can tell the story properly.
A bloody long time ago I visited Ireland with my husband. We were driving around the island in a rental car, intending to end up on the west coast for a wedding. On the second day (or first full day) we drove from Dublin to Cork and into Blarney. Blarney is a small town with a castle. So far so good in the book of Frankie. It is said that this castle contains one stone, that once kissed, will bestow the gift of the gab upon the kisser. A kind of eloquent gab, even. If you’ve ever met Irish people you know they’re lively and charming and entertaining as all hell. Shy, awkward folks would oftentimes like a piece of this action. And that is how a tourism industry sprung up surrounding the Blarney stone. It doesn’t help that some of the world’s best orators, such as Winston Churchill, have been to kiss this hallowed stone.
So, when my husband Mark decided he wanted to go I was sweet with the idea. I bloody love castles and this seemed just whimsical enough to rock my little Frankie world. How wrong I was. I didn’t bother to do any further research on this Blarney stone, I just accepted the fact that Mark knew which road to take to get there, and the rest would sort itself out as it usually does.
When we first rocked up to Blarney Castle, trying to gain admittance we found that they don’t accept card payments and that we’d need cash. I must stress that this was many years ago and I have no idea what their card situation is now. We had to drive back to the village to get cash from an ATM, and as we tried to pull into a carpark in the village centre some other muppet drove straight into us, eager to gain our carpark for himself. The police were right there. It was the centre of a small village, where else would they be? Well, our car crasher and the police officer on duty were great mates from long ago. Mr Driver tried to blame us. Just a small point: he crashed into the side of our car. Unless we were travelling at high speed sideways in a circular motion so as not to bang into other parked cars, this prick was an outrageously lying human embodiment of hemorrhoids. A pain in the arse. Thankfully we had insurance that covered it and the car only suffered superficial damage, so we could carry on driving.
When we finally got back to the castle we began our ascent immediately. What did we learn? They accepted card payment in the gift shop, but not the ticket office. Blood boiling.
We did calm down. It’s a beautiful old castle. Rickety, rambling and quaint. We climbed around inside and explored every room. I soon forgot about the actual Blarney Stone, until, of course, we reached the top. There, a small aged man who was clearly 115 if he was a bloody day, sat on a rock overhanging the edge of the castle. He was collecting gold coin tips for pretending to be some kind of safety feature installed to stop idiotic tourists from toppling over backwards to their deaths.
Let me explain: The blarney stone is hundreds of thousands of feet about the surface of the earth. You have to lean over backwards to try and kiss the stone in an upside down position. Don’t worry, if you slip a few feeble, rusting iron bars are sitting between you and certain death. The old leprechaun was also promising to catch you if you fell. Or at least to ensure that your death certificate was filled in correctly.
I did not sign up for this. I haven’t even gotten into the state of the stone. It’s smoother than the rest of the battlement, worn down and wildly discoloured from years of foreign spittle and saliva plastering it in desperate, gravity defying puckering motion. It’s now as black as Marilyn Monroe’s handprints in Hollywood. Both have been darkened by the grime deposited by many years of flustered human contact, but no one would even consider putting their mouth onto the ground anywhere near the hand prints. It’s the sluttiest wall in the western world, why on earth are we all lining up to snog it? Disgusting.
I knew this wasn’t for me, so I politely declined the kiss. Mark, however, was still lining up with the intention of dangling into the jaws of stone pecking death. It’s no wonder this mouth-to-stone business is guaranteed to give you a more loquacious outlook on life; you’re bound to scream your fucking tits off, bellowing all the words you never quite realised you knew, as you hurtle at high speed towards the unforgiving grass below. There was no way in hell I was returning to New Zealand with the crumpled corpse of the man I loved squished into a compressed shape with his head poking up between his ankles.
My bottom lip began to tremble. I stamped my foot. Panic welled up inside me. I tearfully commanded Mark to leave the battlement immediately and forbade him from even further considering kissing that damn stone. “I don’t want you to diiiiiiiiiie!” I wailed, distressed.
He listened to me. If he hadn’t I’m pretty sure I would have stood there and sobbed openly, causing a scene. Just quietly, he may have been happy for the out.
What did I learn? Always investigate your tourist attraction before you turn up. I don’t deal well with spontaneity or surprise of any kind. If I had known what the Blarney Stone actually was before arriving there I could have mentally prepared myself for it. I could have figuratively walked myself through a thousand plummeting deaths and maybe found a mindset where upside down smooching was acceptable. This was not possible at the last minute on top of a castle mid-panic attack. If I had done my research I may have even known the money situation and avoided our little car scraping. Never again.
One positive did come from this though: Mark didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone. If you’ve ever met my husband you know that the last thing he needs is more yap. My tearful tantrum likely saved the world from a hurricane of garrulous hot air sweeping across the European continent and even through the Americas and back to Australasia. You can thank me at your leisure.