Sunday, April 29, 2012

Irish Wit

A few years ago I was in the tiny English village of Saffron Walden and came across an engraved gold wall-plaque which read: "In 1832 on this spot nothing happened."

Irish humor, I found, is right on par.

Sesame Street shout out
No, that pub is not named after the street it is on
Brings a whole new image to the words "foul mouthed"
It's your guess as to whether this is before or after the guy lay passed out drunk on the street
I wonder who's ancestor turned in their watery grave when this store was named

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Country Drive

At the airport car rental desk in Cork, a representative asked me if I wanted insurance.  I never take added insurance.  Not even the previous time I had driven on the left side of the road.  I find the added cost to be a waste of money. But this time I hesitated. As I lowered my gaze to go through my mental files, I realized the last time I had driven was in December... 2010.  I looked back up, smiled weakly and doled out the extra cash- for peace of mind, since it didn't pay for anything else.

The extra protected, ugly, little Nissan Micra leisurely transported me along Ireland's Southwestern coast. Together the electric-blue vehicle with its alien-eyed headlights and I drove through fisherman villages comprised of brightly colored buildings, down numerous curving one lane (two direction) roads, past rolling fields boasting multiple hues of green, and across gems so great they were worth stopping for in order to absorb the view for that much longer.

kite surfing at Old Head Peninsula
Timoleague Friary. Built in the 1300's, burned down in 1642. 
post fire, the Friary has been used as a cemetery
beacon in Baltimore

Friday, April 13, 2012

White Star Line

On April 11, 1912, 78 out of 120 people in Queenstown, Ireland collected the previously purchased tickets which ended their lives. The monetary value they paid for their own deaths being between US $795 - $1,364... depending on how lavish their last three days of life were.

Less than a month shy of a century later, I walked into the same ticketing office in a town now called Cobh (pronounced Cove). Unlike the 112 persons who had to turn back around and wait on a dock after their lower valued ticket was claimed, I continued further inward with a ticket purchased for a fraction of the price. It's possible they didn't mind as there must have been a more jubilant vibe by the waterside than inside where the 7 other ticket holders waited.

Because I didn't get out to sea to take a picture as great as this

Cobh is as picturesque a town as one gets, and a town in which I wouldn't mind living.  That is, if the single lane roads didn't allow traffic to go in both directions.  Like San Francisco's Painted Ladies, Cobh has it's own rendition of row houses called the Deck of Cards. The town is built on a hill, with a cathedral placed on top as its crowning glory. Brightly colored buildings stand in rows at varying levels, allowing every tenant a seaside view. Although, I'd rather be housed on the sea with a view looking landward.

I wondered if anyone on that fateful day in 1912, whether waiting inside or outside, took the time to absorb the sites, forever ingraining the beauty of Queenstown to memory before they departed.  But somehow I seem to think that excitement over the titanic vessel that floated before them was too intriguing to rip their eyes away from.

There were 7 second class passengers from Queenstown, only 2 of whom survived.  40 third class passengers were lucky enough to be saved, although the odds were still against them as 112 third class passengers boarded the Titanic at Queenstown. At the "Titanic Experience" (a museum now located at the former White Star Line ticketing office), each person entering is handed a boarding card with the name of a real passenger. At the end of the museum, a computer provides information of the person who's name is on the card received. 

I received the name of Jane Carr. She was a 45 year old woman born in Castlerock, County Sligo, Ireland. She emigrated to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1890 to serve as a domestic and a cook. She later moved to Hartford, Connecticut to work for a doctor's family as a housekeeper and cook. Her final job was as a cook in a hotel.  She returned home to Ireland in 1909. Three years later she was informed by a friend in Winsor Locks, Connecticut that the bank where she kept her savings was folding due to embezzlement and was encouraged to collect her money before it disappeared.  Jane bought a third class ticket on the Titanic with the intent to settle her financial affairs before returning to Ireland to spend the rest of her days with her siblings and their families. That intent was never fulfilled. She went down with the ship, her body never recovered.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Few things in life are as relaxing and peaceful as walking the Blarney castle grounds.

 (Hooray for the ability to take photos with your iPod on the days you forget to charge your camera batteries).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"To know how to say!... This is all that matters in life." -Fernando Pessoa

It is said that those who kiss the Blarney Stone will be bestowed with the gift of eloquence.
Laurel and Hardy
"Two of cinema’s best loved characters visited Blarney early in the twentieth century. It’s no surprise to us that they were amongst the few that successfully made the transition from silent movies to talkies. They did kiss the Stone."
The famed stone, located on the top of the Blarney castle's tower, has a fabled past. Some state its origins stem from biblical times, as it was the rock that gushed water when Moses struck it. Others claim the builder of the castle installed it after kissing a stone on his way to court (per the advice of the goddess Cliodhna, queen of the banshees) and won, after eloquently pleading his case.
Winston Churchill
"Winston Churchill visited in 1912. We’ll just stick to the facts this time. He kissed the Stone. He became the greatest orator of the twentieth century. You can fill in the gaps…"
No matter its true history, millions in the past few centuries have made the pilgrimage to kiss the stone for its powers... if not for the germs.  The blue stone (which is the same type of stone used by the druids to build Stonehenge) is not easy to reach. After climbing 7000* stairs, squeezing through narrow walkways, and reaching the roof of the castle, the individual in search of the gift of gab has to lie on their back, while held by a stranger, grab hold of safety rails, lower their body through a chasm and jut their head out far enough to reach the low lying rock.
Mick Jagger
"Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger has locked lips with a few celebrities in his time… the Blarney Stone being one of them!"
Before safeguards were installed, kissing the stone was a near death defying act. The only thing stopping the individual kissing the stone from falling to their doom was the commissioned person(s) who held their ankles.

(photo credit)
Thankfully, for me, times have changed - allowing enough reason to kiss the blarney stone myself without risking my life.

Oh, all right! I only pretended to kiss it. I's already gots me enough o'that there eloquence.

(Besides, do you know how many germs are on that thing?!)

* Technically, this may be an exaggerated number. But, not too far off from the truth.

quotes about famous Blarney stone kissers found here.