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Saturday, October 27, 2007

IRELAND--DAY 5

IRELAND--DAY 5

We travel to Blarney Castle this day, off to kiss the Blarney Stone. Michael and I did it when we visited Ireland, and now it’s Rob’s turn, as if he needs The Gift of Gab.

The Blarney Stone is reputed to be half the Stone of Scone (a zillion legends revolve around that). It was installed at the highest point of Blarney Castle after being awarded by Robert De Bruce, King of the Scots, to Irish Chieftain Cormac McCarthy for his aid at one of the biggest battles for Scottish independence from England, the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

To kiss the Blarney Stone, you must first climb the narrow, high, always narrowing staircase. Stairways and archways were constructed in this manner to keep invaders from being able to move en masse. You maneuver through narrow archways until to reach the parapet. There you lay on your back, held by a trusted aide, and you hold tightly to the support bars, lean out upside down over the edge and kiss the stone. Okay, it’s not REALLY dangerous, but it is dramatic! And you do have something to gab about!

I’m not sure that Rob needs any help in being full of blarney, but it’s sure nice to know he’s now legitimately entitled!
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What a blast tonight was! We went to a ceili, an Irish social evening filled with music, dancing, and story telling. For us travelers, still uninitiated in Irish ways, the entertainment was also informative. Terrific!

We drove outside Killarney where we are staying, passing some of the beautiful Lakes of Killarney and traveled up into the hills which, this dusk, are crowned with cloud tiaras. We headed toward Bleachfield, so named because it was there they bleached the flax to make Irish linen.

Bleachfield Bistro is a pub. The menu is entirely Irish, and after salad, potato and leek soup (delicious), Rob and I had bacon and cabbage served with mashed potatoes, pie and ice cream. Topped it off with Irish coffee.

The three performers at Bleachfields, in addition to performing a marvelous, raucous, rousing, audience-inclusive show, gave us some lessons in Irish culture and entertainment. We learned the history of those Uilleann pipes, and got a detailed demonstration of how one arm works to pump while the other regulates the amount of air as the musician plays the notes—basically perfoming three operations at once. Not so simple.

We also learned about the famed Irish tin whistle by the man who was in the finals for the country championship. He dazzled us with his versatility, and it was almost impossible to believe that a six-holed whistle could produce the fantastic variety of music to which he treated us. The third performer, a lovely Irish tenor also played the concertina and harmonica with agility and skill. At one time he played a song so quickly that we could hardly believe human fingers moved so fast. We were in the presence of greatness in this little pub tucked away in the hills of Ireland.

This third Irish evening as the others—not in big cities or in big clubs—showed me the importance of music, singing, and fellowship in the Irish culture. We tourists had no problem picking up and loving the spirit and the fun. (especially with the help of the ever present Guinness)
Two wonderful dancers demonstrated the different beats used in Irish dancing, reminiscent, of course, of Riverdance, and they, believe it or not, had two of us up and dancing The Brush Dance! Not dancing it well—actually barely at all—but a good time was had, and we left Bleachfields in a convivial mood. What a crew we’d become. We’d all left our inhibitions back wherever we came from, and I thank Harry, our director, for that. He is a great team builder.







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