Day 14: Pearls Before Swine

Carrigaline is only a few miles from Cork. It is a picturesque, quiet town with one street and was once famous for its pottery. The Owenabue River runs through it. Laetitia took her group there because it was a nice contrast to the crowds at Blarney Castle. They spent the day doing short hikes on the coast and around the countryside. Some gossip picked up at the restaurant where they had dinner provided the limerick of the day.

A fine lady from Carrigaline
All proposals from men did decline
Said she, “I’m afraid
I’ll end up an old maid
But I fear that I’m pearls before swine.”

Day 13: Blarney

No visit to Ireland would be complete without a visit to Blarney Castle in County Cork, home of the famous Blarney Stone, the bluestone slab incorporated into a murder hole in one of the battlements at the top of a castle wall. Murder holes are a common feature of castle ceiling gates and curtain walls allowing rocks, boiling water, or other noxious substances to be dropped on the enemy.

There are a variety of conflicting legends about the origin of the stone. According to one story, it was a gift from the Scots, a piece of the Stone of Scone, after the local king, Cormac McCarthy, supported Bruce at Bannockburn. There is another story, perhaps created by folks who had kissed the stone. It is that the stone was brought back from one of the crusades from the Holy Land where it had formerly been either a piece of the Wailing Wall, the stone Moses struck to produce water, or the pillow from which Jacob saw his vision.

Whatever its origin, the stone is kissed by thousands of tourists daily, presumably to achieve the gift of eloquence which is the purported benefit of the deed. Visitors pay a fee and allow themselves to be held by Castle staff suspended upside down in the murder hole. There are now guide rails and crossbars to keep stone-kissers from falling through the hole should those holding them lose their grip, but in the early days of stone-kissing there were no safety features.

Laetitia and her group arrived to find a long waiting line to kiss the stone. Most of her group decided to look at the castle and grounds and then move on, but a small contingent stood in line and kissed the stone. When one of the osculators was teased by her husband about how many disease germs she could get from the thousands of mouths that kiss the stone daily, she suddenly looked sick and ran to the ladies’ room to wash out her mouth with soap.

Being a person with a quirky sense of humor, Laetitia wrote the day’s limerick from the point of view of the stone.

Not a lover that this world has known
Has been kissed more than Cork’s Blarney Stone
And though some don’t kiss well
And most kiss and tell
‘Tis endured without ever a groan.

Day 12: Cockaleekie

En route to Blarney Castle, their next destination, Laetitia and her group stopped for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. An Irishman on the tour, Patrick Murphy, didn’t particularly like Chinese food and had trouble communicating with the Chinese waiter when he tried to order his favorite soup. This incident became the subject of the limerick of the day.

When Pat Murphy said, “cockaleekie”
The Chinese waiter grew quite cheeky
And then tried to shoo
Him off to the loo
‘Twas a dining adventure most freaky.

Day 11: Hot Air

Ballyvaloon is a small community in County Cork, not on a main road. Hamlets like Ballyvaloon are often havens for artists and artisans who find the quiet surroundings provide a good work environment. After some hikes among the bucolic scenery of the surrounding countryside, Laetitia and her group went to Ballyvaloon, where she had arranged for her group to meet with an artisan who made bodhráns for a demonstration of his craft and to see his wares.

After the demonstration, several of Laetitia’s group bought bodhráns. Laetitia offered to buy the craftsman a drink at the local pub and he had accepted. During the conversation at the pub, it emerged that in addition to his bodhrán-building craft, he made ends meet by acting as a sort of broker, organizing events that were a bit out of the ordinary. One of his more unusual feats was arranging for a local man to make love to his girlfriend in a hot air balloon. Advertising on the Internet, he was able to find a balloon pilot who owned his balloon and was willing to look the other way.

The event was not entirely successful. The client arrived jauntily dressed in a 1920s pilot outfit, complete with ascot, and the woman was clad in something Isadora Duncan might have worn. The balloon’s basket was so small that when the man dropped his pants, the radiant heat from the burner was excruciatingly hot on his buttocks. Then his ascot, flapping in the wind, passed too close to the flame and got scorched. Despite the affair’s shortcomings, the client and his girlfriend could claim to have done something highly unusual, the broker and balloon pilots received their fees, and Laetitia had another limerick.

When a young man from Ballyvaloon
Sought amore in a hot air balloon,
He found each hot air blast
Singed the fuzz on his as-
Cot and caused him to end much too soon.