Blarney, not Baloney: Communication Lessons from Kissing the Blarney Stone

Yesterday, my husband and our six-year-old daughter, Lulu visited Blarney Castle – just a few minutes’ drive from our newly adopted home of Cork, Ireland.

We "Heart" Blarney Castle!
We “Heart” Blarney Castle!

In case you have been living under a rock and don’t already know, the 600-year-old fortress is famous for a particular piece of carboniferous limestone with the legendary power to instill the communicative gift of Blarney upon anyone who kisses it.  Blarney, as defined in humorous postings in and around the castle, is very distinct from Baloney.

To reach the stone in question, you must first climb 110 narrow, slippery-from-Ireland’s-perpetual-autumn-mist stone stairs to the top of the castle tower.

Yes, you have to climb to the  tippy top!
Yes, you have to climb to the tippity top!

Baloney is “praise so thick, it cannot be true.”

While Blarney is said to be  “flattery so thin, we love it.”

Once you reach the top, you then must turn and face away from the parapet and kneel backwards looking out high above the green rolling hills of the valley.  Next, begin to stretch your body – almost back-bend-style – against the castle wall.

Baloney, they say, is telling a 50-year-old woman she looks 18.

But Blarney is asking an older woman how old she may be, because, as you tell her, you want to know at what age women are most beautiful.

A friendly Irishman (yes, that’s redundant) named Dennis helped us put one hand on each of the two metal support rails to steady ourselves as we  stretched our heads downward to the extremely difficult to reach gift-giving stone  – and smooched away.

PicMonkey Collage
Various Blarney Stone kissing contortionists

Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses, he never misses to grow eloquent; ‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber or become a member of Parliament, a noble spouter he’ll sure turn out. ” – Francis Sylvester Mahony

Perhaps our new words will be a bit smooth, but they will also be words that are kind and caring designed to bring a smile to our listeners’ faces and leave them feeling more valuable and valued than when we first began.  Nothing wrong with that.  It reminds me of another lovely sentiment I have also heard from my new Irish friends:

It costs nothing to be kind.

Whew.  So, the perilous gymnastics required to kiss the Blarney stone were well-worth it.

Except for our six-year-old.  Lulu said she already knows how to talk a lot and will kiss it another time. Truer words may never have been spoken. And that’s no blarney.

Here’s looking at you from Blarney Castle!

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.


My demands for International Women’s Day

Saturday was  International Women’s Day 2014.

Bright, yellow, puffy-palline sprays of Mimosa are sold up and down Corso Italia here in Arezzo.???????????????????????????????

Lulu and I each received a bouquet from the barista at the coffee shop in Piazza Grande.

PicMonkey Collage 2

The symbolic flowers were everywhere.  On the balcony of one of our favorite pizzerias.


Stretching out from behind an ancient wall along a vicolo.


And even balanced precariously on a bicycle.


The first Women’s Day was celebrated in the United States in 1909.  By 1911, women were being recognized  internationally on a special day.

Started by the Socialist Party, but broadened (get it? – sorry) to include Social Democrats and other parties, the day is designed to remind the world about the rights and demands of women.

During this time of recognition and celebration, where freedoms, salaries and protection are some of the larger issues, here are my personal “demands.”  I bet there’s a woman near and dear to you, who might make these as well.

  • Thank me.

 I work hard every day – to make our daughter breakfast and walk her to school, to coach and consult with my communications clients, to consider and care for friends and family, to cook dinner and to love, listen to and respect my husband.  The simple phrase, “Thanks, hon, for all you do” warms my heart and encourages me every time I hear it.

  • Forgive me.

In spite of my strengths, I am also full of flaws and frailties. I am a work in progress. I don’t want a full-time pass, because I definitely believe I am in control of my decisions and actions, and can always work harder. But sometimes a “hey, don’t worry, we all make mistakes,” can bring great comfort and reassurance.

  • Offer to help me.

“Is there anything I can I do to help?”  is a fabulous question.  Even if I don’t take you up on the offer at the precise moment, the gesture is terrific.

  • Love and respect me.  

We are Mothers.  Sisters.  Wives.  Partners. Friends.  So – just like our Fathers.  Brothers. Husbands. Partners. Friends – we are human first.  All we need is love.  And the rest will follow, won’t it?

For all the women out there – and the men too – I hope you are giving love and respect and getting it in return.

From Arezzo, with love.
From Arezzo, with love.

Til next time,

Baci – Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

The kindness of strangers

Lulu at the train station where she isn’t asleep.

I don’t have a picture of her, but I know her name was Anita.

It was about 150 degrees in the shade the afternoon Lulu and I were to board the train back to Arezzo from Florence.  After a busy day, Lulu had fallen asleep in her stroller and so I had to try to hoist her dead weight and her stroller together up the steps onto the train car.

Several people rushed by me, as I struggled, to climb aboard a different car.  Then just as I was about to buckle, an elderly woman came from above.  She was already aboard, but had seen me from her seat near the door, had come over and was reaching down to help me lift Lulu and her passegino up.

I pushed the passegino next to the woman’s seat on the train and we sat across from each other. She smiled and introduced herself.  She said she remembered and understood.  She had a daughter of her own who was now grown.  She then took a balsam wood fan that was carved into a lacey pattern from her purse and spread it out.  She handed it to me. She advised me to fan it toward Lulu who indeed had flushed pink little cheeks from the heat.   Before she got off at her stop, she told me to keep the fan as a regalo, or gift.  “For the next time.”

Grazie mille, Anita.  I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.

I look forward to one day passing along the fan to someone who could use a little help like I did.

Ciao tutti!

Love,  Gina