Rural Rhymes

The Old Gramophone

By Paddy Egan

It lies in the parlour all alone

The old wind-up gramophone

Time was when it had pride of place

When life was lived at a slower pace

A party piece when we were young

When old Irish ballads were played and sung.

Around the parlour table of a winter’s night

With the double wick to show them light

Old time waltzes, jigs and reels

Quick steps, two steps, to clicking heels

Friends and neighbours gathered round.

Fascinated by its magic sound.

The kitchen cleared, they formed a ring

Danced seán nós or Highland fling,

Sparks arise from the old flagged floor.

Then a solo on the old half door.

Singers too of worldwide fame

Had records made which bore their name

McCormack, Crosby, Jimmy Shand.

Vincent Lowe and his céilí band

Vinyl records, dubbed seventy eights

A new conveyance to hear the greats

Worldwide artists now at hand.

By a system known as played and canned.

At outdoor parties, crossroad dances.

The beginnings too of old romances.

Retired now in silent pique

This old masterpiece is now antique.

Chef’s Tip

Janine Kennedy

Do you ever wonder why other people’s soups taste better than yours? They are probably taking a few very minor but extra steps which make all the difference.

1 They let their vegetables saute before adding any liquid. By searing off aromatic veggies like carrots, celery and – especially – onions, you are softening and sweetening them, which will enrich the overall flavour of the soup.

2 They are using good-quality chicken, beef or vegetable stock. Homemade or good-quality shop-bought stock makes all the difference in the world to soup. If using cubes, I always pre-dissolve in some boiled water as opposed to just throwing it into the soup.

3 They season it at the end of the cooking process. In culinary school, I was taught to “season with salt until you think it tastes salty ... then add a bit more salt”.

4 Finally, you can’t go wrong with a drop of fresh cream, a dollop of sour cream and a bit of garnish to top things off.

Picture of the week

New farmer in training: Siobhan Brady from Longford with Katie (on her back) cleaning out the suck calves. / Paidi Brady

Growing wild

with Dr Catherine Keena, Teagasc countryside management specialist

Look out for Lady’s smock, a pretty flower of May that can appear in damp areas even in improved grassland. The leaves in the basal rosette are broad while those on the stem are narrower. Dainty mauve or white flowers of four petals held in loose spikes. It is known as cuckoo flower or cuckoo spit because the cuckoo is now singing and the plant can be covered in a frothy spit produced by froghopper nymphs living in the stem. It is used by meadow longhorn moths, orange tip and green veined white butterflies. Lady’s smock is an indicator species on the ACRES grassland scorecard and is part of our native Irish biodiversity.

Quote of the week

When there was the big house, the people who were indentured to work there signed a contract for nine years which stated they would not have to eat wild salmon more than twice a week. How can it go from that to where they are now: an endangered keystone species?

Sally Barnes, Salmon of Knowledge

Number of the week - 700

Sheep to be shorn every day at the All-Nations Sheep shearing and wool handling championships this summer at Clonmany Agricultural Show. Living Life