Liam Farrell: Some traditions are worth keeping

Call me a cynical old goat, but to me 'traditional' is just another word for outmoded, narrow-minded, tacky, obsolete and kitsch. 'Traditional' music usually means some old guy moaning gibberish in a corner surrounded by bewildered tourists, while the real Irish are getting down at the karaoke bar.

Walk into any Olde Tyme shop that sells 'Traditional Arts and Crafts' and have a look: baskets made of reeds marinated in dead otter phlegm; useless ornaments sculpted in irritating tweed; pathetically unfashionable and impractical Aran sweaters. It's all shite, isn't it? No one but the most gullible idiot would actually buy anything.

But there is one traditional saying that still has much relevance, particularly to doctors. I think it is an ancient Irish axiom, because I heard it from an ancient Irishman, a man so old he had hairs a foot long growing out of his ears.

We were out herding sheep before the lambing and one old ewe was being skittish, as sheep often are around me - I think they recognise a predator when they see one. No matter how I chased her, she always managed to dodge away.

Frustrated, red-faced and perspiring in my Aran sweater, I swore I would feed her spinal cord to the cows if she didn't behave, while my elderly companion remained serene and unmoved, regarding my efforts with some amusement. When all the comic possibilities had been exhausted he called me over.

'Don't get all hot and bothered, young fella,' he said placidly, drawing noisily on his pipe. He leaned back grandly against the gate between the drystone walls, like an unhygienic White Knight.

'She'll follow the others in a minute,' he continued. 'Just take it easy and let the hare sit.'

I sat beside him for a few minutes, bitter experience leading me to sit upwind to avoid being drenched by the inevitable tobacco-stained spittle. Sure enough, after being left alone for a while, the old ewe slowly drifted into the enclosure after the rest of the flock.

I learned much from that little morality play, and now, during many a consultation about yet another rash or a bad cold, I will lean back magisterially in my chair and say, sagely, 'Ah sure, maybe the best thing would be just to let the hare sit.'

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