The Lonesome Heart Is Angry
During my mid-teenage years I worked Monday to Friday (after college three-thirty to six o'clock) all day Saturday and during all holidays as a messenger boy for Dawson Bates in his Grocer and Hardware shop in the Parish of Magherafelt. I pedalled the fierce hills around the village (population somewhere in the late hundreds in those days) delivering the weekly provisions, necessities, not to mention a few ill affordable luxuries, to Dawson Bates' numerous customers. Sometimes, if I was very lucky, it didn't rain but rarely was the basket on the front of the shop-bike anything other than packed to overflowing. Sometimes the basket was packed so high that while pedalling furiously I had to poke my head frequently to the left and right of the basket to be able to see where I was going.
I remember being very happy, happy go lucky, whistling loudly as I rode around the village dreaming of being seduced by an older woman. I don't think I'd set my sights much older than someone around twenty years old but, none's the matter, I never fulfilled that particular dream. However during my delivery rounds (with stop-offs for numerous cups of tea) and time serving at the counter of Dawson's fine establishment I heard all the town gossip of those who were suspected of sleeping around. Sometime the gossip was funny, sometimes it was malicious and sometimes it could even be downright dangerous to the health and well-being of certain principals when said gossip managed to get back to the wronged husband or husbands in question.
I'm talking about a time—early 1960s—when every house in the village didn't have a television aerial. No, far from it in fact, so gossiping, dancing and, if we were to believe the gossip, riding would have been the top three forms of village entertainment.
I set my recent novel—The Last Dance—in the early 1960s in a fictitious village called Castlemartin set close to the shores of Lough Neagh and about three miles from Magherafelt. The name Castlemartin comes from amalgamating the names of two neighbouring small villages; Castledawson and Desertmartin. I changed the name to protect... well I've never really been sure if I was trying to protect the innocent or the guilty. The Last Dance dealt with two of the aforementioned past- times: dancing (vertical of course) and... well, let's just say we threw in some horizontal dancing for good measure.
For my next novel—The Lonesome Heart Is Angry—I've returned to the same village and same era to mine the wealth of material available in Castlemartin. This time we deal predominantly with gossip and, once again, there's some more horizontal dancing thrown in again.
I frequently remember the way gossip rolled freely in waves across Dawson Bates' shop counter, the narrator never stopping to allow truth to get in the way of a good story. Equally never for a second did they consider the lives they were in the process of destroying. Nor did they ever seem to trouble themselves as to those bystanders, such as myself, who where were not meant to be party to the, 'in strict confidence,' dialogue, but who couldn't help but stain to enjoy an ear full.
In The Lonesome Heart Is Angry something very bad may, or may not, have happened. I've written this novel because I very much wanted to return to explore this village life. I also wanted to try and come up with a believable motive as to just why this certain unspeakable thing might have happened. Yeah, and maybe even more at heart I'm still a messenger boy, only this time I'm bringing my stories to you.
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