Denis Lehane: Why did we ever forsake the wonderful ballrooms of rural Ireland?

The Ballroom of Romance was one mighty film.

Based on a short story by William Trevor, who sadly passed away last Sunday, and seen by millions, including myself, it was a movie like no other.

I must have watched that film a thousand times, and it always left me in tears.

“Where did it all go wrong?”

I’d usually sob, as the film brought back the good old days of romance in rural Ireland.

Why did we ever forsake the wonderful ballrooms of rural Ireland?

We were mad surely to turn our backs on them.

The day the ballrooms closed, make no mistake, that was the day rural Ireland died.

Of course, some might say it was the closing of the village post office or the boarding up of the garda station that was the finish of us in rural Ireland.

But I must strongly disagree.

You can get along without licking the occasional stamp.

As for the guards, most law abiding fellows like myself can manage perfectly fine without a guard, or without a dog licence too for that matter.

Denis Lehane: Why did we ever forsake the wonderful ballrooms of rural Ireland?

No, rural Ireland fell apart when the doors closed on the dance halls.

It’s as simple as that.

For ’twas in those rural ballrooms of love that romance was kept alive. The ballrooms made the process of finding a life partner far less complicated.

In a time long before Snapchat, Facebook, or damn it all, Grindr, you only had the ballroom. A place where the women would sit along a damp wall at one side, and the men sat along the other side. The middle ground was kept free for the dancing.

William Trevor wrote all about it. And ’tis all there to be seen, in beautiful Technicolor. You can even see the dampness on the walls.

Anyhow, when the time came for the dancing to begin, man alive, all you had to do was stagger out across the floor and pluck out the woman that was most desirable to you.

And unless you had the look of the Elephant Man about you, she damn well danced with you too.

For it would have been the height of bad manners if she gave you the cold shoulder, on a frosty night in the damp hall. ’Tis all there in the film, the men were flying, I saw it for myself.

Once out on the floor, after leering at her for a spell, you’d give her the low-down on the situation back home on the farm. The number of cows you milked, if your mother was still to the good, that sort of thing.

And once the formalities were out of the way, you were married, sometimes with great haste. And the rest, as they say, was history.

Or in other words, a fellow could live happily ever after on the farm, with a devoted wife and 30 children.

And you didn’t need any class of a new house back then to woo her either.

Once she had a working twin-tub, an old woman in the corner, and plenty of potatoes for boiling, a wife was as happy as can be.

Alas and alack, ’tis all in the past now.

Such good old days can only be viewed through movies like The Ballroom of Romance, all about a time in rural Ireland where love could be found in the most remote but romantic places.


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