The quarter moon in the sky above Calais, a place at once familiar and alien, brought memories of the film.There wasn’t much choice about what to watch on television during the 1970s -BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV – not even Channel 4 in those day. Maybe it was because all the resources were focused on three channels, but the programmes tend to stick in the memory.
There was a science fiction film where the final scene remains in the mind. The characters are transported to a parallel world, which is identical in every way, except the planet where they have arrived has two moons that shine together in the sky. They attempt to return to Earth, but are unsuccessful and the film closes with them standing staring at the two moons. It’s not their home, but neither is it alien.
Standing outside of a phone box on the edge of English Bay in Vancouver on our first trip to Canada in 1998, the film came to mind. Eight hours of time difference from home, thousands of miles of flying, it was not home, but then, neither was it in any way alien. The Canadians speak better English than the English; Queen Elizabeth’s head was on all the coins; everything was familiar and friendly; it was a good place to be.
It was strangely reassuring to feel at home so far away.
The two moons feeling is likely tomorrow morning. Travelling south from Calais, we will visit Vimy Ridge. Scene of the triumph of the Canadian army in 1917; the white marble memorial dominates the landscape for miles around, as control of the ridge allowed control of the area in the years of the Great War. But it is not the memorial that brings a feeling of the place being familiar – it is the young Canadian guides who lead the tours of the tunnels and the trenches. There is feeling of the strange and the familiar; of being far from home but amongst those regarded as friends, wherever they might be encountered.
It is good that that feeling of warmth exists; it is good that the memorial and preserved areas are places one might feel welcome. Reading the thousands of name inscribed on the monument at Vimy; it is hard to imagine that farm boys from places like Brandon, Manitoba found much sense of welcome in a landscape that was to be their last resting place.
Perhaps the land of two moons is not such a bad place to be; home it is not, but neither is it foreign. Standing on the ridge tomorrow, on Canadian government land, amongst Canadian company; there will be that feeling felt on the shores of English Bay.