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 days. 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 may become a familiar experience for tens of thousands of Irish people. On the evening when the deceit was finally ended, when the Taoiseach and the Minister of Finance stood ‘humiliated’ (the ‘Financial Times’ description yesterday for what unfolded today), there is a sense of resignation; the country is bankrupt, the opposition is no more attractive than the government, all that is left is to make the best of things, and do what one can to survive.
In the closing session of the economics festival in Kilkenny last weekend, the question was ‘what will the world look like in 2020?’ The final question was from a young man who felt there would be no future in Ireland over the next ten years and wanted suggestions from the panel as to where he might go.
The answer sounded like something from the long past – the questioner was told that if he wanted somewhere culturally similar to Ireland, then he should look for opportunities in Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
Surfing the online television output from the suggested destinations, in a world markedly different from, or even hostile to, the old and the familiar things of these islands, there is a sense that these are friends. These people are people you would understand and who would understand you. There is a sense that there is still a world where the best of the old liberal Western values have a place; there is no a sense of any of it being foreign.
I’m reminded of the story of the London cabbie with a pair of backpackers in his taxi who was asked whether somewhere would welcome foreigners, “Blimey mate, You’re not foreigners, you’re Australians”.
The lands of two moons will be filled with Irish people in the coming years.