There was a two moons moment in the Belgian hotel. A group from Sydney had come to Europe to follow in the footsteps of forebears from a century previously. They were the same as us, only different.
The two moons moment comes froma film watched in teenage years. 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.
The first two moons moment I experienced was standing outside of a phone box on the edge of English Bay in Vancouver on our first trip to Canada in 1998. 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 spoke 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 returned this morning. There has never been an Australian I have met who has not been good company; they have always been people you would understand and who would understand you. Coming from the other side of the world never created a sense that they were not the same as ourselves.
Standing in a Belgian hotel, there was a greater sense of connection with people who had travelled ten thousand miles to be here than with people who are fellow citizens of the European Union, Of course, language is a factor, but there is a much deeper bond, a shared history, a shared culture, a shared identity. There will be a tinge of sadness when the Austrailian flag changes to something that no longer includes the Union Jack.
Talking to an Australian lady as we attempted to work a machine that dispensed muesli, she spoke as someone who felt that she was a long way from home. There was a temptation to tell her the story 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,” he said, “You’re not foreigners, you’re Australians”.