cosmic engraving

I had to watch the programme “True North” about the town of Larne on the i- Player. I missed it on live television but it appears to have stirred up some controversy so I watched it to see what had annoyed some of its citizens. I  also watched “Human Universe ” about the possibility of alien life beyond our earth , featuring Professor Brian Cox,  last night too, so both programmes are currently intermingling in my mind.

You know what I’m like.

I can’t really see what the fuss was about in relation to the Larne programme. Although there were very few young people interviewed, those that were appeared to be from another time entirely .That’s fair enough,.They probably are. You could almost imagine that the youth of the town had quietly disappeared and left the old to the dying embers of a long -ago–lost time.It was a bit like one of those sci-fi stories or a Grimm’s Fairy Tale where the children had been swallowed up into the mountains and landscape of the Antrim coast; like that scene in “Hellboy 2” which features the Giant’s Causeway or the children of the  Pied Piper of Hamelin marching into the mountain …or the Child- Catcher in “Chittychittybangbang”…the one-time writer Ian Fleming , of James Bond fame, managed to really  creep me out….

There was an old-tyme religious flavour and religious fervour running through this production like some golden seam. It began with some beautiful singing by a red-blazered choir, like something from the Yorkshire collieries in the 1950s on “Songs of Praise”…I don’t mind a bit of that harmony singing , especially with the old moody brass accompaniment…like the Hovis advert…..very nostalgic .Praise and prayer to the skies in face of impending  economic  disaster was obviously playing on the township’s massed minds, according to this portrait. A lot of people appeared to carry the assumption that salvation was just “a prayer away” and that some cosmic deity would swoop down and save them from perdition,  or at least,  the dole queue, in short order ..

“Murder”…as the Stones sang ,” was just a step away”.

Those interviewed , and in particular those who had been “saved” by the Lord of this cosmic deity  were very sure that nothing short of galaxy-stretching  intervention would be the future Game-plan .For whatever reason , those who had been brought up and raised in this quaint  pocket of hillbilly fervour seemed as awash in time and space  as any Amish family clip-clopping up the cobbled streets in their  Luddite hackney .Short of speaking in tongues, these people opened up their entire being to the possibility of some divine intervention and blatantly believed every improbable scenario .Some of this social complacency was , frankly, very weird to behold. Of course, if salvation was to arrive in the form of some economic rescue, their deity would be the  only source to thank. That was simply, in their eyes, a hallowed given. Who they blamed for the closure of F.G. Wilson’s factory in the first place  is anyone’s guess.  It surely wasn’t that same curmudgeon ,now possibly posing as a benefactor.

As one ardent woodworker was interviewed he expounded ont he fervent power of prayer while the camera lingered long on a pin-up  calendar on the workshop wall .Both the  barely -bikini-ed young lady in the photograph and the incongruous, speiling  joiner were both oblivious to the contradictory  inroads of feminism in a misogynistic world. It was as if Germaine Greer’s Female Eunuch and the 1970s had been by -passed entirely. This cul -de-sac of civilisation had heard of neither.

I think what has annoyed some of those people who thought it showed Larne in a poor light  is that  some of these “characters” were given too prominent a light as though they didn’t really represent the “True Larne”.It’s debatable but  they probably do represent a swathe of the population and how they think,  though; at least the more extreme  naiveity of a lot of the citizens.They are , after all , the fathers and grandfathers of the “lost” children. Either that, or the appearance of  film crews had everyone else but these listless  self-promoters scuttling for cover. So only selected voices were heard. Less entertaining voices probably ended up in the editor’s cutting room…In the end , there was a little economic light with some proposed new tourist scheme in the improbably named “Gobbins” and also the possibility of  some four hundred new jobs to come.

Larne ,in that respect is no different to many towns fumbling in the wake of globalisation and the impending notion that we are all going to have to put on smiley “Have a Nice Day” faces and invite the tourists of the world into our  Irish Theme Park towns.Some may not appreciate the recent influx of foreigners but a time will come when Japanese tourists may be paying for their dinner. There’s no money coming from anywhere else…certainly not from the skies. There was redemption of a sort , of course. The filmed story had to have some sentiment , uplift or redemption, lest the town  and the viewers be left to slide into the Irish Sea and be forgotten  in a salty  depression for all time . Some nervous citizens were shown preparing for what appeared to be the Second Coming, Shuffled feet were being taught a stumbling awkward curtsy in face of this Saviour’s arrival. Instructions were relayed not to approach this benign alien or possibly mention its name lest they be turned to pillars of salt. Protocol was to give this sanctifier a halo of surrounding uncontaminated private space lest  he or they be cross-contaminated by clinging  solar debris .

In the event  the townsfolk appeared to humble themselves before none other than the prosaic , similarly socially awkward “Charles” of the single moniker and his partner “Camilla”. This appearance seemed to act as balm to the gathered natives, who skittered like rare birds as if in the presence of a visitation of a sun god or some  other cosmic all- knowing deity.Salvation was obviously at hand and this  other-worldly, savant- priest was bringing glad tidings and economic survival.

Brian Cox’s touched on many things that I’ve been familiar with these forty or fifty years past. He mentioned  the attempts to communicate with alien species and the work with dolphins . It has to be said that some of the dolphins exhibited greater intelligence than many other sentient  earthlings including some of our own humankind. It also mentioned the flowering of a particular orchid which only occurred for two days. If you went away for the weekend you might miss that blooming exactitude. A parallel was drawn with the possibility of us ever existing in the very  same time frame as another alien race beyond our star, similarly able to communicate. The chances , given that we are but a blink in the vastness of time and space seem very slender.

A golden disc had been sent into space  on the Voyager spacecraft back in 1977 with music  and sounds representative of  culture on  the earth in the possibility that our potential extra-terrestrial neighbours might find them and glean some understanding of us earthlings. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the idea of another civilisation coming up with a Dansette record player or a Bang and Olufsen hi-fi to listen to Chuck Berry and Beethoven.That may have been a symbolic  little joke for the scientific community, as this was before digital technology took off after all. {It’s that exact moment in time again}.

Brian Cox concluded that it is very possible that  life on earth has the distinct possibility of being an anomaly in the deserts of time and space and, is in fact , something of a similar cosmic joke or mistake .We are likely to  be very much alone in the vastness of time and the universe. I suppose the citizens of Larne could do worse than pray for external  cosmic help, but not much. They’d be safer getting off their knees and using their doubtless ingenuity. The idea of praying to another being somewhere out there for help of any kind doesn’t seem like a viable option for a species which in all probability,  will cease to exist in the  blink of a sun.

Never mind worrying about F.G . Wilson’s factory in Larne….

One Response to LARNE’S PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE by Harry McAvinchey

  1. Randall Stephen Hall November 27, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    Hi Harry, I get the feeling from the article (above) that you may be from some other planet, like Holywood, Co.Down or generally not East Antrim. It’s difficult to write about something you don’t really understand or relate to.

    What’s the fuss you say? The fact that you ask the question and don’t understand where the name “the Gobbins” comes from is an indicator that you have no connection with this area. I wouldn’t presume to write about Hull, Grimsby or Holyhead. (boyo!).

    Excuse my spark as I jump to the defence of Larne. It sadly rests on the side of the lough, Co.Antrim, which was chosen, as far back as the 1940s, as an area to hide away, power stations, light industry and “rough folk” while North Down (Up-Down) was the reverse, and is, for me, like visiting a different country. Full of too much of everything.

    For that reason I really prefer this quieter, rougher more wild side of the lough, Co. Antrim.

    Good Luck in the meantime. RSH. PS. If I filmed a beautiful woman and only focused on her elbow, her toes and her ear lobes, I think I would expect a little criticism