Invasion of the G’Day Snatchers

Book: Black Swan Green

Author: David Mitchell

Music: Land Down Under

Composer/Artist: Men at Work

By the early 1980s, Australian mass-media had gained a foothold in Britain and Ireland. Neighbours and Home and Away were still several years in the future but we were hooked on The Sullivans by 1981. I suspect it was broadcast because it was cheap filler as TV schedules expanded and filled more and more hours. Mad Max and Mad Max 2 had been big hits – I remember one of my older brothers coming home from the cinema after having seen the first film and describing it (very accurately, as I discovered when I saw it years later on video).

Music from the Antipodes wasn’t as prevalent, though, as I remember, which made Men at Work’s arrival on the scene quite unusual. Land Down Under was just great crack and a very enjoyable song even if we didn’t know what the hell ‘Vegemite’ and ‘chunder’ meant. Australians went on to take over television, music, and the movies throughout the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Hard to imagine, now, that a song by and about stereotypical Australian men should have appeared to be so foreign.

I first heard the Australian accent on some odd TV show shown on RTÉ sometime in the mid-70s (cheap filler, again, no doubt). It sounded very odd and exotic – a mixture of the English and American accents, I thought at the time. Could never imagine it hearing it up close and personal. Occasionally families would move back to Ireland, to my home town, from England or, less often, America. Men and women who’d moved to those countries in the 50s and 60s in search of work returning with children to the place where they, themselves, were born and grew up. Then, amazingly, a family returning from Australia moved in to a house up the road. To the bungalow where the Purbricks used to live and the Divineys, before them. When I think of Jack Purbrick, I picture Captain Mainwairing from Dad’s Army – I have no idea how accurate that memory is. I should ask my mother. In any case, in that house – where two sets of close family friends had lived – there now lived kids our age with Australian accents. 90 seconds walk away. Madness! Some years later, while the children were still all fairly young, they all moved back to Australia. And we missed them.

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