Goodbye Milton Keynes and the UK…

Leaving Milton Keynes was tough but not just because of our emotional ties and the people we were leaving behind. Packing up and moving a house is hugely disruptive as you’ll know, despite us having the services of a removal firm to take it all away. Unlike many movers, we were spared ushering it all back into a new house several hours later. That time will come, but for now most of our worldly possessions are being kept in a warehouse somewhere for when we’re ready for them.

The first of many: boxes accumulate in the kitchen

The first of many: boxes accumulate in the kitchen

When you leave, even the most banal moment, object or place takes on monumental significance – at least for a sentimental old fool like me. Playing tennis in the local club, smoking my pipe in the garden for the last time, turning the key in the door and joking ‘I’m home!’; these things and those we do most days were the source of sadness for me before leaving, since I doubted I would do them again there, or in quite the same way. More than once I thought something silly like: ‘This is the final time I’ll come down these stairs’ or ‘How odd that I won’t be walking this path again, the path I’ve taken unthinkingly so many times!’ It was saying goodbye to the banal, the everyday ritual and place that pricked the eyes and brought me up short: would it ever be the same again?

The excitement of doing these things, and others that were impossible or very difficult, in a new country, a new home, tempered the sadness and it’s true that for every moment of looking back there is one of looking forward. That would characterize the experience of leaving; an ambivalent one, swinging pendulum-like between excitement and concern, expectation and nostalgia, and security and challenge.

And so the more we said goodbye, the more we said hello. Buying a one-way ticket gave me a frisson of excitement; as did closing the car boot door on our possessions, a distillation of what we thought was essential to live and work in a new country. Later, when we had spent a week in Geneva, Jennie would gently rebuke me for bringing only a handful of underpants at the expense of including the Complete Works of Shakespeare and Wisden’s Cricketing Almanack.

We left not because we didn’t like Milton Keynes, or Buckinghamshire, or England come to that. We left because we felt that we had, at least for now, and for us only, exhausted their possibilities. That is – there is nothing wrong with any of those places, save all those things we love and hate about them. I love them all. But that it was simply time to taste a new life, to embrace a new culture, to shake us awake from our too-comfortable life and see what it was like to live elsewhere, fresh and new, with all the challenges, problems, differences, energy and hope as anywhere else; but new to us and we new to it.

6 thoughts on “Goodbye Milton Keynes and the UK…

  1. >More than once I thought something silly like: ‘This is the final time I’ll come down these stairs’

    So you were wrong then?

  2. Phil,

    Sorry I didn’t get to know you face-to-face when you were in MK. We share several interests – at least pipe smoking and cricket!

    Bon voyage!


  3. @Niall – They were different stairs 🙂

    @Martyn – indeed, but there’s always Twitter and all. There’s some good pipe smoking to be had out here – I’ve never seen so many pipe smokers wandering about of an evening.

    @RiceyMcRice – me too, *sniff.

  4. I can identify with how you felt about this as this is the journey of leaving something familiar for a new country that I embarked upon aged 19 when I left Cape Town for London. I can still remember those final weeks, saying goodbye to things and not quite comprehending that it really was the last time of that life, because even though I’ve been back several times to visit, it is no longer home and I have a new life in the UK, though feeling that England was home took several years.
    I’m not sure I could be that intrepid again, and I hope you and Jennie find you can feel at home in Switzerland/France.

    • Thanks Anna – I understand that we might feel in limbo for a while, not completely immersed in life here, but finding our home in England strangely different when we return for visits and so on. I hope we feel at home, here, too – we’re certainly doing what we can.

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