Last week we moved home ten miles or so, to a community and place that we have wanted to live in ever since we first encountered it 27 years ago. The place is Hanslope, now part of the metropolis of Milton Keynes where we have lived, off and on, since 1983, but anciently the northernmost parish in Buckinghamshire. It is a large, busy village of about 3,000 people, just within SE England, with a butcher’s shop, a wine store, a post office, a teashop, four pubs, a school and a church with the tallest spire for miles around, and we love it; we could not have been more welcomed; it is as if we were coming home, from all the various places we have lived.
In the poem for which he is most familiar to English-speaking readers, C P Cavafy gently warns us that to come home, as Odysseus does to Ithaka, is to perceive its imperfections, after all that we have seen elsewhere. But they are just that: ways in which Ithaka is not so much, not what those other places are, but rather what they have been for us in their time: the object of unfair comparison; more about what we are and what and where we have been than a chargesheet for Ithaka itself. It was not among our “realms of gold”. Now it will be. Those other places will be in our hearts forever, but then so will this.