So it turns out that attending your own leaving party is much like a dry run for your funeral.
Friends, relatives and plus ones have arrived from great distances at short notice to share fond memories and wish you well as you move on.
Stories and revelations are shared – I’ll be moving back in my with folks temporarily once the movers have packed up the house; and when I get to Doha I won’t have a job – gossip trades as currency and the occasional conspiracy theory slips out into the wild. (My favourite came from an old friend of my in-laws, who was convinced that my claims of imminent joblessness were nothing more than a gossamer-thin cover story for my true purpose: working for MI5.)
In other words, the normal ebb and flow of any party.
I remembered a piece of advice my brother in law had given me midway through our wedding reception. We were passing by in a corridor and he asked me how everything was. “It’s great,” I replied, “but it’s going really fast.”
“Well, make sure you stop for a second and take it all in before it goes,” he replied. It sounded like a slightly more grown-up version of this, but I knew what he was getting at.
So I took his advice, and paused in the doorway for a moment. And as I looked around a room full of hundreds of people who’d all made such an effort on our behalf – some had even shaved for the occasion – it was hard not to feel a little humbled by the sheer torrent of affection it represented.
And whilst it was fantastic that so many people who were with us on that day 12 years ago were with us again this weekend as we set off on a different kind of adventure, the most affecting observation from the evening crept in unannounced.
In my quiet moments, clouds gather on the horizon of mind, and the questions I have about what happens next are probably little different from those of Kid A: about meeting new people and starting over and wondering who, and how, and when, and if?
But as I looked around the quintessentially English village hall, I saw a community of new friends we had made since arriving in our sleepy market town six years ago, friends for life we can’t wait to welcome to our new home in the desert, and I knew that whatever the future holds, it’s going to work out just fine.