So it's back to the Sandlands for me, after a memorable - mostly wonderful, sometimes troubling, never dull - week in Cairo. Stepping off the plane, the wet, dank heat was like a slap in the face (making even Cairo in June seem like a crisp spring day - believe you me, there really is something to all that "but it's a dry heat" business. Here, it ain't, not by a long shot). The dogs are simultaneously delirious at my return and suspicious that I'm not accompanied by Mr. Muscato (who's off for a few days of fun in Paris, poor boy, before he returns to the chaos of preparing to pack out), and it's good to be home.
Except that, really, I'm not. With only two weeks left here, this awkward, pretentious, uncomfortable, office-provided villa feels less than ever like anything except a sort of glorified camping spot. Now that we've spent a week there, the little flat in Cairo seems more like home in that short time than all the other places we've lived - bungalows in East Africa, marble-tiled palazettos (is that a word? It ought to be) on the Arabian Gulf - however much we liked them at the time or however long we lived in them.
So let Dame Joan sing me back (in her own farewell, her last performance in 1990), for the moment, at least. It makes sense, on some level, that the most familiar song about home is also one of the saddest songs known to man or beast*; in some ways, home is a concept most noticed in its absence, in memories fond or otherwise.
Now we're really into the home stretch of what in my mind I always thing of as Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, a book I really need to read sometime. The next two weeks will be a whirlwind of annoyances large and small, but through all of them, keeping me calm I'll have in the back of my mind the comforting reminder that while we're leaving one temporary home and then having to find another, we at least have, waiting in the middle of all the dust and chaos of that crazy Nileside city, a place, be it ever so humble, that recalls the sentimental old lines:
Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home! Home! sweet, sweet Home! There's no place like Home!
* If this rendition doesn't convince you, just try Miss Deanna Durbin's - talk about your Music to Slit Your Wrists By...