A year ago, we got up horribly early on a Friday morning to take a taxi to Heathrow and our flight for San Francisco. The Bay Bridge had arranged to close itself just for our arrival so we spent an inordinately long time with a very patient driver finding our way up the east side of the bay to a warm welcome in North Berkeley.
After that things happened very fast. Within 10 days we had found a great apartment, a school for the girls and within 3 weeks we were installed with huge amounts of flat pack IKEA furniture. It all seems like a very long time ago.
So what's it like, living in America? Well for starters, I'm not sure we do live in America. We live in San Francisco and these things are not always the same thing. There is something island-like about this small city on the edge of the west coast of America - almost surrounded by water and often separated from much of the rest of America by a huge gulf in opinion. I have yet to meet an "out" Republican. The people I hang out with are a cosmopolitan bunch of Americans and non-Americans, distinctly left of centre, green, not noticeably religious. No major culture clash there.
In this city, you can live a "European" lifestyle. So we haven't rushed to live like Americans - we have no car, no television. We don't go to Walmart (they don't have one in San Francisco) or Costco, or in fact supermarkets, that often. We don't eat burgers but we do eat burritos and chinese and sushi and wonderful bread and fresh fruit and veg, and organic meat. Of course that just goes to show that the stereotypical American lifestyle is just that - a stereotype.
The changes to our lives have been more about moving back to a city from the countryside than moving from one country to another. My wellies have a paisley pattern now and aren't covered in mud or chicken muck. We don't own chickens. I don't garden. Or make jam. Or bake bread. We eat out much more often. We go to galleries and museums. We travel on public transport. And Tom commutes a long way on a train each day. Life is more hectic and tiring.
People on both sides of the Atlantic have asked if we'll stay. And we haven't changed our minds. It's still a sojourn if a long and enjoyable one. I wouldn't want to go home yet - too much still to explore and do. But one day I will be ready for a return to the Usk Valley and the Brecon Beacons.