It's funny; I never, ever thought I would be sad to leave England.
From the age of 11, when I left Hong Kong for boarding school, I determinedly vowed to myself that would live abroad again as soon as I could. I hated the greyness, only briefly punctuated by spells of good weather, that puts such a dull sheen on the British landscape; the coldness that seeps into your bones in winter; the miserable Atlantic wind that can spoil even a pleasant summer day. I also remember that when we came 'home' to the UK for visits in the 70s, everyone seemed much paler, pastier and just generally downtrodden than people we knew in Hong Kong. I guess as a privileged expat I had never known that Europeans could be poor, but here everyone looked so miserable as well. I also remember being shocked at the graffiti that seemed to be everywhere in the 70s and early 80s - 'National Front' and '3 million unemployed', the legacies I guess of punk and Thatcherism.
Of course, everything is a bit different, more prosperous and brightly coloured in the post-new Labour noughties (despite the recession). Nevertheless, even as late as 2004, when The Doctor and I took four months off work for a round the world backpacking trip, I recall that I could not wait to be getting out of this country for the winter months. And I didn't miss England at all during that time.
But as I pack up my house, I realise that there are plenty of things that I will miss. I guess having children changes things. I have never had to deal with my children in a country other than here; here in Nappy Valley I know the systems, the routine, the places to go. Over in the US, I don't know if I can buy their favourite food, don't know yet where they'll be able to ride their mini-scooters, don't even know how you access a family doctor yet (and don't say I'm married to one - for the purposes of this trip, he's an academic....). So I'll miss the easy familiarity. I'll miss the parks and commons that we've got to know so well, the ultra child-friendly cafes and shops of Nappy Valley.
Obviously I will miss my friends. I know three years will pass quickly and they will still be here when I get back, but in the meantime children will have changed and grown, hair will have greyed and lines will have appeared on familiar faces. I'll keep in touch online as much as I can, but I will miss simply able to ring up and meet them that day for tea.
I'll miss my house, too. We've been here for exactly ten years and I don't know if we'll come back here on our return from the States. While I'm quite used to leaving places - my parents moved around a lot in Hong Kong and I've said goodbye to several family homes - this is the longest that I have ever lived anywhere. It's certainly seen us through ups and downs; our first years of married life, the deaths of both our mothers, fallings out with old friends, making new ones, and most importantly the arrival of two children who have transformed it. We lovingly redecorated it when we first moved in, with 'interesting' colours such as an aubergine dining room and a deep blue study; now it's being repainted in boring, 'neutral', colours for the tenants. I already feel as if it isn't really mine any more. It's the end of an era.
So yes, there are things about the UK that I will certainly miss. And while a few years ago, I still would have said that it definitely was not 'home', now it occurs to me to reluctantly admit that it really is, wherever I might head off to for a few years. (Except maybe when I'm 80, when I might retire to the South of France....)
But I still won't miss the climate. Oh no, I will never give in on that.