When I was a child, I was fascinated by much that was American. I particularly enjoyed Californian grapefruit, chewing gum, Westerns, Stuart Little and the covers and cartoons of the New Yorker. A dozen enormous grapefruit would arrive in a box every Christmas, sent by a cousin of my mother’s, while chewing gum (‘that dreadful American habit!’ according to my teachers) was forbidden, so its consumption was deliciously furtive. We watched thrilling Westerns on our black-and-white television at weekends and I delighted in the sublime children’s story Stuart Little, never thinking that a tale about the mouse-child of a New York couple was at all an odd idea. Most of all, I loved the cartoons in the New Yorker, a magazine I fell upon every time we visited my aunt and uncle. They had lived for some years in the States in the 1950s, when my uncle was Washington correspondent of the Observer. These enlightened relatives even owned a large cupboard that was decorated with New Yorker covers.