When Auden and Isherwood left Britain for America in 1939 they attracted much opprobrium and many brickbats. Evelyn Waugh portrayed them as Parsnip and Pimpernel, lily-livered pansy traitors who left their country in its hour of greatest need (though how exactly Great Britain needed two literary types like Wystan and Christopher he didn’t quite explain) and many red-blooded patriots to this day still shake their heads at the mere mention of their names.

So now I have a monstrous confession to make. I am quite as much a cowardly wuss as any who has ever abandoned his homeland in times of trial and tension. As I write this I am 38,000 feet above sea level, hurtling towards New York City at 533 statute miles per calendar hour. Happily Alan, the captain of the plane, has personally popped down to tell me the current cricket score – my chosen career and its attendant baggage of fame have their advantages (carry-on baggage of fame, I suppose one should term it). The flight deck had tuned in to the BBC’s 198 longwave transmissions of TMS to receive the news that England were 100 for 3. No loss of wickets yet. But at this moment we’re too far over the Atlantic for broadcast radio reception and are now relying on Shannon’s ATC tower for updates, which are achingly slow in coming. For all I know we’re ten wickets down at lunch and Australia have launched a devastating counterattack.


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