‘I nod like a geeky teenage boy feigning a knowledge of girls’

Even the best-travelled writers haven’t been everywhere – but the Big Apple? Harry Pearson did once come close...



Daily Telegraph


People & Places

Sometimes New York comes up in conversation. “You know when you’re in Manhattan getting a sandwich at one of those delis?” a friend says. In response I smile and nod like a geeky teenage boy feigning a knowledge of girls I don’t actually possess. I’ve planned to go many times. It’s just that, whenever I proposed it, some family member would chip in with: “Well, if we’re in the US we must visit our friends in Maine/Kentucky/Arizona, too.” An argument would then ensue over whether the Laura Ingalls Wilder Trail was also possible because, after all, we had promised… In the end, it all got so fraught and complicated that we went to Mull instead. The nearest I came to visiting New York was 15 years ago. I was trying to buy a crumbling ruin of a cottage that had come up for auction. “If we don’t get it,” I told my 10-year old daughter, “we’ll use the money I’ve saved for the deposit to fly to New York. We can stay in the Plaza, like Eloise.” At the auction, the bids went up and up. I raised my paddle once, twice. The third time I lifted, it represented all the money I had and everything I could possibly borrow. One more bidder and I would be done – my daughter and I would be sitting in a yellow taxi crossing the Brooklyn Bridge… But there was only silence, then the hammer came down on the dream.