Out of envy, many Europeans harbour distaste for the United States, what it stands for and how it goes about its business but, if there is such a word, I am happy to declare myself an "Americophile".
When I was a university student, I spent two summers in Ohio, working as a camp counsellor at the Red Raider Camp near Chagrin Falls on the outskirts of Cleveland. They were magical summers when I met so many Americans, drank beer at Skip and Ray's bar, watched the Indians, saw Barry Manilow, fell in love, picked up a hitch-hiker who thought that England and New England were synonymous, danced till I literally dropped, ate my first Big Mac, saw a bear swimming across Rainy Lake in Minesotta, saw Bob Dylan's childhood home, cried farewell to love on a Greyhound bus, scaled the Empire State Building. It was all so wonderful.
It took me a long time to go back. I hesitated because back in the seventies I felt I should have stayed and become an American. It felt so much like home to me. I loved it. So going back was hard. In the last three years we have had three fantastic holidays there - all self-designed on the Internet. First it was Georgia and northern Florida, then the north east - returning after almost thirty years to Ohio, then last Easter we flew to Los Angeles - drove to Vegas - then up to San Francisco via the breathtaking Sequoia National Park.
My wife and children have become enamoured - like me - devoted Americophiles. It's difficult to pinpoint where the positive feelings come from. Partly it's like you're a character in a Hollywood film and partly it's the space - then partly it's the fortunate fact that America's language is my own and it's also about the pioneering spirit - like you're entering a country which is still young and such a vibrant mixture of cultures. In America, I never tire of looking and listening. Sleep sometimes seems wasteful. Strangely, I feel I belong there even though I am immensely proud to be English... So to those who scorn America out of envy and misunderstanding, I say "Take a hike buddy!"
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