I know I'm a product of Limeyland, through and through. The quivering, purse-lipped, rose-pink prejudices and predelictions of Albion striate my Dover-chalk-white flesh like a stick of Blackpool rock. First thing in the morning, I have a nice mug of builders and a Garibaldi. Last thing at night, I pray to Shakespeare before drifting asleep to the sounds of the shipping forecast, dreaming of angels in Peckham Rye as the gin fumes rise from my Liberty-print sheets. However, even I wasn't expecting - after chowing my way through fourteen fuschia ounces of cow at Keens Steak House; burrowing amongst beavers and bobcats in the Natural History Museum; spattering my soul with glorious Pollocks at Moma; basking in the superb, stained, diesel-sweet, cyan-and-oyster city skyline from the roof of the Met; and kowtowing with the rope-sinewed, golden-thighed, solid-haired matriarchs of Long Island over a lavish nuptial weekend - that the standout figures from my trip to New York would be two sixteenth-century Englishmen.
Sorry, Uncle Sam, but all your starry stripey sass simply can't compete with the Krypton-strong stares of the Thomases More and Cromwell as daubed by that pugilist-with-pubes-faced paragon of European old mastery, Hans Holbein the Younger. The extraordinary Fifth Avenue mansion that houses The Frick Collection is a den of hardcore aesthetica. Extricate yourself from the caramel-bathed lotus-lure of a frothing Turner lightscape, and you find yourself bitch-slapped by the incandescent glare of El Greco's Saint Jerome. Knees buckling from the come-hither gaze of Romney's Lady Hamilton, you bounce off the raw masculine heat of Goya's forge, canon into a Limoges enamel triptych as suckable as a boiled sweet, and end up on your knees in front of Officer and a Laughing Girl, where Vermeer's unmistakable light sings with surfacing sensuality. Hit after hit, it left me heady with brilliance, but that pair of peerless Elizabthen politicos were the ones who truly pinned me to the seventeenth century silk and pashmina Indian carpet and wouldn't let me go. By reuniting these two rivals where they can stare enigmatically at each other across the fireplace, Henry Clay Frick crystallised the lesson of his glorious house - that all art is in the relationship.
So maybe the best bit did come courtesy of the Americans, after all. Damn.