'Well, I was shocked when I took my wife by taxi to the Langham Hilton opposite the BBC. A five-minute journey cost pounds 6. Six pounds] I've been to London many times in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies - usually at least twice a year - and London has become so expensive.

It's around a dollar and a half to the pound at the moment, so London is about 50 per cent more expensive for me - the restuarants, the hotels, the taxis.

London used to be a bargain. There are still plenty of rich Americans who like coming here and who will continue coming. But if you're on a budget, and increasingly people are, then London is a problem. I remember when going to the theatre cost pounds 2.

Theatre is still one good reason to visit. We go to the theatre a lot in London. We like Shakespeare, the classic stuff: Jacobean, Restoration. The English tradition in theatre is much superior to ours. Americans don't have that training in voice, diction and movement.

My first impression, after the Second World War, was of this grungy, run-down city. It's remarkable how quickly the streets polished up and how the art galleries and decorating stores opened.

Even with the recession, London remains very prosperous- looking - and recently there have even been decent restaurants. Or, more decent restaurants.

I have happy memories of London. When I was a student in the Sixties, I remember asking a stranger if he could direct me to a cheap hotel and after a bit of conversation he said, 'Never mind, come and stay with us'. I stayed a week and bought him a few bottles of wine in exchange.

When my wife and I are in London we always stay at 11 Cadogan Gardens, in the same room.

The hotel is next door to a school and every morning when we wake up we can hear the children singing, right through the bedroom wall. I like that - somehow it feels like home.

Al Zuckerman's 'Writing the Blockbuster Novel is published by Little, Brown (pounds 9.99)

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