ARRIVING in Los Angeles by air can be a most peculiar experience. A couple of weeks ago I flew there, over the huge patchwork of the plains and across the lunar landscape of desert. Even the desert looks inhabited - lined with roads or pipelines and dotted with trailer parks - and we sipped our wine, grateful merely to be passing until steadily the clouds got thicker, greyer. Then came the descent into LA, through a consomme of smog through which swimming pools, freeways and palm trees could be dimly made out, into another world.

Ecologically speaking, LA may not be perfect, but I challenge anyone with any ambition, self-knowledge or love of life not to be seduced by it. The manicured lawns of green grass - and yes, the grass is greener; the effortlessly mellow flow of cars in which you never seem to hear the honking of a horn no matter how bad the jam; the smell of fast food in the warm air - this has to be the most seductive, most delicious city on God's earth. And the most hilarious.

I can never get used to it. Valet parking, for example, is so completely, so blissfully LA that I can never experience it without wanting to laugh. This place seems too easy, as if the world has turned into a country club. In my friend Hudson's apartment there's a tap that pours boiling water into your tea cup - and going to the lavatory, you half expect there to be a fabulously goodlooking out-of-work actor or actress to wipe your bottom for you, with a smile and a perfectly genuine "Have a nice day!" (If you have the money, I'm sure even that option is on the cards.)

Of course, as someone who has- since a disastrous journey behind the wheel of a hired van which came off the A1, somehow, in 1992 - been disinclined to drive anything bigger than a drinks trolley, LA is not a practical city to be in. It is the only city in the world where arriving in a cab looks sordid, even slightly mad.

But for the really young and really ambitious, this place must be irresistible. At a club called Beige, on the 26th floor with the lights twinkling from the hills around us, I met a fellow writer, only this writer was Kevin Williamson who four years ago was sleeping on friends' sofas, and who now (after Scream) is supposed to be worth something like pounds 40m dollars. Hi Kevin.

Success stories - and celebs - abound. Didn't he used to be on Flamingo Road? And perfect physiques. Frankly, I longed to see a paunch but of course I didn't, other than my own, until I got back on the plane to New York.

These days the professional ideal in America is to shuttle busily between LA and New York in a dizzy whirl of club lounges, business meetings and conference calls, hopping over the plains, mountains, deserts and canyons between the cities the way other people leap over puddles. It's called being "bicoastal" and I must say I think it's very me.

But my biggest treat this month was a visit to England. Cold, grey, wet and expensive, but almost all the people I love are there, which makes a difference. And so many paunches.