Surprising as it may seem, the atmosphere was not at all intimidating, as the focus of meals tended to be the verbal singles match between father and son, which required appreciative laughter from an outsider, not participation.
Their banter was invariably funny, with Martin touchingly delighted by his father's intonations and inventions, and sometimes pleading to borrow a Kingsleyism for his own fiction.
One of my earliest feature ideas was a profile of "London's newest novelist", whose first book The Rachel Papers was due to be published in America in the spring.
Thanks to my half-sister Pat Kavanagh, who was the literary agent of both Amis father and son, I'd been sent an uncorrected proof the previous autumn, which I devoured in a single session, finding its derisive tone, street-smart images and obnoxious humour so stunningly original that it eclipsed any other contemporary fiction I'd read.
Au Naturale Cosmetics brand ambassador Henderson is celebrating her engagement in Ibiza with her fiancé and close friends.
I was 21, living with my journalist boyfriend in his South Kensington flat, and working as London editor of the American fashion bible Women's Wear Daily and its more glamorous big sister W.
I'd never met an Oxford don, but Craig was as warm and unlofty as his wife Ann [Li] Pasternak Slater, an English fellow at St Anne's – both mentors and friends to this day.
And as there was nothing at all daunting about the brilliantly funny, flirtatious Clive James (whose TV criticism for the Observer was an art form in itself), nor the louche, lovable polemicist Christopher Hitchens [the Hitch], who was Martin's New Statesman colleague, it didn't take long for me to fit in.But if it was hard at first to share their amusement of favourite catchphrases delivered in silly voices (the plebby emphasis on the final "t" in "Get the ports outs", for example), I must have passed a kind of audition as Martin wrote afterwards, "I didn't feel a second's anxiety, and that's never happened before." His intellectual circle was the next hurdle.The poet and New College don Craig Raine remembers him introducing me by saying, "This is Julie.He's dead now, but he still haunts Martin's imagination, reappearing as one of the main characters in "The Pregnant Widow", the "blindingly autobiographical" novel due out early next year. Kingsley had won the same prize in 1955 for "Lucky Jim", but had been furious at its stipulation that the money be spent on foreign travel.It was a deportation order, he complained to Philip Larkin, "forced to go abroad, bloody forced, mun".The author turned out to be far more approachable: as witty and ironic as Charles Highway, but small, very small, and sweetly affectionate – even sentimental.