Alex James: At home in the strangest of places

Share
Related Topics

Maybe there are a million chickens hidden away in the sheds occupying just one small fraction of a corner of Enstone airfield. It's hard to guess how many – endless sheds, endless chickens and eggs, stinking to high heaven even in the cleansing whistle of the stiff spring breeze. The breeze has been the star of the show this week and on Saturday it was thrilling, riffling the expanses of tufty grass then falling away to nothing so I could feel the sun on my face.

I always feel twinges of melancholy at the airfield. It is by turns eerie and glamourous, a vast, decaying Second World War relic with a runway big enough to land the space shuttle, thousands of acres of quasi-sinister otherworldliness with a neat fence around it plum in the middle of rural Oxfordshire. Nissen huts, chicken huts, snack vans, big piles of aggregates: there's something slightly makeshift, fleeting about all of it. Even the colossal animal feed plant, visible for many miles around, makes no suggestion of permanence. It looks like a launch scaffold for a recently-departed moon rocket, or an oil tanker ready to weigh anchor. Just when I thought I'd never seen more ugly things put together in a less appealing way, a full-on assault of all the vigour and glamour of youth. Slightly further along the pot-holed perimeter road, rally drivers were careering around one of several racetracks.

I am drawn to this strange place. It seems to fall between somewhere that is open to the public, and somewhere they should never go – behind the veil of retail, stinking chickens and the strange monument of the dark satanic animal feed mill; and non-spectator sports, quite interesting to watch. At the aero club, there were handfuls of people dawdling as always at aero clubs. It suddenly seemed more interesting to be poking around this place with its strange depositories and factories than poking around the high street.

Landing in the garden

Back at home, my pilot friend and I made an inspection of the top field and decided he could just as easily have landed the aeroplane there. It's perfect, in fact. Flat and dry with good approaches. I'm surprised that it's not against the law, but it seems a gentleman may still land his aeroplane in his garden if he so wishes.

Grounded pleasures

It's good to get airborne occasionally, but at the moment, more than anything I'm enjoying running around the countryside: it's strangely addictive. Like a mad rabbit, I bound along the footpaths and bridleways in a world of my own. Bliss.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Test Analyst

£20000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Tes...

Mechanical Design Engineer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: MECHANICAL D...

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tiger skin seized from a smuggler by customs officers in Lhasa, Tibet  

Save the tiger: Poaching facts

Harvey Day
 

Save the tiger: 7 saddening facts about the extinction of Javan tigers

Harvey Day
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried