Alex James: At home in the strangest of places

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

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

Music Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Maths Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

C# Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
“You're running away!” Nick said to me the other night as I tried to leave the hospital  

In Sickness and in Health: ‘There’s nothing I want more than to have you at home, but you’re not well’

Rebecca Armstrong

Daily catch-up: Ed Miliband on low pay; Alan Johnson on Betjeman; Tom Freeman on editing

John Rentoul
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments