Alex James: Back to earth, with a bump

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

Fresh air, cool on the skin. Very still, very quiet in the valley. The farm's boundaries and the whole of the rest of the world had disappeared somewhere behind the softest of morning mists.

Sometimes the Cotswolds can feel like a suburb of London. It's only an hour-and-a-half in a taxi from Charing Cross to Daylesford after all, but there in the mist it was like we were on a remote desert island, floating disconnected from anything.

I'd been making swings with the kids. Made them with old lengths of rope dangling from the huge oak in the front field. Quite a big success, so we'd been to the hardware shop to get some bits and pieces to make a "flying boat" from a huge old tractor tyre. The hardware shop is one of those places where you can get anything. Some-one stuck their head around the door and asked if they sold reindeer while I was at the counter. "Try the Post Office," said the shop assistant. I drew the man a picture of what I wanted and in five minutes I had nuts, bolts, chains, gimbal everything.

After I'd spent an hour with a stepladder and a hammer the three of them were sitting in the tyre and I was swinging them round faster and faster. I'd never seen them so happy. Suddenly it all made sense. There could be no better place to live and bring up children. Just when I was feeling like the best dad in the world the hook attaching tyre to tree snapped and they collapsed on the floor in a heap of cracked heads and tangled limbs, screaming. They were all howling. "Where does it hurt? What's the matter? Tell me what's the matter!"

"The swing's broken!" they howled, "The swing's broken!" So it was all fine, no harm done.

"Come on let's go and have a cup of tea and a mince pie," I said. "Yes, yes, yes," they all chimed, "and can we watch telly now?"

Oh what a night

Darkness can make the rest of the world disappear, too. It's hard to believe in New York City or China when you're wandering round a muddy field at midnight.

Last night it was dark, windy, cold and raining – and somehow beautiful as well. I ended up going on quite a long walk. Alone in the dark isn't supposed to be much fun but I felt such a sense of liberty I just couldn't stop singing, as loud as I could. Really loud. Couldn't stop. You can't do that in Notting Hill. You'd be arrested.

Morning glory

Everyone tends to complain about the cold and the wet. I don't like it when March and April are inclement but I love these grey misty winter mornings. Sunshine, all those bright colours, that's just kids stuff, really. The frosty silver greys and deep soft greens of winter: they're exquisite.