Thursday 2 September 2010
Alex James: Goodbye, 'Star Wars', hello, Florence
There has been just one CD in the car CD player for the past two and a half years. I've got about a million songs in my phone but I like listening to music in the car, and in the car there is a choice of just 14 songs. That seems to be enough.
I suppose they are like friends, songs, and you can't have more than a certain number of them at any one time. The compilation is a crazy selection because they are all songs that were chosen by a three-year-old for his fourth birthday party. There's the Star Wars music and the Doctor Who theme. Then there's "Since You've Been Gone" by Rainbow and a taste of Clarence "Frogman" Henry's swinging blues. I particularly like Susan Fassbender's marching song "Twilight Café".
It is proof positive that there are only three kinds of music: good music, indifferent music and bad music, and they exist in all genres. My favourite moment of the week is starting the engine on a Saturday and watching all the kids go bonkers in the back as "Falling Trees", a Bad Lieutenant B-side, kicks in. That's always the first thing we listen to.
Well, I needed to go somewhere yesterday and I reached for the music and someone had changed it. There was a Florence and the Machine CD in there instead. Three tracks I'd written and recorded here with her, looking at the date on the CD, three years ago this week.
I've watched Florence's rise to fame since then with delight. She was obviously a star but I'd forgotten how good at singing she was. That was one of those sessions where you just stand back and watch. I was banging away on a Gibson 335. I knew it was brilliant at the time but one song in particular was never finished, there wasn't even any bass on it. It's like listening to Aretha Franklin. My God, it's utterly brilliant. Maybe it's the time of year. Is it just me or does music sound better in autumn?
With five children, it's like Christmas every mealtime
I have five children under six. One is still really small but it's starting to sink in that we need seven of everything. Seven. Seven people sitting down to breakfast lunch and dinner. It's like doing Christmas every day. All washing-up and no presents.
On Fridays the fridge is so full I have to excavate my kippers from somewhere behind the bacon and the lemons and then fit it all back together in there. It's like a cross between Jenga and a jigsaw. By the end of Saturday the fridge is always empty and we need to go shopping again.
It's actually quite satisfying the way everything gets slurped up. Not much gets thrown away but we're way off the kitchen scales. We need the bathroom ones. For this reason, one of my delights is shopping for industrial catering and cleaning equipment on eBay. Really, this is nothing new.
In days gone by, country-dwelling pioneering types all had 12 children and were able to mail-order a mind-boggling amount of stuff from catalogues. Although eBay does mean I'm more likely to take a punt on slightly ridiculous second-hand stuff that I would never buy new.
I got the nine-bird rotisserie oven for 300 quid. I haven't been so excited about anything since I was seven. I bought a one-chicken rotisserie on eBay a while back and I can't cook a chicken any other way now.
The trouble is, one chicken just doesn't touch the sides around here. If you're going to cook chicken here, it's best to cook about three, just to be safe. I phoned the seller to arrange collection and she asked me if I wanted a walk-in fridge for £600. Couldn't believe it. Just what I was after.
Fairy-tale enchantment in a humble English hedge
As I picked the last of the peaches yesterday, always the event that marks the end of the summer, it occurred to me that there has never been a prettier August. I caught sight of the combine bringing the wheat in from the top field and shot up there on the quad. I wanted to ask the contractor if I could keep a few tons for feeding chickens, pheasants, children and so on. The dog followed me until he saw a deer, then he disappeared.
I jumped off the quad bike to watch the combine, chewing an ear of corn and staring, eventually, at nothing, as yokel types and horses are wont to. It's quite tasty, wheat – nutty, milky and sweet. Then I realised I'd become completely absorbed in a hedge. I must have been staring at it for ages. In a garden in a town, a hedge is one thing but this was another thing, something from a fairy tale.
Overgrown to 12ft tall and all the better for it: the more I looked, the more I saw. There were rosehips, blackberries, sloes and crab apples, which are actually tastier than garden apples but a bit too chewy – a feast for the eyes rather than the tastebuds. Prettier than Christmas Day, it was. A humble overgrown hedge. Not one of the things people come to the Cotswolds and pay money and stand in queues and fight for parking spaces over but if I had to choose the most spectacular thing I've seen all year, it would be that hedge: the backbone of the English countryside. Where are the crowds? September is always the best month.
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