Alex James: It's a jungle out there in my garden

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

A farm is a big hungry beast that needs to be fed decisions constantly. Otherwise it bites. It gets easier not to make bad decisions as time goes on, but the truth is that endless possibilities are a blessing and a curse.

The garden alone is a mass of details and every detail means a decision. I love that garden more than anywhere else, but boy oh boy, the whole time there's something out there giving me a headache. Ticking time bombs all over the place: a box ball going brown here, a bay tree ailing there; leaves falling off a magnolia somewhere else.

I'm locked in a cold war with rabbits. We're entrenched against slugs. There's weeding. There's feeding, black spot, leaf curl and a host of other gotchas before you even start thinking about the weather. Just keeping the place tidy is like running a business seven days a week.

There is a gardener to help out a bit but one of the first things he did was to reverse the quad bike into the greenhouse. He knackered them both. Still, pretty amazing he got the quad bike to go at all, really. It hardly ever works. It was actually a blessing in disguise. That greenhouse was supposed to solve problems but as soon as it was finished I found myself in a sorcerer's apprentice kind of situation: it just spouted more and more things that needed looking after.

The fruit-cage is an oasis of calm in this horticultural world of struggle. Apart from breaking just a little bit during the snow because I neglected to take the netting down at the end of last summer, it has never given me any serious headaches. And now it's been patched up. It kind of matches the greenhouse anyway.

It's always just when I'm ready to give up that the garden gives me an unexpected kiss. We seem to have hit some kind of strawberry jackpot this week. I took my children and a jug of cream in there yesterday and we went crazy. You know what, it's not headache – it's tummy ache.







Encore for a magical night at Glastonbury



Mrs James is nearly two weeks overdue with our fifth baby. We're quite relaxed about it. The only foreseeable snag is that I've got to zip down to Glastonbury and back for lunch on Thursday.

I can't believe it's a year since Blur played there. It was the best gig we've ever done but it already seems like all that happened in another lifetime, to someone else.

I came in from the garden last weekend and my dad was watching it on the telly, with the dog. The BBC were screening it. He said, "You should watch this you know. It's really good." I said, "Well, yeah. I told you it went well."

He was actually looking quite misty-eyed. It's funny but I don't think he ever really liked Blur before. I mean he thought it was all perfectly fine but it never really ever got him in the chest until right then watching it on the telly: all those memories the music brought flooding back.

Now they are but memories once more, I suppose. My one public performance this summer has been singing "Vindaloo" to a group of 200 farmers while accompanying myself on the ukelele. You know what? When they all clapped it was exactly the same feeling as standing on the stage at Glastonbury.

I've been struggling with a violin this week, trying to play a lick of Beethoven's, from the final movement of his First Symphony. It's just a run up a major scale, about the simplest thing you can have in music that, all the notes in order. Somehow Beethoven makes this most familiar, mundane thing sound like the most dazzling thing I've ever heard, like I'd never heard it before: listening in wonder to someone else's music. That's the best thing of all, actually.







The daily run that gives me wings



The baby could come at any moment so I have to take my telephone with me even if I'm only going to the other side of the valley, which I do every day with the dog. We run together, always the same route. I never know what I'm going to see. It never looks the same two days running. Buttercups are overwhelming this week, and poppies.

Yesterday I stopped to behold a bird of prey as big as a chicken sitting in an oak tree. First time I've seen him on the scene. He returned my gaze, squarely, flopped off his branch and flapped off. I'm particularly proud of a swathe my beating feet have cut through the long grass in the bottom field. It pleases me to follow this path that I have created. Now I know exactly what snails are talking about.

Running has become the point every day where I disconnect from everything. My heart beats faster and I'm free in the moment as I pound around. There is something so very deeply human about running through countryside. I have my best ideas when I am running. I can really think clearly. I rather object to taking my telephone with me.

I came round a corner at full tilt yesterday evening. It was after nine, and perfectly still: That lilac colour that happens in protracted sunsets. A hot-air balloon was hovering huge, right in front of me. It was so calm that I could hear them talking in the basket. They were held perfectly still, suspended. I was flying.

React Now

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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore