Alex James: It's nice to rock back and smell the roses

Rural Notebook

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Like a soldier returning from battle I fell delighted into the open arms of my family. What a scene: grannies, nannies, dogs; one small child pulling my nose while others jumped up and down on my tummy.

Soon they tired of me and moved on to the next thing, and I escaped into the rose garden for some longed-for peace and quiet. Ah, the gentle caress of their aroma was upon me the instant I walked out of the back door and into the garden: a soothing, silent antidote to the nine, 10, 11 o'clock, 12 o'clock rock of the previous few days.

It had been brilliant beyond all expectation – waves of euphoria, glimpses of the past and the future – but there is no point in travelling unless there is somewhere, something to come home to.

Head held high and feeling pretty pleased with myself, I turned the corner and there was the gardener cutting the heads off all the roses. No wonder the smell was so strong: overpowering like fresh cut grass, only this was the more expensive rose flavour.

She had done about half of them. They were just beginning to look lovely last week, almost there. Now they were being dead-headed so they'll flower again – probably when I'm on holiday. Had to be done I suppose, but the timing wasn't great. I'd missed the show. There was a dustbin full of heads. I took it and poured about a hundredweight of petals and creepy crawlies into the bathtub.

That evening as I sat there quietly in my king of rock 'n' roll, rose-petal stew with my wife, she said. "Can you imagine how much it would cost if you wanted to buy this many rose petals?" The same thing had occurred to me. In fact, it was actually pretty much all I'd been thinking about as I stepped in that big sea of rose tea. I'd actually paid through the nose for the aromatherapy but, you know what, some things are worth paying for.

Pigeon pie in the sky

"Racing pigeon!" exclaimed Paddy, pointing. It didn't look in too much of a hurry. It looked just like the other pigeons, but it had a tag round its leg. Paddy said he'd shot one once by accident, and had felt so bad about it that he'd sent a note to the address on the little tag saying, "Sorry, your pigeon died." Delicious, though, he added.

Peace and goodwill

When I lived in London, pigeons drove me mad. I was a vegetarian then, but bore them none of the goodwill I afford them nowadays. One flew in the house on Friday and we were all spellbound.

In London I would probably have called the fire brigade, but this one was so beautiful I wanted to let it stay: all rippling greens and silvers. What a frame, the English countryside! What a lens! I must be wearing rose-tinted specs.

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