Alex James: Newton's fourth law: country life takes ages

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

I get the feeling that a lot of people who live in the country think they would be lucky to spend a day in London without getting menaced, mugged or murdered. The city suggests risk, danger and violence, but there's probably nowhere safer in the nation. It's counterintuitive.

When I lived in London myself I was similarly misinformed. I thought of the countryside as a vast place where nothing happens, where things are completely at rest. Well, landscape paintings and photographs of the place are misleading. Pictures always suggest stillness. Television can't capture the glacial dynamics, either. Even dropping in for a picnic occasionally before I lived here wasn't enough to get an impression of how much things change. Outsiders only ever get a snapshot, I suppose.

It took a while to sink in and came as shock when it dawned on me that everything here, the whole shebang, is always moving – changing drastically. It's a massive green engine, particularly at the moment. The view is different every day and when it rains the whole thing changes colour. I often wondered how Isaac Newton, above, felt when he realised everything in the universe was in motion. "Alles movit," he stated, the greatest ever soundbite, the cleverest two words spoken in history, much snappier than e=mc2, too, even in Latin. Anyway, now I know how he felt.

I suppose the biggest difference between what I thought living in the country would be like, and what it actually is like, is the amount of time I have on my hands. It takes 10 times longer to get things done than I could have possibly imagined and usually involves 10 times as many people.

That shouldn't have come as a surprise. It would be nice to sit and watch it all, I think sometimes, but it's completely impossible. I can't help fiddling. It's harder to do nothing in Oxfordshire than it was in Soho.

Who needs a lawnmower?

The grass is going haywire and the lawnmower hasn't survived the winter. I got sucked into a huge lawnmower black hole. Lawnmowers don't just cut grass these days. They suck up leaves, all sorts. I was asked if I would be requiring "mulchability". I said I'd have to think about that. I have. It's tempting, but I reckon a sheep would probably do a better job – mulchtastic, no running costs. Zero carbon, no VAT. And tastier.

Pig is out, beef is in

Not much bird flu around this year. Looks like I got rid of the pig just in time, though. I miss the Empress, but we do have some of Daylesford's steers here now. They are magnificent. Takes a good two years to raise a beef calf and they weigh more than a ton now. I've been trying to work out how much they are worth at retail. Stupefying.