Alex James: No distance left to run in the country

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

Run! Run alone over open fields, all through the wooded hillsides, in secret along the narrowest trails, badger roads and deer tracks, half-dodging wet, scratching brambles, ducking branches. Leaping and swerving over dead tree trunks, with startled squirrels and scattering rabbits springing from nowhere. Dawn, dusk, noon, under the Moon and stars, run as far as you can. Run like the wind, run when it's raining, run in the sun. Run, run, run – panting, blowing, steaming through the cool, soft greys and greens. Run for an hour, run for miles without seeing anybody, heart pounding, flying weightless downhill, feet crashing through puddles, splattering fluffy caressing mud, careless and carefree. Free at last, exhilarated by body whirring at capacity, on limits, singing. There is nothing else: no distractions, just the steady rhythms, absolutes, of breath, heart and hypnotic footfall beating one, two, one, two...

I'm ecstatic. The whippet trotting alongside gently, feet like four bouncing balls, a running machine, skinny as a wild creature, bred for speed and faster than anything, anything else, sees a deer and freezes, a front leg raised, mouth open. Desperate to fly at it, ready to ping like a taut elastic band. I shout to warn him off. Louder and louder, he's into the bushes I can barely hold him, a battle of wills rages as a preposterous bushy white tail jingjangs off into the dim mist of the low branches. It's all right. Then we join a bigger thoroughfare, the track widens out. Squishy wheel ruts wending a wider way through dense conifers, well-tended woodland. Neat piles of logs, carefully thinned-out trees, trees as straight as matchsticks, with batboxes, owlboxes way up high. I've no idea who all this belongs to, whether I should be here or not. It's good to get lost, I tell myself. I've absolutely no idea where we are but I do know one thing. There are no fat bass players of any significance.

Game for a pheasant

There are only another couple of weeks of pheasant on the menu. Pheasants are the landed gentry of the poultry world. Raising a chicken is a case study in making something as cheaply as possible, beyond all bounds of reasonableness. Pheasants are the exact opposite. It's hard to think how you could make something cost more than a pheasant – but they are cheaper than chickens to buy. Richard Corrigan's new game restaurant in Mayfair is my new favourite place in the world. Butter poached pheasant. Heavenly.

The elite meat

We are gradually falling back in love with game as a nation. Traditionally, beef has been considered the poshest meat, which is quite strange really. I'm looking after a herd of cows at the moment. The entire herd seems to require far less attention than one pig does. Pigs are far posher than cows.

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