Alex James: No longer any need to emigrate to Provence

Rural Notebook

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Top of many people's to do lists when I was growing up was to emigrate: a generation strove to muster the wealth and the bottle to flee these shores forever. Peter Mayle, an ex-ad man crystallised the dreams of mid-life crisis stricken professionals who longed to go on holiday permanently, with his tales of executive Utopia in Provence: swimming pools and extensions, pâté, boules and sunshine – retirement porn, really.

When I was younger I thought I'd end up in France. Sometimes I still dream of spending a couple of years in Sierra Leone, or Laos, taking a complete change of scenery. But a lot has changed here since Peter Mayle's day. Rural Britain is definitely more of a viable dream now than it was, and there is nowhere I'd rather be.

I'm sometimes cornered by people grasping for exactly what it is that I like about living in the country. "My boyfriend has just bought a house in Lechlade." She said. "That's near you. What are the cool pubs? What happens? Where should we go?"

There are no cool pubs. There is nothing going on. I've hardly been out at all this year. I wouldn't recommend the countryside for those who like going out. It's for staying in, really. Still, Easter weekend was a sudden frenzy of socialising: breakfasts lunches and dinners. We went to a neighbour's on Friday. He told me he had been stalking a herd of deer for a couple of hours, had selected his target and lined it up perfectly in the cross hairs with baited breath. He was just about to fire when an out-of-breath jogger came puffing and flailing up the footpath and scattered the lot of them.

He hadn't realised it was me but that's as good a description of what goes on here as anything. Solitary pleasures colliding occasionally.

Chives spring into action

The garden is a coiled spring at this time of year. Every day the picture out of the window changes, more colour, more shapes forming.

Last week I found a huge clutch of eggs. Chives were a nice surprise this weekend, back like old friends in the far corner of the garden. Perfect with the eggs.

My holiday home of canvas

I bought another tent: a bell tent. It is brilliant. No planning permission, no building regs and no builders required. It will be up in the garden from May till September. Seventy quid. Easy to get to as well. That's what I call a holiday home.

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