Alex James: Sometimes, I long to be beside the sea

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I landed, blinking through lack of sleep, for a three-day job, a fashion shoot in Hastings. Hastings is the other end of the world from the Cotswolds, not just the wrong side of London, another country altogether. As I arrived I was struck by the sight of large groups of men playing football in the middle of the day. Men as idle as the empty shops along the esplanade, as hopeless as the pier, the focal point of the place, derelict and slightly sinister, waiting for someone or something to come and breathe life and meaning back into it all.

A vast suite in the best hotel in town was £50 a night. I took one look at the view and realised I wanted to live in Hastings. I fell into vast daydreams about selling up the farm, buying one of these knackered seafront palaces and spending all day on the beach honing my keepy-uppy skills. I love the farm but I continue to make the mistake of thinking that one day it will get easier. It is always becoming more and more complicated. I love the place, but now it has a million moving parts and only about three-quarters of them work.

A man can never look out over fields and feel completely content. There will always be something in a pastoral scene that needs tending to, that could be developed, improved. A field can be anything. A beach is something else altogether. A beach will always be a beach; it could never be any more beautiful than it is already. It's a finished thing. A view of a beach transmits a very clear message to a man to let his hair down. I grew up in a culture of idle bliss in Bournemouth. Why, I began to wonder, do I put myself through endless 5am starts, lists of teasing decisions and expenses?

Of course, I'd had enough after three days, couldn't wait to get home. I suppose the great thing about work is that it drags you through all the colours of the rainbow. From British racing green to deep-sea blue and back again.

Baby's here, so the birds have got to move

The arrival of our fifth child in six years precipitated an enormously complicated series of events, the immediate upshot of which was that the chickens had to move. I thought this house was big when we moved in. Now I've got to move the chickens so we can squeeze another nanny in. My office is a former pig shed next to the current chicken shed. Ever since we've lived here, for seven years, I've been trying to renovate the big barn for my office, but there is always something else more pressing. Now it's the chickens getting their new office.

I don't begrudge those birds their good fortune. They never fail to lift my heart. In fact, a handful of chickens is about the simplest, happiest proposition in the whole of the countryside. You feed them scraps. They lay eggs. You have to stop the fox from eating the chickens and you have to stop the chickens from eating the garden. That's all there is to it, the easiest food equation you'll ever encounter. I was so convinced I could solve it, I've just invested in a 20-egg incubator.

It took a while to work out exactly where the chickens should move to, but I found the perfect spot in some trees at the end of the garden. It was all looking lovely until the chicken man quoted me a small fortune to build a pen. I'd asked him to quote on knocking down three ugly, disused cattle sheds, too. I'd imagined that was going to be quite a pricey job. Demolition does tend to be expensive, but it transpired that the tin roofs on the sheds were worth enough money to cover the cost of removing the sheds and building the chicken run as well. It might only be a tiny little thing, but it's kept me cock-a-hoop for a week.

The pain and pleasure of a Hix chicken addiction

I went to a party thrown by Range Rover at Kensington Palace. I'd said I'd go but I must admit I wasn't really relishing the thought when the time came, as the birth of our daughter had fallen right on top of it. What I was relishing more than life itself was the thought of going to Hix Brewer St for one of his Woolley Park chickens afterwards.

I'm completely addicted to that chicken. Every time I have one it doesn't satisfy my cravings. It makes them worse. Sometimes it's the first thing I think of in the morning. All the way through the birth I'd been telling myself it would all be fine and soon I'd be in Hix having the chicken again. It was a sort of finishing post, the Woolley Park chicken. I was so set on it that on my way to the party I pre-ordered one – it takes ages to cook but when it was time to go and meet my dinner I was having such a good time, it was hard to tear myself away.

I was looking forward to the summer party at the Serpentine Gallery but it was strange this year. I'm not sure how a party at an art gallery can be less cool than a party for a car, but it was. It was exactly the same crowd as at the Range Rover bash, with the unwelcome addition of the Botox brigade. Dizzee Rascal appeared and pounded his aggressive teenage rants at their middle-aged rubber heads. It was like a billionaire's wedding. In terms of cash at the bank and bright ideas, the art world is apparently in a worse state than Hastings.