Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

We have three washing machines and they spin night and day. Since the twins and au pair arrived, as a household we no longer conform to a sociological norm and have to shop off piste. Supermarkets sell everything in parcels and quantise their stock around smaller family units. I'm just not having supermarkets any more. They're boring. They prey too much on the subconscious, and by the time you get to the queue you're 90 per cent zombified.

It's worth getting a VAT number just to be able to shop at wholesale hangars like Booker's. I'm a big fan of Booker's. We go there twice a year and buy wheelie bins of washing powder; big boxes of all the kitchen and bathroom fluids and sprays; 10,000 bin bags; gallons of olive oil and so on. We supplement this with a weekly vegetable delivery from Riverford Organic and whatever is in the garden.

It makes sense to buy direct from farmers, but you can rely on their unreliability. Fred the sheep farmer has been promising me a lamb since Christmas and it just arrived this week, deconstructed and boxed. There's something very nice about getting a whole lamb, and it's a step up the food chain.

We are blessed to live near to the very top of the food chain. The Daylesford Organic Farmshop and Spa, a big budget retail experiment that has brought more glamour to our immediate vicinity than the local MP David Cameron and any number of arriviste celebrities and royals combined.

It is an astonishing hymn to the best of the best of the best. I took my sister and her husband there. We parked the world's largest Volvo with the Porsches and Bentleys and as we were getting out I heard someone spit, "It's full of rich twats."

Even though no one can really afford to shop there, men in the area are helpless to prevent their wives from going to Daylesford. It's irresistible to women. I'm sure people dress up to go there. It's a cross between The Ivy and Liberty with Fortnum's Food Hall added on, and it's not near a town or even a village, it's just there, an apparition of opulence.

To walk in is to be overwhelmed by signifiers of magnificence. Variations of the colour beige calm the mind and delicious smells from the al fresco kitchen and aromatherapy centre bring you to your senses briefly before you are catapulted into the stratosphere by the merchandise. The food hall is the best bit. There is nothing there that you don't want, just a lot that you can't afford - exquisite and unusual vegetables, all organic, strange cheese, mad meats, jars of mystery and fine wines.

I heard that the owners flew more meat in from Staffordshire when stocks were running low last bank holiday. It must cost a fortune to run.

My brother-in-law got out for 50 quid, it could have been worse. Someone told me Kate Winslet spent £8,000 there last week, which is almost definitely not true, but everybody believes it. I do.

a.james@independent.co.uk

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