Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

It had been an eerily good couple of days. It started when I went to London on Wednesday. One minute I was talking about cardoons with the President of the Royal Horticultural Society in Kensington, the next I was in Claridge's ballroom and the director of the Whitechapel gallery was saying: "We really need to put together a limited edition of the artwork that you made for us." I was on the point of replying when there was a loud noise. It was Roxy Music. They were on the stage. That was a surprise. Then it was Thursday. I'd been offered a radio show and a television series by midday, both of which I want to do. I think it's this cheese business. NME.com put my new cheese on the cover. I haven't been on the cover of NME since Britpop went mouldy.

Thursday was going well. After lunch and stories with my manager at the Electric and a coffee with Damon on Golborne Road, I popped in to Swaine Adeney Brigg with a voucher that read "Gift of your choice" and grabbed the most beautiful suitcase I've ever seen. I paused for a chocolat liegeois with a Blue Peter presenter in the Wolseley before jumping on the 17.32 out of Paddington. On the train the office called and said that Steve Winwood is up for joining the local band. Jeremy Clarkson is having crammer drum lessons on his Keith Moon special monster edition kit. On Friday there was TV crew here in the morning asking me about David Cameron, who lives in the next village but one. In the afternoon, Graham Coxon called. I haven't spoken to him in a couple of years. I said, "All these crazy things are happening! I think this cheese I'm making might be magic cheese." He said it was the world that had gone funny. That morning he'd had a message from the office to call Paul Weller and then another one saying could he please call Pete Townshend. Graham and I used to live in a squat together in Lewisham, unable to afford cheese or guitars. He's going to come down in his Range Rover with some of his cherries. Later on, I overcooked the aduki beans. Usually this would put a downer on things, but I was feeling strangely buoyant.

It was good to get my hands back on the controls of an aeroplane on Saturday. It's ages since I've been flying. It was grey and rainy - you could have believed it went on for ever in all directions if you didn't have your hands on an aeroplane. It was just a shower that had somehow got stuck between Chipping Norton and Stow-on-the-Wold. We came zooming out of the cloud into brilliant sunshine. I used to need a destination, now I seem to be happy just flying around. We whizzed below eaves level at full tilt past Annabel and James' house. Technically a practice forced landing, and therefore legal.

England is the prettiest country of all from the air. It's the little meadows and hedgerows that make modern farming impractical that give it its charm. It's an enchanting landscape. It would be easy to believe that people make magic cheese there.

a.james@independent.co.uk

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