Alex James: The Great Escape

Share
Related Topics

Nine months I've been tapping away in my pantry, tout seul, writing my autobiography. How easy it seems to write songs when you're writing a book. How easy it seems to do anything except write books. And how easy and infinitely wonderful it is to do nothing at all.

Since January, when I began writing, I've replied to every e-mail, text, fax, phone call, instant message, letter and casual caller I've had, I've removed thistles and dandelions from various lawns and I've learnt to play the mandolin and the ukulele - the pantry is home to my more obscure instruments. My euphonium-honking skills have also improved.

Ukes and mandolins are the musical equivalent of pedalos. You look a little bit silly when you are using one but once you're actually in there doing it, you can't really go wrong. There's nothing to it and it feels good no matter what anyone might think.

Ukuleles are having something of a renaissance. They're hotter than art in the big houses. It's no use owning a Damien Hirst, or even having seen his willy, if you haven't got a ukulele to talk about. In fact, if I'm coming for dinner I don't want to see your smart-arse contemporary art portfolio, I want to hear you play "When I'm Cleaning Windows".

It's impossible to play a "Hawaiian banjo" without smiling. There are no laments or dirges in any ukulele songs. And with the possible exception of the bass guitar it's the closest anyone has come to making a musical apparatus everyone can master in 20 minutes.

The euphonium is trickier to steer. It's more like manoeuvring a punt. You have to and aim it very carefully. Large brass instruments seem to run in our family, like big ears. There is a stately quality to the sound of a euphonium, which impresses a certain class of lady, but it's highly unstable in a novice's hands and there's always a danger of falling off the groove, crashing into the drums or capsizing into the fundamental, but I digress. As usual.

The most productive environment for writing books would be a cold white box with no windows or euphoniums, an uncomfortable chair and a computer that doesn't connect to the "Funky Junk" website every time I switch it on, but if I'd lived like that, I don't suppose the book would be worth reading.

I laid the final full stop in place at 5am yesterday and whizzed it off to publisher, agent and wife. No one had seen a word of it until then. I'm far too conceited to worry. All conceit starts with a profound sense of art, or maybe it's the other way round, but it's rare to finish anything with no one else being involved. Even records are made by committee, and major works of art have always reflected the tastes of the people who buy them. I suppose a life is the ultimate work of art and it was refreshing to be as self-indulgent with my recollections as I was when I was playing the part.

a.james@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: The sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
A protestor poses for a  

Ferguson verdict: This isn't a 'tragedy'. This is part of a long-running genocide of black men in America

Otamere Guobadia
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital