Alex James: The Great Escape

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.

React Now

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May was kept on as Home Secretary by David Cameron in his post-election Cabinet reshuffle (EPA)  

The Only Way is Ethics: Rights to privacy and free expression will always be at loggerheads

Will Gore
The handling of the tragic deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd in 2006 by Thomas Cook was appalling  

Thomas Cook case was a failure of heart

Danny Rogers
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine