Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

I'm 38 next month so I got rid of all my trainers at the weekend. The time had come. I must have had a hundred pairs. I don't think I bought any of them - they're one of the things that come your way when you're in a band. Other things that come free with a recording contract include mobile phones, jeans, records, and inappropriate eye contact. You have to spend a lot on lawyers though, more than you could reasonably spend on phones and jeans.

In the glory days I used to get free fags. Those people gave me a motorbike too. Actually, looking back, maybe they were trying to kill me.

This week I was offered a pair of Nicaraguan fair-trade, world-saving trainers. It seemed rude to say no to the trainer people, fighting the good fight as they are. I asked if they had any fair and reasonable slippers. Few people are willing to get publicly involved with slippers. They have no cachet, but I've started to covet a pair as winter draws in.

Trainers are ruined by the time you've got from the car to our front door. Jeans are more practical in the pastoral bubble, but they're starting to make me feel nauseous too. This morning a photographer asked me to change out of my sound-as-a-pound Holland & Holland apple-picking khakis and put some jeans on. It's the last time I do that.

They're out with the trainers. I have no jeans now. Like candyfloss and fizzy drinks, they belong to a world that I'm no longer a part of.

I was a bit terrified about not being young any more, from the point of view of making music. It's supposed to be for young people, after all, but now I've embraced it, I feel free all of a sudden. In fact, there are now more music magazines for people aged over 30 than there are for teenagers.

I have an inkling that youth culture might have had its 50 years at the top and that it's time for some kind of rebellion from those of us in the cruise sector of life - if not to shoot down the vain, content-free know-nothings with their stupid loud drums and aching hearts, then at least not to pretend that we wish we were like them.

It's totally OK not to like the Sugababes. They're pure cack. Know this and enjoy it. Get some Joni Mitchell on and have a bubble bath. I'm sure the best way to connect with youth is not to ape it, but to be a grown-up and not be an arse.

Subtle pleasures are the best. Cooking. Sitting by the fire. Getting up early. Radio telescopes. Good things have universal appeal. The cruise is the best bit of life so far. It's where you get what you really wanted, but I've a feeling there's better to come.

I look at my parents, retired and living in Bournemouth. They're on fire. If they're not on holiday, they're here or with my sister in London or going to a reunion. The admiral's got the blazer-and-tie thing going on. There's a look to aspire to. They don't care what anyone thinks, either. They're free. Just like their music said they would be.

a.james@independent.co.uk

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