Alex James: The Great Escape

This crazy little thing called love
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The Independent Online

Two wedding invitations arrived this week, big white stiffies with the hard-to-read typeface. As our third anniversary approaches, I find that the best things about marriage are the quiet moments. Beforehand it's the action sequences that you remember, but the inbetween bits become the best part of life with a spouse.

Just before I got married, the world's leading brain specialist told me that falling in love is in many ways the same as going mad, particularly that first bit when you're floating around. The brain has to go mad for it to want babies, she said. They don't make a lot of sense to the part of the brain that wants to hunt and gather.

Poets and songwriters have been noticing this feeling for some time, but it was still nice to have it confirmed by a scientist. Getting married is a mad thing to do. It's a massive contract and I wonder how long people will continue to make these reckless agreements as terms and conditions, guarantees and indemnities become the glue that holds the world together. Marriage shows that the world still runs on trust. All the people that I've worked with longest and trust the most I seem to have the shortest formal agreements with. A marriage is destined to fail if lawyers start getting involved in pre-nuptial agreements. It only works if you both agree to give each other everything you've got and mean it.

There is nothing to report about happy marriages. They are not something we like to consider in our perpetual thirst for scandal and intrigue. Who would watch a programme about a happily married couple drinking hot chocolate and rubbing each other's shoulders? It's the best thing there is though. It's what all songs are about, that feeling of contentment, or lack of it.

I had word of an old friend. Someone said they'd been round to his house and caught him on the sofa in women's underwear with a young Swede on each knee. It's a pretty good look, and I must say I felt a slight pang for a world that has passed beyond me. I used to love all that stuff. It's very easy to sell the appeal of being single. It embraces everything that advertising uses to sell things, like personal freedom and it's inherent suggestion of youthfulness, excitement, tidy houses, high-tension sexual electricity, instant satisfaction and no hassle. Marriage is a trickier thing to do an advert for - there's only one person who can sell it to you, really. Then we were walking across the lawn to the back door from the car, me, the pram and the rucksack, heavily pregnant wife and small boy. It was the end of the day and we were home. It felt good, really, really good. Just for a moment. It's hard to explain why coming home with the family after a day out was better than three-way Scando porn. Hopefully you've had both experiences and will agree with me.

I was having a stare with Fred, the sheep farmer, today. There is a gate at the bottom of the barn and he leans on it looking out across the valley. "One of them tups has had it!" said Fred, nodding at a dead ram in the corner. I hadn't noticed it. It was one of seven or eight that services a couple of thousand ewes. I said: "Seven rams take care of the whole lot?!" He said: "Ah, they never bloody last long." Losers.

alexjames@independent.co.uk

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