Alex James: The Great Escape

Baby you can drive my digger
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The Independent Online

I made a car park this morning. That's the trouble with having a digger and lots of piles of rubble. I can't leave them alone. We don't even have a car at the moment - it was totalled by an old biddy in Burford, the local antiques and fudge resort. I've written off our last three cars. The Jag was down to my own stupidity, I lost it on some ice and hit a tree. The worrying thing, though, is that the other two cars were smashed up by other people being stupid. There's not much you can do about that.

Claire's BMW, which was never the same after the engine caught fire, met the end of its days on a garage forecourt at the hands of a reversing white van. I never park behind white vans any more, but who knows where the next crunch is coming from? I don't mind not having a car, or an aeroplane. I sold the aeroplane. At the moment there's a couple of bicycles. I try to do all my local business on the bike. I only really go to the fag shop, Daylesford Organic and Mrs Swann's, for piano. My fingers went blue on the way there last week, somewhere around Bruern Abbey. I couldn't make them work for the first 20 minutes of the lesson. Bicycle is the best way to travel. Riding down a steep hill on a bicycle is better than going fast in a Porsche. No contest.

The quad bike has been a bit of a disappointment. The fancy tiptronic gears kept packing up. It's a stupendously bad piece of design, that machine. It's very unstable over the ground, even flat ground, and full of unnecessary electro-gizmos that break down if they get wet or muddy. It's been off the road, so to speak, for ages. The builders lost the keys and by the time I'd got some more cut, the battery had gone flat. I got a 12-volt charger from the farmer's shop and the gardener hooked the battery up to it in a cute little barn called the bothy. We've got all kinds of barns. It's always been called the bothy, that particular one. It's got a little fireplace and the farm hands used to have their tea in there in days gone by, before they had Range Rovers with seat warmers.

Flattening things is very therapeutic. It was a very lumpy scene outside the back door until the roller arrived this morning. It's quite a zippy little one, kind of sporty. For a long time the house has been surrounded by mud and debris, the natural habitat of the builder. But it was refreshing to discover that you can completely change a whole landscape in a day with a roller. We used the digger to bring over loads of crushed concrete left over from all the demolition and spread it around, and then got to work with the roller.

Geronimo, who will be two next week, became hysterical. He's been fascinated by plant machinery for some time. It's a primal thing, boys and diggers. He couldn't get anywhere near containing his feelings for that roller. He went into convulsions and had to be restrained. He'd rather go to playgroup on one of those than in a car - and I think I'd feel a lot safer driving one in the light of recent events.

Tomorrow the shingle arrives - it's the icing on the cake. We're all excited about hearing the crunch of tyres on gravel. That sound will mean we've really arrived in the country at last.

alexjames@independent.co.uk

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