Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

I hadn't really planned a holiday this summer. I'm a barnacle. All farmers are, I think. I'm as riveted now by what is happening on the farm as I used to be by what goes on in Manhattan when all the reasonable people have gone to bed and only the fabulous are still standing. Nature unfolding at my fingertips is as gripping, unmissable and every bit as fleeting and ruthless as a perpetual A-list knees-up.

The poppies are out at the moment. They're quite special, the poppies that grow wild in Oxfordshire, a farmer's perk. Elaborate and brilliantly coloured, they come up in different spots every year. I find them incredibly calming, a little splash of colour. I've tried making them grow, but they have their own ideas.

West Oxfordshire has become a bit like the Hamptons recently. The restaurants seem to be almost as good as they are in London, and there seem to be more famous people here than anywhere, as I was saying to George Martin in the pub the other day. Two, quite separate, Hollywood scriptwriters have been in the village this week, knocking on the door to say "Hi" when I was trying to get the pig pregnant or put a new ditch in the rose garden.

The kids never want to go on holiday either, but I needed to get away from the hustle and bustle of fast-lane country living. And when I saw this farmhouse in Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands back in April, I knew we had to spend some time here.

Claire and the kids and half the grandparents flew from Luton and I drove the people carrier full of equipment. I'd planned to leave at midnight, then I thought I'd grab a nap and leave at four, but I didn't wake up until six and it was seven by the time I was punching an Inverness postcode into the sat-nav.

If the traffic is ok, and it was, England rolls past very quickly, and it's all so lovely. It wasn't until 9.30am, when I saw the sheer face of a mountain in Cumbria, that it struck me that the mountainside was the first naturally occurring thing I'd seen that wasn't sprouting green. I was in Scotland by 10am, and made Inverness by 2.30pm.

I think we'll all drive next year. It was quicker than flying, you can leave when you want and you get a sense of travelling, rather than a sense of nausea. But that journey was the first time I'd been on my own for ages. I thought nine hours would seem like forever, but it didn't seem long enough. Living in Oxfordshire, it often seems we are closer to the centre of what's happening than if we lived in Times Square, but it's harder to get further away from everything than where we are now. We're two and a half miles up a dirt trail at the end of a single-track road in the Highlands. That should do it. Wow – I'd love move out to the country one day.

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