Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

I remember the trees were just coming into blossom and there were gypsies camping on the roadside at the top of the drive. It is five years to the week since we first laid eyes on the farm and we bought it on our honeymoon a month later. It's hard to remember exactly why we rose to it, or precisely what we wanted from it. It was irresistible, probably the most romantic thing we could have done, to leave our old lives behind and build a new one together in what I took for the middle of nowhere. It has become the centre of the universe and paradoxically the upshot of that starry-eyed plunge was a million practicalities, and our dream has only been kept afloat by both of us pulling our heads out of the clouds, parking the aeroplane and taking care of business.

I suppose I might easily have stayed in Covent Garden for ever having bubble baths instead of spending Sunday afternoons in a field in the rain with my head up a drain, but no one needs or enjoys his bath quite as much as the man who has spent the afternoon at the other end of one.

Dreams of "happily ever after" never usually make any suggestions of work to be done, but we all need something to do. As soon as we have something to do, we can happily do nothing, which is the best thing. A nice house with mains plumbing and a cellar that didn't have things living in it probably would have attracted all the wrong kind of people and most likely suffocated us quietly.

After five years, we'd be dreaming about running away, sailing around the world or moving to France, like all profoundly bored people do. Five years of panic and confusion in dust, debris and mucky stuff and I finally feel like I'm getting on top of it. There's nothing actually finished as yet, and a lot of things haven't even been started. The five-year plan we drew up five years ago is due to get under way next month. The dream is still way on the horizon, the end of a rainbow we'll never get to, but where else to set the compasses towards?

I've been richer, more relaxed, more on top of things, but I've never been less bored. After years tearing around the world in a band, I never imagined life would get more interesting as it went on. I was expecting an anti-climax. Maybe 10 years ago, if you'd told me Blur would be down the drain, I'd never have thought I'd find drains so satisfying.

By the time we get to adulthood, we've all seen everything. The great surprise for me has been seeing things I recognise in a different way. The view has got better. That's the best thing about a farm: you get to see the other end of stuff. I'm happy sailing this ship round the sun. Every year the gypsies return with the blossom. I'm staying put for now.

a.james@independent.co.uk

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