Alex James: The Great Escape

They shoot rooks don't they?
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The Independent Online

The cats, who are both ruthless, indiscriminate predators, looked very scared of the rook that was flying around the library when I went in to make the coffee on Saturday morning. The rooks keep coming down the chimney. I shot about 50 over the weekend, but we're under attack. Rooks are trouble. They destroy nature's delicate balance. If you "Let it be", they take over and eat all the other birds' eggs. That's why I shoot them.

The rooks are about the worst nuisance, but our borders are under constant attack from all quarters on the farm. About a million caterpillar things came out of the lawn and seemed to be making for the studio. I had to call Paddy, the wise man. He said they were leatherjackets, daddy-longlegs' larvae. I said: "What do we do? They've eaten the lawn, and now they're destroying all the vibes. I'm trying to write a football song and all I can think about is caterpillars. Jesus, KT Tunstall's going to be here in a fortnight, are they all going to be adults by then? Can't we try and get the rooks to eat them or something?" He said there was a very good organic pest control group that would send us some other kind of bugs in the post, the sort of bugs that would really like eating these particular caterpillars. It was a terrifying thought.

Nick, the factotum, went to Stow Ag, the farmer's shop. He came back wearing a spacesuit and told us all to go inside for a few days. It did the trick, the deadly mist, and we scooped them all up with shovels. The leatherjackets, I must admit, committed no crime other than eating grass.

There's always something trying to move in on your space on a farm. There was a yellow planning-application notice posted near the top of the drive. I thought "What now?" and pulled over to read it. It said notice was hereby given that an application had been made to build a cheese workshop. I realised that it was actually my own planning application. It felt good. I was pleased they'd used the word workshop. Everybody said: "Don't call it a factory. Call it a workshop. The planners don't like factories." I'm not sure what the correct term is for a cheese-making zone. Maybe "cave" would have sounded better.

We picked the right spot for the cheese cave. When we started hacking up the floor of the barn where it's going to be with the digger, we uncovered an old sunken milking parlour. It had been filled in with rubble and covered with concrete (the previous owner was very liberal with concrete). If I don't get planning permission I guess I could just say it's not cheese that I'm making, it's just milk that I'm keeping some parts of, in my old milking parlour.

I've decided to get some pigs. They will have a part to play. They eat the part of milk that doesn't make it into the final cheese. Then I can have a sausage-making workshop as well, if all goes well. Or a banger hangar? A porkshop? A bacon-makin' station? We'll have to see.