Alex James: The Great Escape

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The Independent Online

When Amadea was here in the summer, she said how much she loved the back garden. She's ultimately the reason we moved out here in the first place. She grew up in Chipping Norton and married Simon from nearby Burford, who is now a film director. That 's how Claire got to know them, and through them, the area. They still have a house in Burford, by the river, and always come back in the summer, but, as Simon says: "If you're in the oil business, you've got to live in the Middle East; if you want to make films, you've got to live in LA."

Sometimes we hear that they are buying another house for 10m in Notting Hill, sometimes they are selling one, usually from or to someone else in the film business. The economics of movie-making are extreme. It's like the music business with another two zeros, or the publishing industry with another four, which I suppose is why film directors never bother to write autobiographies. That, and because no one has ever heard of them. They'd be a good read, though. I'd much rather talk to Simon than to Angelina Jolie, who's in most of his films.

It's really good to know people who are mind-bogglingly, staggeringly, preposterously, eye-wateringly richer than we are. It seems to be easier to encounter the insanely rich in the countryside than in cities, where they presumably occupy strange orbits of boardrooms, limos and the restaurants they own.

The Cotswolds have, historically, been home to the colossally wealthy. I'm sure Simon and Amadea don't even think of themselves as loaded. They probably look at the Bamfords, Gallaghers and Flemings the local oligarchs and wonder why they don't have a helipad. But, as I said, film wealth is of a different order of magnitude from rock'*'roll riches, and always has been. Still, it won't be long before everyone has worked out how to download films for free. Then, strikes aside, the film industry will be as beleaguered as the record business, and film directors will have to write books, make cheese and design their own gardens like everybody else. These are the last days of showbusiness empires.

In the meantime, Amadea ordered a garden like ours, the one that Daphne did while I was on tour, just after we moved in. So Claire took Daphne over to Burford. It's not unusual for Daphne not to meet her clients. I think all that Claire said to her was "No yellow!" when she was doing our beds. Daphne's clients tend to be so rich that they don't have time for their gardens. The more successful one becomes, the less time there is to spend dreaming in the garden, a terrible irony. But that's the great thing about Daphne. She just takes care of it.

Daphne complimented me on my DIY garden out the back. It had been raining and a lot of it was underwater, but it is taking shape at last. I suppose it would have been cheaper to build a helipad, but who wants a helicopter, really?

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