Alex James: There are lawyers all over my fields

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

I used to find the truth in records and books. Even posters and telescopes occasionally offered a glimpse of something almighty, but with my advancing years came the dawning knowledge that the machinations of the big wheels are actually in the hands of lawyers and accountants. The older I get, the more complex my life seems to get and the more interesting I find these people.

There was a time when I couldn't get off their premises fast enough. Nowadays, because I'm constantly juggling ticking bombs, I always need practical solutions and there are few people I'd rather invite to lunch than a legal beagle or a money man. I have so many questions for them. Now if I want to know if something is true or not I tend to consult a lawyer or an accountant, rather than listen to Joy Division really loud, which was at one time the answer to everything.

I've actually got lawyers coming out of my ears because to run a farm is to be in charge of a small kingdom. There's always at least one border under attack for starters: Someone trying to move a footpath, someone else chopping down trees to build holiday homes or some total rotter trying to build a car park in open countryside. The boundaries are where the majority of skirmishes take place, but within the realm is where things start getting complicated. The farm is populated by legions of barn builders, sheep ticklers and cheese freaks.

Last week, my accountant came for lunch. I picked him up from the station on the quad bike, possibly a mistake, as his shoes are always particularly shiny and the quad bike was particularly muddy. It was a busier day than most, too. There was a lot of tree planting and fencing happening. We used to just go to Groucho's and get drunk once a year. That would, he advised me, be much cheaper than planting forests. Getting old is quite expensive, but then the best things are.

Mown down

I had to pay someone 20 quid an hour to mow the lawn back in the summer, pre-crunch. You can get someone to come and teach you astrophysics for that.

I think it was particularly galling because I wanted to mow the lawn myself, just once, but I never had time. I was always dealing with some escaped sheep or leaky drain. When you're paying your lawn mowers the same as your rocket scientists I suppose it didn't really need an accountant to point out that the world was in a mess.

Rehearsing, and loving it

I'm up and down to London every week for a Blur rehearsal at the moment and it's utterly fantastic. We're working through all the albums, one each week, Great Escape next time, when Graham gets back off tour with Pete Doherty. That's what he's up to. Sounds quite a long way from lunch with an accountant but then you haven't met my accountant.