Monday 14 March 2005
Alex James: 'Watching football is like watching sex. It's good, but participating's much better'
It was the first game of football of the year. It was the two Old Etonians against the mums, the kids and me. I was wearing a suit, which I'd dressed down with a pair of GI pumps. The girls were in jeans. There was a lot of mud on the pitch, from a tractor driving back and forth, by the look of things, and the chaps had the considerable advantage of the slope. Our fresh young forward, the one-year-old Brazilian Geronimo, was causing a few problems, but mainly to his own side, as he was constantly wandering off and having to be rescued by one of the team.
What a brilliant game football is. I'd forgotten how much more fun it is to play football than just to watch it, especially with girls playing. There were frequent bouts of hysteria and a lot of running commentary. Claire, in goal, got a muddy one on the nose from the brutal, unkind, nasty opposition, which galvanised the team spirit and took the competition to another level. Geronimo was left to play in the mud. And it felt good afterwards, the sunshine was warm and you could see for miles. It felt like "spring".
I need a sport. Watching football is a bit like just watching sex, it's good, but it's much, much better when you actually participate. It's part of our make-up to play physical games.
A lady, a few farms distant, a vegetarian for many years, has had her new rose garden decimated by muntjac deer. We have them on our land, too. They come from Asia but proliferate here in the wild and can evidently be a real nuisance, although we haven't had any trouble - they just thump around in the woods and look like pigs. They are supposed to taste the best. The veggie neighbour's moral dilemma, which was already building to a crisis at the time of the rose-garden business, was decided once and for all by this latest act of deer ransacking: she ordered the destruction of the invaders.
So, I was in the studio trying to make a medium-sized brass instrument called a euphonium play its lowest note (it was making my whole skull vibrate and I was feeling quite dizzy) when Claire's face appeared at the window. She was waving frantically at me to come out. Strung from the truss in the next barn along was a muntjac. Its guts had been removed and our friend Paddy was peeling off the hide, which produced slurping noises. Every so often, he'd take his sharp folding knife, make some sawing motion and free up a bit more. It was tough physical work - he was gripping with both hands, rending the skin away from the flesh. As a kid, when I caught fish I would then gut them, but I never saw anything like this.
There was no blood, though. "Oh, the guts are a bloody mess," said Paddy, "but we took those out before we hung it." It had been hanging for four days. I think most meat is hung in this country, it makes it more tender. Once he'd ripped off the skin and sawn off the feet, he began to butcher the carcass. "Here's the sirloin and the fillet, the saddle - that's the best bit. Chops, spare ribs down here, a lot of meat here at the top of the leg." Seeing the deer carcass hanging there was the most powerful anatomy lesson, the whole thing is now permanently etched on to my hard-drive.
The little kitten, Venus, was half the size of her sibling Mercury when they arrived on Sunday. We took her to the vet on Tuesday as she wasn't very lively. She wasn't putting weight on, so we've been nurturing her. Poor little thing was skeletal. But she's much better now and sits on my shoulder, purring. Venison for dinner. Hmmm...
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