Alex James: It's park life, but not as you'd imagine it

Rural Notebook

Wednesday 10 December 2008 01:00

Whump whump whump. Thumping around St James's Park at midnight on a Sunday.

I'm scared of getting overtaken by pedestrians, so I like running at night. There is never anyone else doing it and it's much nicer than running during the day. St James's and Green Park are my favourites of the London parks, and when I'm staying in town now, I like to have a whiz around in my trainers before going to sleep. I've started to find it hard to sleep in London otherwise. I just get so overexcited by the place.

Those two parks are pretty much idealised versions of the countryside but I suppose it's quite unusual to see a rural landscape lit up at night like that.

A head torch does the trick in the Parish, stops me from tripping over in the dark, but three AAA batteries can't really compete with the multimillion-pound Christmas tree sparkle of Piccadilly and the Mall that floods into the green spaces at the heart of the West End.

It's so silent and still in the middle of those parks in the middle of the night, traffic flowing by in all directions in the distance. I love it. Love the immaculate avenues of planes that criss-cross Green Park, as magnificent as anything in the countryside. And Birdcage Walk, the Eastern boundary of Green Park, must be the most desirable row of houses anywhere in the world. It's impossible to behold that row of elegant facades without coming under the spell of their glamour.

I suppose one of the advantages of having led a boozy life in the neighbourhood for many years is that it's not intimidating. I've wandered drunk through those parks so many times and come to no harm, not like Central Park in Manhattan, which becomes an absolute no-go zone at dusk

Really, I just wanted to tell you how nice those parks are at night: deserted, but for the ducks and odd meandering drunk. The next best thing to the countryside in the daytime.

Another brick in the wall

Back in the Parish, I've just about finished rebuilding a wall that has been falling down since we arrived.

I can't tell you what a source of joy it is to be confronted every morning by something that has been falling down for years gradually being patched up and made lovely again. I plan to spend Christmas staring at it.

Blur's vision

Which reminds me; looks like I've got my old job back. Out of nowhere, just when I was least expecting it, Blur (fronted by Damon Albarn) are going to do a show in Hyde Park one night next summer. Easy come, easy go. Whatever. Should be good, though.

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