Partly Sunny with Showers 19° London Hi 19°C / Lo 13°C

Alex James

Alex James

Recovered rock’n’roller Alex James has left his Blur days behind and now lives on a farm with his wife, their three children, some sheep and a lot of cheese. His autobiography of rock excess, Bit of a Blur, was published in 2007.

Alex James: The Great Escape

I've been staying in a hotel on the Watford ring road for the past few days and it's been raining for as long as I can remember: traffic groan and piffling muzak half fill the empty greyness of this netherland.

Recently by Alex James

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

First we stopped at the carnivorous plants, utterly fantastic, even before I knew what they were, beyond bizarre, but held perfectly to order in neat platoons. Prim constellations of flowers stretching in all directions under the grand pavilion at Chelsea Flower Show before breakfast, before it all kicked off, every bloom immaculate on an immaculate morning; the spheres of alliums and little stars of daffodils, recognisable among a mass of novel colours, scent and silence. Perhaps it's hard to say where agriculture ends and horticulture begins, where pure display becomes the goal. This all flaunted and flattered with the thrill of pure confectionery, a sweet shop for the world-weary. These were the creations of the pastry chefs of the cultivation world, impossible trifles. It was something like being in an empty shop at midnight, a shop that sold nothing but wonderful suggestions.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

'What are they singing about?" I asked the interpreter. They'd been singing for ages, all the women, shuffling their feet rhythmically, walking around in a big circle. They are a handsome race: tall and slender, with the perfect poise that I assume develops from carrying heavy things on their heads. The women walk as if they are wearing heels, but most of them had bare feet. I'd been helping them carry rocks, for making dry-stone walls. Some of them had children tied on their backs, as well as boulders on their heads, but now the work was done.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

I was facing a whole day of interminable terminals – airports, aeroplanes and queues – and felt the best way to approach it was as horizontally as possible, sound asleep whenever I could be. When travelling by air now, I just want to arrive. I'd take being asleep in economy class over being wide awake at the pointy end, any day of the week.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The second cup of coffee and the second cigarette are the best of the day, I've realised. There's something about the second time around that beats the first. I'm 40 this year and I've already seen most things I'm going to see, but I'm starting to appreciate that seeing things for the second time is when you see them best.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

I'd never been this far up the other end of a bacon sandwich before. It felt like I had stumbled into a parallel pig universe that stretched forever in all directions. Strange place. They were lying down, most of them, decorating a big, cosy cloud of straw like plump sultanas in a cake, with their huge, mad faces all turned in my direction, eyes staring back wherever I looked. One pig's face is quite enough food for thought, but I was completely overwhelmed by the countless expressions and endless variations of form: a sea of swine.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

It was about 15 years ago. I was tearing around Manhattan in the middle of the night with the keyboard player from Blondie and a lady with huge bosoms. It was just another day at the office of rock'n'roll. We'd all met about an hour before and now we were going somewhere in his car, very fast. He was enjoying the empty streets, squeaking the tyres, driving with purpose and glee.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

I think what makes farms so compulsive, once you start getting involved, is that they are dynamic systems. There always has to be something going in one end (usually involving large amounts of money and lots of fiddling about) and stuff is constantly flying out the other, which also needs to be dealt with – or before you know it you're looking at wine lakes, cheese mountains, red letters and all the rest of it.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

There's a rumour going around that a passion fruit vine would work on a south facing Oxfordshire wall. But the gardener's not convinced: he says it probably wouldn't bear fruit, and points out how the grapes never really get going round here. They're small and tough and it takes a lot of effort to stop them going wrinkly – a bit like Madonna.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

I remember the trees were just coming into blossom and there were gypsies camping on the roadside at the top of the drive. It is five years to the week since we first laid eyes on the farm and we bought it on our honeymoon a month later. It's hard to remember exactly why we rose to it, or precisely what we wanted from it. It was irresistible, probably the most romantic thing we could have done, to leave our old lives behind and build a new one together in what I took for the middle of nowhere. It has become the centre of the universe and paradoxically the upshot of that starry-eyed plunge was a million practicalities, and our dream has only been kept afloat by both of us pulling our heads out of the clouds, parking the aeroplane and taking care of business.

Alex James: The Great Escape

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Something strange and wonderful seems to be happening. A cappuccino stand has appeared at the railway station: an instant monument to prosperity. Another bank collapses and the lure of the simple life continues to grow beyond bounds. Sometimes, lately, it has been hard to find a parking spot at the station. There is an escalating sense of buoyancy, the entire neighbourhood is riding high, rising on the tide of spring. I thought I might be imagining it all, and possibly I am, but it's infectious.

More alex james:

Columnist Comments


Sarah Sands: It's a great plot: two novelists under one roof

At home with Isabel Fonseca and Martin Amis


Joan Smith: Sharon's lipstick diplomacy suits Dalai Lama

Thank you for alerting me to the possibility of a supernatural explanation


Dom Joly: I'm making Hay while it rains. My wife, at home, is not happy

I can barely remember my previous life before Hay-on-Wye

Most popular in Opinion

Day In a Page

Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat

Select date