Slow life

Slow life | 13 December 2008

A 2,000-year-old thoroughfare, St Martin’s Lane, and certainly one of my favourite places; contender, any time of year, for the world’s most festive location. On Saturday afternoon, a carnival of mad shoppers, confused sometimes, crossing roads without looking; arguing, pointing, dashing this way and that, laden down and worn out or grinning and just holding

Slow life | 29 November 2008

So cold: I tried lighting a fire, but smoke just kept blowing back down the chimney, setting off the fire alarms. It’s a design fault with that fireplace. It happens whenever the wind blows in a certain direction. The architect really messed up there and I cursed him, the idiot, as I rubbed the heat

Slow life | 15 November 2008

It was a rainy morning on Friday when I woke up warm as toast in a small castle in Northumberland, surrounded on all sides as far as the eye could see by the immaculate, formal gardens still dancing under the weight of the winter sky and beyond them racing-green moorland stretching to infinity and eternity

Slow life

Being driven is one of the great luxuries. It’s right up there with breakfast in bed, silence, sunshine, new socks and vast expanses of marble. It’s elevating. It’s relaxing. It’s addictive. How lovely it is to fall into the back of a waiting car to be expertly magic carpeted off to, well, even to places

Slow Life | 18 October 2008

I was in a meeting a year or so ago about a charity record for Darfur. Mick was on board. Bono was confirmed. It was all looking good — good for Darfur, as the benevolent gods of rock assembled to come to the rescue. Amy Winehouse’s name was mentioned. ‘Isn’t she a bit tricky?’ said

Slow Life | 4 October 2008

The tent had been a big hit over the summer. They called it a tent, but it was big enough for elephants and tightropes: a big top as big as a ballroom and just as plush, lined and interlined like a lush pair of curtains, certainly ridiculous, but pretty and practical. Our friends from LA

Slow Life | 20 September 2008

Are you the driver?’ I asked. ‘No, I’m the owner,’ he replied, and I liked him immediately. It’s a lovely hotel, The Torre Maizza in Puglia, a walled Italian farm converted into a five-star gastro-spa, growing its own food and inhabiting its own time-zone. ‘Vitorrio,’ he said, shaking my hand and asking if I wanted

Slow Life | 6 September 2008

Brad, who has been my constant companion for the last couple of months, was just starting to appreciate the strange power of television. The terrible authority, the ridiculous effects of time on the small screen had taken a while to become apparent. By the time the first show went out, we’d already been filming for

Slow Life | 23 August 2008

The giant sequoia is the largest living thing on the planet: a tree. There’s quite a well-known photo of one with a road going through the middle. They’re indigenous to North West America but, far from uncommon in this country, great avenues of them are lining drives of stately homes like moon rockets, skewing the

Slow Life | 9 August 2008

Colin wanted to meet me in Aldsworth. I’d never heard of it but it was only about five miles away, between where I got married and where the reception was. Colin was the guy behind the British Mars shot a few years back — Colin Pillinger, the man who, given half a chance, could do

Slow Life | 26 July 2008

‘Lunch at the Athenaeum!’ I told my mum. No idea what I was talking about. ‘The Athenaeum! It’s a gentleman’s club on Pall Mall. I’ve arrived, mother. Look at me now!’ I’ve been trying to break on to the gentleman’s club scene for a while. I’ve even joined one, a creaking Goliath down by the

Slow Life | 12 July 2008

I wasn’t planning to take the family on holiday. We live on a farm and there’s always something happening. It gets harder and harder to drag oneself away. Claire got quite indignant about having missed the strawberries when we arrived home today. There were only a few soggy ones left. ‘If it’s not the strawberries

Slow Life | 28 June 2008

Brad is cool. He was clearly demonstrating his ability to retain grace under pressure and I suppose that’s what conductors get paid for. The traffic on the A40 was at a standstill at Gypsy Corner and he was due to conduct Verdi’s Il trovatore in Holland Park very shortly. I was much more scared about

Hooked on Beethoven

Stephen Lipson, a record producer, lives in the village up the road. Well, he was very pleased with himself, glowing with satisfaction like someone who’d just finished a particularly abstruse crossword. Back in the parish after a couple of weeks in Los Angeles, where he’d been making the new American Idol record. He didn’t even

Conduct becoming | 31 May 2008

That’s a lot of violins, I thought. Then I realised they were violas. The violins were to the left, smaller. Always smaller than I expect, violins — maybe because I wrestled with one as a child and it beat me: Tiny, pretty little things they are, with all the fleeting glamour and tyranny of a

Say a little prayer

My shadow was a tiny slippery puddle at my feet; the sun directly overhead and absolute. I had to crane my head right back to see it, not that you had to see it to know where it was. Free from the familiar clutter of light and shade, an enchanting landscape sat sublime at this

Slow Life

‘I’m going to look at the dandelions,’ I said. ‘There’s loads of them.’ ‘I’ll come,’ she said. ‘Come on. Hurry up, then. It’s happy hour.’ It was the end of the day and suddenly still and sunny. The star was taking a curtain call. Earlier there had been hail so heavy you had to raise

Forever England

Leaving the continental land mass behind at Cap de la Hague on a clear day, it’s as if you could throw your voice across the Channel. An off-the-shelf, common-as-muck 285 horsepower Lycoming engine mocks the narrow stretch of water, the world’s busiest shipping lane, the blue ribbon of the cocoon that has preserved us for

Letter to hope

There are only two kinds of people: the ones that make you feel better and the ones that make you feel worse. It’s a shame, but, as far as I can tell, most people make you feel worse. Some are deliberate s***s, but most of them can’t help it. It’s important to hang on to

Forget the eggs

I’m a celebrity for hire. I do good causes for free — makes me feel good, dunnit? That’s the deal. ‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Be delighted to open a Fairtrade event in Witney. Be lovely.’ ‘You’re doing what?!’ said Mrs Neate James on Saturday morning. ‘You’re going to Witney? Well, that’s lovely for you. I’ll