Q November 1999
Alex James Is Unwell . . .

Spud, the big noise at the airfield, swapped a laminate for his helicopter so we could all get down to the Reading Festival. It's the Ferrari of choppers and there's no going anywhere without wondering why we're not in the thing.

The next bit of life is always elsewhere for people in bands, so varying vehicular transport becomes an area of expertise. Entirely constructed out of luxury items, like jet engine magic buttons and leather, Spuds's machine is the ultimate way of going somewhere else, but at the same time it puts mere places to shame and becomes the place itself. Posh.

A few days later we were lying in bed trying to define what "posh" was and decided it was "He who may take the day off if he feels like it." So I got up and went down the pub. The Earl something in Clerkenwell, I think it was. A perfect day to be drinking again.

Maybe some migratory instinct is percolating deep in the heart of all hopeless romantics in late September. Autumn is just beautifully lit. Anything white becomes De Chirico.

The seasons are a perpetual source of surprise to me. I never remember how cold it gets. It's like trying to remember what it's like being drunk or in love or on tour.

INCREDIBLY COOL this season is crap cheese. Anything processed, sliced, long lasting or individually wrapped is the Ferrari cheese. The Montgomery Cheddars and Colston Basset Stilton are rarely seen in the best houses these days. TUC biscuits and Ritz are Ferrari cool served from the packet, and Ryvita can also be used, but only with Marmite.

It's also the time of year for mushrooms. I'm pretty sure I can taste the wild mushrooms I ate last autumn even when I'm not thinking about them. I'm drawn to the new gastro-horizons of weird fungus, but the only place they appear every October here in WC2 is about one third of the way down the menu at The Ivy.

IT LOOKS LIKE Professor Colin Pillinger will have his Mars mission financed. Lord Sainsbury has been very supportive, which pleasingly means that in 1999 you can get spaceships from Sainsburys! At last, the homegrown Beagle II probe will put Britain on Mars (where it belongs).

We went to Sam West Studios to record the sound of space travel to accompany an animated film of the Beagle's over-50-mile voyage. I reflected that we are merely cavemen on the shores of space, floating our tiny boat to the next island along. It's very hard to talk about space travel without appearing at least pretentious or at worst, insane. It's a metaphorical minefield, a loony magnet like a park bench or dressing room.

IT'S FUCKING WAR on pigeons week. They've shat all over my house. They're hiding their young in the walls and nodding around trying to eat flowers and being lazy. It's the spikes on the window ledges for them. It's gone too far.

It's another moody autumn day. I'm off for a stroll in it.

Q - Alex James Is Unwell - December 1999

Monday I drank for joy. Tuesday I drank, and the thunder of the Lord's judgment roasted my naked soul all Wednesday and a lot of Thursday as well. It was a muttering kind of hangover, with the occasional moan and it wanted to go for walks in the middle of the night. By Thursday's EastEnders I was more or less answering the phone again and I thought I'd bowl around the Garden and pick up some coffee beans. I called my sis in Farnham for a reality check and got the go-ahead, cleared to operate in Tesco, Bedford Street, WC2.

I was fairly weeping down St. Martin's Lane feeling quite calm and better again. There were lovely smells and girls and noise and it wsa going to be me, some coffee and a big book about magnets by the fire. Fuck me if I didn't walk straight into Party Nige and his best looking mate right outside that new hotel choc full of filthy birds and celebrities going hell for leather. Before we'd even got in there they'd filed me in the next three places they were going later and organised my birthday party in Sao Paolo through someone they know there. Instantly we are surrounded because naturally they know everybody, I'm sipping something fruity and getting winked at, and William Orbit's in town with Madonn, even Mark Owen's over there grinning his chops off, God bless 'im and my birthday is now being sponsered by Chivas Regal Whiskey through someone else in Sao Paolo and eveyone's invited and everyone's coming. I want to sit by the fire and know more about magnets and I'm living in an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, a late one. Somehow I made it back onto St. Martin's Lane in one piece. Tesco had shut, but there's plenty of PG Tips. I thought about Cleopatra's Needle, which is a source of great calm to me sometimes, but it was too cold to go down there and look at the river so I walked home up Endell Street for old times sake.

Jean Francois Cecillon, who used to run EMI Records and who taught me not to fuck about when ordering champagne, is now running new gaming system Dreamcast. He sent us one and my girl Justine and her friend Tim were in the kitchen eating pot noodles and giggling over the boxing game. I'm addicted to new things, it's a result of being big in Japan. There's no doubt it's good but the technology has improved quicker than the ideas, so it's all old games with a new lick of paint. All fart, no shit.

It's amazing it never crossed the mind that in the same way that pornography is enhanced by being shot in the cheapest, grottiest way, that it might make horror films more gritty to shoot them in the porno style, and then someone did realise and made the Blair Witch Project and it's good, it's funny. It's a cheap nasty film but the fountain of pure evil isn't really well defined enough to keep you awake at night, but then who needs that? I guess they're saving that for Part II. If you want to be scared you should drink a bottle of absinthe and wait a few hours. That'll do it. Now there is only peace and magnets, pip pip.

Q - Jan. 2000
Alex James Is Unwell

About a hundred years ago I was learning about sociology. The sociology men were dazzlingly eloquent and they all smoked and went to the pub at lunch time to disagree with each other.

The first thing they told us was that the Dire Straits bass player had done this course which was very encouraging.

The second thing we learnt was that society worships an image of itself. If you think about Christmad, our main relitious festival, that's excatly what's happend. It's a paean to consumerism, to luxury items, to all the best telly. All those pure abstractions like love and peace that people used to want for Christmas have been replaced by stuff in boxes, battery-operated alternatives. What do you want for Christmas?

You always get what you want. It's inevitable, once you've decided whatever it is (it's the deciding that's hard). While you drift around in other people's plans for you sometimes you have to accept that you're drifting without responsibility or purpose until the mists clear and this can be the most fun of all. All those goals turn out to be imposters anyway, especially the big ones, as achieving them changes you and they don't look the same from where you're standing now.

So I've done some slopping around this month. I notice I'm drinking whisky. What I want is to go to Antarctica - Queen Maudland specifically. I've been reading Ernest Shackleton's travelogue South. It has a nice resonance with my hangovers as it is an epic struggle over physical obstacles. I want a cello. I want to make the perfect gravy. I want colours. I want to apologise to everybody, especially those whose bottoms I've pinched.

This is the time of year for sitting aroudn tables in people's houses and doing jigsaw puzzles, playing perudo, drinking Amarone and staring at the fire. Except London is being gripped by apocalyptic fervour. Every man and his plus one is out shaking their razzle stick. The time is 2000 and there's nowhere to hide. Even granny's calling it in. It looks like I've picked a bad day to give up drinking.

Sadly there's nothing new coming out this month. They're saving all the new stuff for a couple of weeks. It's nice to see the little oranges again, though.

Ho hum. New horizons can be confusing scary places when you're in a band, you go racing off towards them. Strap me to some jet engines and point me at South America, we're off to Mexico now. Cheerio!