Stars still escaping to the country

JLS star, JB Gill, swapping his high top trainers for wellies sourcing Scottish cattle for his farm in Kent.
JLS star, JB Gill, swapping his high top trainers for wellies sourcing Scottish cattle for his farm in Kent.
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It was the Young Master’s birthday ‘party’ this week – I use the term loosely, as it was more of a ‘day oot’ than a party – a trip to the cinema in the company of a few other seven-to-10-year-old boys.

The most important details were as follows: big bags of sweeties and popcorn, fizzy drinks and then off to sit under the golden arches for what my (grown-up) friend and I call a ‘dirty burger’. Perfect. If you’ve just turned 10.

It was during the journey to our vibrant capital city, Galashiels, that the three guests in the back seat behind me took to discussing music. No, not the recent performance of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra at The Proms, or how amazing Bruce Springsteen still sounds (and looks, ahem) at 63, but JLS. Or rather, lamenting that JLS have split.

I am half-listening, in the way that mums do, in case I have to join in at some point. For example: “The one I liked best in JLS was called Aston, wasn’t he mum?”

When suddenly, one of the voices pipes up: “My dad said that one of them is now a farmer. But I don’t know which one.”

The YM: “It wouldn’t be Aston, would it mum?”

I splutter into life: “Erm, I’m not sure, I don’t know. Erm, I didn’t know they had split.”

Which is true. I have to confess, I keep half an eye on young folks’ music/fashion/hand gestures/street talk just so I can occasionally grunt an affirmative from the front of the car. Awesome.

But the JLS thing had (not surprisingly, as I do not possess a teenage daughter) passed me by. But it got me thinking about musicians and farming.

It started with 70s rock stars buying farms – Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin (sheep), The Who’s Roger Daltrey (fish) and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull (ditto) started the trend.

Fast forward to the 90s, and not a corkscrew perm or flared trouser leg in sight. Musicians, models and actors fled to the country for the roo-raal life, as Britpop band Blur put it: “He doesn’t drink, smoke, laugh, takes herbal baths, in the country. Says she’s come to no harm on an animal farm in the country”.

The latest raft of ‘star farmers’ are cheesemakers Alex James of Blur and actor Sean Wilson – best known as Martin Platt, husband of Gail the Gerbil – and recently Mumford & Sons singer Marcus Mumford who with actress wife Carey Mulligan have bought a 350-acre farm in Devon.

As Marcus Mumford looks and sings like a farmer (think a more sophisticated version of The Wurzels, if you are unfamiliar with their work), this last acquisition does not surprise me.

But back to JLS. It feels OK for Roger Daltrey to farm, even Alex James, because they are both older than me. But a member of JLS? Surely, they haven’t left high school yet?

Yes, I can confirm, if you were remotely interested, that JLS have split and one of them has bought not one, but two whole farms. One is in Highlandshire, and has deer on it.

And, no, the ex-JLS member isn’t Aston. I have no idea why the YM might think that Aston wouldn’t make a good farmer.

It’s JB Gill. There. Your life is richer for knowing that. Isn’t it?