A LITTLE FOOD FLIGHT READING
MyLifeonaHillsideAllotment by Terry Walton (Corgi Books-Random House, $29.95) is the author’s engrossing account of working his own garden patch in south Wales. An ‘‘ allotmenteer’’ for 40 years, Walton was asked to do a segment on the subject on BBC’s Radio 2 soon after the beginning of the Iraq war when, the show’s presenter Jeremy Vine writes in the foreword to this book, the program ‘‘ was full of blood and thunder’’. Listeners hungered for the simple joys and the small daily details of gardening.
Walton’s allotment — those away-from-home gardens traditionally cultivated by British towndwellers — is in Tonypandy in the Rhondda Valley. In the form of a memoir, the book ambles back into the 1950s when Walton’s father gardened a plot in these same allotments. In the process, Walton paints a picture of the Welsh mining valleys and the lives of the families who have lived and gardened there from his boyhood.
A general interest in gardens is probably a prerequisite to appreciating this book, but you certainly don’t have to be a gardener; as there must be for the radio listeners, there is a gentle pleasure in the slow unfolding of the days and seasons that the book traces.
There are a few rustic recipes, such as ‘‘ Anthea’s Recipe for March: Rhubarb Jelly Special’’, provided by Walton’s wife, who makes good use of his gardening skills; there’s gooseberry chutney, tomato relish and others. And, of course, lots of garden wisdom if you are a gardener.
The book is seasoned with charming ink and watercolour drawings reproduced in blackand-white, of plants, vegetables, preserves, birds, watering cans and snails.
The author’s OdetotheAllotment , tracing the garden’s produce and the seasons, which appears on the final page before the index, sums up the book’s uncomplicated tone. It starts: ‘‘ I once had an allotment that was all mine, Now I share it with the listeners of Jeremy Vine.’’
Its reading demands nothing but a big armchair and the dream of a simple life. Judith Elen