A LIT­TLE FOOD FLIGHT READ­ING

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays Afloat -

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

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