The Fall is my favourite time of year. There’s a wisdom to the temperature, lacking the show-off excess of the summer. It’s a laid back warmth, not so try-hard, the time of year that our community garden comes into its own.
In the UK there is a tradition, which dates back to the 18th century, when narrow allotted areas of land were given to the poorer families to work for food. During the World War II, these were vital, as stringent rationing came into force. These then named allotments, literally fed Britain, most especially those living in urban areas, like the North West London suburb where I grew up.
My husband and I took over one such in 2005 on a site of around forty plots, each approximately 30 x 10 yards. Dig we did, even in the height of the heat wave of that year, the earth was dust, and still we forked it.
We built a shed that looks like a forgotten plantation shack, complete with a porch. We grabbed bargains at local garden centres selling off broken fence panels, which, with the guidance of my father, we slammed into its four walls and a roof. This ramshackle palace is where I percolate; both literally – grinding fresh coffee beans for our vintage stove top percolator – and figuratively, as I decide how to handle the chapter I’m working on.
I love to dig, to plant and when I’m stuck on a chapter I even love to weed. It’s therapeutic to observe the indestructible nature of weeds. They are ingenious – have you ever seen how bindweed gets its way when it puts its rambling feelers to the task? There is that delicious quiet, when my mind soothes into silence as I kneel to work on the earth, and my hands take over, doing what they know to do, giving my consciousness a break so that my sub conscious, that delicious compost of all my experiences, can ferment something wonderful and present it to me in colourful suggestions, scenes, dialogue.
I adore the egalitarian aspect of this type of gardening; there are no fences between plots, only grass paths, no one can own the land but rent it only for the sum of around $150 dollars a year that includes water (there is no electric). It makes no difference who or what people are beyond the gates of the plot, it’s their gardening that skills that count. Pulling off a fresh zucchini or ear of corn from a plant I’ve nurtured from seed is the best remedy for this particular writer when struggling with a chapter. My plots get plotted at the plot. Our porch sees me gazing just passed the tips of my sweet peas while I reassure my rattling brain that she and I will come up with dialogue that rings true to the characters. In a busy city like London it is a make believe escape to the country and a mere five minute bike ride away.
September for me is new beginnings, the ease of summer, a ripening time to turn ideas to fruition and let the summer sun absorbed in the months before energise creative projects ahead of the hibernation of winter.
Nestled into the cliffs in southern Italy’s Amalfi coast, Positano is an artist’s vision, with rows of brightly hued houses perched above the sea and picturesque staircases meandering up and down the hillside. Santina, still a striking woman despite old age and the illness that saps her last strength, is spending her final days at her home, Villa San Vito. The magnificent eighteenth-century palazzo is very different from the tiny house in which she grew up. And as she decides its fate, she must confront the choices that led her here so long ago . . .
In 1949, Positano is as yet undiscovered by tourists, a beautiful, secluded village shaking off the dust of war. Hoping to escape poverty, young Santina takes domestic work in London, ultimately becoming a housekeeper to a distinguished British major and his creative, impulsive wife, Adeline. When they move to Positano, Santina returns with them, raising their daughter as Adeline’s mental health declines. With each passing year, Santina becomes more deeply enmeshed within the family, trying to navigate her complicated feelings for a man who is much more than an employer—while hiding secrets that could shatter the only home she knows . . .
Praise for Sara Alexander’s Under a Sardinian Sky
“Alexander paints a loving and breathtaking picture of the Mediterranean island, especially glorious descriptions of food. For readers who enjoy women’s fiction set against a background of momentous events and clashing cultures.” –Library Journal
“Will leave readers riveted until the explosive conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly