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Postcard views of the ‘inappropriately’ named Vineyard Haven, Mass © COURTESY BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY


heard of) was a total aberration and when I said this to the barman he commiserated that an awful lot of things must seem different. Indeed they did. Being far from home, inevitably


there were things we missed and top of my husband’s list was the tra- ditional Sunday roast I mentioned earlier. It’s not something worth doing for one (I don’t eat meat) so we invited our neighbours to join us. It was only when the beef was in the oven that I remembered we didn’t have anything to carve it on. I popped down to the local hardware store to buy one of those metal dishes with spikes, but couldn’t think of the name so explained I needed something to carve a joint on. The shop assistant raised her eyebrows and said ‘a joint?’ Yes, I replied cheerfully, we’re having friends over and I’m doing a joint. Her perturbed silence confused me until I realized she thought I was talking about marijuana. There’s nothing shocking about


marijuana of course, already legal- ized for personal and medical use in many states, but what I did find shocking was that in some American towns alcohol is sold begrudgingly


24 The American


and in others, it is banned altogether. I found this out the hard way when staying with friends on the exclusive Martha’s Vineyard, where Presidents take their summer vacation. While my hosts barbequed hali-


but steaks for lunch, I cycled to the local supermarket to buy a bottle of wine. Having selected a cheeky Chablis and joined the queue (yes, I know it’s called a line) to pay, I was not expecting to be publicly shamed. But when my turn came the checkout lady announced in a loud and disapproving voice that they didn’t sell liquor on a Sunday. Now ‘liquor’ isn’t a word you hear much in England. It has pejorative conno- tations and conjures up images of down-and-outs clutching a bottle of something cheap and nasty. That America still has dry towns (includ- ing the misleadingly named Vine- yard Haven), hints at an uneasy rela- tionship with alcohol that seemed at odds with the centrality of wine to life in the Napa Valley. So when I chose Learning To


Speak American as the title of my novel, I was referencing the dif- ferences and contradictions I had found. Much of the book is set in the


Napa Valley where a British couple impulsively buy a derelict house. They hope its restoration might somehow restore their marriage, blighted by the death of their only child two years before. In Learning To Speak American, they are really learning to live and love again.


* Colette Dartford’s debut novel Learning to Speak American is published in eBook by Twenty7 Books now and in Paperback in 2016. It is available at www. amazon.co.uk.


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