The Boy from Rod Alley is an account of a 1930s childhood. This depiction of one boy’s experience blends into a story of a decade, in the aftermath of the Great War, as ex-soldiers ride their old army bikes, ‘widow-women’ are familiar figures and ‘Umbrella Joe’ paces in shell-shock aimlessness.
John guides readers past the deep pond in front of the house, both feared and loved, with surrounding willows simultaneously familiar and a challenge. The great village Green, with a mixture of humble or imposing dwellings, and school, church, chapels, shops, a smithy, and his family agricultural-engineering workshop and foundry around its edge, holds delights or threats. At each of its five corners, a road leads to other places which also become part of the story, a warren, lake, small stream, villages, small towns, the city of Norwich, the latter increasingly alluring as he grows. And from other places come strangers or familiar visitors. Among them, as among the ‘locals’, some are memorable.
Discarding adult hindsight in favour of the immediacy of the narrative, John recounts feelings and notions inherent in his boyhood experiences and actions. In his head are characters from books, newspapers, songs, films, history and legend. His imagination relates these day-to-day, realities, shaping his attitudes and interests.