Dexter Petley was born on the borders of Kent and Sussex in the mid 1950’s. It was a tough upbringing in post-World War 2 Britain; people in the Weald scratched out a living picking hops and mending and making do. Failing the Eleven Plus meant that he didn’t go to grammar school but ended up at the local secondary modern school where they taught some of the children how to run a smallholding. Partly to escape from real life, Petley taught himself to fish and began a lifelong affair with the riverbank and countryside. He ended up making his own rods, floats and weights as there was not the cash to buy them new or second-hand.
This is an authentic, enchanting, but unsentimental memoir of growing up in Kent in the late sixties and early seventies. If you are looking for a memoir on fishing there is not so much in here; it is more an undercurrent to the whole book and something that he returns to again and again. It is full of colourful characters that add much to the narrative who Petley came across as he was growing up and learning the ropes of life. It is also a snapshot of a rural life as it underwent significant social changes as Britain moved from the Sixties to the Seventies. Occasionally dark and often gritty, this memoir is tempered by the crisp, fine writing.