Whether it be via Vic Reeves Big Night Out, Shooting Stars, Would I Lie To You or Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, I would imagine that most of the UK is familiar with Bob Mortimer and his Bob-isms.
And Away… is Mortimer’s second book and first autobiography. After being introduced to a previously unseen touchingly honest (but still silly) side to him in Gone Fishing, an autobiography is a natural and desired next step. I say ‘desired’ because his unique turn of phrase and ability to easily produce off-the-cuff hilarious metaphors is refreshing and yet strangely comforting.
The book starts in 2015 and Bob’s now well-known open heart surgery. Bob is completely frank with his feelings and fears at that time. It’s all delivered with humour, but it’s still open and raw. He touches on his vulnerability and anxiety before chapter two whisks us back to his birth. This is how the book is set out, alternating chapters between pre and post heart op Bob.
Bob grew up in Middlesborough. His dad died when Bob was seven, so his memories of him are few. He describes his loss as the single most defining moment of his life. He harbours dreams of playing football for Middlesborough (not Real Madrid. Glamour, here, is the Middlesborough first XI), squeezes a friend’s head boil to acquire a semi-legendary status and sets fire to the family home with fireworks. The stories are told with Mortimer’s knack of finding the humour in the mundane. He’s the kid who always had a tale to tell – a tale you enjoyed even though you doubted it was the full truth. And he loves his mum like a good lad.
Teen years lead to going away to study, and friendship. Bob’s eventually trains to be a lawyer and ends up in London where he knows nobody. Then a chance encounter with an old friend leads to him meeting Jim Moir who is just starting out as Vic Reeves in a small room in a pub. The two click, and Bob’s true career is born.
He hands out sage advice throughout (“if your parents are still alive, make sure you talk to them about their lives . I think you’ll regret it if you don’t”). It’s not preachy, and usually follows a touching tale which gives context.
The thing about Bob Mortimer is that we already love him. He doesn’t need to win us over. He just needs to be himself, and a lot of the book is about him discovering this for himself. Stung by horrendous shyness, it’s not until the last few years that he’s been happy to be Bob rather than a character in front of the camera. The book takes us right up to the present day and the recent series of Gone Fishing.
Naturally, fans of Vic ‘n’ Bob, and Bob’s take on life will love this. There’s also plenty here on offer for anyone who’s suffered from depression, shyness or a fear of jacking in their career to follow a dream. Bob’s been through it all, and at nearly sixty, he’s found himself in a good place to tell us about it. Well worth a read.