The fun­ny­man and fish­er­man dis­cusses the nos­tal­gic beauty of the coun­try­side and how he re­dis­cov­ered his pas­sion for the great out­doors

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - Bob Mor­timer is an am­bas­sador for Cats Pro­tec­tion, the UK’s lead­ing cat wel­fare char­ity.

Co­me­dian Bob Mor­timer on his ru­ral child­hood, Lake District loves and his de­sire to be a lazy tench.

I was born at home, 9 Tollesby Road, in the vil­lage of Linthorpe, North York­shire, near Mid­dles­bor­ough, the youngest of four boys.

I was just a tod­dler and my brothers were five, eight and 10 when my dad died and mum Eunice was left to raise us sin­gle-hand­edly. Mum was far too busy to take us out any­where, but it was a good place to be young. It was small enough so that like-minded peo­ple could find each other.

The fields sur­round­ing our hous­ing es­tate were like an­other planet to a small child.

There was a burn with a rope swing. And when I learnt to ride a bike it was only a short 10-15 minute bike ride to the Cleve­land Hills, Rose­berry Top­ping and Great Ay­ton. It’s of­ten over­looked, but it’s gor­geous and great for ad­ven­tures, like fish­ing, start­ing fires, all the things young boys do. Plus, we’d al­ways stop for ice cream. Fur­ther afield, day trips would be to Durham “to go some­place lovely”, as mum would say, or to Northaller­ton be­cause there was a Betty’s Café. Mum died in 2008 and it was hard com­ing back to the area. She was on her own and I used to come up to visit her and tie it in with watch­ing my beloved Mid­dles­brough FC. I still have lots of fam­ily in the area; one of my brothers is in Northaller­ton.

I don’t think you can beat the beauty of the Lake District.

I vis­ited some in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful places for my new show with Paul White­house called Paul and Bob Go Fish­ing. The Wye Val­ley, Nor­folk and Hamp­shire were real favourites, but the Lake District holds spe­cial mem­o­ries be­cause it was the first place I vis­ited when I was old enough to go on hol­i­day with friends when I was 15. I used to camp ev­ery year at High Der­went Wa­ter.

Paul White­house is my cur­rent out­doors hero.

I had no idea he had such a deep knowl­edge of the coun­try­side and its plants and an­i­mals. When he was a boy, he’d forged a real bond with his dad down the river­banks in Wales and the Home Coun­ties. You can’t re­ally love fish­ing with­out un­der­stand­ing ev­ery­thing around it. I’ve learnt so much from Paul; he’s been very pa­tient teach­ing me about frag­ile ecosys­tems.

There are too many cars clog­ging up our beau­ti­ful vil­lages.

When I was with Paul in Stock­bridge, Hamp­shire, I thought how won­der­ful it’d be if there were no cars and it was pedes­tri­anised. It sul­lies the nat­u­ral splen­dour. When you take pho­tographs, all you can see is the cars. There’s no easy an­swer to this.

When my boys Harry and Tom (now 20 and 19) were grow­ing up,

my wife Lisa and I would take them to Dym­church and New Rom­ney ev­ery Sun­day. We’d pot­ter about on the beach and take them to the fun­fair. Things changed as they be­came teenagers, with the draw of com­put­ers, theme parks and ur­ban liv­ing. I think the coun­try­side is a bit of a mys­tery to my boys and their friends. My sus­pi­cion is that the coun­try­side for a lot of kids only ex­ists in Call of Duty games.

If I was a Bri­tish an­i­mal, it’d have to be the tench.

It’s a fish that lives a lovely, lazy life at the bot­tom of the lake, seem­ingly sleep­ing a lot and tak­ing the odd gulp of food that may pass by. It’s very hard to catch, but we did dur­ing Paul and Bob Go Fish­ing. In terms of a land an­i­mal, it’d be a cat. I stare at my cats Mavis and Good­mon­son – who are a tabby ori­en­tal and a choco­late ori­en­tal – jeal­ously ev­ery day and think it’s the life I want. My wife and I would love to have more res­cue cats.

Now that Lisa and I are empty-nesters with the boys at uni,

we love to head to the coun­try for the week­end. We re­cently went to the Cotswolds to cel­e­brate our wed­ding an­niver­sary, which is also the an­niver­sary of my heart by­pass op­er­a­tion. The Cotswolds have a mag­i­cal pic­ture sto­ry­book qual­ity to them. There’s a vin­tage feel to them that re­minds me of my child­hood.

I’m fall­ing back in love with the coun­try­side.

I used to think I owned it all when I was a teenager and then I ne­glected it for too many years. Film­ing all over the coun­try for the past few months, I’ve re­dis­cov­ered it. I’m see­ing it through new eyes, but with a nos­tal­gic fa­mil­iar­ity.

The most evoca­tive piece of mu­sic I know is Vaughan Wil­liams’ The Lark As­cend­ing.

I can just en­vis­age the an­i­mals, bird and fauna com­ing alive. It’s in­cred­i­bly sooth­ing and cul­tur­ally nos­tal­gic. I as­so­ciate it with the Cleve­land Hills and Vic Reeves. Vic and I have been us­ing it for 35 years as we come on stage to do a live show.

“I thought I owned the coun­try­side when I was a teenager. Later, I ne­glected it”

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