David Mitchell – ‘Back Story’

This is not a novel, says Lesley Sanders

– If you were expecting David Mitchell the author of such books as Cloud Atlas, think again.  However this is David Mitchell, the comedian and he has written several books including ‘Dishonesty is the second Best Policy’ and ‘Thinking about it only makes it worse’.

‘Back Story’ rambles through David’s life experiences up to 2012, when he married Victoria Coren.  What he calls in the introduction “A misery memoir...a very personal journey, a manual for urban ramblers and a weight loss guide”.  He walks daily as a remedy for back pain and each chapter starts by describing the part of London where he is walking, and then digresses into memories of his life.

In the first chapter he begins the walk from his flat in Kilburn – “ ....and it’s on a Roman road.....  I get a sense that there is something genuinely ancient about Kilburn as a scuzzy little strip of development along the Roman road into London”.

His rambles include Primrose Hill, Regents Park, Fleet Street ending at the BBC with comments and thoughts on each place.  His memories ramble through his childhood, his school days, his time at Cambridge University and the friends (with familiar names) he made as a member of the Footlights drama group.  It is quite touching when he describes meeting and falling in love with Victoria, and then yearning after her for 3 years before they finally got together.

He describes auditioning for various TV projects – “the reality is that meeting new people and aimlessly chatting about ideas basically IS the TV industry”. While he says he still likes writing for sketch shows /sitcoms etc, he values his ‘panel show persona’, and all the opportunities for showing off on screen, in print and online that go with it.  That’s my idea of a personal nightmare scenario, but if like me, you find it entertaining to hear him digress into satirical rants on subjects that annoy or concern him, that is David Mitchell, and you will enjoy this book.

Here is a little quiz to take you down memory lane (depending on your age)

This year marks 50 years since Decimalisation,

Can you remember £sd? Or do you need to ask your mother?

What is the value of each of these in old money, and what is the total?

  1. One Knicker
  2. Half a knicker
  3. Centre of Head?
  4. Half a Crown
  5. Type of hair cut
  6. It’s a relief to spend one
  7. Kind of sleigh
  8. Leather worker
  9. Cost of one or two hot cross buns
  10. One of Tommy Steel’s shows
  11. Cost of Julie’s bird food
  12. Enclosure for stray dogs.
  13. Cost of a black stamp
  14. Old style bicycle
  15. Reigning Monarch
  16. A Guinea
Money Quiz answers
  • Reminder   12d = 1/-  (12 old pence = one shilling)
  • 20/- = £1 (20shillings = one pound)
  • £sd Answers
  1. A Knicker = £1
  2. Half a knicker. -  = 10/-
  3. Centre of Head?  -=crown = 5/-
  4. Half a crown                 = 2/6d
  5. Type of hair cut.  = bob =  1/
  6. Its a relief to spend one.= Penny = 1d
  7. Kind of sleigh –  Bob = 1/-
  8. Leather worker. Tanner = 6d
  9. Cost of one or two hot cross buns.  =1d
  10. One of Tommy Steel’s shows = half a sixpence = 3d
  11. Cost of Julie’s bird food = twopence a bag = 2d
  12. Enclosure for stray dogs. = Pound = £1
  13. Cost of a black stamp = 1d
  14. Old style bicycle.= Penny farthing = 1¼d
  15. Reigning Monarch = Sovereign =  £1
  16. A guinea =     £1/1/-
  17. Total = £5/1/9¼d