How a show about fishing kept me in check with my emotions

Over a six week period, and finishing last weekend, “Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing” aired on Sunday evenings on BBC 2, this was its third season, I’ve watched the previous two and read their book. It doesn’t sound like much: two ageing comedians visit various locations in Britain and fish, but its more than that. What the stars of Shooting Stars (Bob Mortimer) and The Fast Show (Paul Whitehouse) have actually put together isn’t actually about fishing, its about men’s health

The concept is simple, Whitehouse picks a location, they head out to catch a specific fish, Mortimer finds them somewhere to sleep and cooks them a meal, sometimes its “heart-healthy” other times its a “meat bag”, it quite often features “trapped potatoes” and the idea came out of the pair suffering ill-health, Mortimer had had a triple heart bypass and slumped into depression, Whitehouse, who’d also had three stents fitted, recognised his friend needed someone to talk to and insisted they went fishing, this turned into a TV pitch and the show we have today, and for half an hour a week, over those six weeks, men’s mental and physical health was the focus of a BBC Two show that used an old coping mechanism as its hook.

It’s all beautifully shot, with incredible drone footage of the British countryside, HD shots of the fish they catch and hilarious moments, usually involving Mortimer falling over. Over those six weeks during each series I’ve found myself laughing and crying, sometimes both at the same time, and it’s been a nice little refresh on a Sunday evening, to let those emotions take hold of me, I’m glad it’s going to have a fourth season, I’m going to miss it in the meantime, and after Freddie Flintoff’s recent documentary about his fight with bulimia, its something I’d like Top Gear to try and bring into their show.

You see, and you may not have acknowledged this, because us men are all open books, but apparently, we don’t talk enough and don’t address our issues enough, we bottle up our emotions, again, apparently, I don’t possibly know what people are on about when they say these things. Except I do, because that’s me, and I maybe half the age of Whitehouse, but I’m very guilty of bottling stuff up and ignoring my mind and my body, I think everyone is to some extent, the experts tell us men are the most guilty of it, and it’s a cultural thing, we still feel we have to be the families rock.

We all have health problems, I have a history of depression which manifests itself in me overthinking everything, even writing this I’m wondering if I should be typing it all up, telling myself nobody will read it or am I comfortable sharing all of this. It also tends to hamper my sleep, and I know when I’m really bad because I’ll not only struggle to get to sleep but wake frequently in the night and find myself worrying about my relationship, my family and over analysing every single conversation I’ve had that day, be it face to face or via other channels. I find myself in a hard place, I enjoy my own company, probably to the detriment of spending time with other people, but when my depression takes hold my own company becomes incredibly toxic and all the thoughts I’ve already addressed become a permanent presence. Thankfully, my medication has helped a lot with this, as was attending book club prior to lockdown happening, I miss that and look forward to when all of us can sit in a room together and chat, and the guys at the comic shop have been amazing at just getting me to talk when I’ve had the opportunity to pop in.

Thankfully, I have other avenues too, I often write drafts on here if there’s something I want to just put down on a page, these occasionally get fleshed out into full posts, I have one particular individual who I open up to from time to time and feel I can share with and he won’t judge me, we’ve not had a good back and forth for some time, but I hope he feels the same way about me, there’s also the Mental Health Gaming Discord server, who’s entire aim is very similar to that of Mortimer and Whitehouse’s show, to discuss our health whilst using conversation around videogames to act as the cement to allow people to bring down their barriers, I’ve not shared much with them, but I’ve mostly been in a fairly good place since March, despite everything going on in the world.

I do have problems with my physical health, I’ve put a lot of weight on, part of that is due to my medication (they not only help with my depression and help me get to sleep, but they increase my appetite, I’m not the sort who eats when they’re down, so they’re great in that way but it also means that I’ve put on about 4 stone since I started taking them in 2017) and I have a dodgy knee, which I’ve spoken to health professionals about, apparently I have a bone spur going into the cartilage, but it’s not impacting me enough for them to operate, that and I’m “too young” for them to do the surgery anyway. This makes exercise difficult as I can’t just go for a jog and long walks lead to discomfort.

But, and I’m going to wrap this up now, whilst opening up those conversations was incredibly hard, Gone Fishing has helped me keep all of that in check and act as a reminder to look after myself. It’s also genuinely made me cry.

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