Malcolm Alsop reviews Nomad by Alan Partridge w.Neil Gibbins, Rob Gibbons and Steve Coogan

Posted 13th December 2016

Travel literature has taken this reviewer to some wondrous parts of the world he might not otherwise have visited, from the Hindu Kush to Tierra del Fuego. Never, until now, has it taken me from Norwich to Dungeness by way of Tilbury, Pinner,  and East Grinstead and I feel all the better for it.

I have also been granted the privilege, for so it was, of spending sometime inside Mr.Partridge’s psyche [not literally, that would be impossible] and an interesting place it proves to be. Mr.Partridge undertakes this epic journey in order to “literally walk in the footsteps of my father” who once attended an interview at Dungeness nuclear power station and can afford, therefore, to be a little cavalier about those staples we might expect to find in other travel literatures such as description of place, mood and character.

We do, however, enjoy encounters with such media stars as Nick Knowles, who doesn’t emerge especially well, Eamon Holmes and Julia Bradbury, [the latter in a frankly disturbing dream] and we get the inside story of what actually happened at North Norfolk Digital when the station was subjected to a siege by  d.j. Pat Farrell. We also meet Clare Balding, Steve Backshall…the list is endless [actually it isn’t] and BBC Commissioning Editor Harvey Kennedy to whom Mr.Partridge attempts to “pitch” his journey as a six part documentary. Most of these encounters are, thankfully, brief and do not, in this reviewer’s opinion hold interest as well as Mr.Partridge’s encounter with a “hard of housing” person who steals most of Mr.Partridge’s belongings.

In other reviews the absence of a copious index has been noted; thankfully that is not the case here. Not only do we have an index but also extensive footnotes which serve to illuminate areas of the tale which might not otherwise be abundantly clear. Mr.Partridge also has a certain facility with language reflected in such similes as “Pinner lies like a slumped dog between Ruislip,Northwood and Harrow” and penetrating insights such as this about ‘sports scientists’ who are “nothing but P.E. teachers with laptops.” How true this may be.

The book is copiously illustrated with colour photographs which enhance our appreciation of the Herculanean task undertaken by Mr.Partridge such as the London container port and Gatwick airport but do not think that celebrity insight and pictures are all this enjoyable tome [that is not a misprint for tomb] have to offer for that would not be true; Mr.Partridge also comes to realise certain truths about himself and his past which certainly engaged this reviewer’s sympathy.

In short this is an ideal Christmas gift for those who enjoy their literature leavened with humour; it is both thought provoking, factually interesting and moving. It is, in short, for more than just your inner Partridge.