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Tribute by nephew Josiah Mortimer at the funeral
I didn’t grow up knowing Nige. I sort of ‘met’ him when I was around 15. When he moved to Devon, I began making trips up to see him.
I think Nige realised how similar we were in so many ways (look at the pics when he was my age). He became a renegade mentor, a stern critic, my wisest friend. He gave me a copy of JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye – the coming-of-age novel of disenchanted youth.
Nige wrote inside it: ‘Never trust a phoney, and don’t become one yourself’. That’s a mantra I’ve tried and probably failed many times to keep to, but he was spot on. As usual.
Every birthday and Christmas, I’d have a pack of albums and books to unwrap that would end up shaping me. 90% of my best music comes from Nige. Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros. He encouraged me musically, too – reviewing all my new songs (he preferred the early stuff).
It has been a nightmare listening to bands since he passed away – it all reminds me of him and evenings playing album after album in his lounge, watching him smoking café crèmes, and us putting the world to rights.
I’ll never forget those times – the long summer evenings in the village, as I became who I am now. Me making endless cups of tea and Nige – inevitably, rightly – telling me I was being a daft sod for some recent misdemeanour. And pushing me on, not to follow my dreams but to make them happen. To write more, and better. To look after myself, too.
I can’t describe the effect Nige has had on my life. He was a heretic, a hero. South Brent’s soundest philosopher. The most frustratingly honest and true friend. And grinning to the very end. He had the strongest heart, too – the doctors said.
I’ve been a bit lost since he skipped bail, to be honest. I’ve got so much left to ask him. Thankfully, being the strangely messy but organised person he was, he left me with so much to go on. I’ve practically got a whole Nige library.
And these train trips down to Devon are going to be very different now. No more laughing at Private Eye together, arguing about politics over too-strong coffee.
But I am so grateful. So grateful for that decade of wine, wit and wisdom. He taught me to be grateful.
The word ‘uncle’ doesn’t do it justice, Nige. Love ya, mate.