Deric Longden

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03/07/2013 06:31

Deric Longden

Such sad news about Deric! One of the few authors to ever really make me laugh. The world of literature has lost a great soul and we have lost a wonderful person.
Annie Quigley
09/07/2013 14:42

RE: Deric Longden

Thank you Jean, We are devastated as you can imagine...
Annie’s Step Father the writer, broadcaster Deric Longden

Deric Longden

Deric Longden, who has died aged 76, wrote books that brought a gentle and life-enhancing humour to the problems of living with disability.

Deric Longden

7:24PM BST 04 Jul 2013

His first book, Diana’s Story (1989), was a moving account of his life with his first wife, whom he had married in 1957 and who later developed a mysterious illness which was eventually diagnosed as a virulent and painful form of ME. Longden cared for her devotedly for 15 years until her death in 1985.

His book became an immediate bestseller and was later adapted into a BBC drama, Wide-Eyed And Legless (1994). Longden co-wrote the screenplay with Jack Rosenthal, while Julie Walters played Diana and Jim Broadbent took the part of Longden himself.

Diana’s Story was followed by Lost for Words (1991), describing life with his elderly mother as she gradually lost her memory. This too was successfully adapted for the small screen by Longden, with Pete Postlethwaite as the dutiful son to Thora Hird’s portrayal of the eccentric and courageous Annie Longden.

Longden once observed: “I really feel the best humour comes out of despair.” Lost For Words opens with Deric asking: “Do you want to be buried Mum, or shall we have you cremated?” Annie Longden: “Oh, I don’t know, luv. Surprise me.” In another scene, Thora Hird is in hospital when a woman winces with pain as she is pushed past in a wheelchair. “Renal colic,” she says to Thora by way of explanation. “Annie Longden,” replies Thora. “Pleased to meet you.” Thora Hird then whispers to Postlethwaite: “She must be French with a name like that.”

Lost For Words, screened in January 1999, won the Emmy for best foreign drama and a Bafta for Thora Hird as best actress.

Longden was inspired to write his first books by the historical novelist Aileen Armitage, a divorcee with four children who became his second wife in 1990. They had first met in 1984 at a writers’ conference, and he did not realise she was blind (she had lost her sight in the 1960s) until she stubbed out her cigarette in a sugar bowl.

At the conference they discussed writing a television script together about disability, with Diana at the heart of the story. Aileen and Diana became devoted friends, notwithstanding the evident attraction Longden and Aileen felt for one another; indeed, Diana hoped that they would marry after her death.

Deric Longden was born at Chesterfield on November 29 1936. His father died when his son was in infancy, and Deric was brought up by his mother, Annie. Having failed the 11-plus and his O-levels, he worked as a clerk in a colliery at Bolsover.

Thinking he could compete with Janet Reger, Longden then ran a small women’s lingerie factory at Matlock, Derbyshire. In 1974 he decided to enter a BBC Radio Derby 500-word short story competition, under the name “Biro”. He won, and the following year entered under the nom de plume “Papermate”, winning again. When the next year he went for the hat-trick, the producer telephoned him and asked: “Are you by chance 'Parker 51’?” Longden agreed that he was, and was offered a job. He broadcast on BBC Radio Derby, and also supplied jokes for Les Dawson and the Two Ronnies.

Diana’s progressive illness eventually forced him to sell the lingerie factory, in 1984, and thereafter he concentrated on his writing and broadcasting career. He wrote regularly for programmes such as Does He Take Sugar? (which addressed the issues surrounding disability) and Woman’s Hour.

Following the success of Diana’s Story and Lost for Words, Longden published a series of books describing his life with Aileen Armitage and their cats, among them The Cat Who Came in from the Cold; I’m a Stranger Here Myself; Enough to Make a Cat Laugh; and Paws in the Proceedings.

Deric Longden, who had been suffering from cancer, is survived by Aileen Armitage, by a daughter and son of his marriage to Diana, and by four stepchildren.

Deric Longden, born November 29 1936, died June 23 2013

Annie Quigley
17/07/2013 14:32

RE: Deric Longden

Deric Longden was born in Chesterfield 0n 29th November 1936 and married Diana Hill in 1957. They had two children, Sally and Nick. “I went to a secondary modern school, failed my 11 plus and my O-levels and worked in a colliery in Bolsover, but I’ve done all right really. However after what I have just said about my failure to pass any exams whatsoever then the Honorary Degree of a Master of Letters from Derby University and an Honorary Degree of a Doctor of Letters from Huddersfield University make me wonder if they have me mixed up with somebody else.”
After various jobs he took over a small factory making women's lingerie.
In 1974 Deric entered a BBC Radio Derby 500 word short story competition, as ‘Biro’, which he thought was a pretty good pen name. He won and the following year entered again, this time under the pen name ‘Papermate’ and won again. The following year he went for the hat trick. A week later the producer rang, ‘Are you by chance Parker 51’? Deric said yes, and was offered a job.
He wrote regularly for programmes like 'Does He Take Sugar?' and 'Woman’s Hour' and a popular broadcaster on BBC Radio Derby where his comedies of errors were often repeated by demand. One favourite was his interview with a duck at a rain-abandond football match at Matlock. He also regularily supplied jokes to the likes of Les Dawson and the Two Ronnies.
Most of his work was based on his own experience. The demands made on him by Diana's illness, subsequently believed to be a form of ME, forced him to sell the factory, and since then he devoted himself to full-time writing, broadcasting, lecturing and after-dinner speaking.
Diana’s Story, published in 1989, some years after Diana's death, hit the Sunday Times best seller list and won the NCR book award. The book was adapted and the screenplay co-written with Jack Rosenthal for television under the title Wide-Eyed and Legless and was nominated for multiple BAFTAs. Jim Broadbent played Deric and Julie Waters Diana.
Sonya Chowdhury, Chief Executive of Action for M.E. said in her tribute, “Deric’s work and the joy and laughter he brought to so many, lives on as a tribute to him. His book had a huge impact in raising awareness about M.E. in an era when it was even more misunderstood than it is today.”
It was followed in 1991 by his second book ‘Lost for Words’ . The heartwarming story, a son-to-mother tribute, which traces the difficult care-giving decisions that Deric and his wife, writer Aileen Armitage, faced as the courageous Annie's health failed.
Deric Longden's mum was a wonderfully endearing, eccentric lady whose passions ranged from pot plants and her beloved pussycats to Buttercup Syrup which she consumed in vast quantities. She also provided comfort, advice and her own particular brand of wisdom in the years after the death of his first wife, Diana.
Deric's many happy memories include the vision of his mother's unmistakeable backside as she charged through Marks & Spencers; the way in which she charmed everyone she met, including the surliest of youths, and her unusual technique of selling a house which involved plying potential buyers with iced buns whilst pointing out the damp patches and dodgy electrics. Strangely, it worked.
Ever since Dame Thora Hird breathed life into the role of Deric Longden’s mother in ‘Wide Eyed and Legless’. She had been on at him to write a play based on the sequel, ‘Lost For Words’.
‘And don’t hang about, I’m eighty – three, you know.’
But life doesn’t run in straight lines for Deric. Apart form his duties as official guide dog to his blind wife, the writer Aileen Armitage, he is at the beck and call of three and a half cats, a somewhat bemused vole and a tap-dancing squirrel. He also had a book to finish, so the screenplay had to take a back seat for the time being.
But Dame Thora didn’t give up. She rang him regularly, ’Come on, lad, get a move on. I’m eighty-five, you know.’
By the time she was eighty-six Deric had finished the script. In January 1999’Lost for Words’ was finally televised – by which time Dame Thora was eighty-seven going on thirty –two.

Deric wrote the screenplay for ‘Lost for Words’, which was in January 1999, attracting an audience of more than 12 million viewers and won the Emmy for best foreign drama and a BAFTA for Thora Hird as best actress.

The film opens with the famous quote which is now in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations;
Deric Longden: Do you want to be buried Mum, or shall we have you cremated?
Annie Longden: Oh, I don't know Luv. Surprise me

His subsequent books regaled his warm hearted observation on life, people and animals; The Cat Who Came in from the Cold, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Enough to Make a Cat Laugh, A Play On Words, Paws in the Proceedings and Tailpieces. Deric said, “Waiting for a book to be published is like having a baby. It would be nine months before we heard the patter of tiny pages trotting through the letter box, and the bookcase shuffled it's shelves in boredom and I was a martyr to morning sickness.”
Annie Longden: Oh, Derek, I've left the key for you.
Deric Longden: Thanks Luv, Whereabouts?
Annie Longden: I've stuck it in the lock so you can find it.

He met his second wife, the writer and Woman of the Year, Aileen Armitage when he interviewed her for the BBC, “she talked me through great slabs of her life and thirty odd books but never once mentioned that she was registered blind. I only began to have my suspicions when she stubbed her cigarette out in the sugar bowl. I seem to have been blessed with women who have no idea how to moan.” Aileen encouraged Deric to write his life story and they married in 1990.
Deric and Aileen together made a formidable literary couple, turning the UK, encouraging aspiring writers by giving lectures on creative writing. Deric loved nothing more than meeting his growing fan base at book signings, WI meetings and his own humorous one man shows.
In recent years Deric continued to follow his life long passion for Chesterfield Football Club, cricket, the Telegraph crossword and adopting stray cats and assortment of animals.
Deric died on 24th June 2013 after suffering throat cancer.

Annie Quigley
17/07/2013 14:33

RE: Deric Longden

A beautiful quote from ME awareness

the recording from Womans Hour

Annie Quigley
29/10/2013 10:29

RE: Deric Longden

The Deric Longden Swanwick Memorial Prize

The Writers Summer School in Swanwick, Derbyshire has played host to many writers. Past speakers have included; Iain Banks, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Norman Wisdom, Terry Pratchett, Colin Dexter and Deric Longden. Deric was from Derby and met his second wife, author Aileen Armitage at the annual writing event. He had been sent to interview her for Radio Derby and became a regular speaker himself and together with Aileen, helped guide many budding writers.

Now the Swanwick Writers’ School together with the ME Association are creating the Deric Longden Memorial Prize. The 500 word short story completion will be awarded to the writer/carer who, like Deric, has a witty way with words and is fulfilling the role of carer to a friend or family member for love rather than financial reward.

It is fitting that Deric is being remembered in this way having started writing by entering a short story competition himself. Through wining the competition, not once but twice, he becoming part of the BBC Radio Derby broadcasting and journalist team. He then went on to become a bestselling author, speaker, screenplay writer and win an International Emmy for his screen adaptation of his book ‘Lost For Words’ and Dame Thora Hird a Bafta for her portrayal of Deric’s Mum. It is also fitting that the ME Association are sponsoring the award in recognition for the profile Deric’s first book ‘Diana’s Story’ had in raising the awareness of ME. Diana’s Story’ was about Deric’s first wife’s severe ME and the story was turned into the BAFTA nominated TV drama ‘Wide-Eyed and Legless’. Deric’s reading of it was voted by Radio Four’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ listeners as the most popular serial in 50 years.

We once asked Deric how he started writing and his answer below reflects his witty view of life?

I always wanted to write but never did anything about it other than little bits and pieces for my own pleasure. Then in 1974 BBC Radio Derby ran a five hundred word short story competition. Each entry had to be submitted under a pen name and so I called myself ‘Biro’, which I thought was a pretty good pen name.
My story was about a hundred year old man who put his great age down to the fact that he had always lived in a house without an outside lavvy. It kept you on your toes, he said. There was no easy trot upstairs like when you have one inside.
You never quite knew when the urge would come over you and you’d have to gather together your packet of twenty Capstan full strength and your box of matches. Grab the Daily Mirror from under the dog, slip the lavvy key off the hook and then vault the old wooden gate as you sprinted some thirty five yards up the garden path in the pouring rain. You could never relax for a moment.
Somehow I won and the following year I entered again, this time under the pen name ‘Papermate’. I wrote a story about a shepherd who only had two sheep and rather than leave them out on the lonely moors at night, he would take them home with him.
Most shepherds dip their sheep only once a year, but he was able to do it once a week because fortunately he had a double draining sink unit. Afterwards he would pop them into the tumble drier – for forty five minutes on woollens.
I won again and the following year went for the hat trick. A week after I had posted my entry the producer rang me.
‘Are you by chance Parker 51’?
I said that I was and he told me that I looked like winning again and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
‘If you withdraw we’ll give you a regular weekly slot’.
Two and half thousand broadcasts later I wince slightly when I look at the stories now, although if I’m honest with myself, I smile as I wince.

Bibliophile has already digitally published a collection of Deric’s cat short ‘Tailpieces’ as well as republishing his books in digital form. We are now working on two more digital collections, which will cover his anecdotal and witty Radio Derby scripts which cover over 20 years of broadcasting.
Annie Quigley
17/09/2014 14:03

RE: Deric Longden new ebooks out now!
Please read Radio Times 3 and 4 now out on Kindle!