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.