It’s with great sadness that we report that writer Deric Longden died on 22nd June aged 77. He had been suffering from oesophageal cancer.
Longden hadn’t always been a writer, but found his niche recording a series of moving and hilarious memoirs about aspects of his life. His first book, Diana’s Story (1989) was a tribute to his first wife, who endured many years of debilitating illness with ME, which she faced with courage and dignity. It’s a remarkable work which is likely to make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
Londgen followed up his initial success with Lost For Words, which recorded the declining years of his delightfully eccentric mother, who lost the power of speech after a stroke and had to relearn language. Again, the anecdotes fall thick and fast and readers are liable to be clutching their sides through laughing too hard before being moved to tears within the space of a few pages. An example of the charming pathos he evokes is when he raises the painful subject with his mother of whether she wishes to be cremated or buried. “I don’t know, love,” she replies. “Surprise me.”
His first two books were adapted into television films. The first, renamed Wide-Eyed and Legless, saw Julie Walters play Diana and Jim Broadbent Longden himself (Clint Eastwood, who Longden often joked he closely resembled, was presumably unavailable). Lost For Words saw the late Pete Postlethwaite play Longden, and Thora Hird make one of her final great performances as his elderly mother, a role which saw her memorably collect a BAFTA from her wheelchair. Londgen later wrote A Play On Words (2000) to describe the experience of seeing his life dramatised for television.
Deric Longden later married the writer Aileen Armitage, who survives him. They moved to Huddersfield in Yorkshire where he continued to release humorous memoirs about their lives. Their children and cats featured heavily in these works. I’m A Stranger Here Myself saw Longden getting to grips with Yorkshire life, and The Cat Who Came In From the Cold told the adorable story of Thermal, an adopted cat, and his changing relationship to the other cats already in the house.
Longden wrote with great integrity and with a strong ear for comedy. His delightful books are truthful, funny and wise; and the world he created for them is one it’s always a pleasure to revisit. He will be sadly missed, but his voice and life will live on in his family and his wonderful series of books.