I’d been reading a book called A Play on Words by Deric Longdon up until about ten days ago, and then it inexplicably vanished. It was about the making of his previous book, Lost for Words, into a tv play. His words were literally lost, in this case.
I gave it up as a bad job, which was a pity because I was enjoying Longdon’s offhand humour, his love of cats, his absolute lack of plot or anything amounting to it, and his nice line in self-effacement.
And then suddenly today, there it was sitting on the couch. I said to my wife: where did that come from? That’s the book I’ve been looking for, for the last week or more.
She stared at me with that stare that says I have no idea why you’re making such a fuss, and told me that it had been sitting in the bottom of the bag that contains her embroidery work. Yes, of course! That’s always the place to look for a book.
A Play on Words deals ostensibly with the process of filming Lost for Words, but there’s far more about Longden’s cats than about the filming. The cats all have distinct personalities, and create a somewhat demanding life for their owner. Added to that, Longden’s writer wife, Aileen Armitage, has now lost much of her sight, and needs help in a variety of ways, such as checking that she hasn‘t got too much make up on, or hasn‘t burnt the breakfast, or is wearing clothes that match. (She’s still writing, though.) And then there are the tall and short bird that wake Longden up very early every day, or the various oddball characters he meets, all of whom seem to have a nice line in unintentional humour. And the way in which everything in Longden’s house has a life and personality of its own. I don’t think I’ve come across a writer since Dickens who could do this so effectively.
Longdon is called Deric on the cover of his books, but he’s also listed as Derek in other places. Several of his earlier books have just been reissued under new covers.