Friday, July 20, 2007
I’ve often stated my opposition and position on cats. I don’t tolerate them well, even physically I’m allergic to them. If we are to get down to the brass tacks of the root of the matter, they are the freeloaders of the domestic pets and smarmy with it. Kind of like a unemployed partner who gets to sleep all day, good meals, affection on tap, care etc and gives nothing in return. Our wolf is not impressed with them at the moment either as her face is nearly hanging off her with the ringworm she’s contracted from the feral cats in the yard. However there are always exceptions in any animal society that stand out from the crowd - making them….well exceptional. And they have made their owner somewhat famous and a pretty penny also. Whilst I cannot pick just one of his works out I have made a selection of 3 books of his as ‘appetisers ‘ if you will, Dianas Story, The Cat who came in from the cold, & Enough to make a Cat laugh..
Originally from Matlock in the UK, his first novel was ‘Diana’s Story’ is an account of his wife’s long running battle with ME. Diana was reliant on Deric, for the majority of her needs, throughout her illness but she held on fiercely to her independence until the last. Ultimately and inevitably Diana dies, but the book is not about her death; rather, it’s a celebration of her life and the impact she had on those around her. It sounds like just another sad autobiography, but the truth is, it is so much more than that. This book is funny. Each catastrophe, and each new medical problem, some of which would have ordinary people in despair, is seen by the participants from the funny side and narrated as such by Deric. “I guess you had to have been there” moments abound through this book, but thanks to the narrative skills , the reader feels that they were indeed “there” and can picture the moment perfectly. Incidents such as Diana falling downstairs, whilst the house is empty and breaking her arm, yet lying there painting the woodwork while she waits for assistance has the reader simultaneously in tears and in laughter. Upon arrival at the hospital, a nurse enquires of Diana what happened this time, and to a packed waiting room she announces that he hit her again, because his egg wasn’t cooked correctly.
Deric, Diana and the nurse burst into laughter whilst the waiting room looks on, horrified.
Incidents such as these abound throughout the book, mixing laughter with tears in such a way that the book turns into one of those you cannot put down. You can feel the raw emotions coming through the page, sadness, resignation, love, grief, hilarity and acceptance; often all in the same sentence.
Deric also wrote of another loss in his life which was made into a movie ‘Lost for words’. Which was about the relationship and downward spiral of his mothers Alzheimer’s condition. My mother read the latter and recommended I read it since we had just lost my Nana to an eight year battle with the dignity stripping condition. His use of humour and positivity where a tonic for the spirit, especially since I had just suffered a huge personal loss myself. His ability to envelope the reader completely in his world was a much needed diversion from torment of a broken and destroyed heart. I bought every book of his and sat down for two weeks in an effort to turn the grief into laughter and Longden can only be described as a magician of words for me.
In the cat that came in from the cold Deric Longden’s neighbour Patrick, has just acquired a kitten but doesn’t seem to be very responsible. It’s raining and the kitten is outside. His intentions are only to temporarily rescue it from the elements and return it back to Patrick. Deric’s life however is going to change dramatically and somehow a kitten will become a new focus in his life. Longden confesses he was never a cat-lover but he and his wife, English novelist Aileen Armitage, adopted the stray and named him Thermal after he nearly froze in their refrigerator and recounts the misadventures of a high-energy cat who eats peanut butter, cavorts with dachshunds, shreds envelopes while sitting in a wastebasket and stays away from home for a full month. The cheerfully busy household expands when a second adoptee, Tigger, turns the cellar into a halfway house for roving neighborhood cats. As Thermal changes from an ankle-rubbing sycophant to a toilet-roll-spinning terror, it's touching to watch Longden's affection for and understanding of his feline friend blossom
In Enough to make a cat laugh’ Deric mainly writes now about his life with his wife and his army of his cats -the likes , dislikes and special personalities of his feline family; Thermal, Tigger, Arthur and Frink , sharing with the reader warm, amusing and entertaining anecdotes. And when not talking about his cats Deric also makes the most ordinary occurrences luminous , looking at the absurdities of life and stopping to actually think about what is said and done and putting a different slant on things. Here is one such example of him visiting a deli in the supermarket ‘As I stood there my eyes were drawn to a small sign that had been rammed deep into an innocent sausage roll. “Free-Range Pork Pies“. Instantly my mind was off once more, this time to a sunny knoll atop a flower-sprinkled meadow somewhere deep in the heart of the English countryside where a couple of rather mature Melton Mowbrays were keeping a watchful eye on their individual pork pies as they romped gaily amongst the buttercups and daisies below" The book chronicles a year in the life of the Longden household, starting with spring then summer, autumn and finishing with winter. New members of the family include Arthur’s wire brush and a sultana called Ralph – but you will have to read the book if you want to know more about these two! This is a book guaranteed to make you laugh if you have any connection with cats in the house yourself but, on the other hand, it is equally able to give you an understanding of cats , their owners and the bond they have. I still don’t like them though