Tuesday, 12 August 2014

#Swanwick66: An Extra Special Guest for Day Three

'Fame Starts Here' were the words Aileen Armitage taped to the front of her typewriter to inspire her when she started her writing career. She first came to Swanwick forty seven years ago and became a regular member of the school for many years. It was at Swanwick, sixteen years later, that she met her husband-to-be, the late Deric Longden. On Monday night Aileen returned as guest speaker and held us all spellbound, making us laugh and cry at the same time, a quality also found in Deric's writing.

Aileen, Deric and the Emmy visit Swanwick [Photo: Jolanta]
She told us how she felt, on first arriving back in 1968: that she was among "like-minded people, my kind of people" - a sentiment I feel sure everyone in the room recognised. However, it wasn't herself that she wanted to talk about, but Deric. Her love for and pride in him shone through everything she said, from his philosophy - go through life with your arms open, embrace everyone - to his ability to take an ordinary story and weave it into something special. She described him as "a man of love and it showed through in everything he wrote." Reading his books, which she still does, is like sitting opposite him, chatting, she said.  And, several times she repeated his advice to all aspiring writers in the room: you must be yourself and not a pale shadow of anyone else. Don't ape anybody - be you.

Aileen, accompanied by members of her family, was at Swanwick to present the first Deric Longden Award. to Vivienne Seaman for her wonderful tale of disaster with plaster, a balloon and a school inspector. Viv has been "on a pink cloud" since hearing of her win and Aileen's words as she handed over the award were: "long may the pink cloud last." Congratulations to Viv and 'welcome back' to Aileen. It was great to see you."

[It didn't seem right to talk about anything else in this post. Snippets from day three with day four.]             


  1. Thank you. Another great post Elizabeth. x

  2. My post Swanwick treat has been to settle down with a glass of wine and read through all your lovely blog posts. This one about Aileen has touched me deeply - please may I do a cut and paste and send it to her and Annie? Or perhaps read it to Aileen over the phone? You are such a darling. Love, Di xx

    1. Hello Di. I'd be honoured and delighted for you to do that. Ex