We are 19 days into World Alzheimer's month, and iI was reminded of the sad death of Denis Norden a year ago today at the ripe old age of 96.
Many younger people may not know of Denis Norden, or may only have vague recollections of an early blooper style TV show called "It'll Be Alright On The Night". Many older people though, will be very familiar with his work. His "Trouble at t'mill" and "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" are both phrases still in common use today, and the line he wrote with long-time writing partner Frank Muir, "Infamy, infamy, they've all got in infamy" found fame as one of the all-time great Carry On lines.
He said in his memoir that "We not only lived through the gold age of so many forms of popular entertainment, we were present at the birth of them, enjoyed their heyday and were there to mourn their passing."
Maybe print off this article, including the pictures and see what memories the conversation prompts?
A couple of highlights of his life:
A bright youngster, he became the youngest cinema manager in the country at the age of 18 in 1940.
He served in the RAF during the War as a radio operator, and also helped to write entertainment shows for the troops.
In 1945, while looking for stage lighting for a show, he was told to find some in a recently liberated prison nearby. He went along with Eric Sykes and another writer, Ron Rich and found himself entering Bergen Belsen. He wasn't prepared for what he saw. The one thing he said, that the remaining prisoners had in common, was that none of them were standing up.
They returned to their camp and gathered some of their own rations to hand out.
Following the War he forged a solid comedy writing career with Frank Muir, writing for Peter Sellers, Richard Briers, and Jimmy Edwards. Following their amicable split, he continued to write, including the well received films Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell and The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom.
Jimmy Edwards. Photo Mirror UK.
In 1977, he pitched ITV with an idea for a show of TV and film outtakes joined together with a witty script, and within 30 minutes the show was commissioned. 'It'll Be Alright on The Night." was born.
Originally the BBC were reluctant to provide outtakes, but once the show proved a success, they opened their vaults, and the 'blooper' concept grew, still going strong with a worldwide fanbase today.
The series and its spin off, Laughter File, ran until 2006, when Norden was forced to retire due to failing eyesight.
He was made a CBE in 1980 for services to entertainment, and he picked up his award with Frank Muir, below.
Denis Norden and Frank Muir. Photo: PA.
He preferred writing for others, saying "I used to like writing for other comedians. I liked the challenge of making other people funny."
Always seeing the lighter side of life, he also said "Middle age is when, whenever you go on holiday, you pack a sweater."
At times, he was also quite insightful saying once "It's like your children talking about holidays, you find they have a quite different memory of it from you. Perhaps everything is not how it is, but how it's remembered." A sentiment very true when supporting people as they get older.
Talking about TV shows of the 60's, 70's and 80's helps evoke nostalgia, and for people living with a dementia, the prompt of pictures and clips from YouTube can be the catalyst for a fascinating conversation.
Let me know how you get on, and feel free to share this post to help support World Alzheimer's Month.
Thanks for reading!