Sometimes, things affect you in a way that you never expected they would. I forget this up until the moment it happens again, and I was sadly reminded of it when I read the news of Sue Townsend’s passing.
I’m afraid this won’t be funny, or cruel, or cynical, because I can’t be. She is-was- a hero of mine- a true genius with boundless imagination for the mundane and buckets of anecdotal eccentricity (Stephen Monahan, who played Adrian Mole, recounted his first meeting with Townsend wherein she inspected him at great length to make sure he “was ugly enough” to play Adrian. He was.). Also, she was a funny woman writer, and I need more of those around purely from a cynical standpoint-they make me look great.
And I don’t know what kind of person this makes me, but I was equally sad to think that Adrian Mole had died with her. For those who don’t know, Townsend had written the diaries of fictional loser Adrian Mole since 1982, following him from his early teens, through to work, marriage, kids, divorce, and the labor Government. She was still writing his latest diary when she passed, and so, with her death, we lose the entire world she’d created and the masterful characters that populated it.
I started reading the series when I was twelve on holiday-my Harry Potter CD broke and Mum needed something to distract me with. Since then, I doubt two months have passed without me at least flicking through one of the books and realizing how-dreadfully- I can relate to the whingey money woes and depressing work responsibilities of the later novels. I’ve grown up with Adrian Mole, and everyone who surrounds him-Townsend’s genius was not in making the everyday outrageous, but making the outrageous everyday. Everyone Adrian encountered was someone me or someone I know has met, and Adrian himself-the ultimate British everyman-reflected every facet of life, from pubescence to adulthood, with startling clarity. However ridiculous it got, it was still ultimately real and painfully funny in equal measure.
And, most importantly, these are characters I see myself in. I’m Pandora, Adrian’s unrequited love, a cynical career woman constantly showing “the most leg, cleavage, and teeth”, I’m Pauline, Adrian’s chain-smoking mother who hides hair dye down the back of the fridge so no-one will know she’s not a natural redhead, I’m Rosie, his pointedly rebellious, crude and savage little sister-and most importantly I’m Adrian, the perpetual teenager who woke up one morning and decided he was an intellectual. So for that, Sue Townsend, thank you-there’ll be another star in heaven tonight. Having a fag.