Aged only thirteen and three-quarters when he started his diary, Adrian Mole always had a knack for a turn of phrase, as this early entry from Easter demonstrates:
Poor Jesus, it must have been dead awful for him. I wouldn’t have the guts to do it myself.
Part of the reason Townsend’s work spoke to so many nerdy, lonely teenagers was because they identified with Adrian (to a greater or lesser extent):
Now I know I am an intellectual. I saw Malcolm Muggeridge on the television last night, and I understood nearly every word. It all adds up. A bad home, poor diet, not liking punk. I think I will join the library and see what happens.
The sense of isolation, of being cut off from culture, was profound:
I just realised I have never seen a dead body or a real female nipple. This is what comes of living in a cul-de-sac.
We grew up with Adrian. As he progressed, so did we:
I used to be the sort of boy who had sand kicked in his face, now I’m the sort of boy who watches somebody else have it kicked in their face.
His thoughts on sex were always so awkward, yet still compelling:
Read the whole of Sex and Reproduction in bed last night. Woke up to find that a few hundred million sperm had leaked out. Still, it will give the remaining sperm room to wag their tails about a bit.
Pandora was Adrian’s one true love. Not only was she a girl, she was a beautiful girl from an upper middle class family, and he aspired to the book-filled life she lead. Her indifference never ceased to mortify him, as this note after one of her many breaks with him reveals:
The sun came out on Wednesday, but it didn’t reach into the black despair caused by your separation. It is a cultural desert here. Thank God I have brought my Nevil Shute books.
Yours unto infinity, Adrian X
It’s arguably Adrian’s poetry that is best of all. Here’s a Valentine’s effort for Pandora:
I adore ya.
I implore ye
Don’t ignore me.
And when she left him behind to go on a posh holiday with her family:
Oh! My love,
My heart is yearning,
My mouth is dry,
My soul is burning.
You’re in Tunisia,
I am here.
Remember me and shed a tear.
Come back tanned and brown and healthy.
You’re lucky that your dad is wealthy.
Like many a budding poet, autumn was an inspiration to him:
The trees are stark naked.
Their autumnal clothes
Litter the pavements.
Council sweepers apply fire
Thus creating municipal pyres.
I, Adrian Mole,
And burn my Hush Puppies.
Perhaps his best work, though, was this:
Norway! Land of difficult spelling.
Hiding your beauty behind strange vowels.
Land of long nights, short days, and dots over ‘O’s.
Ruminating majestic reindeers
Tread wearily on ice floes
Ever aware of what happened to the Titanic
One day I will sojourn to your shores
I live in the middle of England
Norway! My soul resides in your watery
fiords fyords fiiords
RIP, Sue Townsend.