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18 August 2021

BBC Radio 4’s My Teenage Diary is as delightful – and embarrassing – as ever

The tenth series of Rufus Hound’s hit show opens with Jane Horrocks and an adventurous “coming of age” holiday to Sorrento.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

For most of us, the thought of revisiting our teenage diaries is too embarrassing to contemplate, never mind reading them aloud to a captive audience. But Rufus Hound never runs out of willing volunteers: My Teenage Diary is now in its tenth series on Radio 4, and has been going for more than a decade.

This series opens, delightfully, with Jane Horrocks, who, with her squeaky voice, 5ft 2in frame and cartoonish Ab Fab costumes, seems somehow both a permanent teenager and a personality too fully formed ever to have been a developing adolescent. Aptly, the diary entries Horrocks reads – written when she was 16 and on a “coming of age” holiday to Sorrento – have the almost middle-aged pomposity typical of a particular kind of pretentious teenager. “The airport was hardly a palace,” she observes. “Our evening meal was not exactly appetising.” She wishes the tour guide “would cease chattering”. The adult Horrocks is baffled by her 16-year-old self’s affected references to “mother” and “father”, as she only ever called her parents “mum” and “dad”.

Horrocks and her family friend Julie put on their stilettos and head out in search of a disco. There, Horrocks meets a number of “hounding males”, including a gorgeous man named Silvio, who licks all the make-up off her face, and “felt my bust… I quite liked it!” Julie is accosted by a man in snakeskin shoes smoking a cigarette in a cigarette holder: when he refuses to leave her alone, Horrocks steps in. “Who are you to tell me what to do?” he demands. “I’m her MOTHER!” Horrocks shouts back. Horrocks and Julie spend the rest of their nights on holiday dancing and snogging Silvio and his friends. On the final night, Horrocks brags: “I danced with a real-life Italian bisexual!” and “shared his champagne on several occasions”.

Amid all the fun, there is some danger. Silvio’s brothers take the girls to a forest where, terrified, they protest that their parents will be worried, until the men relent and drive back. Horrocks learns Silvio is married, and when she returns to Sorrento years later, he is in prison. But back home, asked if they’d had a good time, Horrocks and Julie “burst into tears – because we had left so much behind, and were returning to so little”.

My Teenage Diary 
BBC Radio 4

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[see also: The podcasts making sense of the #FreeBritney movement]

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