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       The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, p.1

           Sue Townsend
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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4


  Sue Townsend

  The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾

  With a Foreword by David Walliams

  PENGUIN BOOKS

  Contents

  Winter

  Spring

  Summer

  Autumn

  Winter

  Celebrating 30 Years of Adrian Mole

  PENGUIN BOOKS

  THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE AGED 13¾

  Praise for Adrian Mole:

  ‘Adrian Mole really is a brilliant comic creation’ The Times

  ‘Every sentence is witty and well thought out, and the whole has reverberations beyond itself’ The Times

  ‘He will be remembered some day as one of England’s great diarists’ Evening Standard

  ‘The publishers could offer a money back guarantee if you don’t laugh and be sure they wouldn’t have to write a single cheque’ Jeremy Paxman

  ‘A classic. The Adrian Mole diaries are thoroughly subversive. A true hero for our time’ Richard Ingrams

  ‘The real greatness of Townsend’s creation comes from the gap between aspiration and reality. Adrian Mole is one of literature’s great underachievers; his tragedy is that he knows it and the sadness of this undercuts the humour and makes us laugh not until, but while, it hurts’ Daily Mail

  ‘Adrian Mole is one of the great comic characters of our time . . . [Townsend] never writes a sentence which doesn’t ring true; she never gets Adrian’s voice wrong or attributes a thought or feeling to him which strikes one as false. Whatever happens, we may be sure that new troubles will assail Adrian, that new disasters will threaten, but that he will survive them all. Like Evelyn Waugh’s Captain Grimes, Adrian is "one of the immortals" and the series of his diaries the comic masterpiece of our time’ Scotsman

  Praise for The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole :

  ‘The funniest, most bittersweet book you’re likely to read this year’ Daily Mirror

  Praise for True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole :

  ‘Wonderfully funny and sharp as knives’ Sunday Times

  Praise for Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years:

  ‘A very, very funny book’ Sunday Times

  Praise for Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years:

  ‘I can’t remember a more relentlessly funny book’ Daily Mirror

  Praise for Adrian Mole: The Lost Diaries:

  ‘Very funny indeed. A satire of our times’ Sunday Times

  Praise for Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction:

  ‘The funniest book of the year. I can think of no more comical read’ Jeremy Paxman, Sunday Telegraph

  Praise for Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years:

  ‘Brilliant, sharp, honest, moving, an exquisite social comedy’ Daily Telegraph

  Praise for Queen Camilla:

  ‘Wickedly satirical, mad, ferociously farcical, subversive. Great stuff ’ Daily Mail

  Praise for The Queen and I:

  ‘Absorbing, entertaining . . . the funniest thing in print since Adrian Mole’ Ruth Rendell, Daily Telegraph

  Praise for Number Ten:

  ‘A delight. Genuinely funny . . . compassion shines through the unashamedly ironic social commentary’ Guardian

  Praise for Public Confessions of a Middle-aged Woman Aged 55¾:

  ‘Proof, once more, that Townsend is one of the funniest writers around’ The Times

  Praise for Ghost Children:

  ‘Bleak, tender and deeply affecting. Seldom have I rooted so hard for a set of fictional individuals’ Mail on Sunday

  For Colin

  and also for Sean, Dan, Vicki and Elizabeth

  with love and thanks

  ‘Paul walked with something screwed up tight inside him … yet he chatted away with his mother. He would never have confessed to her how he suffered over these things and she only partly guessed.’

  D. H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers

  Foreword by David Walliams

  ‘I blame that Adrian Mole,’ said my sea-scout master Roger. ‘Boys weren’t obsessed with the length of their things before reading that awful book.’

  Of course Roger was wrong. Boys have always been obsessed with the length of their things. Somehow, a lady called Sue Townsend understood what it was to be an adolescent boy better than any adolescent boy. That parents and teachers and responsible adults all disapproved of the book, which of course made us kids love it all the more.

  I was born in 1971, and it is unthinkable that any boy I knew from school (Reigate Grammar School), or scouts (Second Tadworth Sea Scouts), or from hanging around outside the swimming pool (Merland Rise Leisure Centre) on a Saturday night hadn’t read this book. Even boys who were proud to say they had never read a book in their life read this one. They had to. There was no choice. This was our bible. Perhaps not until Helen Fielding created Bridget Jones had a fictional character connected so intimately with the reader. Townsend’s book was a phenomenon. It spawned a theatre show, an Ian Dury single, a number of television series (why couldn’t I have played Adrian Mole, damn you, Gian Sammarco!), and of course Townsend has written seven sequels to date. J. K. Rowling’s success with Harry Potter has redefined what constitutes a publishing phenomenon. I asked my publisher recently how many copies of my children’s book Mr Stink I had sold. They replied confidently, ‘It’s doing really well; you sold 10,000 copies last week.’

  ‘Wow!’ I replied. ‘Just out of interest, how many did J. K. Rowling sell in the last seven days?’

  ‘A million.’

  However, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was a genuine phenomenon. It has been translated into numerous languages and sold over ten million copies. It was probably the biggest phenomenon of my youth after Star Wars, and Star Wars was bigger than God.

  How did this rather parochial book become so wildly popular? The answer is quite simple: it’s one of the funniest books ever written. I love P. G. Wodehouse, I adore Douglas Adams, I worship Tom Sharpe, I am incredibly fond of Kingsley Amis, but Sue Townsend’s books make me laugh out loud more than anyone else’s. At the centre of the book you have the character of Adrian Mole: one of the most enduring British comedy characters of all time. He can take his place alongside Bertie Wooster, Toad and Mr Micawber; even Basil Fawlty and Del Boy. My sometime writing partner Matt Lucas and I would agonize over finding the right names for our characters while working on Little Britain or Come Fly With Me. When we hit on names that sounded real, yet had a slight suggestion of absurdity – Andy Pipkin, Carol Beer, Moses Beacon – we were pleased. However, in over a decade of writing together we never came up with a name as good as Adrian Mole. That name is perfect; you have a strong sense of whom he is before you have read a word of the book. Most impressive of all, Sue Townsend has created a character who is at once an archetype, and yet unique. Like all teenage boys he is obsessed with his spots, a girl (Pandora, of course) and the size of his thing. Yet he also writes poems about a tap, reads The Female Eunuch, and in his spare time visits a communist OAP called Bert Baxter who refuses to die before the death of capitalism.

  The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole has supporting characters that are worthy of their own books. The saga of his mum and dad’s unhappy marriage; his dad’s advice to his son on boarding a train, ‘He said I was not to buy a pork pie from the buffet car’; his grouchy grandma; his mum’s Sheffield-based boyfriend Mr Lucas; his long-suffering teacher Miss Elf; all create a sense that this is not a series of great jokes but the patchwork of someone’s real life. Pandora is perhaps the most memorable supporting character. She is, of course, forever slightly out of Adrian’s reach. Her intellectual superiority, her beauty and her unwillingness to lose her
virginity torment our hero: ‘We indulged in a bit of light petting but then Pandora developed a headache and went home to rest. I was racked with sexuality but it wore off when I helped my father put manure on our rose bed.’

  However, what I love most about this book is that unlike a lot of modern comedy (and yes, I am partly to blame), Townsend’s writing is full of warmth. The writers she most reminds me of are Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett and Caroline Aherne. All are absolute favourites of mine, and Caroline is a particular hero and I am proud to also call her a friend. Like Townsend they can all depict ordinary people, the people they grew up with, and laugh with them rather than at them. The Royle Family is the most perfect example of this. Like that show, so many of Townsend’s laughs are in the small details – after three days of painting his room black over his juvenile wallpaper Adrian writes, ‘Third coat. Slight improvement, only Noddy’s hat showing through now.’

  The boredom of existence is also brilliantly captured. Take this sublime entry from Saturday 22 August: ‘Went to see Rob Roy’s grave. Saw it, came back.’ It makes me think of Galton and Simpson’s best writing for Tony Hancock. It’s about nothing.

  The book also captures the utter absurdity of people’s observations. This next entry is worthy of vintage Alan Bennett. Commenting on a misbehaving Barry Kent on a disastrous school coach trip to London, Adrian writes in his diary, ‘The sex shop are not pressing charges either because officially Barry Kent is a child. A child! Barry Kent has never been a child.’

  Even historical events, such as the royal wedding of 1981 and the declaration of the Falklands War in 1982, are brought into the lives of ordinary people living in middle England, yet the profundity of the occasions are instantly pricked. Of the first event Adrian writes,‘I have seen the Royal Wedding repeats seven times on television . . . Sick to death of the Royal Wedding.’ On the second, this particular sequence always makes me laugh out loud: ‘10am. Woke my father up to tell him Argentina has invaded the Falklands. He shot out of bed because he thought the Falklands lay off the coast of Scotland. When I pointed out that they were eight thousand miles away he got back into bed and pulled the covers over his head.’

  I should stop writing now and let you read it. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole is now thirty years old. I have no doubt that someone else will be writing a new foreword in another thirty years. People will want to read this book for ever. The reason is simple: it’s really really really funny. Life is pain, and we all need to laugh.

  Winter

  THURSDAY JANUARY 1ST

  Bank Holiday in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales

  These are my New Year’s resolutions:

  I will help the blind across the road.

  I will hang my trousers up.

  I will put the sleeves back on my records.

  I will not start smoking.

  I will stop squeezing my spots.

  I will be kind to the dog.

  I will help the poor and ignorant.

  After hearing the disgusting noises from downstairs last night, I have also vowed never to drink alcohol.

  My father got the dog drunk on cherry brandy at the party last night. If the RSPCA hear about it he could get done. Eight days have gone by since Christmas Day but my mother still hasn’t worn the green lurex apron I bought her for Christmas! She will get bathcubes next year.

  Just my luck, I’ve got a spot on my chin for the first day of the New Year!

  FRIDAY JANUARY 2ND

  Bank Holiday in Scotland. Full Moon

  I felt rotten today. It’s my mother’s fault for singing ‘My Way’ at two o’clock in the morning at the top of the stairs. Just my luck to have a mother like her. There is a chance my parents could be alcoholics. Next year I could be in a children’s home.

  The dog got its own back on my father. It jumped up and knocked down his model ship, then ran into the garden with the rigging tangled in its feet. My father kept saying, ‘Three months’ work down the drain,’ over and over again.

  The spot on my chin is getting bigger. It’s my mother’s fault for not knowing about vitamins.

  SATURDAY JANUARY 3RD

  I shall go mad through lack of sleep! My father has banned the dog from the house so it barked outside my window all night. Just my luck! My father shouted a swear-word at it. If he’s not careful he will get done by the police for obscene language.

  I think the spot is a boil. Just my luck to have it where everybody can see it. I pointed out to my mother that I hadn’t had any vitamin C today. She said, ‘Go and buy an orange, then.’ This is typical.

  She still hasn’t worn the lurex apron.

  I will be glad to get back to school.

  SUNDAY JANUARY 4TH

  Second after Christmas

  My father has got the flu. I’m not surprised with the diet we get. My mother went out in the rain to get him a vitamin C drink, but as I told her, ‘It’s too late now.’ It’s a miracle we don’t get scurvy. My mother says she can’t see anything on my chin, but this is guilt because of the diet.

  The dog has run off because my mother didn’t close the gate. I have broken the arm on the stereo. Nobody knows yet, and with a bit of luck my father will be ill for a long time. He is the only one who uses it apart from me. No sign of the apron.

  MONDAY JANUARY 5TH

  The dog hasn’t come back yet. It is peaceful without it. My mother rang the police and gave a description of the dog. She made it sound worse than it actually is: straggly hair over its eyes and all that. I really think the police have got better things to do than look for dogs, such as catching murderers. I told my mother this but she still rang them. Serve her right if she was murdered because of the dog.

  My father is still lazing about in bed. He is supposed to be ill, but I noticed he is still smoking!

  Nigel came round today. He has got a tan from his Christmas holiday. I think Nigel will be ill soon from the shock of the cold in England. I think Nigel’s parents were wrong to take him abroad.

  He hasn’t got a single spot yet.

  TUESDAY JANUARY 6TH

  Epiphany. New Moon

  The dog is in trouble!

  It knocked a meter-reader off his bike and messed all the cards up. So now we will all end up in court I expect. A policeman said we must keep the dog under control and asked how long it had been lame. My mother said it wasn’t lame, and examined it. There was a tiny model pirate trapped in its left front paw.

  The dog was pleased when my mother took the pirate out and it jumped up the policeman’s tunic with its muddy paws. My mother fetched a cloth from the kitchen but it had strawberry jam on it where I had wiped the knife, so the tunic was worse than ever. The policeman went then. I’m sure he swore. I could report him for that.

  I will look up ‘Epiphany’ in my new dictionary.

  WEDNESDAY JANUARY 7TH

  Nigel came round on his new bike this morning. It has got a water bottle, a milometer, a speedometer, a yellow saddle and very thin racing wheels. It’s wasted on Nigel. He only goes to the shops and back on it. If I had it, I would go all over the country and have an experience.

  My spot or boil has reached its peak. Surely it can’t get any bigger!

  I found a word in my dictionary that describes my father. It is malingerer. He is still in bed guzzling vitamin C.

  The dog is locked in the coal shed.

  Epiphany is something to do with the three wise men. Big deal!

  THURSDAY JANUARY 8TH

  Now my mother has got the flu. This means that I have to look after them both. Just my luck!

  I have been up and down the stairs all day. I cooked a big dinner for them tonight: two poached eggs with beans, and tinned semolina pudding. (It’s a good job I wore the green lurex apron because the poached eggs escaped out of the pan and got all over me.) I nearly said something when I saw they hadn’t eaten any of it. They can’t be that ill. I gave it to the dog in the coal shed. My grandmother is coming tomorrow morning, so I had to
clean the burnt saucepans, then take the dog for a walk. It was half-past eleven before I got to bed. No wonder I am short for my age.

  I have decided against medicine for a career.

  FRIDAY JANUARY 9TH

  It was cough, cough, cough last night. If it wasn’t one it was the other. You’d think they’d show some consideration after the hard day I’d had.

  My grandma came and was disgusted with the state of the house. I showed her my room which is always neat and tidy and she gave me fifty pence. I showed her all the empty drink bottles in the dustbin and she was disgusted.

  My grandma let the dog out of the coal shed. She said my mother was cruel to lock it up. The dog was sick on the kitchen floor. My grandma locked it up again.

  She squeezed the spot on my chin. It has made it worse. I told Grandma about the green apron and Grandma said that she bought my mother a one hundred per cent acrylic cardigan every Christmas and my mother had never ever worn one of them!

  SATURDAY JANUARY 10TH

  a.m. Now the dog is ill! It keeps being sick so the vet has got to come. My father told me not to tell the vet that the dog had been locked in the coal shed for two days.

  I have put a plaster over the spot to stop germs getting in it from the dog.

  The vet has taken the dog away. He says he thinks it has got an obstruction and will need an emergency operation.

  My grandma has had a row with my mother and gone home. My grandma found the Christmas cardigans all cut up in the duster bag. It is disgusting when people are starving.

  Mr Lucas from next door has been in to see my mother and father who are still in bed. He brought a ‘get well’ card and some flowers for my mother. My mother sat up in bed in a nightie that showed a lot of her chest. She talked to Mr Lucas in a yukky voice. My father pretended to be asleep.

 
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