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       Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, p.1

           Sue Townsend
 
Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years


  By the same author

  FICTION

  The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾

  The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole

  The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole, Margaret

  Hilda Roberts and Susan Lilian Townsend

  Adrian Mole: From Minor to Major

  Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years

  Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years

  Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction

  The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole 1999–2001

  Rebuilding Coventry

  The Queen and I

  Ghost Children

  Number Ten

  Queen Camilla

  PLAYS

  Bazaar and Rummage

  Womberang

  Groping for Words

  The Great Celestial Cow

  Ten Tiny Fingers, Nine Tiny Toes

  The Queen and I

  NON-FICTION

  Mr Bevan’s Dream

  The Published Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman

  (Aged 55¾)

  Adrian Mole:

  The Prostrate Years

  SUE TOWNSEND

  MICHAEL JOSEPH

  an imprint of

  PENGUIN BOOKS

  MICHAEL JOSEPH

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

  Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,

  Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  www.penguin.com

  First published 2009

  Copyright © Lily Broadway Productions Ltd, 2009

  The moral right of the author has been asserted

  All rights reserved

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  ISBN: 978-0-14-193178-4

  This book is dedicated to Sean, with

  love and thanks. And also to Professor

  Mike Nicholson and the Renal team

  at the Leicester General Hospital.

  Acknowledgements

  Without the help of Bailey, Sean, Colin and Louise, I could not have written this book.

  2007

  Saturday 2nd June 2007

  Black clouds over Mangold Parva. It has been raining since the beginning of time. When will it stop?

  MAJOR WORRIES

  Glenn fighting the Taliban in Helmand Province.

  The bookshop only took £17.37 today.

  Up three times last night to urinate.

  The Middle East.

  Do my parents have an up-to-date funeral plan? I can’t afford to bury them.

  My daughter, Gracie, showing alarming Stalinist traits. Is this normal behaviour for the under-fives?

  It is two months and nineteen days since I last made love to my wife, Daisy.

  I sometimes feel that she is less keen on me than she used to be. She hasn’t taken the top off my boiled egg for ages. She has still not bought a pair of wellingtons despite living in Mangold Parva for three years. She is the only mother outside the school gate wearing five-inch heels. This shows her total lack of commitment to me, and to the English countryside. In the first month of our marriage we picked blackberries together and she had a stab at making preserves. Now, four years on, the scars from the boiling jam have almost completely healed, and she is buying raspberry Bonne Maman at £3.50! It is ridiculous when you can buy the Co-op’s own brand at 87p.

  Yesterday I found her crying over her old briefcase. When I asked her what was wrong, she sobbed, ‘I miss Dean Street.’

  ‘Who’s Dean Street?’ I asked.

  She slammed the briefcase down and savagely kicked out at a bag of John Innes.

  ‘Dean Street, the place, idiot,’ she said in that calm sarcastic voice I have come to dread.

  But at least she was speaking to me, although she is still avoiding eye contact. Last week, whilst searching for my nostril hair clippers in my wife’s handbag, I came across a Paperchase A5-sized notebook with a cover depicting harmless-looking monsters. On opening the notebook I was startled to find, on the first page, a note addressed to me.

  ADRIAN, IF YOU HAVE FOUND MY DIARY AND YOU ARE READING THIS, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. THIS DIARY IS MY ONLY CONFIDANT. PLEASE RESPECT MY WISHES AND ALLOW ME SOME PRIVACY.

  CLOSE THE NOTEBOOK AND REPLACE IT,

  NOW!

  I read on.

  Dear Diary

  I intend to write in you every day and I will hold nothing back. I can tell no living person how I feel. Adrian would have a nervous breakdown, my parents and sisters would say we told you not to marry him, and my friends would say we told you so. But the truth is, diary, that I am utterly miserable. I hate living in yokel-land where the populace have never heard of the White Cube Gallery or macchiato coffee and think that Russell Brand is a type of electric kettle. Do I love my husband? Have I ever loved my husband? Can I live with my husband until one or both of us are dead?

  I heard the back door slam and Daisy came in from the garden. I quickly replaced the diary in her handbag and for some reason shouted, ‘Daisy, when is the Queen’s official birthday?’

  She came into the living room and said, ‘Why do you want to know? You haven’t written her one of your poems, have you?’

  As she bent her head to light a cigarette, I couldn’t help but notice that she now has three chins. I have also noticed recently that she has tampered with our ‘speak your weight’ bathroom scales, so they no longer speak.

  I have stopped accompanying her to the shops to buy clothes since she had a temper tantrum in the changing room at Primark, when she got stuck in a size 14 shirt and had to be cut out of it by the manageress. All the way home she was saying, ‘I can’t understand it, I’m only a size 12.’ Even my friend Nigel, who is blind but can see shapes, said recently, ‘By Christ, Daisy’s piling on the pounds. She came to see me the other day and I thought it was my garden shed on the move.’

  When she went into the kitchen, I was tempted to grab her diary and read on, but I daren’t risk it.

  After dinner (tinned tuna salad, new potatoes, beetroot salsa, own strawberries, Elmlea cream) I was washing up when Daisy came in and took a packet of chocolate digestives from out of the cupboard. Later, after I’d cleaned the kitchen surfaces and pushed the wheelie bin and the recycling boxes to the end of the drive, I went into the living room to watch Channel Four news and couldn’t help but notice that Daisy had eaten three-quarters of the packet of biscuits. I should not have said anything. I should have kept
my mouth firmly shut. The subsequent row was like the eruption of a volcano.

  Gracie turned the volume up to full on her DVD of High School Musical 2 and demanded, ‘Stop shouting or I’ll call the police!’

  My mother came round from next door to find out if Daisy had actually killed me. She brought the row to an end by shouting above Daisy and me, ‘Daisy, you are in denial! You are obviously a size 16! Get over it! Evans, Principles and even Dawn French supply clothes for fat women.’

  Daisy hurled herself into my mother’s arms, and my mother indicated with an angry gesture of her head that I was to leave the room.

  *

  This morning Daisy did not stand at the door and watch me mount my bike as I left for work as usual, and when I reached the lane and turned to wave, she was not at the window. Physically I am at a low ebb. I rise from my bed at least three times during the night, more if I allow myself a glass of wine after Newsnight. Consequently I am exhausted, and the next morning I have to put up with my parents (with whom I share a party wall) complaining that the constant flushing of our cistern is keeping them awake.

  As I was cycling into a headwind it took longer than usual to ride to the bookshop, and when I reached the environs of Leicester I was further delayed. It seemed that every major road had been dug up so that new sewage pipes could be laid. As a reluctant cesspit owner this prompted me to be almost consumed with jealous rage. Is it any wonder my wife is yearning for the metropolis? I have denied her one of life’s basic necessities. I blame my father for our primitive sanitary conditions, the money we put aside for mains drainage when we built the Piggeries was frittered away on wheelchair ramps for him. Yet it was his own fault he had a stroke – the only exercise he took for years was wagging his index finger on the remote control. To add insult to injury, he still smokes thirty cigarettes a day and gorges himself on fried bread and chilli-flavoured pork scratchings.

  I rue the day my parents bought two dilapidated pigsties and converted them into living units. I was grateful to have a pigsty roof over my head in the early days of my insolvency, but I have certainly paid the price.

  Another worry is my failure as a father. Gracie came home from nursery school yesterday with a felt-tip drawing of ‘My family’. Diary, I looked amongst the stick people for the representation of myself but failed to find me. I was deeply hurt by my absence. When I asked Gracie why she hadn’t included me, pointing out that it was the tax extracted from my wages that supplied her school with the felt tips and paid her nursery teacher’s salary, her brow furrowed. To avoid the usual escalation – sobs, screams, snot and recriminations – I diverted her by opening a packet of pink wafer biscuits.

  When I asked my wife why she thought Gracie had left me out of the family drawing, Daisy said, ‘She has obviously picked up on your emotional detachment.’ When I protested, she got ridiculously overemotional and shouted, ‘When you come home from work you sit and stare out of the window with your mouth open.’

  I defended myself, saying, ‘I never tire of the view, the trees in the distance, the light fading from the sky.’

  Daisy said, ‘It’s not fucking Cornwall. The view from the front window is of a boggy field and a row of leylandii your father planted to “protect his privacy”. Not that anybody comes near the place.’

  Sunday 3rd June

  1 The Old Pigsty

  The Piggeries

  Bottom Field

  Lower Lane

  Mangold Parva

  Leicestershire

  Sunday 3rd June 2007

  The Right Honourable Gordon Brown MP

  Chancellor of the Exchequer

  11 Downing Street

  London SW1A 2AB

  Dear Mr Brown

  I wrote to you at the Treasury recently regarding a great injustice. According to my local tax office, I am still in arrears to the sum of £13,137.11. This ‘debt’ was incurred during a time when I worked for a duplicitous employer as an offal chef in Soho.

  I realise that you are an incredibly busy man, but if you could find the time to cast your eye over my paperwork (sent 1st March 2007 by registered post) and then forward me a note confirming my innocence in this matter, I would be eternally grateful.

  Your humble and obedient servant,

  A. A. Mole

  PS: May I suggest that you sort this out before you take over as prime minister.

  PPS: Congratulations on doing so well with only one eye. You join the ranks of other illustrious one-eyed men: Peter Falk (Columbo), George Melly, Nelson and, of course, Cyclops.

  Monday 4th June

  What started as a minor disagreement about the correct way to boil potatoes (I cook them from cold, Daisy throws them into boiling water) turned into a tearful and angry denunciation of our marriage.

  The list of my marital crimes included eating crisps too loudly, ironing creases down the front of my jeans, refusing to pay more than £5 for a haircut, wearing the same poppy (first purchased in 1998) during the month of November every year, putting too many dried herbs in spag bol, writing mad letters to famous people, failing to earn enough money to enable us to move out of the pigsty.

  At the end of her diatribe I said, ‘I don’t know why you married me.’

  Daisy looked at me as if seeing me for the first time and said, ‘I honestly don’t know why I married you. I suppose I must have loved you.’

  ‘Loved?’ I queried. ‘Did you mean to use the past tense?’

  Daisy went mad again, shouting, ‘Our marriage is breaking up and all you can do is talk about my grammar.’

  ‘That’s grossly contrapositional of what I actually said,’ I protested.

  ‘Listen to yourself,’ she said. ‘Nobody speaks like that, Adrian. Nobody actually says “contrapositional”.’

  ‘“Contrapositional” almost certainly makes up part of Will Self’s daily intercourse,’ I said. Even to my own ears I sounded like Mr Pooter.

  I do not enjoy such confrontations. Am I turning into one of those middle-aged men who think the country has gone to the dogs and that there has been no decent music since Abba?

  Tuesday 5th June

  Diary, I’ve been thinking about yesterday’s entry and I am a little disturbed to find that I think the country has gone to the dogs and that there is nobody to beat Abba.

  Wednesday 6th June

  The sun came out today. I do not mean in the metaphorical sense, I mean the actual sun came out from behind the low grey clouds that have been hanging about for months. The smell of hawthorn was thick in the air and most of the water had evaporated from the potholes in our drive. I remarked to Daisy that the sunshine would do us all good, boost our serotonin levels and prevent rickets.

  Daisy said, ‘All that sunshine means to me, Adrian, is that I have to shave my legs.’

  She is not the woman I married. The old Daisy, who delighted in the sun, would be lying on a towel in a bikini on the flat roof of our pigsty to soak up every last ray.

  When I suggested she could sunbathe, her eyes filled with tears. ‘Have you seen the size of me recently?’ she said.

  Diary, what has happened to my wife? Did she mean what she wrote about me in her notebook? Will we ever have sex again? Even my parents manage it every other Thursday. I have to wear earplugs because of the disturbing noises through the party wall.

  Monday 11th June

  Mr Carlton-Hayes is ill. Leslie, his friend, rang me at the bookshop first thing this morning. For years I have been wondering if Leslie is a man or a woman. I am still none the wiser. Leslie could be a deep-voiced woman, à la Ruth Kelly the cabinet minister, or a high-voiced man like Alan Ball the footballer.

  All I know about Leslie is that he/she shares a house with Mr Carlton-Hayes, is unsociable and has a liking for Sibelius and the pink coconut and liquorice ones in a box of Bassett’s Allsorts.

  I asked Leslie what was wrong with Mr Carlton-Hayes, and he/she said, ‘Did he not mention it? Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m going to give you rather bad
news. Oh dear…’

  I said, hastily, ‘I’ll wait, shall I, until he’s better?’

  I could hear Leslie breathing. It sounded as if he/she had a bad chest.

  A customer, a woman with one large eyebrow, asked me if we stocked anything on the early surrealists. I directed her towards a Man Ray biography. I was glad of the temporary diversion – I kept Leslie on hold and gave the eyebrow woman the hard sell. Mr Carlton-Hayes had badly misjudged the interest for books about early surrealists in Leicester and the five copies of the Man Ray had been hard to shift. On the other hand, he had severely underestimated the demand for Wayne Rooney’s ghosted autobiography.

  When I returned to the phone, Leslie had gone. I meant to ring back immediately but the woman came to the till with the Man Ray. When she had left, I dialled Leslie’s number but after only two rings I put the phone down and disconnected the call.

  Sunday 17th June

  Father’s Day

  Woken up at 6.20 this morning by the smell of burning, and Gracie yelling into my right ear, ‘Wake up, Dad, it’s Father’s Day!’

  Rushed into the kitchen to find smoke pouring out of toaster, cornflakes underfoot, milk spilt on table, butter knife in sugar bowl. Gracie ordered me to sit down at the table and gave me a card she’d made with Daisy’s help. Quite frankly, Diary, I was distinctly underwhelmed. A piece of card had been folded in half and the word ‘Dad’ written in bits of pasta, most of which had fallen off leaving only traces of glue. Inside it said, ‘form Gracie’.

  I gently pointed out to her that ‘from’ was misspelled.

  She frowned down at the card and said defiantly, ‘That’s how children spell “from” in America.’

  I said, ‘I think you might be wrong there, Gracie.’

 
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