Justice for Adrian Mole

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Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 17, 2011 11:33 pm

Thread from the old ATU site about one of the most enduring characters in British comic fiction for the past 30 years.


Last edited by eddie on Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:04 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:17 am

^

Replicated below in the event of link expiry:

********************************************************************

Eddie wrote:

Sue Townsend's Adrian Mole diaries have sketched a comic social documentary of Britain since the 1980's.

But what has the author got against her main character? She's already trashed his literary aspirations, ended his marriage in an acrimonious divorce, burned down his house and in the latest volume she's given him prostate cancer and he's living in a converted pigsty.

Townsend herself is a registered diabetic and has been blind for a number of years. If the author suffers, her main character must suffer too, it seems.

But to be serious for a moment, if it's not painful it isn't funny. Lear and the Fool.

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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:20 am

Eddie wrote:

AT LAST IT CAN BE TOLD!!

Adrian Mole would have voted at the last UK General Election for Nick Clegg:

John Mullan The Guardian, Saturday 1 January 2011


John Mullan and Sue Townsend at the book club event. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

For whom was The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ originally written? With its jokes about Simone de Beauvoir and Dostoevsky, and the comedy of the arsonist inmate of Holloway Prison called Grace Poole, with whom Adrian begins a correspondence, you know that the author had grown-up readers in mind. One of the readers who came to hear Sue Townsend (right) discuss her satirical classic at the Guardian book club told her that he had loved the book "when I was young". But this was not quite what she hoped to hear. While she was grateful for her many youthful readers, she told us that she had written even the earliest volumes of the Adrian Mole roman fleuve "for adults".

And perhaps only parents would catch the true notes of mingled censoriousness and complaint that distinguish the post-pubescent voice of Mole. (We mused on Adrian's refrains: "Just my luck" and "It's disgusting".) A commenter on the book club website seemed to recognise that the passing years made him understand our diarist better. "I was a bit of a precocious brat when it came to reading age, so first encountered Adrian Mole when I was still at primary school – I thought he was incredibly clever and sensitive, and I even admired his poetry. Every re-reading since has been tinged with a combination of embarrassment and disbelief at my former naivety."

Was there some original for this now mythical character? Only in her own tendencies and secret thoughts, confessed his creator. "Adrian Mole, c'est moi," she insisted. He was the secretly self-important moaner in all of us. Perhaps anyone who starts turning the events of his or her life into a day-by-day narrative risks becoming Mole-like. A commenter on the website conceded as much. "I tried keeping a diary last year. I gave up when I realised that every entry made me sound like Adrian Mole. Particularly embarrassing considering I'm 35."

You presume that this writer is a man, but why? The first questioner of the evening in fact went to the heart of the matter by asking why Townsend had made her narrator male. "If Adrian is you, why did you choose to make him a boy?" Of course it was because boys were "far more secretive", she said, and the gap between what a character might say and do, and what he might confess to his diary, was far wider.

More than one reader felt that Adrian deserved more contentment than he had been allowed. His creator agreed to allow Adrian happiness, but pointed out that it would be impossible to grant him the recognition as a writer that he craved (his output being so evidently without literary merit). How would Adrian's future misadventures pan out? One reader was particularly interested in the role of "current affairs" in the diaries, which have tracked public events for almost three decades. "I was wondering if, when you listen to the news, you are thinking about how Adrian would feel about things." Townsend admitted to a lapse in her own once-obsessive interest in news events, but the reader had her own Mole-ish responses to suggest. "I imagine that Adrian would have voted for Nick Clegg." "Yes, I think he would," Townsend agreed – as did all the readers in the room.

Readers found the influence of Adrian Mole everywhere, from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time to the TV comedy The Inbetweeners. There was a shared disappointment, however, about the TV dramatisations of the Mole books – in one of which, Townsend recalled with distaste, all the main characters seemed to be adopting Birmingham accents, unperceived by the Hungarian director. (She explained that Adrian's diaries were written to the rhythms of Leicester speech.) She agreed that the best bits of Adrian's diary were those that any television adaptation would omit: the inconsequential episodes or records of boredom. Adrian's account of "the desolation of the human spirit" was not particularly "televisual". "We can't let talk of the television go," another reader observed, "without talking about the radio."

Adrian Mole began (as "Nigel Mole") on Radio 4 in 1982, and this enthusiast recalled that the diaries made for "wonderful radio". The medium was perfect for getting "into Adrian's mind". "I agree," Townsend replied. She recalled Nicholas Barnes, the boy who performed Adrian's chronicle of disappointed hopes, who was "exactly 13¾" when he played the part – "a wonderful actor". "He didn't know what he was saying" – but as Adrian himself is blind to so much, especially the antics of the adults around him, this somehow helped his enactment. "I'm really, really hurt that the BBC are not doing it any more." Perhaps a campaign for his restoration to the airwaves could start here?

John Mullan is professor of English at University College London.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:23 am

Sue Townsend: 'I hate it when people call me a national treasure'

The Adrian Mole author on seeing her best-known character grow up, blindness and receiving a kidney from her son

Kate Kellaway The Observer, Sunday 1 August 2010


Sue Townsend at home: 'I am the opposite of a hypochondriac.' Photograph: Gary Calton for the Observer

Do you have plans to kill Adrian Mole off?

The only way I'll kill Adrian is when I die myself.

What's your relationship with him like now?

I made the mistake in the early books of making him not very attractive. But I have recently fallen in love with him. He has got older. He has taken advice from women on clothes and hair. Tragic happenings make him attractive as well. He has come to learn you don't need things. There is joy in seeing a tree come into blossom.

Do you feel the same yourself?

Adrian Mole, c'est moi.

The Prostrate Years includes startling comedy – a dead guide dog chapter…

It is the third dead dog Adrian has buried. He asks: why does everyone ask me to bury their dead dogs?

If you had not been registered blind, could you have written this way?

No, I wouldn't have dared.

Have you got a guide dog?

No, but we have Bill, a black labrador.

You once likened yourself to a golden labrador?

Yes, I hate it when people call me a "national treasure". It takes away your bite and makes you feel like a harmless old golden labrador.

Any other labrador attributes?

Yes – I am usually overweight. I have had to be interested in diet because of being diabetic for 30 years and having kidney failure. Did you know I had a transplant last year?

I read that your son donated his kidney – that must have been traumatic…

Not for me. But for him, I think – he was giving away a healthy organ. It was incredibly brave.

Did you have counselling beforehand?

No – a talk with a vicar. I am surrounded by counsellors. My sister is a counsellor. My daughter is training to be a counsellor. A lot of my friends are counsellors.

And could you be a counsellor?

I have been, unofficially, for years.

Was it useful talking to the vicar?

No. I had my husband and son in the room. That was a mistake. I might have wanted to talk about how scared I was about my son and couldn't.

Were you frightened for yourself?

Once I found out I would be given a morphine drip I could control, no.

How is your new kidney doing?

It's fine! You can see it [points to a pouch-like accessory to the stomach]. They didn't put it in my back because the arteries aren't that good. They put it here so I can feel it. It is really odd. It's like feeling a baby. It's doing well.

Congratulations! But you have been cursed with such outrageously bad health. How come, unlike Adrian, you seem not to be a hypochondriac?

I am the opposite. I ignore myself until it gets acute. I had TB peritonitis at 23.

And is the diabetes a tyranny?

A total tyranny – I have never managed it properly. I am the world's worst diabetic.

Was the blindness diabetes-related?

Yes, the small capillaries in the body burst easily. I was working all night on the TV series The Cappuccino Years, putting a strain on my eyes. Eventually, the capillaries burst and blood flooded the backs of my eyes. I woke and thought the room was full of smoke but couldn't smell anything. I was halfway upstairs before I realised it was in my eyes. One eye cleared quickly, the other didn't. But it meant a huge amount of painful laser treatment to the back of the eye.

Such extremes of success and distress…

Sometimes I rant, in a comical way, about how the gods give with one hand and take with the other.

I was amazed to re-read Adrian Mole's first words (a new year's resolution): "I will help the blind across the road."

Yes, I couldn't believe it – so prescient. When I was a child, I dreaded blindness. We used to ask: would we rather be blind or deaf? I said I'd rather be blind, even though I was scared of it. I couldn't bear not being able to hear music or talk to people.

Adrian worries about emotional detachment. Are you detached, too?

I have a certain detachment. If I gave in to my emotions, I would cry me a river.

What – who – makes you laugh?

Russell Brand makes me laugh because he is such an adorable person. His heart is as big as Manhattan. He is living there now.

What makes you angriest?

Corruption in government….

How does Adrian feel about the coalition?

Adrian was disenchanted with New Labour… And my God, the new government is getting things done quickly. I love that. Yet Vince Cable is already full of self-loathing. You look at him (I can see the television if I sit inches from it) and his head has gone skeletal, the joy has gone out of him and he is ashamed of himself, because the compromises are going to be too great. Nick Clegg has been publicly demoted. David Cameron's voice is getting more and more Bullingdon club. Adrian would be bewildered.

We love Adrian partly because he is a failure. How much have you failed? Did you fail school exams?

I failed everything – including cycling proficiency.

What was your worst failure?

I could have been a better mother. My children assure me it was fine. But when you are running to catch the train to go to a rehearsal and you know your kid has a hacking cough… We said we can have it all and do it all: I can have four children, write three plays a year and a book, go from Leicester to London and come back at midnight. But you can't do it all.

Is it easier being a grandmother?

Yes, I have 10 grandchildren, nine granddaughters. It is like a fairytale isn't it?

Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years is out in paperback by Penguin on Thursday

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:27 am


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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:28 am

Pinhedz wrote: They misspelled "prostate."

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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 13, 2011 2:31 am

Eddie wrote:

pinhedz wrote:
They misspelled "prostate."


I think you'll find that this was a quite intentional "lapsus calami" (slip of the pen).

But you'd probably have to know the series quite well to pick up on the deliberate error.

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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:06 pm

The true confessions of an Adrian Mole addict

Adrian Mole was a boy racked with adolescent angst, an Abba fan who still wore flares in the 80s. And 30 years ago The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ became the defining book of Alexis Petridis's adolescence

Alexis Petridis

guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 January 2012 19.00 GMT


Secret Diary of Adrian Mole: the cast of the 1985 ITV series, with Gian Sammarco as Adrian. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex Features

It was the defining book of my early adolescence and, it seemed at the time, everybody else's as well. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ was the only book I can remember becoming a phenomenon, in the same way that a film or a TV show or a band would become a phenomenon. It swept through my school like a craze, like the Rubik's Cube with knob jokes, or Panini Football '81 stickers with a streak of social comment about Margaret Thatcher's Britain.


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

Indeed, it became such a craze that my school eventually banned it, with exactly the effect you might expect: it made the book even more popular, lending Adrian Mole, an Abba fan who still wore flares in the early 80s, a deeply unexpected sense of outlaw cool. Perhaps they banned it because of the amount of time its hero spends obsessing about his penis and reading a porn magazine called Big and Bouncy; they were saving us from ourselves. More likely because banning it formed part of the English department's apparently dauntless campaign to dissuade pupils from reading anything at all: the classroom was lined with Penguin Classic editions of The Moonstone, Dombey and Son, Jane Eyre, and sundry other novels carefully handpicked for their lack of appeal to your average 12-year-old boy. They were the kind of books that even Adrian Mole, with his pretensions to being an intellectual ("I wrote to Malcolm Muggeridge asking what to do about being one"), would have considered a schlep.

The ban notwithstanding, something similar was clearly happening all over the country. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was published on 7 October 1982: three days, coincidentally, after the Smiths played their first gig, which rather makes the week commencing 4 October 1982 the zero hour of solipsistic 80s angst. Initially, it received little fanfare, as befits a book that was written in secret: its author Sue Townsend had been writing for 20 years, always hiding the results from her then-husband and children. A glowing review by Jilly Cooper first pushed it into the bestseller chart, but teenagers kept it there "for what seemed like years," laughs Townsend down the phone from her home in Leicester, where she has just completed a new novel, The Woman Who Went to Bed. "At one point the hardback and the paperback were both No 1. Then The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole came out and that went to No 1. They just stayed there. There was cheering all over literary London when they finally weren't No 1 any more. I was carving up the bestseller list with these two bloody books."

The thing is, she says, the book wasn't even aimed at teenagers: "It was written for parents, that was the intended audience. It was for the mothers of teenage boys."

That seems obvious now. Reading it as a 40-year-old father, I recognise it as a book clearly written by one of my own: Mole is simultaneously lovable and completely exasperating, and as anyone who has had kids will tell you, love and complete exasperation are pretty much the defining emotions of parenthood. I find my interest resting less on Mole and his on-off girlfriend Pandora than his mum and dad, particularly his mum Pauline, with her ambitions crushed by the suburbs and her late-flowering feminism and her fantastic line in The Growing Pains about how the only thing more boring than listening to other people's dreams is listening to other people's problems.

Indeed, reading it as a 40 year old father, I occasionally wonder what I got out of it 30 years ago. I missed almost everything I now love about the book. I didn't notice how doleful its very Midlands sense of humour is – like a long resigned sigh you laugh at – or how beautifully drawn the other characters are: not just his parents, but Bert Baxter, the octogenarian communist who refuses to die until he sees capitalism dismantled, and Pandora's earnest, Guardian-reading family, their marriage torn asunder by the foundation of the SDP. I didn't get a lot of the references. I had no idea who Iris Murdoch was, nor Malcolm Muggeridge, nor indeed RD Laing, whom one of Mole's teachers doorsteps during a school trip to London in the hope he will give the delinquent Barry Kent "a quick going-over". And I completely overlooked how Townsend uses Mole's naivety as a vehicle for the occasional burst of more vicious wit: "Bert showed me a picture of his dead wife," he writes. "It was taken in the days before they had plastic surgery."

"That would have been a completely serious point to Adrian too," says Townsend. "He wouldn't think there was any humour in that at all. When it was done as a radio play that was what was so wonderful, the actor who read it was 13¾ as well and he didn't get it at all. He read it without any semblance of humour in it: he didn't know."

And 30 years ago, that was the point. I identified with Adrian Mole, which on one level seems bizarre – he is a self-obsessed prig and a hypochondriac to boot – but on another seems perfectly understandable. His brand of adolescent angst felt and still feels more realistic and relevant to me than any other hero of the great teenage novels I went on to read. Holden Caulfield might have been alienated, but he knew how to book into a hotel, get served cocktails and hire a prostitute, all of which marked him out as almost unfathomably exotic and alien. Adrian Mole couldn't even repaint his bedroom without the Noddy wallpaper showing through, which seemed much more my style.

I fell so in love with Mole that, in lieu of any new books about him, I bought Joe Orton's diaries, simply because they had a quote from Townsend on the cover, thus adding myself to a long line of teenage boys who found an encounter with Joe Orton to be rather an eye-opening experience. And I fell so in love with Mole that I made the fateful decision to start keeping a diary of my own. Actually, fateful isn't the right word: it implies something happened. That was the problem. Nothing happened. The only way my diary would ever have been considered fateful was in the event that someone read it and was bored to death as a result.


Alexis Petridis as a teenager in the 1980s. Photograph: Guardian

Adrian Mole may have been largely oblivious to the events that were taking place in his life - "there's always drama swirling around him, affairs happening, people falling in love," says Townsend, "but most of it passes him by. He really believes that his mother and Mr Lucas won't let him in the kitchen because they've got their hands full fixing the boiler" – but at least he had events to be oblivious of. I, on the other hand, embarked on a career as a diarist unabashed by the fact that nothing of interest whatsoever took place in my life. I went to an all-boys school, so there was no Pandora and thus no need to spend time worrying about the size of my thing. Our school trips passed without a Barry Kent-like figure going awol, then getting arrested in a sex shop for the theft of some Grow It Big cream and two "ticklers". My parents stubbornly declined to lose their jobs in the recession, or get wildly drunk or run off to Sheffield to set up home with an insurance salesman ("Was it an act of God?" cackles Bert Baxter, brilliantly, when Mole informs him of this turn of events).

Furthermore, I didn't use it to record my feelings either, thus managing the remarkable feat of being even more buttoned-up than Adrian Mole. I suspect my reluctance to do so might have had something to do with growing up in Yorkshire, a part of the world famed for many things, but never a fatal lack of reserve on the part of its male population. For all I know, it might have changed with the times – the streets of Keighley might these days be thronged with men weeping on strangers' shoulders as they unburden themselves of their innermost woes –but in the Yorkshire that I knew, discussing your feelings as a man wouldn't have been considered a sign of weakness so much as proof that you were mentally ill. So I didn't. "Got up, went to school, came home, had tea, played computer games, went to bed," read my diary, over and over again, like someone making an incredibly heavy-handed point about the mundanity of middle-class life in the suburbs.

The book's other great appeal, even before my school banned it, was that it carried the slight whiff of the forbidden. Perhaps because it wasn't actually intended for kids, perhaps because Townsend "thought it was a scandal that children didn't know about their sexuality, that no one ever talked about boys and what happened to them at that age", the book was pretty racy stuff, at least by the standards of the time. Watch a sitcom from the early 80s and you can still hear a slight gasp in the audience's laughter when a character says "bloody": two years before Adrian Mole was published, the BBC had banned the Specials' Too Much Too Young because it featured the word "contraception". I can remember a cassette of the Jam's Setting Sons being passed around like contraband at my school: astonishingly, one song used the word "fucking". So did 12-year-old schoolboys, of course, and so did The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole: decorously asterisked out, but you didn't need to be an expert in semantics to know what had been censored. It addressed sex and drugs, albeit through a cloud of bathos, which was, and probably still is, how most teenagers experience them. Mole ends the book hospitalised after attempting to sniff glue ("nothing spiritual happened but my nose stuck to the model aeroplane"). Almost uniquely, it pulled off the trick of appearing to speak to teenagers unmediated.

Speaking to Townsend 30 years later, I am struck by the fact that she sounds exactly like I had thought the author of Adrian Mole would sound when I was 12, like a kind of dream auntie, with an innate understanding of teenagers, a propensity for hooting with laughter and telling funny stories: about her friendship with the late Jeffrey Bernard, her time working in youth clubs and a South American tribe she once read about who banished their children at age 12. "Imagine the meeting where they decided on it! 'God, what can we do about this? Why won't they come out of their hut? If they kick that football into the fire again…'"

And occasionally, she sounds remarkably like Adrian Mole. When I tell her about my school banning the book, she laughs again. "That's so ridiculous. I can remember being sent out of class for reading Madame Bovary under the desk when I was about 14, instead of listening to some crappy thing about British fishing methods, dredging as opposed to trawling. Thrown out for reading a classic!" Just my luck! No one notices I'm an intellectual!

But perhaps we all sound remarkably like Adrian Mole sometimes. Townsend kept writing about him: eight books in total, all brilliantly funny, dragging him from the height of Thatcherism to the dying days of New Labour, from acne to prostate cancer. In some ways, that first book reads like a period piece now, perfectly capturing a Britain that I can just about remember, a grimmer, greyer, more earnest country than the popular image of the early 80s as a riot of shoulder pads, dayglow legwarmers and New Romantics would have you believe: a country where everybody smoked indoors all the time, the only thing open on Sundays was the garden centre, Channel 4's idea of prime-time programming was In The Pink ("a feminist cabaret celebrating women's lives through poetry, dance and music") and the letters page of Smash Hits hosted what editor David Hepworth memorably described as "letters from schoolgirls about the miners' strike, written on Holly Hobby notepaper". Yet something about the central character transcends his era and even his age. After all, his default position is that his is the solitary voice of sanity in a world gone mad. Who can honestly say they don't feel like that on a regular basis?

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Re: Justice for Adrian Mole

Post  eddie on Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:56 am

David Walliams: 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole was our bible'

In this extract from his foreward to the new edition of Sue Townsend's book, the comedian David Walliams pays tribute to the genius of her comic creation

David Walliams

guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 January 2012 19.00 GMT


David Walliams: 'It was probably the biggest phenomenon of my youth after Star Wars, and Star Wars was bigger than God.' Photograph: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/Corbis

"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. Parents and teachers and responsible adults all disapproved of the book, which of course made we kids love it all the more.


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

I was born in 1971, and it is unthinkable that any boy I knew from school (Reigate grammar school), or scouts (2nd 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 lives 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. JK 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 JK Rowling sell in the last seven days?"

"A million."

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole has been translated into numerous languages and sold more than 10m 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 is one of the funniest books ever written. I love PG 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 agonise 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 who 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 who 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. As with that show, so many of Townsend's laughs are in the small details. The boredom of existence is 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 a copy. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole is now 30 years old, yet 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.

Extracted from the Foreword to the 30th anniversary edition of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend, published by Penguin on 19 January at £7.99.

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