I was devastated on Friday when I woke up to the news that Sue Townsend, the creator of Adrian Mole, had died.
I loved Sue, and I love Adrian, and I am truly, properly devastated that there will never be another episode in the Mole chronicles to make me laugh.
When I first started this blog, nearly eight years ago, I wrote quite a bit about Sue Townsend, and the influence Adrian Mole had on me.
Sue, you see, came from Leicester, which is where I live and have lived on and off all my life, and Leicester and its environs are as much a part of the Mole books as Mole himself. Her books were the first time I ever thought Leicester might be anything other than dull and a bit crap.
Adrian Mole is roughly the same age as me. I grew up with him, and his experiences have resonated with my own through the decades.
I still remember listening to The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 and 3/4 on the radio when it was serialised all those years ago. I was on a long car journey with my mum, listening with great sullenness to Radio Four, which was her station of choice (not mine), when it came on.
I was entranced, and delighted and utterly captivated.
It must have been book of the week on Woman’s Hour or something, because it was just a short excerpt. My memory tells me it was the section of the book where he paints his bedroom black to get rid of the Noddy wall paper, and then has to go over all the bells on Noddy’s hat in black felt tipped pen, because they kept showing up under the paint.
Then, when he finally gets it done to his satisfaction, the dog sits in his room and howls disconsolately, begging to be let out because it is so oppressive.
I thought this was wonderful. My mum did too. I remember giggling with her conspiratorially and being amazed that we both enjoyed the same thing.
I made it my mission after that car journey, to get the book as soon as possible.
I read it until the pages fell out and I had to get a new copy.
Every time I am forced to go to the Leicester Royal Infirmary casualty department I still think of Adrian with his Airfix plane stuck to his nose after an abortive attempt to sniff glue, and no matter how serious the reason we are there for, it still makes me smile.
In recent years, as Adrian grew up and older alongside me, my favourite episode from the later books is when Adrian moves into a swanky flat on the banks of the redeveloped River Soar in Leicester city centre, known in the book as Rat Wharf. I howled at the section where the evil swan from the river menaces Adrian and lies in wait to attack him. It has been a constant saying in our family for years when faced with a swan: ‘Watch out! That swan could break your arm you know!’ and when I read it in the pages of Sue’s book I laughed until I cried.
It sounds stupid, I know, but Adrian has been a part of my life for decades, and I am so very sad that he is gone.
Sue, Thank you so much for what you have given me over the years. Life is a little poorer without you.