I was so sorry to hear about the death of Sue Townsend, the comic genius who brought your diaries to a wider audience. I know you felt that she was the one who profited from your private life, passing it off as her own work of fiction, but without her, the world would not have been exposed to your life, family and unenviable range of problems.
Your writing may not have been quite as clever or as intellectual as you believed it to be, but I loved it anyway. I loved your intellectual posturing, your teenage angst and even your snobbishness: ‘Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13¾ -year-old undiscovered intellectual.’
Your poetry had a simplicity and naivety that, unlike the work of your arch nemesis Barry Kent, went unappreciated:
The Tap by Adrian Mole
The tap drips and keeps me awake,
In the morning there will be a lake.
For the want of a washer the carpet will spoil,
Then for another my father will toil.
My father could snuff it while he is at work.
Dad, fit a washer don’t be a burk!
But beneath it all, you were kind, loyal and brave, as you proved when you saved your sons from a burning house: ‘I have often wondered how I would stand up against fire, flood and tempest. Would I run in panic and try to save my own life? Until tonight I suspected that I would do exactly that. But when I woke to the exploding glass and the choking smoke and the sharp flames on the stairs, I found that my own life was unimportant to me. Nothing else mattered apart from removing my sons from danger.’
Your diaries have been my most constant literary companions over the years. During times of sadness or grief, I always turned to their familiarity, their easy humour and warmth for distraction and comfort. You had the gift of making me laugh out loud: ‘I have just had the most humiliating experience of my life. It started when I began to assemble my model aeroplane. I had nearly finished it when I thought I would try an experimental sniff of glue. I put my nose to the undercarriage and sniffed for five seconds, nothing spiritual happened but my nose stuck to the plane! My father took me to Casualty to have it removed, how I endured the laughing and sniggering I don’t know. The Casualty doctor wrote ‘Glue Sniffer’ on my outpatient’s card.’
I loved Sue Townsend’s other books too, but your diaries were the ones that resonated with me, that every teenager in Britain read during the ’80s. You embodied the last thirty years with your experiences and opinions (often hilariously wrong) of social and political events. As an adult, re-reading your diaries, I realised how much of the humour had gone completely over my head: ‘I have just realized I have never seen a dead body or a real female nipple. This is what comes of living in a cul-de-sac.’ Many of the references were also lost on me – who were Dostoyevsky, Sakharov or Malcolm Muggeridge?
Now, I feel sad that we’ll never hear from you again. Would you be have embraced social media; tweeting and snapchatting, instead of writing your diary? Would you have fathered more children with different women? Would you have finally found love in the arms of Pandora, the love of your life? I like to think so. Surely she couldn’t refuse the man who could write: ‘Pandora! I adore ya. I implore ye, Don’t ignore me.’
Thank you for allowing Sue Townsend to share your life with us,
I’ll miss you,