Sue Townsend, Adrian Mole and Me


This is not what I intended to be writing about today, but you’ve got to roll with the punches.

I was either going to write about the fact that my uniforms piece is ready to collect from the framer’s, or about a couple of postcards I recently made from a 1965 record sleeve.

However, all that changed when I heard about the death of Sue Townsend.

My sister and I have always loved her.

My cousin, David, who is a year older than me, was always giving me books to read when we were at school. He introduced me to many great characters, one of which was Adrian Mole. We went to a rough-as-you-like comprehensive, in one of the most deprived areas of the country. There was a lot of glue- sniffing in my school. There were also a lot of extremely bright, overlooked kids. Our David was one of them. He is the son of a factory worker (my dad’s younger brother, who escaped the pit), and now works in a betting shop in our home town.

Over the years, meeting students, teachers, professors, professional people, I have often had the same thought. They are not nearly so bright as the kids I went to school with.

I came to London at nineteen to go to art college. It was the Eighties. It was Goldmiths’. I didn’t know about snobbery. Hard to believe, but I didn’t.

On the first day, we sat in a circle and discussed our favourite books. Mine, Adrian Mole. There were sniggers. I was crushed, and didn’t really talk again for the rest of the course. I became almost reclusive. It seemed everyone else knew what to say, and how to say it.

I knew I was different as I watched my fellow students arrive in their parents’ cars, loaded up with useful stuff, like pans and towels. I arrived on my own, on the National Express coach from Durham  to Victoria, with one bag on my back. I got the 36  from Victoria, when I actually said the words “You can have my seat missus”. Also,  I shouted a ‘thank you’ to the driver as I got off the bus. At home you would have never got off a bus without shouting ‘Thank you, Driver”. To this day, I have always thanked the driver, sometimes a wave, too.

This morning I sent a quick email to my sister and  our David,  just saying ‘Sue Townsend has died’, below is the reply from our David. I’ve no idea why the font changes.

Thanks for the laughs, Sue.

Alison x

I’ve just heard on Radio 5……… sad………….I can’t believe poor Adrian is destined to be eternally unhappy and not fulfilled in his life!! The last couple of books had me both near to tears and laughing on the same page more often than not. I knew she was struggling with her health recently, with diabetes and blindness.
The side-story of his son with Sharon Bott, who he tried to guide along the right path despite being little more than dragged up, ended up in the Army in Iraq (or Afghanistan, I forget which!), and what happens with that is truly heart-wrenching……….it makes you not want to turn the page sometimes………yet finding yourself hurrying to do so!!!
 A true literary great of our lifetime………RIP Sue.
 Hope you are all well,

24 thoughts on “Sue Townsend, Adrian Mole and Me

    • Thank you.
      Yes, it’s a great gift to be able to make people laugh.
      I grew up with Adrian, it feels like we went to school together. Strange.
      Thanks for visiting me.

  1. A lovely tribute to Sue and interesting insight into your life too!

    One of the things I noticed the most when I moved up North from Brighton was the friendliness of passengers (and drivers & conductors) on public transport

    • Thank you.
      My good friend, Sally, from student days is from Worthing. She is extremely friendly.
      Much colder up there, though!
      Thanks so much for visiting me, much appreciated.

  2. What a brilliant post.
    This week I felt a similar way over the death of Peaches Geldof and the memories and links to the past it stirred. In a rare moment of taste, the infamous Katie Hopkins commented on her death ‘through an appropriate medium’. Although her comments were more worthy of print than most of her antagonisms, I can’t agree with one point of her vitriolic spiel. I didn’t know Peaches, I didn’t know her iconic mother. You didn’t know Sue Townsend and millions didn’t know Princess Diana. But we can all be deeply affected and moved by a strangers death – especially one who’s had a deep imprint on our life. Thank you for sharing what you have, today, in your blog. X

      • Ha! That’s one of the things that I loved about Paula (and Bob) – they did what they wanted and for the right reasons – they didn’t give a damn about others’ opinions on this. Although I’ve read, Peaches wasn’t enamored! But then parents are the most uncool of humans – even if they are PY and BG 😦

      • Oh, I didn’t explain myself properly. I’ve just read my comment, and I didn’t even start a new sentence. Doh! I meant, it was a shock to hear her name on the radio regarding her death. There was a fuss about her name at the time she was born, but I have always been fond of the name. It makes you smile. I’m with you, I respect the right of the parents to choose the name they want. I can’t understand people who have nothing better to do than criticize people for doing harmless stuff like naming the child something unusual.
        Enjoy your Sunday, it’s beautiful out there.

    • Yes, same here with Mole, feel like I know him.
      The funny thing is that I really wanted to say Winnie-the-Pooh, but I thought that would be uncool!
      It wasn’t a London snobbery I was thinking of, I have been here 27 years, so maybe I’m guilty of that myself. It was class snobbery, elitist art snobbery. You know, some things are ‘art’ and others things are not.

  3. It’s so sad to know a favorite has passed… I wasn’t familiar with Sue’s work. But clearly it lives on, with new life as others like me learn of her wonderful words.
    By the way Alison… I thought I followed your blog long ago, but just saw that somehow I was not. Strange — but now remedied. 🙂
    See you on Pinterest!

    • No worries, I’ve no idea who is following me and who isn’t.
      Yes, I’ve got back into pinterest lately.
      Sue was a really inspirational woman, and wrote books against all the odds.

  4. I was familiar with ‘Adrian Mole’ but never read it. I knew many people would be sad at Sue’s passing.
    It’s lovely to read these snippets about you and I can imagine you waiving at a driver… haha, I so rarely take the bus but when I do I also say thank you. Often they look at me as if I’ve just landed from Mars.

    Lovely post and yes, very sad about Peaches… so young!! x

    • Indeed she was so young, so sad for her little ones.
      Yes, I can imagine you having a good old chat with the driver.
      Sorry I haven’t visited you. Fb and twitter are easy on this phone but this is the first time I’ve tried wp and it’s not so simple, for me anyway! Have a great weekend xx

  5. A beautiful post Alison, keep being true to yourself and loving what you love. Elitist art snobs snigger because they are too afraid to say what speaks to them as individuals, or perhaps they don’t know…..

  6. I grew up on Adrian Mole – we saw the show on TV here in Denmark, and I always felt sorry for the young chap 🙂 So sad to hear about Sue, and even sadder to hear about Peaches, to soon so young. Happy Easter Alison,

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