Happy 50th birthday to Adrian Mole! To celebrate, Shappi Khorsandi - comedian, writer and creator of fellow teenage heroine Nina Swanson - shares her own experience of growing up with the nation's favourite diarist...
The Bard of Leicester, the intellectual poet, the thinker, the gentle enthusiast of Big and Bouncy magazine, is 50.
It seems only yesterday that this titan of teenage angst was rebelliously painting over the Noddy wallpaper of his childhood with black emulsion, only to find that the bells on Noddy's hat were bionic, and survived coat after coat of paint.
An only child stuck with parents who simply don't appreciate his brilliance, or are too wrapped up in their provincial lives to notice it, Adrian was the unsung hero of my generation.
The wonderful, funny-as-hell Sue Townsend created a gift that keeps on giving. I have re-read Adrian's diary many times over the years. The first time I was just ten years old, so many of the jokes passed me by. Not that this marred my delight. And each time I picked up the book, growing older with him, I 'got' more and more of Sue Townsend's brilliant humour. There's always a little nugget you've missed, always a joyous discovery when you revisit him.
At ten years old, it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that Adrian's reaction to reading Animal Farm was "I'd quite like to be a vet", or that his opinion on Jane Austen's career path should be: "It was quite old-fashioned. Jane Austen should write something more modern."
In his dry little asides about their uselessness, Adrian is scornful of his parents in the way only a 13-and-three-quarter year-old can be. His father gives him a tracksuit and a football for his 14th birthday because: "He is completely insensitive to my needs". His mother reads The Female Eunuch (which is "full of dirty words") and starts making Adrian and his father do housework.
Aged ten, it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that Adrian's reaction to reading Animal Farm was "I'd quite like to be a vet"
His world consists of a cast of suburban eccentrics: Nigel, his 'punk' best friend and sometimes arch-rival; Pandora, the cool, intelligent beauty and object of Adrian's desires and painful teenage hormones; Mr Lucas, the breaker of his parents’ marriage (their bitter separation includes a fight over "who doesn't get custody of Adrian").
There is Bert Baxter, the foul-mouthed pensioner who Adrian looks after in order to miss maths on a Monday afternoon, and Barry Kent, the school bully who duffs him up and demands "menaces money". Most of the people in his life present baffling challenges to our precocious hero, and he pours out his worries and woes in his unintentionally hilarious diary.
Some of his entries reveal his very tender nature - towards Bert, his mother, the dog. Some are brief lines of utter panic; "My nipples have swollen! I'm turning into a girl!"
But Adrian's desperation to be a writer is the thread that runs through his whole diary. If only someone at the BBC would recognise his talent! He is so desperate to get a poem broadcast that, when he receives a polite rejection letter saying "good try, but try again, eh?", he misinterprets the snub with excitement: "Try again!" He is almost giving me a commission."
Excrutiatingly, I very much relate to Adrian's delusion. If I was half as good a writer as Mole, I'd write:
Oh Adrian! Adrian! Adrian!
How time has flown!
And my love has grown!
I adore you more than I could mention!
Even though soon you'll be drawing your pension.
Happy birthday, Moley. You haven't aged a bit.
Revisit Adrian's diaries
More about the author
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Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all.
And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before, then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend.
But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…
A dark, funny - sometimes shocking - coming of age novel from one of the UK’s leading comedians. NINA IS NOT O.K. will appeal to fans of Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham.