Friday, 24 February 2012

First impressions: Sue Townsend

AUTHOR SUE TOWNSEND is best known for the Adrian Mole series. Her new novel, The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, is out next month.

Written by Melonie

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m having a bit of a rest, although with four children and 10 grandchildren very close, our house is something of a family drop-in centre, which I adore.

When were you at your happiest?

Sitting at my desk writing and hearing the voices of children playing. I don’t fi nd the noise distracting, but I am not a great one for making my deadline.

What is your greatest fear?

Being trapped inside a burning car. When I was young I was fearless, but the image of a burning car has always haunted me.

What is your earliest memory?

Being pushed by mother in my pram and looking up at a tree covered in frost, lit by the moonlight.

Who has been you greatest influence? 

Mr Moles, my English teacher, when I was about 10. He would read out loud to the class, comic novels like The Wind in The Willows, with tears running down his face. It was infectious and we would all be in hysterics. He taught me the importance of laughter and being kind. 

What do you most dislike about yourself?

My ability to procrastinate.

What is your most treasured possession?

A Ralph Lauren soft leather ‘riding’ jacket. Not really a riding jacket, of course. I’ve had it over 20 years. My daughters often borrow it. It is known as ‘Ralph’ in the family. Worn for when I want to be smart but not stuffy. If anyone from Ralph Lauren is reading this, all the lovely horse-head motif buttons have almost gone!

What trait do you most deplore in others?


Do you have a fantasy address?

Anywhere in the village of St Paul de Vence in the South of France.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My face. Mother used to say, ‘You’ve got such an untidy face’. But since my son kindly gave me one of his kidneys, I now have to take so many steroids I can’t see that even Botox would tidy things up.

What is your favourite book?

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. I once persuaded him to do his impersonation of a motorcycle starting on an icy morning.

Your favourite meal?

My husband’s roast lunches. He really has it down to a fine art now. Excellent Yorkshire puddings and gravy – and he doesn’t even like gravy.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?

I don’t think I’d be bothered by anyone famous. Besides, with 19 of us for extended family supper, it would be asqueeze to get anyone else round the table.

Which historical character do you most admire?

Thomas Paine, who wrote The Rights Of Man and went on to be one of the founding fathers of the United States. Not bad for a man who started out as a corset maker from Norfolk.

What’s the nastiest thing ever said to you?

When I was about 12, coming out of Woolworths. I stood on a man’s toe and he snapped: ‘Watch where you’re going you great ox.’ I was devastated. I was only a size 10.

Do you believe in aliens?

Not little green men, but I think there is probably something else.

What is your secret vice?

The Jeremy Kyle Show. He is quite horrible but it is so compelling once switched on. I always want to know the results of the DNA tests and find out who is the real father of the poor little baby.

Do you write thank-you notes?

Eventually. I encouraged all my children to send them and I get a lot from my grandchildren: exotic, handmade ones with empty Quality Street wrappers and things on them.

Which phrase do you most overuse?

I’m addicted to... Nobody could be as addicted to asmany things as I give myself credit for.

What single thing would improve your quality of life?

At the risk of sounding like Little Nell, since I lost my sight and can no longer walk unaided, I can never leave the house alone, and I miss that. I always used to carry my passport and if I was desperate to finish a book or a film script, I would go to the BA office on Regent Street and book myself on to the next flight out.

What would you like your epitaph to say?

Here lies Susan Townsend, she spoke perfect French. I can’t actually speak French but I like to think that it might impress someone wherever I end up.

The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year by Sue Townsend is published by Michael Joseph, £18.99.

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