Between the ages of 13¾ and 16, Adrian Albert Mole recorded memories of his less than perfect Christmases. As well as being incredibly funny, Sue Townsend’s books are fantastic time capsules of British consumer culture in the early 1980s. I too remember buying all my Christmas presents for under a pound from Woolies and enjoying family dinners accompanied by cigarette smoke and the occasional drop of red for the children.
Friday December 25th (1981)
‘I went up to the bathroom and found my mother crying and running the turkey under the hot tap. She said, “The bloody thing won’t thaw out, Adrian. What am I going to do?” I said, “Just bung it in the oven.” So she did.
‘We went down to eat Christmas dinner four hours late. By then my father was too drunk to eat anything.’
Friday December 24th (1982)
‘At 5.25 I had a panic attack and left the queue and rushed into Marks and Spencer’s to buy something. I was temporarily deranged. A voice inside my head kept saying: “Only five minutes before the shops shut. Buy! Buy! Buy!”
‘The Shop was full of sweating men buying women’s underwear. At 5.29 I came to my senses and went back to bus stop. Just in time to see the bus leaving. I got home at 6.15 after buying a packet of fairy lights from Cherry’s shop which is just around the corner from my house.’
Saturday December 25th (1982)
‘When my mother asked me which part of the turkey I wanted, I said, ‘A wing please!” I really wanted breast, leg or thigh. But wing was the only part of the bird without sexual connotations.
‘I was given a glass of Bull’s Blood wine and felt dead sensual I talked brilliantly and with consummate wit for an hour, but then my mother told me to leave the table saying, “One whiff of the barmaid’s apron and his mouth runs away with him.”’
Tuesday December 25th (1984)
‘Not a bad collection of presents considering my Dad’s redundant. I got the grey zip-up cardigan I asked for. My mother said, “If you want to look like a sixteen-year old Frank Bought then go ahead and wear the thing.
‘But the best present of all was the electric shaver. I have already had three shaves. My chin is as smooth as a billiard ball.’