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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Adrian Mole author tells of blindness
Alison Steadman and Stephen Mangan
Stephen Mangan played Adrian on BBC One
Writer Sue Townsend, author of the best-selling Adrian Mole books, has spoken about the "challenge" of her recent blindness.

Ms Townsend is diabetic and was registered as partially sighted two years ago but became completely blind recently due to haemorrhages in her retina.

Sue Townsend
Sue Townsend left school aged 15
"In my sleep I had a haemorrhage in both eyes and when I woke my eyes were full of this black haze, like thick black smoke," Townsend said in an interview with The Observer newspaper.

"I thought there was a fire and I staggered around, trying to put it out."

Blindness is a known complication of diabetes, which Townsend was diagnosed with 15 years ago.

'Secret life'

Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946 and got married at 18.

She has four children and five grandchildren and says it is the loss of independence that bothers her most.

A woman recently described her as brave, which angered Townsend as she loathes being pitied.

"My throat closed up with rage and my heart started hammering," she said.

"I've always had a problem with the misuse of the word "brave" - everybody's brave now."

As somebody who adores reading, she now relies on her husband to read to her.

"He is entering my secret life - reading is private.

"Being read to, or listening to books on tape, is not.

"I don't mind so much - it's been quite nice really."

Mole dynasty

The Mole diaries have sold over eight million copies and have been adapted for radio, television, stage and been translated into 34 languages.

I'm going to buy the most fantastic dark glasses you've ever seen

Sue Townsend

When The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole came out in the early 1980s it quickly established itself as a must-read for teenagers.

The Secret Diary and its sequel The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole were both number one best sellers.

In 1991 Townsend published a third volume Adrian Mole from Minor to Major and then in 1993 Adrian Mole The Wilderness Years.

Townsend's other novels include The Queen and I (1992) and Ghost Children (1998) and she has also written several stage plays.


Townsend plans to turn her blindness to her advantage, including writing a piece for The Observer, assessing the effect of four years of New Labour Government on a particularly poor council estate.

"The place is so poor they steal the paving stones to sell to people with patios," she said.

While recognising the difficulties she will encounter in writing the piece now that she is blind, she is undaunted.

Stephen Mangan and Keith Allen
Adrian Mole's lastest TV manifestation is in The Cappuccino Years
"I can get them to describe it themselves," she said.

"It'll be like an educated imaginative leap I have to make, based on everything I've seen, heard, known."

But she is not entirely stoic and described breaking down without warning while shopping in Ikea.

Even this story is lightened with her customary humour.

She is not taking the blindness itself lightly, but Townsend is fighting to keep her life going.

"I am going to buy the most fantastic dark glasses you've ever seen," she said.

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31 Dec 00 | Entertainment
The return of the Mole
11 Mar 99 | Education
The books children are reading
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