Leicester’s Sue was worth more than Kings and Queens……

THINK of Leicester and names such as Gary Lineker, Jamie Vardy, Mark Selby and, rather absurdly, Richard III come readily to mind.

I doubt, however, that any compare as a human being to writer Sue Townsend, who was the subject of a very moving BBC documentary film aired last week.

Catapulted to fame as the creator of Adrian Mole, the modest Leicester woman went on to write 16 books before her untimely death in 2014 at the age of 68.

I must admit that, apart from listening to a highly memorable radio rendition of her best seller in the 1980s, I largely missed out on Sue’s work whilst she was alive.

However, the programme gave a very clear impression of a woman who delighted in being plain ordinary.

She was never beautiful or loud enough to crave attention and could so easily have gone through her life without being noticed at all.

Although she had always been an avid writer, it was only in her 30s that her talent was more widely discovered.

Raised on a council estate in Leicester, she was never likely to allow her success to go to her head, even after she received a £1m cheque when her breakthrough diary of a troubled, but intensely normal, young man became the highest selling book in the UK in 1984.

She had promised herself that, should she ever have the means, she’d like to live in the comparatively more prosperous Stoneygate area of Leicester, but there was no way she was ever going to leave her roots behind.

Sue’s secret was that she readily resonated with the general public. Her writing style was undeniably excellent, but it was her ability to accurately and humorously reflect human nature that made her so special.

In the eyes of some folk, she wasn’t the ideal role model. She smoked like a chimney and drank her fair share, too, resulting in her being in great danger of becoming a ‘burden on the NHS’ in today’s parlance.

But that pales into insignificance, in my view, compared with her willingness to provide a listening ear and support ordinary people who were suffering in their different ways.

The documentary also highlighted Sue’s ability to see through the ‘unreal’.

Her book The Queen and I focused on what life might have been like for the Monarch had she been relocated to a Leicester council estate.

But, tellingly, her dislike of the principle of having a Royal Family – she was a devout Republican – was tempered by her generous appreciation of The Queen and others as human beings.

She actually felt that Queen Elizabeth II has missed out through not having an ordinary life – a very interesting thought that should not be quickly dismissed.

In the same way, she expressed her unhappiness with Tony Blair and New Labour for hoodwinking down-to-earth folk into thinking her beloved country would change after years of being battered by the policies of Margaret Thatcher.

Unlike some of Leicester’s other best-known ‘celebrities’, Sue respected who she really was and where she came from – and was, in my opinion, all the better for it.

We live in a world in which our sense of real worth is warped to say the least.

But Sue Townsend was ‘real’ – warts and all.




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