Pootering About

Peter Morton reminds us that, a century before Adrian Mole, there was Charles Pooter.

In Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the latest of her hilarious fictive diaries, Sue Townsend sends her hero to a ceremony. Too late he discovers that the front of his trousers is stained with dried evaporated milk. He spends the occasion slightly crouched, ‘with my hands flat against my thighs, like a man who was about to bend down and pat the head of a small child’. It is yet another of Mole’s humiliating moments.

Or, one might say, another ‘Pooterish’ moment (the adjective is in the Oxford English Dictionary). For as Mole ages, and he is now in mid-life, the more he is coming to resemble his great late-Victorian original, Charles Pooter, the hapless suburban clerk of The Diary of a Nobody . Indeed, Pooter experiences an analogous moment at the theatre, when his patent bow-tie falls from the balcony into the stalls below. Fortunately Pooter is bearded; so ‘to hide the absence of the tie I had to keep my chin down the rest of the evening, which caused a pain at the back of my neck.’

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