Promise of a pay-off in Nobody's diary

26th January 2007 at 00:00
One highlight of the coming year on television will, I hope, be Andrew Davies's adaptation of George and Weedon Grossmith's Diary of a Nobody, described by Evelyn Waugh as "the funniest book in the English language".

The book has many delights, including the relationship between the diarist - the Victorian clerk Mr Pooter - and his boss, Mr Perkupp. There's the time when Mr Pooter ill-advisedly remonstrates with the younger clerks for their poor timekeeping and receives cheek in return. Next day, he misses his bus for the first time ever and is himself the only person to be half an hour late.

And the occasion when Mr Pooter and his dear wife Carrie pluck up courage to invite the austere Mr Perkupp to a party at their home. He arrives late.

There's no food or drink left, and everyone's in the middle of an hysterical game that involves dressing in the hearth-rug and acting like a donkey. "I apologised for the foolery, but Mr Perkupp said: 'Oh, it seems amusing.'"

Been there? Or somewhere similar? Or have you, as a manager, caused frustration by putting to the back of your mind something that's hugely important to a colleague? Mr Perkupp, actually kind and wise but self-consciously busy, one day tells Mr Pooter he's going to promote him and that he'll tell him about it the next day. Mr Pooter is on pins, and the day wears on with no news. Finally, Mr Pooter finds it in him to raise the issue, but Mr Perkupp is busy. "I will see you tomorrow," he says.

The next day, Mr Perkupp sends word that he won't be in. Only the day after does Mr Pooter learn he is to be made senior clerk. Alas, Mr Perkupp can't say anything about salary until the next day. And so, four days on from their first meeting, Mr Pooter learns that his salary is to be raised by pound;100. By then, our empathy with Mr Pooter is such that we put the book down and cheer.

("What did you say, Andrew? Have we made our minds up about your adaptation? We're busy at the moment. Try Monday.") Read Gerald Haigh's new blog at:

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