Leading Article: Good grief!

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THE MILLENNIUM will be going out on an unexpectedly sad note: those small heroes of suburbia, Charlie Brown and his gang of big-headed, small-bodied mates will not be returning to grace the new century with their universal worries. Their creator, Charles Schultz, is retiring and he will not be allowing anyone to take up a pen to extend Peanuts beyond its allotted 50-year lifespan.

In our memories, of course, Peppermint Patty will continue to fail all her exams, while her friend Marcie mocks her stupidity; Charlie's sister Sally's handwriting will remain a childish scrawl, while his dog Snoopy will retain his flights of fantasy as the Second World War flying ace, The Red Baron. Lucy will remain her arrogant, somewhat sadistic self, while her crush on the Beethoven pianist, Shroeder, will never be reciprocated; and her brother Linus will hang on to that security blanket awaiting the Hallowe'en appearance of the Great Pumpkin. Most sadly of all, Charlie Brown's baseball team will never win its first game.

If anyone ever asks how these silly little conceits came to delight 200 million readers a day, in 68 countries, just remember this: more of us fall flat on our backs when trying to kick that football than ever boot it over the goalposts.