HAVE you ever wondered what it would be like to go back to your teenage years? To your first love? Close friends? Not just as an idle thought, but to really immerse yourself in those years, actually talk to those people and see whether their memories match yours?

Dusty Springfield sang about ‘Going Back’ – the song was played at her funeral – to ‘the things I learned so well, in my youth’. I carried my story with me for many years but what was it I learned back then? When I started writing notes for a memoir, I knew I too had to go back.

Moving away from home was something we all did after school. In the sixth form we were a close group of nine friends, sharing the boredom of school days, giving way to the excitement of the sort of nights everyone must remember from those vivid, growing-up years; high on the future, bonds strengthened by alcohol, and a new awareness of selves and sexual power.

The pub was ours, the streets, the church on Christmas Eve when we giggled through midnight mass after too many ciders, and afterwards, lying on our backs on ice-dusted pavements, holding hands and staring up into the night, even the stars were ours. We were discovering love and life together, invincible.

Then it was university – new lives, friends, marriages, children. But I never forgot the feeling of belonging I had with those friends. Had they felt it too, those three girls and five boys? And when a tragic death ripped the heart out of the group, could we ever be together again and feel the same?

I was lucky, as I wasn’t relying on memory alone. I had my diaries, written every night between 1974 and 1986, from age 11 to 23. I’d sometimes contemplated getting rid of what my mum had called my ‘emotional props’. I was so glad I hadn’t. I stopped writing in 1986 when Mark, my first love, was killed. That event so twisted my life out of shape that, for years, choices I made were unconsciously rooted in that loss.

Pages: 1 2