j-w1Q. How was the experience of meeting up with old friends again, especially after such a deep immersion in the diaries?

A. In one respect I was nervous. The diaries had taken me back to my friends as they were in the Eighties, and the way we were, to quote the famous song. How would it be now, 25 years on? Yet there was also great curiosity and a desire to know them now, and find out what turns their lives had taken. Our first reunion was before I started writing the book, and that was so emotional. I felt I really needed to see everyone again after what happened in Jenny’s van – which is in the book – so I managed to find everyone and we arranged to get together for a weekend in Hull, meeting up in our old pub, the Duke, for the first time as a gang without Mark. It was wonderful to see everyone, but we all felt his loss so much by being back together. And I heard how the others had been deeply affected by Mark’s death too. I could share my feelings with them, and they understood. I wasn’t alone with it any more.

When I started writing Wentbridge, I had a week away, travelling to the south coast first to talk to Gary and Adrian, then up to London and Mandy, then on to see Nick in Wiltshire, then Julie in West Yorkshire, and last but definitely not least, Tony and Sian near Hull. What was fascinating was comparing memories, and how they were both shared, but different, like looking at a film set from a different angle. And every last one of them was totally supportive of what I was doing in writing the memoir. I had been slightly worried about that – about them feeling that perhaps they didn’t want their party misdemeanours or teen romantic entanglements printed for all time in the pages of a book, but they all just said, ‘Don’t be daft Janbo.’

Q. How did it feel revisiting your time with Mark in such detail when writing the book?

A. It was the strangest thing but I would completely immerse myself in the past. Once the boys had gone to school, and the house was quiet, I would sit at the table with my laptop, thinking myself back into the feelings that went with what was written in the diaries, and etched in my memory. Between 9.30am and about 2.30pm, I wouldn’t move from my seat, so absorbed would I be in the past. I realised the only way to recreate my time with Mark was to relive it – particularly strange as a forty-something trying to imagine making love with Mark for the first time in the back of my old Austin! When the time came for me to get my head back into the present, and go and pick the boys up from school, I would literally have to drag myself back, realising at the same time that I was hungry and needed to go to the loo.

I guess by reliving it in my imagination, it helped with the psychological process of honouring what Mark and I shared, and letting it go. And I tried really hard not to see him through rose-tinted specs. He was my first love, and naturally I thought he was gorgeous, but he wasn’t perfect, and I hope I managed to convey all aspects of him, and of how we were together.

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