Nothing Ever Happens In Wentbridge

Author: Janet Watson

Nothing Ever Happens In Wentbridge

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Tags: Coalfield Culture

June 1981: That night. The night we made love in desperation. So much emotion, so much need. But now I’m sure of one thing. It’s rapid cell division rather than stress that has been messing with my biology.

Dallas is on the telly, Abba are number one, Starsky and Hutch are on her bedroom wall – and Janet is falling in love for the first time. In the warm glow of the local pub, with cider, Tetley’s and a close-knit gang of friends, life for Janet and Mark couldn’t be better.  Then, one morning, her mother’s worst fears for Janet are realised and a decision is made that will change everything.

Nothing Ever Happens in Wentbridge is a true story from the emotional front line of a first love. This beautiful and vivid account of Mark and Janet, their lives, love and loss, shows how the mind has an uncanny ability to ignore what it doesn’t want to acknowledge. Until it has to.



This is a luminous book about real life: about love, loss, motherhood, daughterhood, about sex, longing and fear, regret and the terrible pain of hindsight. It’s a must-read for parents, forcing us to look beyond present disagreement with our children to the health of our future with them. And it’s a fabulous story, whose last third I had to read in one sitting into the small hours. This book must surely have taken courage to write. I loved it.

The Sunday Mirror

The author drew on her teenage diaries for this poignant yet hilarious memoir about finding and losing your first love. The vividly depicted memories will make readers wince with recollection, but aside from its funny moments, it’s ultimately very moving.

Words Are My Craft

The book is genuinely funny but unbelievably touching. It is relatable and very approachable. It explores the beauty and incredible complexity of human love, in all its forms and incarnations. It shows that love and life isn’t just black and white. It does all of this while taking us on one woman’s fascinating journey through early life.

Hull Daily Mail

A funny and sensitive account of a young journalist’s life.

Ian Clayton

To quote the old song – I thought I’d found her letters and read each one out loud. This is a very touching story about first love and last rites. It’s also about how, in order to be in tune with our present and then move on, we invariably have to visit something painful from the past.

A Drink With Janet Watson

A Drink With Janet Watson

A conversation with Janet Watson about Nothing Ever Happens In Wentbridge. Janet's drink of choice i...

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Janet Watson Q&A

Janet Watson Q&A

Janet Watson Q&A

Boats and a Rubber Band

In this extract from Nothing Ever Happens in Wentbridge, Janbo goes on the school's Easter barge trip with a rubber band on her finger.

The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burned on the water. The poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were lovesick with them.

He had a way with words, did Enobarbus. Wouldn’t mind coming back as Shakespeare’s Cleo in the next life, if there is one. There was a woman with the looks, and the lifestyle, if this holiday is anything to go by. She can keep her asp though.

It’s six weeks since the Pill conversation, and disapproving parents are the last thing on my mind. I’m miles away from them, and Mark, basking in glorious sunshine on the warm metal roof of Falcon, a traditional narrowboat, Sugar Minott’s ‘Good Thing Going’ distorting out of a tiny radio balanced precariously between other prone bodies, and I’m being fed purple grapes by Mandy.

‘Janbo, how very decadent,’ shouts Sian, from somewhere behind the top of my head.

Stretching my arm up towards the clear blue, I wave, lazily. ‘Try them Sian, they really are the best grapes I’ve ever tasted,’ I shout back. ‘God, Mand, these are gorgeous. Where did you get them?’

‘Supermarket back there, where we stopped for water,’ she says.

‘Bridge!’ The disembodied yell comes from the roof of Blue Swallow, the boys’ narrowboat up ahead, and everyone flattens themselves closer to the roof of our temporary, floating home.

The bridge warnings were introduced yesterday, after one of the boys had a very painful encounter with canal masonry.

Mr Gaskin’s pipe smoke lingers beneath damp brickwork as we sail under Bridge 59 on the Stourport Ring. He’s steering Victoria Shane, the teachers’ vessel, immediately in front of us, while Coot, carrying more boys, brings up the rear of the Cottingham High convoy.

The school’s Easter-break narrowboat holidays are legendary, to me at least. Every year I’ve cycled off Easter-egg torpor beside my friend Karen, listening to breathless tales of food and water fights, cooking and cleaning rotas, and – as she moved further up the school – towpath vomiting after too much rum and black, and furtive comings and goings between berths under the cover of darkness.

Julie and Mandy are ‘barging’ veterans. It seemed natural for Sian and I to book a bunk on the very last barging holiday ever for the upper sixth. Lying in the sun, drifting beneath thinning wisps of white cloud on day five out of Alvechurch Marina, I’m so glad I did.

Being away from Mark is hard, in a kind-of delicious, hugging-to-one’s-self missing way, and I’ve phoned him every night, usually after too many ciders, slurring my love to him while people waiting behind me yawn loudly. But though I can’t wait to be back home where he is, I am having my best holiday ever.

And while Mark may be far away, I’m wearing his ring. Well, a brown rubber band but it might just as well be diamonds and gold for the way my tummy twists every time I look at it.

The schools’ rugby season had reached a crescendo just before the Easter holidays, with the Cott High first team beating Beverley Grammar in the final of the East Riding cup. There followed a couple of nights of drunken mayhem, which had resulted in a proposal half way down Hull Road.
Diary: Wednesday 8 April, 1981
Today was yet another of those days when rugby takes centre stage. Tonight it was old boys versus the first team and a presentation. Jilly and me made the teas and coffees. At 8:30 it was everybody to the Tiger. Wingy, Gary, Jilly, Gaffs, me, Mark, Mr Simms, Mr Dawson, Stannard, Nige Dixon etc. We all got drunk to celebrate last night and them winning the cup. Mr Riley gave me, Gary, Jilly, Gaffs and Mark a lift to the disco at school where we had fantastic fun. Mark and me got engaged tonight with a rubber band and when we were walking home we both cried.

Mark and I were swaying down Hull Road, arms around each other more for balance than anything else, bits of privet hedge sticking to his beige wool jumper from a fall through a robust garden boundary on Thwaite Street.

We stopped, and turned to each other. Taking my face in his hands, he kissed me gently, and then harder, his arms round me, pulling me closer, bodies touching and then the kiss stopped as abruptly as it had started, our breathing slowing as we stood together. Holding on. I didn’t ever want to let go.

He pulled away from me and fumbled in his pocket. Distracted. ‘Hang on, hang on… got something, here.’

Grinning, he held up… a rubber band?

He took hold of my left hand and, holding it in his, sank down on his knee to the pavement, where he looked up at me, his face serious.

‘Will you marry me?’ he asked.

Putting my hand up to my mouth, I giggled, then realised he was serious.

There was only one answer.

‘Yes. Yes, I will.’

He put the rubber band on my finger, twisting it round several times so it wouldn’t fall off, and then he stood before me, looking quite lost. I couldn’t stop the tears, and he pulled me close again. We sobbed together, feet fixed to pavement, heads in the stars, at the centre of a beautiful universe of moonlit rivers, winning rugby teams and wonderful friends, our eternities pledged with a strip of brown rubber.

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Janet Watson

Janet Watson was born in Hull and studied in Sheffield before working as a journalist in Yorkshire and Edinburgh. She lives in Scotland, and works as a freelance writer, editor, and counsellor.

Book: Nothing Ever Happens in Wentbridge

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