Narvel Annable 




Double Life


It is 1995.  A long serving history master, a shell of his former self, is alone in an empty classroom in a rough North Nottinghamshire comprehensive school in an ultra conservative colliery town.  He is recovering from a severe breakdown which destroyed his credibility and confidence leaving him depressed and disorientated.  Some pupils and staff had turned this sad case into an object of fun inflicting humiliating hurtful episodes.  A steady torturous drip made his position untenable.  He was unable to discharge professional duties.  Effectively, gay hate had terminated a teaching career. 

Simeon Hogg, a strict formal schoolmaster, taught as he was taught in the 1950s.  This mindset was a cloak to conceal the continuing anxiety of leading a double life.  Inside, he was a frightened homosexual trying to look like a confident heterosexual on the outside. 

After 20 years of dodging disapproval, maintaining a mask of po-faced respectability, this isolated closeted gay man spoke little of himself.  He was constantly on guard in a macho male hotbed of football fanaticism, foul language and laddish crude humour. 

Following a period of recuperation and counselling, Mr Hogg is now in a halfway house of solitary lesson planning before he can return to actual teaching.  

Memory is a problem.  Everything is in a haze, confusing like a dream, swimming in treacle.  Notwithstanding, Simeon is protected by a shield of invisibility.  Nasty elements have lost interest.  He is ignored like a caretaker or a cleaner.  Bored with pointless scribbles, he observes life passing by through the glass door. 

Suddenly!  Everything is changed - changed for the better.  Old broken Hogg looks up - and there is Ronnie!  Ronnie - large as life.  The powerful disruptive pupil, cock of the comprehensive, is mischievously grinning at him through the glass door ... 

This is a ghost story.  This is an LGBT history.  It covers the cruelty of the Thatcher era examining gay hate of the 1980s and 1990s.  The moral panic of AIDS is set against a blighted colliery landscape after the fall of once mighty King Coal. 

Narvel Annable draws on his memories from both sides of the Atlantic.  He makes comparisons with pit village coal encrusted cousins of the 1950s and the subculture of gay African Americans protecting their secret double lives in the war torn inferno of 1960s Detroit Riots. 

‘Blending fact and fiction with gay history, this is a ghost story set in the harshness of the Thatcher era and the moral panic about AIDS in the 1980s.  All set against a blighted colliery landscape after the fall of once mighty King Coal.’ 

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner



Introduction to Double Life 

This novel will receive inspiration from the period 1978 to 1995.  This is when I was a history master at the Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop, north Nottinghamshire.  I taught as I was taught in the 1950s.  I was too strict, too formal, too unwilling to modernise and reluctant to embrace progressive trends in state education which arrived in the 1980s.  This ‘Mr Chips’ mindset was a cloak to conceal the continuing anxiety of leading a double life.  Inside, I was a frightened homosexual trying to look like a confident heterosexual on the outside.  It had to look like a teacher easily fitting in with pupils and staff. 

For about 16 years, for the most part, Mr Annable succeeded in dodging disapproval and maintained a mask of po-faced respectability hiding inside a house in the ultraconservative colliery village of Clowne in north-east Derbyshire.  Like most isolated, closeted gay men, I spoke little of myself and was constantly on guard.  It became a way of life. 

From time to time there were alarming incidents at school.  Our staffroom, predominately macho male, was a hotbed of football fanaticism, strong language and laddish crude humour. 

One afternoon, a colleague lazily leaned back in his seat and insouciantly yawned out –

       ‘Nothing much to do.  I suppose we could go out and beat up a queer.’ 

Probably disappointed at a lack of response, he repeated the bait several times over the following weeks.  Others took notice.  One of them gave advice - 

       ‘You know, Narvel.  You really should make more effort to socialise.  Try to fit in.  Come to the pub with us after school once in a while.’  He lowered his voice in earnest.  ‘Get yourself a girlfriend: talk about her.  Better still, get yourself married.  If the boss [headmaster] thought you were queer, he’d have you out of here so fast your feet wouldn’t touch the ground!’ 

The final two years saw gay hate terminating a teaching career.  Although my private life continued to remain very private, some pupils began to speculate on Mr Annable’s sexuality.  They turned him into an object of fun inflicting humiliating hurtful episodes.  I might have survived a few, but, at the end, there were too many.  A steady torturous drip destroyed my credibility and confidence.  At the edge of a breakdown, a shell of my former self, there came a point when my position was untenable. 

I was unable to discharge professional duties.  These appalling disrespectful attacks were never taken seriously by senior management.  One culprit was told –

‘That was a silly thing to say.’ 

On Thursday, April 6th 1995, a colleague commented on my continuing melancholy, my appearance and exhaustion.  She earnestly advised ‘a few days off’.  I walked out of that classroom and never returned. 

So much for reality.  The fiction for Simeon Hogg detailed in Double Life will be a return to work after a period of recuperation and counselling.  In a halfway house between several months of lesson preparations and actual teaching, he is installed in a small classroom adjacent to his old classroom where the daily life of a busy school down a long corridor can be observed.  This is the vehicle for a novel which explores all the above issues.  Mr Hogg will be reflecting back on his years at the Valley Comprehensive School.  His story, in part a ghost story, will be told in flashbacks as he tries to make sense of a repressed and difficult career. 

Much of the text will be told by Simeon himself but also in the ‘third person’ sometimes described as the authorial voice.  This voice will have the viewpoint of 2019 when words like homophobia are commonplace.  I first saw ‘homophobia’ (meaning homosexual hate or fear of homosexuals) in The Times in 1981.  It was first coined by a psychologist, George Weinberg, in the 1960s.

As with previous titles, nearly all names in Double Life (even nick-names) have been changed.  Like previous titles, it is autobiographic, a blend of fact and fiction – essentially telling a true story.  The following events took place in real places peopled by a fictitious cast.  The following caricatured composites were inspired by a selection of the characters I met many years ago.  However real flesh and blood the original model, who ends up on these pages (after being processed through my brain) is far from being a real person – alive or dead. 

In an attempt to maintain the flavour and accuracy of the 1960s, occasionally I refer to African-Americans as Negroes.





Double Life

Sea Change

Secret Summer

Scruffy Chicken

Lost Lad

A Judge Too Far

Death on the Derwent


Heanor Schooldays

Copyright 2006 Narvel Annable. All Rights Reserved.