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
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
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