From Scruffy Chicken
Here follows a selection of significant extracts which
give the reader a flavour of Annable's writing style.
The First Paragraph
It had been a dreadful mistake. On that cold
morning of Thursday, November 21st in 1963, Simeon Hogg,
sitting on a large trunk, guarding his luggage, was
thinking that he had made a big mistake. He was surrounded
by crowds of strangers. He was surrounded by an alien
cacophony of confusion and disorder - and he hated it.
Even at the age of 18, he did not take kindly to change.
He never would take kindly to change and this was the
biggest change of all: this was emigration to a new
country. For the Derbyshire working-classes back in 1963,
emigration was final. It was forever.
had been uprooted from everything which was warm, kind and
familiar. He had been torn away from everything which was
British, English and Derbyshire. This, single, stressful
experience had made a powerful impression on the teenage
Simeon. Even at the age of 60, he would still suffer the
same recurring nightmare. A suicidal scenario - arrival in
the cold, hostile environment of the USA with very little
money, no friends, no job, no qualifications, no prospects
and the dread realisation that all the security, comfort
and familiarity of Derbyshire, an ocean away, was out of
reach - for ever.
From Chapter 3
Finally, the long car turned a corner and was floating
due east. They had left the endless residential area and
entered an ugly commercial zone. It was littered with
myriad poles supporting a hideous hotchpotch and profusion
of power lines and telephone wires. This was a three-lane
highway, but, as it seemed in such a large car, they
crawled from red light to red light. It was explained that
the speed limit of 45 meant just that. The police were
very keen. About a mile passed, a mile which was cluttered
with scruffy hamburger joints and shabby gas stations. The
former screamed out cheap food in garish flashing neon
signs and the latter yelled out low, low prices, as low as
19 cents a gallon, on tacky boards. No grass, no trees,
not even weeds would grow from the roadside which had been
poisoned by years of winter salt.
Toads, goblins, gnomes and
fairies. Detroit had offered nothing like this. Toads were
difficult to see and it was impossible to see goblins or
gnomes since they did not exist any more than fairies
existed. Fairies. Simeon recalled Duck. Duck often took
him to the Belper River Gardens some fifteen years before.
To a small boy it was a magical experience, made all the
more magical as interpreted by a caring and imaginative
Man and boy would explore the old osier bed
alongside the slow, green River Derwent which had, in
1905, been transformed into a beautiful garden. It was a
delight of glades, rock formations, alcoves, islets,
avenues and terraces. Simeon enjoyed the contrasts between
the open promenade, lovers' walk, the fish pond, the
fountain and those special nooks and crannies, apparently
known only to Duck. Here the imagination could run riot.
There were rocks picturesque and rocks grotesque. The
child was guided into hidden glades. Here he would see
deep, spongy moss growing on damp boulders. Here he was
entertained with stories about the 'little people', the
fairies. Bright sunlight became dazzling bright green when
reflected off the ubiquitous fern. Such unusual
illuminations complemented various dank corners and black
Duck explained to little Simeon that if he
had enough faith, if he tried hard enough, if he believed
in the spirits of nature, if he was lucky enough, he might
just get a glimpse of elementals in human form. The small
boy was very happy. He recalled the warmth of the sun, the
cool of the shade, the light and the dark, the scent of
ramsons, the music of birdsong and the gentle coaxing
voice of nice, cushy Duck, gentle Duck, but - he never did
see the fairies.
Perhaps now, in 1965, at long
last - he had found them.
From Chapter 14
In Lea Gardens they reached an area where David
selected a comfortable rock for a sit-down. Simeon
wandered over to an old drystone wall beyond which, to the
south, lay a wood of beech trees. He mounted a boulder to
stare into this intriguing green paradise, broken up by
bright spots of sunlight illuminating a carpet of fallen
leaves. The sun seemed to be playing with him, playing
tricks, creating interesting effects. Smooth grey trunks
supported a canopy of gleaming, lime green leaves and,
beyond, in a distant glade, a miniature forest of new
bracken, wet and glistening with fresh rain, looked
inviting. Loderi called him to look back into the garden.
He caught the scent, one of a multitude of sweet scents,
enhanced by the damp carried on gentle cool zephyrs. That
same fragrant air was also full of the song of blackbirds.
Some seemed to have rhythmic motifs. One in particular
could be pictured as saucer shaped - up, down and up again
- and so on. Another seemed to vocalise - 'Billy Fury'
'Billy Fury'. To change his views, Simeon changed his
position by jumping around from boulder to boulder - all
different; some upholstered with thick moss, some hairy,
some bald and some decorated with flyaway fine grass. He
took in splashes of colour, lavender, magenta, peach,
tangerine and lots of whites - soft whites, creamy whites
and those delicious whites which show a hint of lemon ...
He had not noticed David, who had stealthily come up
to his side, shattering this private reverie. The voice
had startled him and, since he was not aware that his
behaviour and countenance were so revealing, the question
was slightly embarrassing. Notwithstanding, he attempted
an answer, an honest answer.
"A want this. A want to
stay in Derbyshire. A don't want to go back to Detroit."
The sun went in. It looked very much like another
They walked back to the car in silence.
From Chapter 31
amusement, Simeon noted that, in such flame and fury, in
the grip of strong emotion, Mr Pod's accent had a tendency
to deteriorate, to regress to its original Derbyshire.
"Oh, yes!" he continued with vehement sarcasm. "No work
for our Nobby. Oh, no. A nice easy life for Nobby - stupid
little turd ... "
Aubrey Pod brought this tirade to
an abrupt halt. His young friend's laughter had ceased.
The smiling expression had turned to a look of sheer
horror. The eyes of Simeon were fixated on two other eyes.
They had met two hideous eyes. They were old, grey eyes,
leering, eyes like the eyes of dead fish - cold, no
warmth. These ghastly eyes were sunken into a face which
was like something out of a nightmare. The boy was
bayoneted to the spot. He was held in hypnotic fascination
by penetrating, lascivious eyeballs, deeply set in a
leathery, gnarled countenance which could have been part
of the rough bark of an ancient oak. And, surely, this
ancient man must be as old as any old oak? His large
hooked-nose, complete with ugly warts and blackheads, was
worthy of anything which could have been penned by the
Brothers Grimm - and, indeed, it was grim. The mouth,
which, at the present time, had teeth, seemed not to have
teeth. It was a slash. It was a mouth which was more
accustomed to being toothless.
Just as Simeon
recognised Nobby the Gnome, so now he knew that he was in
the leering presence of the famous Belper Goblin - Jasper
Wormall - no less. And, in an instant, he knew the reason
why the revolting Becksitch Betty was called a hag and
this freak of nature was referred to as - a crone.
From Chapter 33
I've been with
Tommy for 18 years. We are known as 'an affair'. Sounds a
bit prissy doesn't it? What was your word?
" " An
American would say 'my lover'."
"Mmm. Better. I refer
to Tommy as 'my friend'. It's safer. All of us, homosexual
and heterosexual, we need a new word, an
all-inclusive-word which acknowledges the fact of same sex
"There's another word you don't seem have
here. If you have casual sex with a guy in Detroit, he's
referred to as a 'trick'."
"But the best advance,"
replied Martin with enthusiasm, "is the American term
'gay' - an inspired word. 'Homosexual'! It sounds like a
disease. Its constant use keeps reinforcing that
particular prejudice in the heterosexual mind. Most gay
people around here use the word 'queer' to describe
themselves! And men who are not 'queer' are termed as
'normal'!! Beat that!"
"I'm not too keen on the word
'straight' - as used by the S&C boys in Uptown Detroit.
That suggests that I'm bent!"
"You'll never be that,"
laughed Martin, "Only crones are bent. It comes down to
this, Simeon. We, the homosexual community, are impaled on
a whole lexicon of terms which continue to degrade, to
demean, continue to reinforce our feelings of inferiority
with reference to the heterosexual majority. It has to
change. It must change."
"I wish to God that
I'd spent the last thirty years trying to deal with that
problem, trying to do something worth-while, rather than
prosecuting and defending. It's all to do with the call of
the cash-box and, I suppose ... trying to rub Hoadley's
face in it ... "
"Nothing. Damn it, I will
answer your question. To start with - role models."
"Role models are people you can look up to,
people you admire, people you would like to be like.
Someone you can identify with, who will help you to feel
good about yourself. So who is your chosen homosexual role
model, Simeon? Mmm, speak up ... Jasper Wormall? Aubrey
Pod? Nobby the Gnome? Simon Tonks? Guzzly Granddad?"
"How about David Bond?"
"Improving - but I've made my point. How often are
we represented positively in films? There are plenty of
effeminate spies, effete traitors and cowards. Pod's a
good example of a poltroon. What do the public see? They
see that sad, ugly, camp thing in A Taste of Honey and
they see 'queer' - and thousands of young guys like you
rush off to hide, to take refuge for the rest of their
lives behind the shield of an unhappy marriage."
Simeon remembered the gentle and kind Geoffrey, who was
played by Murray Melvin.
"Gay Detroiters even have a
term for repressed homosexuals. They're known as 'closet
"And, look at what it does to us ... ,"
carried on Martin. "We are a pathetic bunch! The Derby and
Nottingham scene is infested with a culture of
pretentiousness and affectation. It's as though we've come
to detest each other, to despise each other.. "
," ventured Simeon.
"So, back to your question of
'how'. It will be a long haul. A lot of hard work, and
we'll need a good leader - like Dr King."
Harcourt QC sprang up, paced up and down the short space
of that tiny 'room' a few times and came to a halt in
front of the homosexual boy whose future had ignited this
current agitation. He sat down and fixed the boy with a
"OK. I'll tell you how. I intend to
dream on. I do have a dream. Money. Public money.
Tax-payers' money will be needed from the very public who
have put us in this precarious situation in the first
place." He leaned forward. "Remember this, Simeon - human
unhappiness has effects far beyond the individual himself.
It reaches out to touch the lives of everyone. It is in
the interest of the state to help all homosexuals.
Accordingly, we'll need money. We need money to employ a
team of professionals in every town and every city in
Britain. We need to build up a homosexual community for
men and women - a whole lot better than the bitchy mess we
have at the present time. We need trained counsellors to
help and to give chaps like you (and girls) the free
advice you need. We need diplomats, people in government
who are competent in public relations to improve the
homosexual image. We need experts from the world of
advertising - image makers who can change perceptions. We
need professionals who are accessible, who will encourage,
advise and warn. We need an alternative to stinking
toilets, dangerous parks and seedy pubs. We need a
friendly, comfortable place where old, young and even the
freaks of Derbyshire like your toad, your goblin and that
gnome, can all drop in and have confidential chats - a
sort of support service. We must forge links, meet the
needs of the whole homosexual community, stop ignoring the
women, pull together ...
I suppose - I'm talking
politics ... it can be done.
We must, at least try ..."