Narvel Annable 
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 Extracts 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.

Simeon Hogg 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.



From Chapter 10

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 adult.

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 caves.

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 shower.
They walked back to the car in silence.



From Chapter 31

With further 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 couples."
"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."
"How?"
"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 ... "
"Pardon?"
"Nothing. Damn it, I will answer your question. To start with - role models."
"What?"
"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?"
"Not bad."
"Martin Harcourt QC."
"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 cases'."
"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.. "
"So ... ," 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."

Martin 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 determined look.
"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 ..."

 

 

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