Narvel's new book coming out later this year
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
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
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
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
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
To hear my "Quirky Characters" come to life, click
Quirky Characters Transcript
was first performed on May 16th, 2018 at The Cottage
16 Chapel Street [the A6]
in Belper just opposite the bus station. Derbyshire
LGBT + launched ‘Golden Rainbows’.
It’s a social support group for older people who identify
as gay. We meet on the third
of each month between
1 and 3pm.
A free car park is available behind the cottage.
It’s free to come in and there are free refreshments.
You’ll get to enjoy Terry’s delicious sandwiches at all
In this short film about the odd bods who inhabit my novel
- Scruffy Chicken - I’ll attempt ten distinctive
voices. Hopefully, this’ll bring to life the quirky
characters who were all inspired by real people - people
They were all warped by the vicious homophobic cruelty and
bigotry which has blighted the lives of many gay people.
There‘s a good selection here, existing in a subterranean
underworld taking shelter in their twilight existence -
monsters, clowns, the mundane, the pretentious, the
pompous, the scented and the sneering, the common and the
After living in Detroit, Belper seemed like a quiet
conservative backwater. In 1965, the nearest gay
scene for a non-drinker - such as me - was located at the
Derby Turkish Baths.
Belper was a small mill town in the 1960s and the only gay
venue was the home of an old-fashioned elderly man who
hosted an open house for secretive repressed visitors.
They were warmly welcomed into his picturesque cottage,
anytime day and evening.
Anonymous men were treated to tea, cakes, friendly
conversation and the occasional massage in Jasper’s
He resided in a maze of narrow lanes which climbed up the
steep rise of the Derwent Valley.
This gentle and kind gentleman, of repellent aspect, was
also known as the Belper Crone. His penetrating
reminded me of the old witch in Disney’s Snow White.
He was, in fact, a bent, humped, effeminate, gangling,
toothless old queen presiding over the comings and goings
of shy shadowy types - in and out - of his quaint old
To the best of my knowledge, at that time, it was the only
SAFE way to meet other gay men in that conservative
I felt comfortable in his primitive Victorian kitchen.
Over the mantelpiece, there was a brass plate bearing a
few trite words. As I recall them, I can see the
nodding head and hear his squeaky croak -
Make new friends, but keep the old. Meh!
One is silver, the other gold. Meh!
Between 1963 and 1976, I returned to the UK each summer
for an annual holiday of as many weeks as I could afford.
In 1965, as 19-year-old, I’d been away from my beloved
Derbyshire for over 18 months and returned to a quaint
world redolent with childhood nostalgia - smells, sounds
and sights of scruffy folks crowded into quirky
picturesque nooks and crannies.
After a sterile existence in a well scrubbed United
States, I was fascinated by the friendliness of crooked
oddities who constantly addressed each other as DOOK
Detroit offered nothing like the variety of odd bods
interbred over generations from mining stock.
I felt I’d arrived in a fairytale world of curiosities
resembling toads, goblins and gnomes, more medieval than
20th century clean cut American youth - more Grimm than US
glitz and glamour.
Here the crooked coal encrusted indigenousness seemed to
be - older, uglier and have more character making them all
much more interesting.
Wandering around Ripley Market, pondering these quirky
contrasts, I came on one stall which specialised in
sweets, chocolates and all manner of confectionary in a
cacophony of trivial chatter.
Oombug? said the man behind the counter. He
did a quick funny wriggle with dancing shoulders.
He’d two stumps instead of hands. Toopence, dook.
Arr Fred wants it, you know
- replied his customer, No teeth, but e can still sook.
Thanks, dook. Aaa’s ya mam?
Bit better taday, dook. It’s a fortnight since she
said the ancient customer. An you we no ‘ands!
A think you’re a brick dook, a do, dook.
This was a magical experience, made all the more magical
observing this commonplace exchange dominated by the one
word - dook.
The old hag’s nose seemed to meet her chin giving a
witch-like appearance. Her cackling inappropriate
comments highlighting a serious disability, made a
contrast to the stallholder whose cushy caring voice
seemed to blend with a downy personality.
This ductile chap (known only as Dook) made an immediate
impression on me. Somehow it made me feel safe and
In this moment, a lifelong friendship started with plump,
cosy Duck who was always kind and considerate.
Eventually, I was invited back to meet Mrs Duck at the
Duckery just around the corner from Ripley Market Place.
It was just Duck and Mrs Duck, there was no Mr Duck.
Occasionally, they were visited by a robin - it hopped on
to the window sill. Duck said -
Ey oop, Arr Mam, look - it's me dad, it's me dad coom
Encouraged to visit anytime, I just walked in. That
was the custom in working-class Ripley.
I saw two large eggs. Eggs with faces deeply
reposing into a cosy sofa and formed the impression they’d
been sitting there forever.
Each face wore a smile of welcome. Both fat faces
were devoid of a single wrinkle which caused me to wonder
about the age of Mam dook.
Over the long years of friendship, Duck never changed.
He’d always looked the same. He was just ... Duck.
The 'Mam' egg - quite small - cocked up her legs which
couldn’t quite reach the floor and spoke first.
Eeeee - it is nice ta see thee, dook. Are ya all
right then, dook?
The Duck egg appeared to do a quick wriggle with dancing
shoulders and flapping stumps.
Shall ya ave a coop a tea, dook? Put kettle on, Arr
No, Dook. Ave joost sat down. You put kettle
on shall ya, Arr Dook.
All right, Arr Mam, I'll put kettle on.
You've made it really nice, I said looking around.
So very cosy and comfortable.
The Duckery was fixed somewhere inside a time warp, in
this case possibly mid 1930's. Everything was soft
and cushy. The conversation in this room was all
ductility, well matched to the occupants, mild and downy.
It became a favourite place. In this old fashioned
feathery room, I felt cushioned from the hard knocks of
life. Nothing nasty or hurtful ever came from Duck,
friendly podgy Duck.
At worst, on the occasions in which he did
criticise, he’d begin with his characteristic wiggle,
dancing shoulders and the one word - Meself Like
regarding the subject of Annie Oaks at the corner shop.
Meself, a think she's a bit dear. Don't ya think so,
She is, Arr Duck! Them eggs were 6d cheaper int'
town. She teks advantage. She knows a can't
The conversation continued to touch on similar inanities
which included the thoughtless Vivienne whose bouncing
ball often annoyed 'Arr Mam' - a dripping tap which Fred
the neighbourly fixer had promised to fix last year (and
still dripped) and an unpleasant character in a popular
'soap' ont telly, who was -
Nasty! Is really nasty. No need ta be like
that. It's oopset Arr Dook, 'e 'as, ant 'e, Arr
These trifles amused me. Concerns about a fictitious
character on television, somebody who doesn’t even exist -
and an endless stream of minutia - it all had a calming
The Ducks were warm, generous and undemanding. Quaint
chatter was balmy and mildly entertaining. I was
always happy in The Duckery.
Years later I asked Dook if he’d mind appearing in my
novels - assuring him that his disability and sexuality
would never be mentioned.
He and Mrs Dook were flattered. They loved seeing
themselves in Scruffy Chicken and Lost Lad.
Much less lovable were several snobbish quirky characters
in my novels collectively known as the Nodding Heads who
wouldn’t touch Dook with a bargepole. In fact, I was
instructed never to mention creatures from the lower
This was the elite retinue (or entourage) who followed
around and adored Claud Hoadley and his number two, Hilary
Raymond Hawley, also known as HRH.
I remember one particular incident in Nottingham’s Flying
Horse bar when Mr Hoadley was addressing his admiring
audience in refined tones of Royalty. Beautiful
He’d just finished denouncing the new floating 'pirate'
radio stations as an 'affrant to good taste' and expressed
horror that the Beatles had been honoured with an MBE.
Nincompoops - he barked When a strange development took
Hoadley, Hawley and a few of the others - relaxing after a
few drinks, could get silly and become quite camp.
On this occasion they went further.
I became mesmerised by the ornate body language of this
pretentious troop of elegant Derby queens, moving about in
front of the bar, parading and vaunting, reinforcing their
social superiority with every sickening gesture like the
Hands on hips: small dainty steps. All the nodding
heads appeared to be ... smiling, sneering, progressing
slowly, in an etiquette-laden mince across that floor,
accentuating their social position.
In Hilary Raymond Hawley alone, I’d never seen a more
affected, effeminate man.
This scruffy chicken was a one-time fully paid up member
of macho youth, a one-time mate of solid, working-class
lads who marched across Heanor Market Place with a
swaggering gritty gait.
Well! I was utterly repelled when the big, soft
Hawley emitted an aristocratic giggle - Ha ha ha ha - and
flourished his silk handkerchief and seemed to make an
elaborate bow to his Lord and Marrster, the Great Hoadley.
It was all so artificial, all so formal, so well-arranged,
so well-choreographed ... What did it remind me of?
I’d seen all this somewhere ... recently? Where?
And then it came to me. Marie Antoinette! I’d
recently seen the 1938 film full of toffs and fops, full
of the exaggerated, stylised elegance of 18th century
Of course! It was the MINUET!
It was the one scene which really revolted me when all
these pampered ponces began to m-o-v-e in the most
In a slow - stately - dance. Here and now, the Derby
Camp appeared to be doing the minuet. They seemed to
move in a co-ordinated pattern dance, in three quarter
time, to the dignified strains of Bach. All around
Perhaps a bow here - a curtsy there - in this impromptu
ballroom in front of the Flying Horse bar. A
nauseating display after the style of the worst excesses
of affected 18th-century French dancing.
From the elite, we now descend into the gutter. I
once knew a common little queen who felt compelled to
share his lewd experiences with - wait for it - his
outraged harridan of a mother.
Olive Tonks always reminded me of Old Mother Riley.
We join them sitting knitting in front of the fire, in a
tiny old-fashioned kitchen. Mischievously, her
wayward son - Simon - speaks of an adventure of the
Chesterfield's dead rough, mother. It’s not safe fa
a lad like me.
Oh! [sharp] What is it this time?
Well, it’s like this mother. Last night, two big
strappin' toughs grabbed me!
(sarcastic) Oh dear! Ow awful!
It were that. They insulted me. One said
You look like a randy tart. Other one said -
(deeper / Forbes)
WOT’S IT GONNA BE THEN? IS IT GONNA BE THIS ... OR
The second clenched fist - equally as menacing - was
clearly meant to represent this yob’s aroused manhood.
Ooo it were terrible moother. Them big brawny lads,
all muscle, thee dragged me ta that lavatory next t'
crooked spire an bent me over t' bog.
Pushed me 'ead right in t' bowl, thee did. Ooooo
thee banged me summat awful, one after t' other.
Straight in, no manners, no ceremony - just brute force an
ignorance - an there's me, an innocent 'elpless little
queen wi me ead in t' bog!
Simon cocked his head and twinkled at Olive relishing the
Thee were abusive as well, addin' insult to injury.
‘What did thee say?’ Spat out Olive sharply rising
to a tantrum.
Ya as bent as that bloody spire, ya common cow.
COME OUT! YAV AD LONG ENOUGH. IT’S MY TURN TA
RAM INTA THAT SCRUBBER.
Ooo, Moother - a felt so ashamed. No respect fa me.
Thee treated me like a spunk-rag.
But, a will say this, thee were nice at t' end. Thee
'Eee ya 'av given us a good time, lass. Pull oop ya
knickers, lass. A bet you feel such a slut.
Olive - a stalwart of the Pentecostal Church, ever quoting
Leviticus - was now in a rage of indignation.
A should think you did feel a slut! Ad ave kicked
and scratched em.
(pointing) A notice ya didn’t much struggle! Ya
should be ashamed!
A don’t know ooo ya tek after, a don’t. I ated sex!
Thee told me ad see bloody stars.
When e come ome from t’ boozer, all a saw was ya dad’s
gret - big - fat - beer belly. That’s wot you are,
you’re a bloody beer baby!
E stunk o’ beer. E said ta me, “Spragg thee legs
woman, a want me conjugal rights.”
Well ... at least e were a proper man. Look at thee!
Sittin knittin. More lass than lad.
Are ya listenin? Put that bloody knittin down ya
little puff. Ya nowt but loose bitch!
This presentation of assorted characters from deepest
Derbyshire has more in common than you’d think.
They’re intended to amuse - but, in fact, all are on the
cusp of tragedy belonging to an underworld of crones,
queens and social-climbing snobs of the 1960's.
They inhabit a secret, subterranean world taking shelter
in their twilight existence; monsters, clowns, the
mundane, the pretentious and the pompous, the scented and
the sneering, the common and the crude.
They are all inspired by real people, all warped by the
vicious homophobic cruelty and bigotry which has blighted
the lives of many gay people.
Bye for now,
This link will take you to SECRETS OF THE SAUNA first
aired on Channel 4, March 2nd, 2016.
A full page feature with two photographs was printed in
the DERBY TELEGRAPH March 1st 2016.
WHY TERRY AND I OPTED TO TAKE PART IN THE CHANNEL
4 DOCUMENTARY ABOUT GAY SAUNAS
Gay rights campaigner Narvel Annable stars in Channel 4
documentary Secrets of the Sauna
night. Mr Annable, of Belper, is a regular
contributor to the Derby Telegraph and often writes
about challenges facing gay people in the modern day.
Here, he shares his thoughts on the show.
In August 2014, I was invited by Channel 4 to be part of a
documentary, Secrets of the Sauna, billed as an
examination of gay relationships. This film has
aired in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, USA, Canada, and
It explores erotic anonymity and orgiastic realities,
common to many who share same sex attraction.
Despite advice from friends to avoid this TV initiative, I
took the view that it could be a vehicle to extend my
campaigning to a wider audience.
Assured the programme would depend upon conversations,
never descending to the explicit with graphic images;
Terry and I were followed around by a camera crew for the
five months up to Christmas 2014.
This was a chance to tell the nation about the reality of
homosexual lives by asserting the positive aspects of gay
Having an aversion to alcohol and the thumping noise of a
deafening disco, the quiet gay sauna where you can relax
with a pot of tea and something nice to eat, has been a
lifelong lifeline to me. It’s my club. It’s
where I make friends, socialise and enjoy sex with kindred
I was nostalgic for the musty, comfortable-smelling foyer
of the 1960s Derby Turkish Bath with exotic Moorish halls
within, occupied by older, well-spoken, flabby
professionals, the soft, the shapeless and the retired.
Through a crafted oaken door, the carpet became thicker
and so did the atmosphere. Here was the silence and
restfulness consistent with a gentleman’s club in London.
It was a scene of deep maroon, lush curtained cubicles,
gently decaying like the clients within, having seen
better days earlier in the century.
The documentary follows three gay couples - John and Joe,
Robin and Andy and Terry and Narvel. Terry is the
only one of six who is not a visitor to the sauna.
In all our 42 years together, he has never acquired a
taste for orgiastic sex with strangers and makes this
clear on screen.
Notwithstanding, our relationship has remained
consistently strong even in the teeth of a sardonic
Channel 4 voiceover who, with accompanying glockenspiel,
constantly refers to tension caused by my weekly visits to
the bathhouse. Fortunately, our on-screen affection
contradicts her doom laden comments.
Almost from our first meeting, Terry has come to accept
that my promiscuity has roots going back to 1957 when
‘Granddad’, a local paedophile, initiated a brutally
bullied 12-year-old Narvel into his gas-lit, erotic harem.
The documentary includes a brief reference to ‘Dickensian
damage’ which I challenge. This gentle old man
actually disrupted a determination to take my own life.
Granddad used me, but a religious schoolmaster with
sadistic intent drove me to the point of self-destruction
at that 19th century Mundy Street Boys School, Church of
England hell hole in Heanor. In that regime, a boy
was esteemed by the extent of pain and humiliation he
could inflict upon other boys.
I pay tribute to director Michael Ogden for his skilful
editing in producing an informative, entertaining and
often amusing film. Michael captured the warmth of
love between us.
In some scenes Terry’s voice is near to breaking with
emotion when looking back over the troubled years of our
relationship. In a deeply homophobic colliery
community, everything was against us, yet, in adversity,
we pulled tighter together and have stayed together.
It’s been a privilege having the opportunity to work with
Michael Ogden and Dane McDonald. I commend their
professionalism and diplomacy. Hopefully, their
efforts will educate, broaden horizons, increase tolerance
and understanding for all who view Secrets of the Sauna.
These links will take you to the
Derby Telegraph feature.
Click on the above to hear Narvel talking about
the Detroit Riots
Below is the transcript of the above filmed presentation of Narvel
speaking at Belper Golden Rainbows on January 17th.
It was also posted on Twitter and Facebook as an added
promotion for the monthly Belper Cottage Project
Friend and fellow writer Allan Morton filmed, directed and
edited this YouTube video which can be accessed by
clicking on the link below
Last year, a film was made about the riot which tore out
the heart of Detroit City 50 years ago. I often
think about Laurent. He was the African American boy
I loved. I wonder if he’s still alive?
In an attempt to maintain the authenticity, flavour and
accuracy of the 1960s, when quoting I’ll refer to African
Americans as Negroes.
From 1963 to 1976, I lived in Detroit. Each year, I
came back to England on holiday for as many weeks as funds
would stretch. I had several jobs in Detroit, but
was most content as a messenger at a major bank located
The pay was poor but duties were undemanding and it was
totally stress free.
Each morning at 8.30, I stood on the sidewalk in front of
the impressive Palladian frontage of the bank with its
Greek columns and capitals asserting the confidence of
It was my daily duty to meet the President of the Detroit
Bank. As the massive Lincoln Continental gracefully
glided to a halt before the mighty edifice of finance, a
regular exchange was like a mantra -
‘Good morning, Sir.’
‘Morning,’ came a grunt from the great man. It
sounded more like a reprimand than a greeting. ‘Tell
‘em to wash it.’
It was the same every day. The six-foot-plus
President eased himself out of the driving seat set for a
tall man, quickly replaced by a humble five-foot-nine
messenger who would not dare to adjust the power seating
With difficulty, I drove the stately beast. It was
dangerous! I was deeply reclined in this luxurious
glove with a restricted view together with inadequate
control of a large vehicle.
In these precarious circumstances, the Lincoln silently
floated to the corner, right and right again and first
left into a narrow street dwarfed by two skyscrapers.
A little way down on the right was the entrance to an
expensive downtown multi-storey car park used by
executives. A young black guy was waiting to take
the car to its usual reserved location.
I spoke to him.
‘The Bank President would like his car washed.’
‘Yes,’ hissed the scowling youth somewhat aggressively.
This ungracious response to a polite request irked me.
The unwarranted attitude had been endured for several
His rudeness was no mystery. An overnight sleep
stealing low of unbearable humidity had not dipped under
70 degrees. Worst was to follow!
Another miserable scorcher in the 90s was fast approaching
this hazy polluted oven of concrete and cement.
Even worst still, the atmosphere was thick with ethnic
hatred. These were the 1960s when Detroit was
gripped by racial turmoil eventually leading to an
explosion of burning riots which left city blocks gutted
resembling a war zone.
Notwithstanding, the humble messenger - me - attempted a
remonstration with the African American along the lines of
their shared lowly circumstances. I decided to
challenge this attendant.
‘Look!’ I implored, ‘I’m no different to you! I’m
not pretending that I’m better than you. We’re about
the same age and are probably paid about the same.
When I ask you to wash this car, I’m just following
orders. There is no need to be so nasty to me!’
The black boy seemed to be startled by this outburst (I
was startled myself!)
At this moment, the drama was interrupted by an older
‘Hey! Hold on there! What’s this all about?’
The man turned out to be the boy’s boss. I
reiterated my main points and tried to explain that I was
not prejudiced against the attendant. In so doing,
the two Americans were suddenly transfixed by an
unfamiliar foreign accent known in England as broad
‘Where on God’s earth is you from?’ asked the boss man.
Now I must explain. I first arrived in Detroit in
1963 when, as a curiosity, the boys next door took me to
the local High School to address their class.
It was an enthusiastic bunch of clean-cut, all-American
boys - demanding to hear my unusual voice.
"Greetings England!" Shouted one.
"Welcome to the USA." Shouted another.
"Hi, buddy." Shouted someone on the back row.
"Welcome!" Yelled several followed by -
"Hi ya, Englishman." and "Hey, when is he gonna talk?"
"Yeah! Talk, England!"
"If you gave him a chance,’ said the schoolmaster, ‘If you
could manage to ask a sensible question, he might
Sensible questions were asked.
All went well until I started to describe my house which,
unlike their detached houses, was joined up to all the
This produced a sea of shocked faces and a deafening
silence. Half a second later the silence was smashed
by a cascade of loud guffaws from raucous males in the
room. What I actually said was -
"We don't 'av asses like your asses. Arr ass's
touchin' t' next ass. Ya know, like ... sort a - all
asses in a row, like. Nar me Aunty Lizabeth, she's
got a nice ass, she as, an thee all like ta look at it ...
Teacher came to the rescue with an important
"Perhaps, Narvel, you'll run us through that one again.
Ar think you're referring to the building in which you
live, if arrm not mistaken. No sweat. Nothing
wrong with the way you talk.’
Fast forward - back - to 1967, in the car park, I launched
into an angry spiel describing my background of Stanley
Common mine workers emerging from the bowels of the earth
with faces encrusted with coal dust - so deeply ingrained
- no amount of soap and scrubbing could ever remove the
blackening which marked the lowly status of a common
I added my belief that, at £8 per week, existing in a
primitive terrace cottage, there was precious little
difference between a coal miner and a cotton picking
slave. For good measure, I threw in the fact that
while Detroit Negroes drive around in huge beautiful
automobiles, my kin folk get around on pushbikes.
This tetchy polemic was cut short by the big boss striding
forward with an air of menace. He was a big man,
albeit with a benign expression signalling good humour,
indulging a child throwing a tantrum.
‘Well, Englishman, arr guess that’s better out than in,’
he said it in full smile. The smile faded when
addressing his subordinate, ‘Laurent! It’s your
jarrb to be nice to our customers. We don’t sneer at
them, we help them. You can start by explaining the
The boss was referring to the complication of power seat
controls. In past days he had noticed me struggling
to drive this Lincoln Continental.
Sullenly, with a touch of shame, Laurent slipped into the
passenger seat and asked his customer to get back into the
I was invited to push a button marked ‘medium’ which
immediately raised and moved the driving seat forward to
suit a man of average size.
Both boys beamed at this sudden demonstration of
electronic wizardry and made eye contact in that intimate
For two youths looking at each other, the moment lasted
longer ... than it should have done.
Hostilities had magically evaporated and I was now free to
savour perfect proportions of quintessential African
I scanned tempting thick lips, a wide nose and big
beautiful wondrous round eyes. In return, the black
boy was able to examine a Caucasian countenance so very
Yes - we fell in love.
But this was fantasy, all too soon violated by the feared
explosion of city violence. The long hot smouldering
month of July 1967 burst into flames
Like thousands of white workers from segregated suburbs
carefully cleansed of Negroes, Narvel did not dare make
the daily 20 mile commute from his home to downtown
There were fearful comparisons of the 1943 race riot in
which 38 people were shot dead. Some commentators
spoke of this current incendiary event as the first spark
of a civil war.
During the previous few years dozens of major American
cities had already suffered riots and looting. After
several city blocks had been gutted, beyond the control of
regular riot police, Federal Paratroopers were sent in to
Detroit to restore order.
A few nervous employees of my bank started to trickle back
on the following
I steeled myself for a return to work on the
My affair with Laurent didn’t last long. You must
try to understand the reality of my world.
Most people live in a heterosexual network where
heterosexual friends get introduced to other heterosexual
friends, heterosexual relatives and heterosexual
When something bad happens, people swap news, close ranks,
offer help, support, advice, condolences - heterosexuals
get the lot. My family threw me to the wolves.
I was on my own.
In 1960s Detroit we were the despised minority in hiding.
We were known as fags, queers or degenerates.
The race issue simply complicated an already difficult
situation. Had the parking people been all white, I
was still isolated from relatives and others who, in their
view, knew there was something seriously wrong with me.
Not a word was ever spoken, but the tension and shame was
always hanging in the air. There’s an expression,
the elephant in the room. I was that
invisible elephant, an embarrassment never to be
acknowledged. The love that dare not speak its
name was another reference to homosexuality.
Humiliations were endured on a regular basis.
At this time, 50 years on after that film about the
Detroit riots, I often think about Laurent the boy I loved
and wonder if he’s still alive.
Click on above to hear Narvel talking about Froggy, a boy
he met at Heanor fair in 1965
Here follows follows the Froggy transcript
I’m often asked - how does a homosexual meet up with
another homosexual? I’ll tell you about Froggy -
yes, Froggy. A daft name perhaps, but many of my
friends have false names because they lead double
They move in circles of anonymity. I met Froggy at
Heanor fair in the autumn of 1965.
October was more than normally very cold, misty with ever
longer nights and shorter days. It was dark before
Bundled up with a thick black bomber jacket under a black
woolly hat; I gravitated to my favourite ride, the
My garb was part disguise and part trying to keep warm on
a chilly evening.
Recognition from Howitt Secondary Modern School friends
would have been welcomed, but the Market Place fair was
just a stone’s throw from the menace of Mundy Street Boys
School which nearly destroyed me in 1957.
Mundy Street was a culture of cruelty. Howitt was a
culture of kindness where I was known as Dobba.
I suppose I came out of a nostalgic compulsion to
reconnect with boyhood excitement - to soak up all the fun
of the fair.
I’d enjoyed the October fair of 1959 with Howitt mates,
cheek by jowl, crammed into one of the Waltzer cars
spinning furiously with assistance of rough fairground
These sexy greasy gaff boys, in their tempting tight blue
jeans, were an important part of the erotic atmosphere.
With poise, they rode the whirling Waltzer waves - round
and round - up and down - perfectly balanced as I strained
to catch glimpses of beautifully formed buttocks.
Butch bums were irresistible - but - I did resist making
comment to my mates. Their comments were along the
lines of -
‘Whoor! Dobba. Look at them tits!!
The strains of Helen Shapiro lamenting I Don’t Care
- conjured a dangerous cocktail of menace and magic.
Dangerous, because brawny bottoms can quickly become
violent if deviant desire is detected.
I’d long since learned to avoid eye contact with the
alluring features of a yob that needed little excuse to
punch a poof for the amusement of his fellow thugs.
Watching the Waltzer - and that untouchable gaff boy, I
recalled the frustrations of years before when Gaff boys
aroused a lewd longing.
Trying to sneak a crafty peek at a tantalising ruffian, I
noticed a different type of lad in the crush of others on
the Waltzer gantry.
It was a small face - a pretty face - under a bobble hat
with a few escaping curls.
In the moment when eyes met eyes, I felt empathy and
sympathy for this little chap with his button nose and
I muscled through the crowd along the gantry to the place
where bobble hat was last seen. Nostrils were
assailed by the odour of crushed bodies blended with
hamburger, hotdog, diesel and candy floss.
Raucous yelps and screams blended with generators and
blaring pop records - all contributing to the unique magic
of a fairground.
Bobble hat had gone! Not there! I felt sudden
panic. Where was that peeping pale face?
I wandered over to the ghoul infested frontage of the
Haunted House with its artwork of skeletons, skulls,
gravestones and various bloody impressions of the living
Somebody jostled me. It was a small smiling bobble
hat, very close, straining upwards, up close to my face
making a funny noise - ‘Eeeee!’
An immediate judgment was formed. This diminutive
boy was odd - very odd! I assessed him as child-like
rather than child-ish. In gentle tones, I
‘Hello. I'm Dobba. What's your name?’
‘That’s an unusual name.’
In that first glance across the Waltzer, I’d established a
certain understanding, a feeling that here was a kindred
spirit on the same wavelength.
Not simple, not a feeble mind, but a character who has
cleverly adapted himself to survive in a cruel homophobic
Under bright lights, I had an opportunity to assess my
intriguing companion. He was clean and well dressed.
This spoke of parents who took their duties seriously.
Froggy was well fed and well shod in a culture where such
adequate standards were not always reached.
In the 1960s, Heanor was still relatively primitive.
Feeling the need for a quiet chat, a stroll to the park
was suggested behind the Market Place where silence and
darkness would be more conducive to a heart-to-heart.
At the park gates, Froggy plunged into an unending chirpy
chatter on a variety of subjects. At 19 to the
dozen, he rattled on about fair rides, slot machines, the
weather (lots of weather) - and now his latest boyfriend.
‘Eeee, lookeee; look wot I got!’
From somewhere on his person, Froggy produced a newspaper
cutting. Many times folded, it was a frayed
photograph of a young man, an impressive fellow with
I looked long and hard at this greased, groomed image of a
fantasy boyfriend. Now in the park, just visible
from the street lamp, Froggy burst into sudden song and
‘Like a tiger, oooh, oooh, oooh, like a tiger - WOW!
I wanna growl... eeee.’
With oodles of enthusiasm, he launched himself into
several orbits around me - hopping, hoofing, skipping with
twirls and whirls in an ecstasy of homage to his teen
The hunk causing Froggy to do cart wheels around me was a
Truth to tell, by 1965, this singer was already passé.
His short reign was more early 60s - but - oh God!
His dazzling beauty!
I kid you not, he drove me crazy! He had a good
singing voice, plus a mesmerising speaking voice - so
sexy! It was smooth yet tremulous like ... he on the
edge of orgasm. He was 17 and oozed
eroticism. Oh! to be young again.
What’s a Fabian? That’s how he was packaged -
promoted. Later it was, “Fabian is
coming” and then “Fabian is HERE.”
Then the record came out. Everybody was singing -
“Like a tiger, oooh, oooh, oooh, like a tiger - WOW!
I wanna growl...”
I remember it being played endlessly on the jukebox in the
Heanor Milk Bar. For a while, the world went Fabian
Anyway, we ambled further into the park and deeper
darkness. The mood was different. We found a
bench. Froggy became serious losing some of his
I saw a different side of this little chap. Like
many of us, he had an alternative personality - one
serious and one seen by the world.
I should know. For decades, I hid behind the stern
mask of a strict schoolmaster.
The boy I’ve described was real enough and he had depth.
On that bench he revealed a heartrending history,
disclosing a staggering catalogue of cruelty.
Emotional damage was sustained by a single occurrence in
his earlier schooldays.
He was seen kissing another boy.
That’s it, just a simple kiss. This incident
triggered months of appalling bullying extending beyond
the school gates into his home with gay hating abuse and
bricks through windows. The family was forced to
move to Heanor where they were unknown.
With much in common, Froggy and I became lifelong friends
and we’re still friends today.
As an adult he was unable to work because deep trauma has
adversely affected this victim’s mental and physical
health - a life blighted by ignorance, bigotry and
But - he’s a fighter - a survivor and a loyal follower of
my campaigning. It’s a privilege to have known him.
I dedicate this little story to Froggy.
'A Tale of Jasper, The Belper Crone'
performed on 19th May 2017 at The Guildhall
Theatre, Derby - click on the link below
Here, follows the script of this performance.
All characters in my autobiographic novels are based on
real people and real events. The funniest has to be
the one known as Mr Toad.
Way back in 1965, when I was a scruffy chicken,
mischievously, I introduced Mr Toad to an attractive but
affected, artificial effeminate youth called Julian.
Consumed with lust, Toad invited us to stay with him over
the weekend. All went well - until bedtime - when Mr
Toad said -
‘Should you require an aspirin or any assistance in the
night, Julian, don’t hesitate to cum into my boudoir.’
Always waggled his fingers when excited.
Julian, however, thrust his snooty nose in the air -
‘Most unlikely,’ said Julian, who sounded just like a
girl. ‘You, Mr Toad, are GROTESQUE. Look
at your mouth. It’s like a crack in a pie.
Sex with you would be scraping the bottom of the barrel.’
During that night, I was awakened by whoops and screams.
‘Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!’
A camp queen with - HIGH VOICE - was in rapture - impaled
on a stiff stake of impressive proportions.
Toad - proud of his inflated weapon - was well practiced
in the art of inflicting supreme ecstasy upon a willing
The climax came. Toad’s deep guttural groan
signalled a milky gush, concluding high delight.
Alas - alas - a reaction set in. The rapturous rider
denounced his delirious gallop to that final moment of
PURE JOY. He lectured the ugly loathsome lecher.
‘Mr Toad! We have SINNED! We must pray for
Hours later - at the breakfast table. It was
difficult. Julian, in foul mood, hardly spoke to his
host. But the gloating toad was triumphant nudging
his guest with a wicked elbow.
‘Ay ay. Last night ay. HOW WAS THAT FOR THE
BOTTOM OF THE BARREL? You enjoyed that ride on my
stallion last night - didn’t you! He he he.’
‘As Anne Boleyn said to Henry the 8th,’ responded Julian,
‘last night was a sample of what you won’t get.’
‘Well - I’m not going to give you the pleasure of refusing
me, Julian,’ retorted Mr Toad.
‘It would not be a pleasure, Mr Toad,’ responded Julian,
‘it would be - a necessity. For you see, I shall
journey afar, to join a monastery, never to have sex
He packed his bags and stormed out of the house. We
never saw him again.
Some days later, at the Derby Turkish Bath, I found myself
sitting next to Clarence Soames - no less, a desiccated
His naked body seemed to be as white as his very white
face - contrasting sharply with short, neat, raven black
hair. A delicate gentleman.
He seemed supremely indifferent to everybody, showing no
interest at all. Clarence was a senior figure from
the ranks of the Nottingham Camp - a social climbing snob.
I attempted conversation.
‘I like ya car.’
After quite a long pause, the deathly-white face slowly
turned to assess the young speaker. With legal
precision, one sharp word was delivered in cut-glarrss
"Ooo arr,’ I continued. ‘Neat, really neat.
Looovely posh leather - nice wooden finish inside - all
good taste. I were admiring it when a tied me
bicycle oop tat lamp post outside.’
"Bicycle. How quaint," came the concise reply,
pregnant with derision.
I continued with enthusiasm, trying to ignore the
"Switches and boottons everywhere ... an automatic
transmission! Very few English cars as got automatic
"We have everything .... except money."
Condescending words, carefully enunciated with subtle
sarcasm, was offensive to me. And yet, for 52 years,
I’ve remembered and admired those words as much as I had
genuinely admired the posh car.
Clarence, of course, was heading off a request for money.
He needn’t have worried, I have never asked for money -
before or since.
However - I was enormously impressed with the way this
gentleman had pronounced that one word - 'money'.
It sounded like 'manaaaieryyy' - in stark contrast to my
working class - 'm-oo-ny'.
We move on. The character attracting most comment in
my books is The Belper Crone. I call him Jasper. He
dwelled in a primitive isolated cottage under raucous
rooks. There was no electricity. Water came
from a well in the garden.
Jasper practiced legendary talents of body massage very
keen to offer the 'extras'.
He was gnarled and craggy. At first sight, I beheld
a large hawk nose, far forward of deep set grizzled
leering eyes. BIG EYES This
hideous hunchback looked positively Jurassic.
Nobody knew Jasper’s age, but he used an earth closet
lavatory - also in the garden. The family were
nightsoil men. Back in the 1880's, young Jasper
assisted his father and brothers who were called 'honey
He was the 'limey-lad' - a boy with a naked flame torch
who walked after the cart spreading lime over any
spillages of excrement to 'get shut at stink'.
After years of emptying buckets of 'jollop', Jasper was
totally immune to all known germs!
Sadly, he was the butt of lavatory jokes. I heard
about the time when he was ordered to retrieve his
father's false teeth from the bottom of a tank of human
Decades later, Jasper spent many hours in a notorious
Belper lavatory. He used a little hammer and chisel
to make a hole at crotch level. It was as big as a
At that time, a camp rotundity called Dolly was
circulating around the cottages. Occupying the next
WC cubicle, he amused us with the following anecdote.
‘I recognised the spread!’ said softly spoken Dolly.
‘A sort of picnic - cracker biscuits, butter, cheese and a
flask of tea. Sustenance you understand.
‘Well it’s important because he’s there all day long.
That’s how he got that hump you know. A lifetime of
bending down giving pleasure to those naughty rough
So through the hole, I said “Hello”
“Ello.” Came the reply
We’re old friends of course. “Have you been busy?” I
“Very busy! Ave ad me teeth out all day. Meh.
Ooooh - big blokes! One were as big as a cucumber.
Jasper often ended a sentence with ‘Meh’ - a sort of an
expletive - possibly indicating ‘so there’ - or - perhaps
- expressing irritation.
Stories about Jasper and his false teeth were rooted in
I’ll never forget my first encounter. A damp foggy
night, Dolly guided me past an old decrepit Victorian
latrine. We came to a dark cubicle apparently empty.
Couldn’t see anything - but heard - a sound - a sort of
‘Did you hear it?’ whispered Dolly standing behind me.
‘Lucky boy! It’s the Click of a Crone. It's
the prelude to pleasure,’ sighed this little fat man in
soft, round vowels. ‘Advance! Yield! Offer
yourself to this master of the extended orgasm. Give
yourself - and know true bliss.’
On dark winter evenings, Jasper would creep into a public
toilet to service and drain the desperate, but, already in
advanced years - he’d forget where he’d put down his
‘Where’s me choppers? Meh. A put em somewhere.
Ave ya seen em? Ooo it’s dark! A can’t see
oat. Ooo sorry!
Well move out at way. Shift! Where’s me teeth?
Where are thee. Meh!’
And that folks, crude at times, gives an accurate flavour
of life, as it was, for me, way back in the dirty dark
desperate days of the 1960s.
Despite free admission, it was good to see that £70 was
raised and split between Derbyshire LGBT + and the Chechen
LGBT+ charity to help those poor people where gay men are
currently being imprisoned and tortured.
Special thanks to Allan Morton who filmed and promoted
part of Dan Webber’s event on one of his ALLAN
MORTON PRESENTS YouTube videos together with
photographs, tweets and Facebook postings.
On February 29th 2016, Ian Skye of BBC Radio Derby
interviewed me about my part in the Channel 4 film
Secrets of the Sauna which premiered in the UK on
March 2nd. I found Ian and his roving reporter Alex
Howick friendly and keenly interested in all aspects of
the documentary. Still a little under the weather
recovering from a cold, our conversation was quite a tonic
and perked me up no end.
here to hear the broadcast -
The titles below are available on kindle at
Sea Change and
Death on the Derwent
Are newly available in paperback
Click on titles below to look inside
Sea Change is Narvel's ninth
Death on the Derwent
was first published in 1999 in paperback and was sold out
for many years, so we have re issued it by popular demand
To see Narvel's Information Sheets
Central Television and
The Central TV News item is available.
Click on to the following
Extract from Lost
Lad and Heanor
Billy Fury, an icon of popular culture for Heanor youth in
1959 was the subject of discussion between Narvel Annable
and John Holmes on BBC Radio Derby in 1998. John surprised
the author by playing the original 1959 recording of Maybe Tomorrow at
the start of the interview. Having not heard that
particular version for some years, you can hear the
emotion in Narvel’s voice.
The Heanor Market Café of 1959 had two halves. To the
right of the central corridor, the snack bar, to the left
a quieter dining room for meals. Above the clatter of
pots, cutlery, comings and goings and the continuous hum
of conversation, the young diner could hear melodic
strains which travelled across the two rooms and
passageway. Music came from something very un-Heanor,
something new and different, rather like Simeon's American
dream car. It was a space-aged, push buttoned chrome and
gaudily illuminated cabinet called a 'jukebox' which
needed to be fed a three-penny bit for one play, a silver
sixpence for two plays, or five plays for a silver
shilling. Fascinated eyes watched a mechanical arm lift
selected popular 7" 45 rpm records and place them
precisely on an automatic deck. As the needle fell into
the lead groove, an anticipatory delicious electronic
'thud' would precede the ecstatic sounds to follow.
For the teenager in the next room munching through his
beans on toast (or whatever) - this was the birth of real
music. The charts of 1959 and 1960 were the very epicentre
of his musical experience. Simeon Hogg would spend the
rest of his life worshipping at that shrine of talented
excellence. He will, forever more, listen with nostalgic
reverence to the lush orchestrations and sexy boyish
voices which sang out through that small window of
creativity. Marty Wilde, Bobby Vee and Adam Faith
crystallised and defined his fresh green hopes, inspired
his dreams and fuelled his fantasies.
One day he
was entranced by what seemed like a sweet sounding choir
of angels ascending and descending the scale, complemented
by a resonant twangy bass guitar. Into this euphonious mix
came, exactly at the right time, a deep masculine voice
with just a hint of the sexy adolescent croak so typical
of this new young genre. He could easily have been
mistaken for Elvis, but, these dulcet tones were a touch
lighter and, for Simeon's taste, with great respect to The
King - better. This sensuous singer had composed both the
music and lyrics for this beautiful work which lasted
barely more than a precious two minutes. After such an
orgasmic audible experience, in complete contrast to the
hateful pious dirges of just a stone's throw away at the
bleak Dickensian Mundy Street Boys School, this new music
now became an important part of his life at William Howitt
Secondary Modern School – a culture of kindness.
During the following weeks, the same record was played
every day. Simeon struggled to hang on to those illusive,
hypnotic notes, above the ambient din of the busy Market
Cafe. A few occasional words were discerned -
and in the evening, by the moonlight ... "
knew not the name of the singer or the song title to be
able to ask for it in a record shop. A pointless exercise
not possessing a record player, let alone the expensive
seven shillings needed to purchase. Eventually the time
came when, nervously, this scruffy youth entered a shop
and held the precious vinyl disc with its grooved integral
encoded magical music, bearing the legend - Maybe Tomorrow.
Later, in that same store, examining the sleeve of a
prized long playing record; he stood very still and looked
… and looked. He peered long and hard into the stunningly
handsome features of his teenage idol - Billy Fury: an
image of Heanor popular culture in 1959.
1998, I've been interviewed on
BBC Radio Sheffield, Derby,
Nottingham, Manchester and Leicester.
To hear some
of those conversations, click on the following
Archive radio interviews
The following link will take you to the
Radio Derby interview of January 14th 2013. All extraneous
items have been edited out to leave about 20 minutes of my
Andy Potter interview
Narvel Annable's Biography has been
posted on the Writing East Midlands website. He is
available for Community Group Work / Lectures / Talks /
Panels / Live Performances and Workshops.
Narvel & Terry
at the Belper Literary
on May 18th. 2013
About Narvel Annable
My life has been a series of
re-inventions. In September 2010, a sudden promotion
catapulted me from local to global author. The Nazca
Plains Corporation in Las Vegas published my fourth novel
Secret Summer which is now available all over the world.
This boosted the sales of previous efforts including Lost
Lad set in Heanor, Derbyshire; a rugged, macho,
homophobic, hill top colliery town. Lost Lad follows the
transformation of a miserable prepubescent into the
confident and happy adolescent who was re-invented and
rechristened Dobba by his mates. This move from a grim,
gas lit, Dickensian Church of England all boys junior
school in 1958 to Howitt Secondary School, a culture of
kindness, was a dramatic improvement.
The first part of Lost Lad
documents growing suspicion brewing in Heanor at Mundy
Street Boys School, 1955 to 1957, where I was subjected to
a daily routine of physical and psychological torture. My
day started with prayers and hymns and ended with a desire
to be dead. Every day, one damaged boy endured humiliating
experiences affording no mercy. A sadistic schoolmaster
encouraged aggressive taunts, brutal insults, screaming
jeers reducing an already wretched boy to a very low level
of self esteem. And all that was dismissed as 'part of
cultural. The Annable's had been lumbered with a lad who
was 'not a proper lad'. A son who showed no interest in
football and could not defend himself with bare knuckles
in the playground brought dishonour upon his working class
A further re-invention is
described in my second autobiographic novel Scruffy
Chicken. It took place in 1963 when I immigrated into the
United States and arrived in Detroit on the day before the
assassination of President Kennedy. It was a steep
learning curve. The repressed Derbyshire teenager of thick
accent, deeply locked inside his shameful homosexual
closet, had to fit in as a clean cut American, to be
comfortable with his all-white racist buddies and appear
hot to trot for the chicks.
The following years in
Motown involved several jobs before graduating from
Eastern Michigan University (magna cum laude) in 1975
followed by a year teaching African-American history at St
Bridget High School. Adapting to this strict Catholic
environment, behind respectable spectacles, Narvel
imitated his former teachers and transformed himself into
a strict schoolmaster with traditional views. This was a
far cry from his parallel existence, the promiscuous,
secretive chicken who consorted with Negroes and haunted
the notorious bath houses of Detroit, Chicago and New York
from 1964 to 1976.
People have asked me, 'why did
you describe yourself as a scruffy chicken during your
1965 six month vacation in Britain?' Scruffy in the title
of Scruffy Chicken is not so much a comment on me; it is
more a criticism of the Derby and Nottingham snobs who
made me feel scruffy, scruffy accent, scruffy clothes,
scruffy manners, scruffy education etc.
Narvel Annable, Peter Tatchell & Terry
The secretive world of same-sex
attraction in the East Midlands of the mid 1960s was very
different from the gay scene in America where, for the
most part, men behaved like men. By British standards
Detroit was classless, a doctor sounded the same as a
dustman. Immaculately dressed effeminate English
homosexuals used their refined affected accents to demean
and exclude roughly spoken homosexuals classed as 'the
lower orders'. These were the invisible people who
inhabited an underworld of seedy public houses and back
street lavatories. Scruffy Chicken uncovers this twilight
world of curious characters - queens, crones, gnomes,
toads, goblins, feral boys - who were warped by vicious
homophobic cruelty and bigotry of mid 20th century
The following year, a rollercoaster of
passion and pain, magic and menace, is celebrated in my
latest novel Secret Summer. In 1966 I fell in love with a
mysterious tough guy who held me in the grip of agony and
ecstasy. The title - a comment on the necessity for gay
teenage boys to lust in secret, hunt in secret and love in
secret, is, sadly, still true here in the 21st century.
After several annual holidays in the UK in the late
1960s and early 1970s, chronic homesickness fuelled my
departure from Detroit, in 1976, to resettle in
Derbyshire. In the September of that year, I met my future
long term partner Terry Durand who was married with
children. The trauma and shock of coming to terms with his
life-long repressed same sex attraction triggered a
breakdown and several weeks in a psychiatric hospital.
Electric shock aversion therapy was suggested as a 'cure'
for his homosexuality. This low point was followed by a
painful and slow journey to eventual contentment and
Narvel & Terry on Honeymoon in Matlock Bath in 1976
On September 3rd 2013, we celebrated our
37 years together.
From 1978 to 1995, I was
a history master at the Valley Comprehensive School in
Worksop, North Nottinghamshire, quietly doing my job,
keeping my head down, keeping my private life very private
and contributing nothing to the gay cause. Like many other
homosexual teachers, I was isolated, terrified of being
exposed as 'a queer'. I was frightened of being humiliated
by ignorant pupils and colleagues in a deeply conservative
homophobic colliery community.
During this same
period, 'out and proud' brave people were giving an
enormous boost to the fledgling Campaign for Homosexual
Equality. A good example was
Richard McCance who was
elected to Nottingham City Council in 1983. He went on to
publish a gay and lesbian free sheet which eventually
expanded to 16 pages with a circulation of 5000 which must
have given succour and hope to untold numbers in the LGBT
community. Well done! He did all this. I did nothing.
Gay sex was decriminalised in 1967. However, people
like me, hiding in my small bungalow in the pit village of
Clowne, in the 1980's, effectively existed as outlaws
dodging disapproval, violent thugs and the dreaded
plain-clothes police who haunted gay venues as agents
To support this assessment of a
bleak decade, a disturbing incident seared into my memory.
I was sussed out and approached by a distressed teenage
boy, a grim picture of self-hate - tormented by a strong
sexual attraction for other boys. He needed to know that
there were others like himself. He needed a sympathetic
ear and practical advice. In fear of losing my job and the
good opinion of my colleagues, I gave him neither. I
played safe. To my eternal shame, I turned my back on this
cry for help.
The second incident, a few months
later, was horrific. He turned up at my door! He was a
shadow of his former self, appearing pale, drained and
defeated, accompanied by a woman and a child. This
unfortunate young man, like two former friends in Detroit,
had been brain-washed, bible-bashed into a heterosexual
zombie. He spoke a few well rehearsed words about sin and
redemption before, for the second time, out of fear, I
made polite apologies and closed my door on this victim of
active evangelism and rabid homophobia.
further re-invention: in 1995 I seized an opportunity to
escape from the restricting bonds of being a bogus
heterosexual schoolmaster to become a writer. I wrote as I
taught, with caution, hiding my true face from those who
would condemn me as immoral, wicked and sinful at worst,
sick, abnormal and disordered at best.
Several local newspapers and gay
magazines have supported me in printing letters which
challenge medieval religious attitudes. See LETTERS in
this website and read about my confrontations with
Catholics, Pentecostals, Mormons, the Salvation Army and
Jehovah's Witnesses. I am grateful to The Independent for
allowing my voice to travel far and wide on the subject of
Christian and Muslim fundamentalism. Especially pleasing
was the letter printed in The Independent on August 23rd
2011 in which I criticise the damaging 'deep and sincere
views' held by Lillian Ladele and also the homophobic
foster parents in Derby, Eunice and Owen Johns.
After two efforts dealing with my early schooldays, Death
on the Derwent, published in 1999, was received with
polite encouraging comments in the local press. This first
novel, like the author, was peopled by frustrated and
inhibited gay characters. It was followed by the biography
of a former teacher, A Judge Too Far in 2001. However, His
Honour Keith Matthewman QC is not the judge I best
remember. That honour goes to a High Court Judge of the
Old Bailey' Sir Brian Smedley 1934-2007 who was partly
the inspiration for Martin Harcourt QC in Scruffy Chicken
and Secret Summer.
Click on above to enlarge
In mid 1960s gay circles, it
was common knowledge that Brian was a Barrister. I met him
frequently in several venues and drooled over his
beautiful white Jaguar. He was a regular at our
'gentleman's club, the Derby Turkish Bath and was a
prestigious dinner guest in the homes of senior members of
the Derby and Nottingham LGBT community.
Richard Narvel &
at the Belper Literary
on May 18th. 2013
researching A Judge Too Far, it was a coincidence to
discover that Keith and Brian shared a close friendship
which went back to their early barrister days in Chambers
at The Ropewalk in Nottingham. In a formal letter, a blast
from the past, I politely asked Sir Brian if he would care
to contribute to the biography by sharing any interesting
or entertaining anecdotes about his one time colleague
Keith Matthewman. It seemed foolish to pretend that we
were strangers, so, in the last paragraph, I touched on
the fact that we had met and mentioned memorable dinner
parties and the names of a few old friends from our past.
His reply was hurtful. It included a few useful
references to his teaching days in Long Eaton and
recollections of his association with Keith and Jane
Matthewman. Notwithstanding, at the end, his tone became
stern and rather grand. Sir Brian Smedley, the High Court
Judge of the Old Bailey informed me that I was mistaken.
He had no memory of a teenager called Annable, no memory
of dinner parties or any of the people cited.
some minutes I stared into that letter from a man who
once, after dinner, counselled good advice to an anxious
boy trying to navigate through a frequently unreliable
world of secretive gay men riddled with all their own
personal problems, repressions and hang-ups. It felt like
a slap in the face. And yet - this lordly figure on high -
resplendent in his judicial robes had set off a process
which released me from my own repressions and hang-ups.
Another re-invention? I think so. The writer of
mediocre and safe subjects would transform into a writer
of important issues, essentially, he would battle with the
bigotry and ignorance which had blighted his life,
homophobia. After an escape from teaching, the fire in my
belly became a positive force for good. It burnt bright
and hot, fuelled by a deeper understanding of gay history
and the injustice which spanned centuries of human
existence. The discovery of writing and fighting for the
LGBT cause gave my life a new shape and real purpose.
Click on above to enlarge
On June 1st 2010, The Independent
printed my letter responding to a personal and political
tragedy which had come as a great blow to the new
coalition government. It could have been about Brian
Smedley. It was, in fact, about the Chief Secretary to the
Treasury, David Laws, who had just resigned after the
exposure of his secret lover, James Lundie, a relationship
unknown even to family and friends.
personal experience, I argued that continuing to be
defensive and closeted about his sexuality, David Laws
allowed homophobic elements in the heterosexual majority
to portray being gay as a personality flaw, or worse. Over
the previous ten years, his conduct has contributed to
undermine and undervalue the lives of millions of people
like me, making it more difficult to fight bigotry,
discrimination and ignorance.
To support this
position, I referred to Alan Bates and his secret lover
Peter Wyngarde who complained, 'I'm told to walk
two paces behind Alan. If we go to a party, we can never
arrive together. I have to arrive earlier, or later'.
Alan and Peter make a brief appearance in Secret
Picture by David Hemm
taken at Nottingham Pride
When Lost Lad was published in 2003,
sales slumped when local readers uncovered a gay theme. A
local councillor told me, 'After page 45, I didn't want
to read any more'. A few others had misunderstood the
homoerotic adolescent incident, graphically described in
the Belper Baths locker room, which actually happened in
the summer of 1959. It was as much about boasting and
boyhood power as experimental sex.
This dip in
sales was dramatically reversed after strong support from
an unexpected quarter in September 2005. On the strength
of previous titles, the Belper Women's Institute asked me
to talk to them about my work. I accepted and sent them a
selection of press cuttings and comments about Lost Lad to
assist the members in framing questions. Within a few
days, a curt letter arrived withdrawing the invitation
stating that 'It would not be suitable for our ladies.' As
I pondered this missive through doleful eyes, the phone
rang. The caller, from Torquay, described herself as a 66
year old grandmother who attends church regularly.
'I've just finished your novel. I'm deeply moved by
the sorrow and hurt suffered because of your sexual
orientation. Thank you so much for that window into an
interesting life and the guided tour of hills and dales of
Derbyshire: so picturesque.'
Appreciation for these
comments was expressed. However, she heard the melancholy
in my voice and asked why her enthusiasm was received in
such gloomy tones. I explained.
'What are you going
to do about it?'
'People like me are used to this
sort of attitude. There's not much I can do'
'Well! I know what I can do about it, and will do!'
She wrote a lengthy letter of outrage to the
Belper News. The latter sported a front page
headline screaming 'NO GAY SEX PLEASE, WE'RE THE BELPER
WI' followed by text sympathetic to the rejected guest
Click on above to enlarge
The Derby Telegraph COMMENT of September
21st 2005, under the headline 'A STANCE ROOTED IN
THE PAST' - fully supported my position. That, in turn, was
buttressed by a full page under a banner headline
author's talk is scrapped by WI ' and sub headline
'Blatant discrimination shocks retired teacher'. Both papers
displayed a large photograph of the author holding up the
front cover of his latest effort
Lost Lad. The result:
hundreds of copies were sold!
Click on above to enlarge
Click on above to enlarge
Click on above to enlarge
Sales were further
buttressed by coverage on
Central News, the local
Narvel Annable would like extend a big
'thank you' to the Belper WI and the kind reader from
This event boosted my name and fame [or
infamy] from local to national level. Many UK libraries
stocked Lost Lad and Scruffy Chicken which followed in
2006. I can even credit these good ladies for ensuring
that The Nazca Plains Corporation in Las Vegas had become
aware of me when they received the Secret Summer
manuscript in the August of 2010.
Terry Durand and Ian Campbell
An invitation from Local Authorities and libraries to
talk about my work has been especially helpful in
educating and challenging homophobic ignorance. Support
from the Nottingham Evening Post, Derby Telegraph and the
Belper News to publicise these events, has been both
generous and essential to achieve a healthy turn-out, and
quite often a full house.
Click on above to
Click on above to
Click on above to
In February 2007, via
the Derby Telegraph, Derby City Council invited the public
to hear readings from Scruffy Chicken at the Central
Library and engage the author in conversation. In the
audience, I was delighted to see the former Mayor of the
City of Derby, Robin Wood, whose contribution in
questions and comment was much appreciated.
in that gathering was an unknown Canadian who took a
special interest in the proceedings which would give
Scruffy Chicken international promotion. On May 10th 2007,
Vancouver's Lesbian and Gay Biweekly newspaper XTRA! West
www.xtra.ca, ran a
generous half page feature under the headline 'Ugly Old Trolls'
and sub headline 'Gay life
through the eyes of a scruffy chicken 'OLD VS YOUNG' by
Brad Teeter. Thank you, Brad.
Click on above to
All these events are
well documented with press cuttings which appear on my
regular A4 hard copy News Sheets which started with Sheet
1 in 2003. The XTRA! West feature dominated Sheet 77 and,
at the time of writing, the most recent Sheet 130, dated
June 2011, is typical. Three letters about a courageous
gay prison inmate called Richard appeared in the
Nottingham Evening Post and
Derby Telegraph. To give
depth, my original letter is placed next to a letter of
support and a critical letter. Next to a photograph of the
Nottingham Council House, there is an item from
Queer Bulletin about the
Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage
www.nottsrainbowheritage.org.uk Celebration Evening in the
Council House Ballroom in February 2011. Two further
pictures show a display board highlighting my campaigning
and letters over the last three years. A caption gives
thanks to Roger Hollier for his skill, time and trouble in
producing this effective exhibit.
If readers are
interested in seeing any of these 130 sheets, free of
charge, I can post via 'large letter' up to 12 sheets at a
time. Please send a postal address to
firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at 44 Dovedale
Crescent, Belper, Derby DE56 1HJ, or phone 01 773 82 44
On Sheet 83 - the Heanor Library event of
February 2008 was also memorable. The two back rows where
full of women - so enthusiastic, so supportive in body
language, so helpful in eye contact - they deserve special
mention. Throughout my gay life, I have seen a continuing
social apartheid between gay men and lesbians. How very
sad ? one half of homosexual humanity ignoring the other
half. If we take that attitude, we are all diminished and
The success of Lost Lad gave
me the opportunity to be interviewed on
Television, BBC Radio Derby and BBC Radio Nottingham.
Scruffy Chicken took me further afield.
Manchester [GMR] invited me to discuss the novel twice
during March 2006. In 'Gay Talk'
'Scruffy Chicken was a great read. I know it's the old
clich' but, really; I just couldn't put it down!'
In the following edition of 'Gay Talk', I was in
conversation with its producer, Ashley Byrne who took a
special interest in my next project Secret Summer.
On April 3rd 2006, I was the guest of
Robinson of BBC Radio Sheffield. Several phone calls from interested
listeners extended the interview up to one hour. It was
good to be invited back in March 2010 to discuss issues
raised in Secret Summer. I had the opportunity to be a
part of the
BBC Radio Sheffield discussion on homophobia
ahead of Sheffield Pride on July 16th 2011. Giving air
time to these important matters was appreciated. It was
kind of Toby Foster to invite my comments on the gay
marriage controversy on August 20th 2011.
to thank the
Sheffield Star. Over the years, it has
printed my letters, articles and one full page feature
[Sheet 52] on Scruffy Chicken by
Martin Dawes - 18.04.06.
It highlighted trials suffered during a lifetime trying to
hide from the ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and
bigotry from some of the heterosexual majority.
April 24th 2006,
Julie Mayer of BBC Radio
questions about Scruffy Chicken. She focused on my life
and encounters with homophobia.
As part of Gay
History Month, February 2009,
Heritage invited me as Guest of Honour to the launch of
'View from the Top' the biggest LGBT exhibition in the UK
at Waterston's in Nottingham. It is a valuable collection
of photographs, books, pictures, diagrams, newspaper
cuttings and a wide range of LGBT memorabilia going back
many years. Had it not been for the brave efforts of
Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage, Scruffy Chicken would
never have seen the light of day.
In March 2009,
Derby City Council held a Tri-Network Event in which I was
invited to address the gathering about my life and work.
In January 2010, the Derbys Rainbow Fringe Festival
asked me to speak
at Derby Central Library and also at a number of other
venues for Gay History Month, February 2010. After putting
sparkle and hope into a usually drab month, they
organised, managed, promoted and hosted several LGBT
events in the autumn of that year and the following Gay
History Month of February 2011. I am grateful to have been
associated with the Derbys Rainbow Fringe Festival. They
gave me the opportunity to speak at Chesterfield Library,
Derby University and to have the honour of introducing
Peter Tatchell on his first visit to Derby.
invitations as a guest speaker came from Nottinghamshire's
Rainbow Heritage. In February 2010; I gave readings from
Secret Summer to a full house at the Voluntary Action
Centre. I'm indebted to the Editor of Queer Bulletin for
providing necessary publicity for my books, several
Nottinghamshire engagements and some campaigning letters,
not least the sudden disappearance of Jack Carrier in QB
It happened in our colliery village
of Stanley Common in 1959 when I was a frustrated, deeply
repressed 14 year old scruffy chicken. We had a shy and
gentle postmaster called Jack Carrier. One day he was
there - the next day he was gone!
to him?' I asked mother.
'That one! Huh! Good
riddance,' she snapped. 'E were one of them funny sorts.
No good to any woman,' she growled.
The effect on
me? Well, it was the same as the effect on hundreds of
thousands like me. I hid inside of myself. I became
withdrawn and tried to pretend to desire girls. I drifted
into a secret world of fear and insecurity.
Jack had been discovered in some way, denounced and driven
out of Stanley Common by ignorant homophobic outrage. In
those dark days of rabid gay hate, it was considered quite
natural for a heterosexual to 'chat up' a woman. However,
if a homosexual engaged another man in conversation, that
was seen as 'soliciting for an immoral purpose'. Many
victims were entrapped by the CID in plainclothes and
humiliated in the local press. Did this happen to Jack?.
The above formed the main theme of my visit to North
Nottinghamshire College in Worksop, when I addressed
students and staff on the subject of homophobic ignorance
in March 2009. On the strength of that occasion, in the
following July, I delivered a similar talk to an audience
of Nottinghamshire teachers in Mansfield at the West
Nottinghamshire College. Following an imaginative
presentation about homophobic bullying by Councillor Ian
Campbell - (future Mayor of Retford) to make my point, I
revisited the pain and suffering of a famous actor called
Wilfrid Brambell who was entrapped by agents provocateurs
Cruel and humiliating tabloid headlines
screamed out 'Old Man Steptoe caught importuning to commit
a lewd act' . 'Albert Steptoe arrested by police' and
Junk Man charged with gross indecency'.
over the pages of the popular press, this reinforced the
generally held prejudice that a homosexual looked and
acted just like the shambling, dirty decrepit, toothless,
unshaven old man better known to the nation as Albert
Steptoe. I'm grateful to Gay Times [Sheet 102] for
printing my letter about this event in October 2009.
In May 2010 [Sheet 111] in recognition of valuable
contributions to the LGBT Community of Derby, along with
several others, Derby Pride nominated me for the Jeffery
Tillett Award. Quite an honour. However, many of us
concurred with the choice of the eventual winner who has
done so much to improve the quality of life for local gay
people. His insistence that the award be presented to the
whole Derbyshire Friend team of conscientious workers /
volunteers will add even more respect and prestige to the
good name of Toni Montinaro MBE.
, 01 332 20 77 04
In February 2010, I was
also nominated for an Equity Partnership Award for Best
Individual Contribution to LGB Communities in Bradford at
a prestigious ceremony in the French Ballroom of the
Midland Hotel. Once again, a better man won. Mark
Michalowski, for many years the editor of Shout! Magazine
has made an invaluable contribution to the West Yorkshire
gay community. www.gayers.co.uk
It is always
heartening to have a campaigning voice travel far and
wide. I would like to thank the Bradford Telegraph & Argus
for printing a number of my letters on gay issues ? not
least the generous full page 'Book of the Week' feature by
Emma Clayton praising Secret Summer on April 15th 2011.
The last nine chapters are set in Yorkshire. See Sheet
Whilst not hailing from Bradford, I had been
invited as guest speaker at several Bradford Pride events
and also at the first ever Civic Reception for the LGB
communities in the city to mark the International Day
Against Homophobia in May 2009.
Paul Hunt, leading
light of West Yorkshire, Chief Features Writer of SHOUT!
Magazine and chairman of Bradford?s LGB focus group told
the Derby Telegraph ?
'All Narvel's books are
successful in Yorkshire. We felt he would give an
excellent speech and connect strongly with the hundreds of
people who will be there on this IDAHO Day.'
from his review of Scruffy Chicken in 2007, Paul Hunt has
been a stalwart source of encouragement and support for my
activism and writing. Thank you, Paul.
In some of
my letters to the press, in an assessment of gay progress,
you will see the occasional use of the clich' 'We have
come a long way, but there is still a long way to go'. How
true. There is plenty of evidence to support both cases.
For example, 21 year old gay man, Oliver Hemsley might
well take a pessimistic view of LGBT progress. During a
homophobic attack in October 2008, he was battered over
the head with a glass bottle and stabbed seven times,
leaving him permanently paralysed and disabled. This, one
of many 'queer bashings', was near the George and Dragon,
Oliver?s local gay pub.
There had been warnings,
and those warnings continue! In early 2011, stickers were
plastered around East London declaring it to be a 'Gay
Free Zone,' threatening that Allah's punishment for
homosexuality was severe.
Graeme Taylor who
attends high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA might well
take an optimistic view of LGBT progress. At the age of
14, he is an excellent, confident speaker. In August 2011,
he was a guest on an American national TV programme, the
'Ellen De Generes Show' courageously explaining how and
why he came out of his closet, telling his friends he was
Martin Luther King told us that 'people
shouldn't be judged by the colour of their skin, but by
the content of their character. I want to be treated in
the same way. I should not be judged by who I love.'
A New Novel from Narvel
A Mystery set in Derbyshire 1958
Here is a
controversial story of transformation: a journey from
despair to delight. Adolescence is the change from boy to
man. In a sequel to Lost Lad, Simeon Hogg escapes from a
living hell into an enchanted world of fairytale people
inhabiting the hidden nooks and crannies of deepest
Derbyshire. Follow him as he transforms from a rough and
miserable urchin who - 'suffers a sea-change into
something rich and strange' as sung by Ariel, the airy
spirit from The Tempest.
In previous titles,
Narvel Annable has disclosed a promiscuous life style. He
includes confidential erotic and embarrassing details
which many gay boys and men of the 1950s have taken to
their graves. In this brutally honest autobiographic
novel, he goes further. He revisits his Dickensian Mundy
Street Boys School ordeal of sex slavery and cruel
bullying in Heanor. He reveals more youthful adventures
set in the shadowy world of homosexuality. With the help
of legislation and enlightened education, the gay
community of the 21st century hopes these horrors, which
have damaged so many, have gone forever.
novel explodes myths and challenges conventional thinking.
Whilst not condoning, it does not condemn. At the brink of
self destruction, Simeon's sexual abuser becomes his
saviour, persuading him, giving him courage to escape and
live, rather than to stay and die.
Hopefully to be published
before Christmas 2014
Click on above to enlarge
Click on above to enlarge
Click on above to enlarge
Narvel’s links with Matlock Bath
The Grand Pavilion
October 2012, Terry and I were pleased to become Friends
of the Grand Pavilion and take an interest in the regular
emails sent to us by Gregor Macgregor.
to Trina for time and trouble invested in visiting Terry
and myself on the Monday morning of March 11th. She told
me it was a preliminary interview in advance of a more
formal recording for the Oral History part of the Grand
Pavilion Project. An hour with Trina was quite an
experience! An entertaining whirlwind of enthusiasm and
energy, she must be a powerful asset for the Grand
To slay the dragon of prejudice
and discrimination, I was delighted the project wanted to
hear from people like me and my partner of 37 years, Terry
Durand. Most of us meet gay people every day – but don’t
know it. LGBTs can make themselves invisible! Being open
about our sexuality is the best way to cut through decades
of fear and mythology. To be closeted and secretive,
simply hands ammunition to the hostile.
Terry and I
spent our ‘honeymoon’ in our favourite resort of Matlock
Bath at the Temple Hotel in the first week of September
1976. In the following week, after the stress of coming to
terms with his sexuality, Terry suffered a breakdown, was
removed to a psychiatric hospital [Mickleover] and offered
Electric Aversion Therapy to ‘cure’ him of his
Homophobia is unacceptable. I hope
the Oral History will address this particular ignorance
and turn it around in a positive way to promote that
positivity. In this way, people who hear our voice might
be educated on an issue which, especially in rural
England, only a few years ago, was considered taboo.
Around Matlock Bath and The Grand Pavilion there is a
whole untold secret history – now told in two novels
Scruffy Chicken and Secret Summer - copies of which I have
donated to The Grand Pavilion together with several sheets
of cuttings for background information. Extracts from the
Matlock Mercury and
Derby Telegraph highlight my long-term
connection with Matlock Bath.
A former friend,
Matlock man and popular drag act Herbert Siddons
[1924-2003] was famous for his Old Mother Riley
impersonations at the Matlock Lido in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Matlock Mercury feature Popular Drag Artiste
Remembered was printed on March 16th 2006. It explains how
Herbert inspired the character of Becksitch Betty
inScruffy Chicken. An odd effeminate man, he had a
strangely mobile writhing mouth: it seemed to move all
over his face, possibly the result of a broken jaw.
I have a faint memory of Herbert reminiscing about his
appearances at the Matlock Picture Palace and the Matlock
Bath Grand Pavilion. He also performed as Carmen Miranda
and Gracie Fields.
The principal character of
Secret Summer, a gorgeous butch-as-a-brick hunk I call
Ahmed, detested all effeminate men and especially Matlock
Bath! During his first visit to the UK in 1967, at his
expense, we travelled around in an impressive flashy Ford
Zodiac staying at top hotels. He loved London and was keen
to visit the Derbyshire his ‘Booby’ [pet name for Narvel]
had always raved about. I thought Matlock Bath was the
most beautiful place in the world. My lover had hardly
ventured out of hideous-flat-tar-and-cement Detroit.
Therefore, I was so sure - once he had explored the mossy
nooks and crannies of this idyllic Derbyshire Shangri-La –
Ahmed would never want to leave it. To my horror, he
wanted to leave it, as soon as he set eyes on it!
As a contrast to the posh hotels, I booked us into a
quaint friendly B&B called The Laurels at the foot of
Holmes Road where it meets Brunswood Road. It was a
The Christmas before, I infuriated one
of Derby’s snooty set by leaving the party with a fellow
teenager, a stunning stud with golden hair. Our host,
Claud Hoadley, as I call him in Scruffy Chicken, the First
Homosexual of Derbyshire, ranted about this ‘unacceptable
elopement’ in which two chickens, perfect strangers,
presented themselves at the door of The Laurels asking for
accommodation under heavy snow fall in the bleak
midwinter. The kind lady showed us a double bed – no
questions asked. An excellent breakfast complete with a
pretty yuletide view over the magnificent panorama of High
Tor was just as romantic.
Six months later, Detroit
met Derbyshire – it was hate at first sight. In sulky
silence Ahmed and his Booby strolled along North and South
Parade. Nothing pleased the American; nothing charmed him.
Deeply in love, I’d dreamed of the day when we’d steal a
kiss on Lovers Walk - but he refused even to cross the
River Derwent via Jubilee Bridge. He found the whole thing
primitive (I think he said ‘medieval’) nasty, common,
parochial and horribly cheap. The disaster came to an
abrupt end after a miserable night on a lumpy bed in The
Laurels. He would not eat breakfast and even declined a
cup of tea practically throwing two pound notes at the
bemused lady – ten shillings more than she needed. We were
back in London before noon. I was utterly miserable - but
we refused to give up - desperately trying to bridge the
unbridgeable, attempting to make our fragile relationship
work against a backdrop of hostile homophobia.