Narvel Annable 
GAY CAMPAIGNER /AUTHOR

 

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Letters from Narvel Annable

 

Printed in the March 2019 edition of the Ripley & Alfreton Chronicle 

Thank you for the generous coverage of LGBT History Month in your February edition.  It was encouraging to see positive references to the gay friendly attitude of Derbyshire Police.  The words of Sue Sanders resonated with my background as a schoolmaster when she said -

       ‘It’s probably easier to be an out LGBT police officer than it is to be an out LGBT teacher.’   

Police Officers regularly feature at our Belper Golden Rainbows support group making significant contributions to helpful and vibrant discussion. 

Gay hate blighted my years as a teacher at the Valley Comprehensive School when Thatcher’s Section 28 forced me into a life hiding inside a dark well locked closet.  I dreaded exposure, embarrassment and humiliation.  Born into a macho, football crazy, working class, coal mining culture; homophobia was not just endemic, it was a badge of honour with some people.  A thief, thug or murderer would be afforded more respect than a gentle, honest homosexual. 

After suffering excruciating incidents sustaining emotional damage, I learned to exist in isolation until a breakdown forced me to seek professional counselling. 

Next September, my husband Terry and I will celebrate our 43 years together.  In other respects, at the age of 73 and having been disowned by family and friends since the 1960s, I share the same problems of other gays we are trying to help in Belper. 

Fred Bray is our friendly Hate Crime Monitoring Police Officer, a regular attendee at Belper Golden Rainbows.  A tower of strength, his lively personality adds zest to each event, at the same time, offering practical professional advice to those of us who are in need. 

Thanks to Fred, I have now given five talks as part of the official Hate Crime Training Days in which an audience of 120 Police Officers from Derbyshire South Division were addressed on each occasion - 600 in total.  

I was grateful for the chance to be a part of Fred's splendid initiative.  It was a pleasure to experience firsthand the vibrancy of camaraderie and warmth of welcome from good people who, on a daily basis, put their lives on the line protecting the general public.  

The training days were put together by Fred taking a lot of time, effort and research to organise.  His senior management team told him what they wanted and he has delivered the programme. 

'This set of training days have received more praise and positive comments than any we've done in the last two years,' said Fred.  'It was and is a day of education around Hate Crime and how it can affect all of our communities.  The effort made by Narvel and Terry is invaluable and greatly appreciated. 

'Narvel's eloquence has resonated with so many of my colleagues.  His bravery to speak in front of hundreds of Officers, many of high rank, has been inspiring.' 

It is now 52 years since the partial decriminalisation of gay sex.  We have come a long way, but, as your feature pointed out, there is much more to do.  Before 1967, homosexuals were criminalised and traumatised by a disapproving ignorant majority. 

Queers were treated as criminals and many went to prison.  That criminality led to an underground culture which allowed myths and stereotypes to flourish unchallenged.  The associations of gay men with effeminacy, dressing up as women and touching up little boys became rooted in the public consciousness. 

You lived a double life and never told anybody.  You couldn’t defend yourself.  The police, the law, the church, society - everybody was against you.  It was the blackmailer’s charter. 

In 1965, a Canon warned me about the dangers of queer life.  He told me a distressing story.

       “Once your name is in the paper, your job has gone, everything has gone.  The only way out if you got caught ... well, a lot committed suicide.  A man came to talk to me in the Cathedral.  He said he was gay. His family was against him.  The next day, I picked up the local newspaper and read that the man had hanged himself.” 

Having written several autobiographic novels about the horrors of homosexual life, I receive letters from older gay men who remember the dark dangerous days of the 1950s and 1960s. 

For those looking for help, we meet on the third Wednesday of each month between 1 and 3pm at The Cottage Project, 16 Chapel Street [on the A6] in Belper just opposite the bus station.  A free car park is available behind the cottage.  Free admission and free refreshments are available at all meetings. 

Narvel Annable

...--- 

 

  

See below, two letters of strong support for the letter above. 

Great letter, Narvel   

I went to a Bible study this morning - first time for a long while.  We were looking at Matthew ch 19, Jesus teaches about divorce.  Verse 12 says:  

For there are different reasons why men cannot marry [a woman]: some because they were born that way; others because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.  Let him who can accept this teaching do so. 

It was agreed that 'some because they were born that way' was referring to gay people.  I found this quite pleasing because some people in the group used to think homosexuality was a lifestyle choice.  I had never spotted this verse before. 

Gradually, people are coming round to accepting people who are different, due to the work of you and others who keep chipping away at people's prejudices. 

I have also been reading in The Times Magazine today (Saturday) an article saying that 80 per cent of Catholic priests in the Vatican are gay, leading double lives.  And the more outspoken they are against homosexuality, the more they are likely to be gay themselves.   It's an extract from a book 'Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality and Hypocrisy' by Frederic Martel.  

I am looking forward to reading your next book, Narvel. 

Best wishes, 

Robert Anthony 

Freelance Journalist  

 

Excellent letter, Narvel.  

Long may you continue your awesome letters and books.  

The following might be helpful to the forthcoming launch of Double Life which I found to be another intriguing, compelling and informative novel.

You reflect across the decades of your double life: the joys and sorrows of an isolated and sometimes painful teaching career. 

I empathised with the LGBTs you and Terry now help at the Belper Golden Rainbows support group which grows from strength to strength.

You constantly campaign.  Over the years, letters to the press and radio interviews must have inspired the lives of gay people in deepest darkest coal encrusted Derbyshire.  

I applaud your talks to audiences in the Derbyshire Police Force as a part of their in-service training days on Hate Crime.  I noted that you don’t shy from including a harrowing account of your arrest and imprisonment by plainclothes police in the war-torn 1960s Detroit riots.

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

Warmest wishes,

Peter 

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

 

www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org 

 

January 6th 2019

Midlands Zone 

Metro Sauna Club in Mansfield - transformed for the better beyond recognition.   

As a non-drinker, I’ve been a lifelong devotee of the sauna bath with its comforting warmth.  It’s a safe alternative to pubs, noisy clubs with thumping music, lascivious lavatories and dangerous woodland walking.  I should know - I’ve done it all! 

My experience extends from English Turkish baths of the 1960s through to the orgiastic bath houses (TUBS) of Chicago, Detroit and New York in the 1970s.  Since returning in 1976, I’ve seen the opening and closing of several English gay saunas culminating in an invitation from Channel 4 to be part of a documentary.  Secrets of the Sauna, an examination of gay relationships first aired on March 2nd, 2016. 

This was a chance to tell the nation about the reality of homosexual lives by asserting the positive aspects of gay saunas, exploring erotic anonymity and realities, common to many who share same sex attraction.   

After long experience, I’m now impelled to rave about an excellent gay steam bath close to home.  I urge you to visit the website www.metrosaunaclub.com   

Any business is only as good as the people who make it happen.  During the last few weeks, Mark, Steve and Cameron have worked long hard hours improving a sauna in Mansfield beloved by many of us in dread of its demise.  Newly named Metro Sauna Club has been transformed for the better beyond recognition.   

This talented trio of energetic imaginative and conscientious friendly young men have created a beautiful environment of subtle textures and tones producing a boom in foot fall through the door of 71 Ratcliff Gate in Mansfield.  The buzzer now seems to buzz constantly!   

Value is mind blowing!  There is a free entry on the very popular Thursday naked event, after you have paid entry on the Friday to Wednesday prior to the event.  The current price of admission is the same as it was 20 years ago.  A delicious hot meal deal can be obtained at £3 which includes a large beaker of tea [or coffee] - with biscuit.  Try to get that in Mansfield town centre!  

This nice warm bath of many rooms (squeaky clean throughout) is gently lit by welcoming warm lights - evidence of superior creativity - the birthright of resourceful and clever gay men everywhere.

I commend the Metro Sauna Club in Mansfield as one of the best saunas I have ever had the good fortune and pleasure to experience. 

Narvel Annable

  

Steep Turnpike Evangelical Church Update - March 2019

 

Hello Readers, 

Since November 2017, I’ve been involved with a church in Matlock, the Steep Turnpike Evangelical Church serves out free meals on the first Friday of each month in a cafe called Stroll Inn.   

On gay issues, Evangelicals have had a bad press; for example - the rabidly homophobic US Vice President Pence.  On first meeting, Matlock Evangelicals appeared to be different and were keen to publicise the fact. 

With regard to the Steep Turnpike Evangelical Church, I was prepared to work towards friendship, building a better understanding between tolerant religious heterosexuals and homosexuals seeking acceptance.  As you’ll see from this letter sent to Alan Kitchen in January 2019, sadly, my hopes ended in disappointment.

Alan Kitchen

Steep Turnpike Evangelical Church

12 Steep Turnpike

Matlock

DE4 3DP

 

Dear Alan, 

Thank you for your recent letter dated November 7th 2018 which I did not receive until January 7th 2019 - apology noted.  It responded to my letter of August 20th 2018 which was a commendation for the team at Stroll Inn based on my five visits since November 3rd 2017.  If printed in any newspapers, I have yet to be been informed.  Several lines appear in the January 2019 edition of the Ripley and Alfreton Chronicle enclosed with other recent updates which I hope you will share with others.  Furthermore, I ask you to show this letter to Michael. 

You’ll recall that I first attended Stroll Inn at the request of Iain Greenwood one of your regular diners, affectionately known in his circle of friends as Little Iain.  

A few unkind folks at previous Steep Turnpike meals had targeted him with cruel comments.  Iain asked me to accompany him on November 3rd, 2017 for protection and to be a witness in case of unpleasantness.  

There were no problems on that day and I was impressed by a friendly reception and overwhelmed by your generous spirit to provide a stranger with a three course meal completely free of charge.  In an atmosphere of tolerance and kindness, actually witnessing the Stroll team unselfishly working hard producing and serving meals made a powerful impression on me. 

You and Michael assured me that the team were aware of Iain’s difficulties - ‘We are looking after Iain.’  It now seems to be a case of ‘job done’ as my friend no longer requires personal protection. 

As a homosexual author and campaigner working under the auspices of Derbyshire LGBT+, I was (to say the least) disappointed with a line in your letter. 

‘Michael has asked me to point out that he doesn’t recollect saying that he applauded your gay campaigning.’  

I can assure you that Michael stressed his approbation of my work to the level of sincere praise!  Our in-depth conversation focused on the Evangelical reputation for homophobia.  Michael was at pains to make it clear that all at Stroll Inn were innocent of any such bigotry.  The thrust of his argument was - ‘Don’t judge all by the ignorance of the few’.

 was surprised and deeply moved to hear him say that all the Evangelicals at Matlock not only respected me but approved my gay assistance and campaigning at Belper Golden Rainbows.  It was a private conversation in which nobody was taking notes and I’ll allow that he might not have actually used the word ‘applauded’.  Notwithstanding, his meaning was perfectly clear. 

This is all very sad.  I saw our conversation on that special day as an unexpected opportunity to build bridges with a group of people who are known to be prejudiced against people who share same sex attraction.   

With regard to the Steep Turnpike Evangelical Church, I was prepared to work towards friendship, building a better understanding between tolerant religious heterosexuals and homosexuals seeking acceptance.   

Over the years, I have given talks to meetings of the Gay Christian Movement in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. 

You said - ‘We respect you as a person and a fellow human being.’  

This implies that you do not respect my sexuality!  Homosexuality is an integral part of my person and me as a human being.  I come with my sexuality.  You can’t have one without the other.  Your homophobia is the same as the ostracism of my parents and family.  

They forced me into a life hiding inside a dark well locked closet in fear of being exposed, embarrassed and humiliated.  Born into a macho, football crazy, working class, coal mining culture; homophobia was not just endemic, it was almost a badge of honour with some people.  A thief, thug or murderer would be afforded more respect than a gentle, honest homosexual.   

Present trends are not hopeful.  New Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro would rather his son be dead than gay.   

After suffering excruciating incidents sustaining emotional damage, I learned to exist in isolation and stay deeply hidden inside myself until a breakdown forced me to seek professional counselling. Eventually I wrote five autobiographic novels assisted by strident LGBT activism. 

Last September 2018, my husband Terry and I celebrated our 42 years together.  In other respects, at the age of 73 and having been disowned by family and heterosexual friends since the 1960s, I share the same problems of other gays we are trying to help in Belper. 

Terry ended a letter to a rabidly gay-hating Pentecostal Church in Derby -

       ‘So think on Mr and Mrs Johns: you are black - no choice.  I am gay - no choice.  You do religion - your choice. 

I ask you to consider the similarities between your Stroll Inn and our Belper Cottage Project.  We too work hard and, on a monthly basis, provide free food and hot drinks to people seeking shelter from heterosexual disapproval.  Terry prepares food paid for out of his own pocket.  I offered you an opportunity to address our group to promote mutual understanding.  You have not responded.  On several occasions, based on my personal experience, our group has been told about the good work of Matlock Evangelicals. 

To conclude, I do not regret our time together.  It was a valuable learning curve.  For a time, I shared with you an atmosphere of tolerance and kindness witnessing the Stroll team unselfishly working hard producing and serving meals to the needy.  At that time, I felt welcome.  I’m glad I protected Iain and, on the strength of Michael’s enthusiasm of my LGBT work, was able to attempt bridge building and think it is important to end this letter on a friendly note. 

Sincerely, 

Narvel

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, September 25th 2018

 

Chance to record stories from my life

Last August 24th 2018, I was visited by a camera crew and producer / director with the aim of probing memories telling a life story of over 70 years through my eyes.  In a conversation extending nearly four hours, I reflected on how things have changed including the joys and sorrows of our gay community in the past.

Imaginative leader Greg Pickup had arrived at my Belper address together with volunteers Michael and Marc to record a video interview for the Other Stories Project.

Derbyshire LGBT+, the charity representing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans community of Derbyshire is running this programme aiming to record stories from the community to make sure they are stored appropriately for the future, sharing with others through displays, exhibitions, events and online.

Congratulations to Greg who has helped Derbyshire LGBT + to be awarded £86,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to organize two years of activities, displays and events across the county and beyond.  I’m delighted to have been involved in his excellent work.

The interview was thorough and thoroughly enjoyable taking twists and turns down the road of my occasionally colourful controversial and sometimes naughty life.  It gave an opportunity to do funny voices reliving amusing moments imitating several quirky characters.  These are real people who inhabit my autobiographic novels based on real events.   

I attempted to give a picture of these curious characters taking shelter in their twilight existence; monsters, clowns, the high and the low, the pretentious and the pompous, the scented and the sneering, the common and the crude.  My small audience were amused.  At the same time, they were also moved by appalling cruelty suffered by those of same-sex attraction in the hostile homophobic landscape of mid 20th century Derbyshire.

Anybody interested in being interviewed can contact heritage@derbyshirelgbt.org.uk  

I wish Greg and his team all the success they deserve in this most important enterprise.

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Worksop Guardian, August 3rd 2018

 

Equality Parade 

All my worries melted away at Pride March 

I’m pleased the WORKSOP GUARDIAN printed my letter about the Worksop Pride on June 15th 2018  

The Pride March, my first ever, was a daunting prospect for me personally albeit overdue. 

Claire Bradley of LGBT + Service Nottinghamshire in Worksop invited me to join that gay Equality Parade on July 7th following a request for my attendance from some of the youngsters who gathered at Worksop Train Station at 11am.   A large crowd proudly strode out at 11.30 and arrived at the Old Market Square at noon, where a festive family atmosphere prevailed including stalls, entertainers and bands.  For small prides like Worksop this generous support from hordes of the general public was especially important. 

PC Fred Bray, very keen to support the LGBT cause, attends all Belper Golden Rainbows meetings and has been a tower of strength for our group.  He wanted to march at my side on that important day saying - 

‘I have the green light for Worksop Pride but will not be on uniformed duty.  I intend to join you in the march in order to enjoy the experience as an off duty bobby and will only make my presence felt formally if called upon.’ 

Nothing of the kind was needed.  The nearly one mile walk from the train station to the Old Market Square, under clear blue skies, went like a dream.  Being no stranger to rabid homophobia during the period 1978 to 1995 when I was a history master at the Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop, I feared verbal abuse - or worse. 

Instead we were welcomed by a sea of smiling faces and dozens of rainbow flags festooned from buildings along the route.  My anxieties melted when the march started.  Former pupils in the crowd did not shout nasty comments.  As it turned out, two friendly fellow marchers who I had taught in the 1980s approached me and identified themselves.  That made my day! 

Many on that march shared my doubts, worries and concerns.  Many would be scared of being seen at a gay event, but, taking strength from big numbers we all made a tremendous effort to celebrate our diversity and enjoy a fantastic party. 

My generation proceeded with pride and purpose.  The youngsters made more noise.  Clad in rainbow colour, feather boas and glitter, they blew their whistles, chanted their chants and were proud to be who they were.  It was an uplifting experience. 

https://www.lgbtplusnotts.org.uk/  

Narvel Annable

 

FOR PHOTOGRAPHS SEE PHOTO ALBUM

 

Printed in the WORKSOP GUARDIAN - June 15th 2018

 

Worksop Pride 

March will be daunting for me but overdue 

Claire Bradley of LGBT + Service Nottinghamshire in Worksop invited me to join the gay Equality Parade at Worksop Pride 2018 on July 7th.  This special request for my attendance was kindly suggested by some of the youngsters who will gather at Worksop Train Station at 11am.  We’ll all proudly stride out at 11.30, arriving at the Old Market Square at noon, where a festive family atmosphere is promised including stalls, entertainers and bands.  For small prides like Worksop, generous support from the general public is especially important. 

Claire, Helen and their enthusiastic team have made splendid efforts launching a group called Worksop Out on Wednesday in 2010. 

https://www.lgbtplusnotts.org.uk/  

The management and volunteers have been supporting young LGBT people for more than a decade.  This is evidence of good organisation, dedication and hard work from an excellent team who provide activities and counselling for young people who are coming to terms with their sexuality.  I’ve been grateful for several guest speaker appearances over the years. 

A visit to Worksop Pride and my first ever gay march through public streets will be a daunting prospect for me personally, albeit long overdue.  This parade will be seen by some former pupils who might recognise me - hence the importance of being with kindred spirits to bolster my confidence. 

PC Fred Bray, very keen to support the LGBT cause, attends all Belper Golden Rainbows meetings and has been a tower of strength for our group. 

He has given me permission to include his own words below regarding his wish to march at my side in the Pride Parade on July 7th.

I have the green light for Worksop Pride. I will not be on uniformed duty as I intend to join you in the march in order to enjoy the experience.  Feel free to inform the organiser you will have “an off duty bobby” in the group should they need the support but I will only make my presence felt formally if called upon. 

My next novel Double Life will receive inspiration from the period 1978 to 1995 when I was a history master at the Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop.  I taught as I was taught in the 1950s - too strict, too formal and reluctant to embrace progressive trends in state education which arrived in the 1980s. 

This ‘Mr Chips’ mindset was a cloak to conceal the continuing anxiety of leading a double life.  Inside, I was a frightened homosexual trying to look like a confident heterosexual on the outside.  It had to look like a teacher easily fitting in with pupils and staff. 

For about 17 years, for the most part, I succeeded in dodging disapproval and maintained a mask of po-faced respectability hiding inside a bungalow in the ultra conservative colliery village of Clowne.  Like most isolated, closeted gay men, I spoke little of myself and was constantly on guard.  It became a way of life. 

A ghost story, the book will detail the final painful days at the Valley School when a series of humiliating homophobic incidents made my position untenable. 

Narvel Annable 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, April 25th 2018

 

So brave of diver Tom Daley to speak out

 

On the Andrew Marr programme, April 22nd, Olympic diver Tom Daley criticised the 36 Commonwealth countries which still outlaw homosexuality and persecute the LGBT community.  Nine members impose a penalty of life imprisonment and the death sentence is available in Nigeria and Pakistan. 

A Bishop in Trinidad took exception to Tom’s comments and said - ‘What about MY rights as a Christian?’  Is this senior cleric arguing for a right to be primitive, ignorant and bigoted?

I salute Tom’s brave attack on this loose association of countries who, in spite of Peter Tatchell’s recent petition, have stubbornly refused to discuss tolerance, respect and understanding in matters of sexual orientation.  It is a disgrace that 36 member states continue to treat same-sex relations as a serious criminal offence.  Every day gay people suffer vilification and punishment including torture inflicted by cruel religious laws dating from colonial days. 

Tom and his husband Dustin, who are expecting their first child, have been denounced as abnormal.  What exactly is normal?   Last century it was normal for women who had children out of wedlock to be forced to give them up for adoption.  In the 1980s it was normal for my pupils to be beaten for misbehaving.  I grieved for people who suffered under Mrs Thatcher’s appalling 1988 law Section 28 - the first anti-gay legislation passed in a 100 years!  Like living in a police state; it prevented any positive mention of homosexuality in schools, banned Local Authorities from publishing material expressing the acceptability of homosexuality as a ‘pretended family relationship’.  In other words, it told gay children, lesbian and gay parents – ‘you are not a real family, you are unacceptable, you are inferior.’ 

The recently gained equalities are fragile.  We must be eternally vigilant.  

Narvel Annable  

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, March 20th 2018

 

Police worth weight in gold at end of rainbow 

In our last meeting on February 21st, we felt the full force of the law!  Two magnificent police officers at Belper Golden Rainbows have gone well beyond the call of duty on behalf of helping gay people in this area. 

The guest speaker, PC Andy Sudbury, on the subject of Hate Crime, was very helpful to a number of new faces who had suffered homophobic abuse.  

Andy received strong support from our regular attendee, PC Fred Bray whose lively personality, as usual, gave the event added zest.  Fred and Andy offered practical professional advice to those of us who were in need. 

A room full of gay men gratefully concluded the meeting with a rousing applause thanking figures of authority who, in my day, half a century back, were feared and dreaded.  Reflecting upon this happy improvement is a great comfort to me personally. 

Since his dreadful pre-Christmas experience, one who was present has now gained the confidence to speak openly about his bereavement and trauma.  He expressed heartfelt appreciation to Fred and Andy for their time and effort.  This confidential matter appears to be coming to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Derbyshire LGBT + Golden Rainbows is a social support group for people who identify as gay.  We meet on the third Wednesday of each month between 1 and 3pm at The Cottage Project, 16 Chapel Street [the A6] in Belper just opposite the bus station.  A free car park is available behind the cottage.  Free admission, free food and hot drinks are available at all meetings.  Our next meeting is tomorrow, Wednesday, March 21st when we welcome Dan Webber who will be speaking about the Derbyshire creative scene and performing some poetry.  

Dan has been involved in the East Midlands Arts scene for the last 14 years and is an accomplished actor, writer, producer and director.  

He has generously allowed me to be a part of those events.  Last year, I read extracts from my autobiographic novels at Derby Museum in February and also the Guildhall Theatre in Derby in May 2017.  On Sheet 156, the Derby Telegraph praised Dan and, in a letter I wrote, described him as a comic poet.  I was quick to deny the use of Comic.  Graciously, Dan assured me he was quite comfortable with that word.   

He has performed extensively across the country as a singer, actor, comedian and most recently spoken word artist, being named the BBC Local Poet for Derby 2016.  

Dan will be discussing his experiences working throughout the East Midlands, his time as ‘Dan Dan The TV Man’ for Radio Derby and his involvement in Belper Arts Trail.  

We are in for an informal entertaining talk, Q and A session and poetry reading.  

Narvel Annable 

 

TRAGIC STORY  

Printed in the Belper News, January 25th 2018

 Thank you for the generous centre-spread feature about Belper Golden Rainbows printed on October 19th.  Our new LGBT support group has attracted a number of older gay men who, in some cases, have a tragic story to tell.  Here is one of them. 

This is about two blokes.  I’ll call them Jed and Ben who met about 20 years back in a rough old pub.  They are ordinary working class men from mining stock living in the shadow of slag hills in a Derbyshire town which has seen better days.  Not well educated, not articulate, not the sort to make wills, just two gay men who keep their heads down hoping not to be noticed in a hostile homophobic landscape.  They live close, but not in the same house sharing mutual love spending most of their time in Ben’s home. 

In the last few months, Ben became ill and needed several spells in hospital keeping in touch with his younger partner via mobile phone.  Just before Christmas, Jed went to Ben’s house expecting him to be home.  Arriving at the door, as usual, he let himself in with the key he had owned for years. 

Something was wrong!  Furniture had been rearranged and an angry, ignorant, hostile woman confronted Jed, brutally insulting him with a torrent of abuse including false allegations in a homophobic rant.  Ben’s sister had rummaged through his personal belongings during the days the house was empty.  She was horrified to discover items which clearly identified her brother’s LGBT status and his deep love for a man. 

She demanded Jed’s key and ordered him off the property.  At no time during this hateful attack did she draw breath to mention the fact that Ben was dead!  Jed’s parents and family knew of Ben’s passing.  To preserve the shameful homosexual secret, the demise was never mentioned to the man most closely concerned. 

Jed heard about the death of his loved one from chatter in his local pub.  He uncovered funeral details from strangers and, for moral support, asked me to meet him outside the church and sit with him inside.  Like Jed, Ben was an atheist hostile to any kind of religious ceremony. 

I have known this couple for nearly 20 years.  I write this letter at the request of Jed, who, in the last few weeks up to the festive season, has been profoundly depressed trying to pick up the pieces of his broken life.  In 2018, this is an outrage.  My partner Terry and I have been giving him as much comfort as we can. 

Narvel Annable 

See below, a letter of support I received from a man who has asked to remain anonymous. 

Dear Narvel, 

Thank you so much for writing that wonderful letter to the Rhondda Leader

They truly ‘won’t know what’s hit them'!! 

No gay person living down here would dare write such a letter to the Leader - as they would be terrified of outing themselves in such a close knit community - where everybody knows everybody else - many in fact inter-related. 

I am sure your letter will help many down here ‘suffering in silence'  

As you know - like some areas of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire - the Rhondda is an ex-mining area - and now suffers the isolation and dereliction that blights these once-thriving communities.  I am sure your letter will resonate with many, many folk in this area. 

In solidarity, Anon. 

Narvel Annable’s letter to the Rhonda Leader  

Dear Editor, 

Thank you for the generous feature of January 13th 2018 exposing the horrific homophobic attacks on David Jones and his brutalised partner Ben Fennell.  Gay hate is a national and international reality experienced every day here in Derbyshire as exemplified by my letter printed in the Belper News on January 25th about ‘Jed and Ben’.   

Derbyshire LGBT + has launched ‘Golden Rainbows’ a social support group for people who identify as gay.  We meet on the third Wednesday of each month between 1 and 3pm at The Cottage Project, 16 Chapel Street [the A6] in Belper just opposite the bus station.  A free car park is available behind the cottage.  Free admission and free refreshments are available at all meetings.  

Narvel Annable. 

Printed in the DERBY TELEGRAPH, November 27th 2017

 

SECRET OF WIRKSWORTH’S PUZZLE GARDENS

 

In conversation with a young man who lived in Wirksworth, I mentioned my 2010 novel SECRET SUMMER which featured that interesting and attractive craggy Derbyshire town.  He had never heard of the elusive Puzzle Gardens.  

Most people can’t locate them because all accesses, of which there are several, look like a private entrance.  This suits the residents of these quirky former miners’ cottages, a jumble of tiny homes perched perilously on the hillside. 

Bill Bulman (a real person in my book) was the nearest thing to Tennessee Williams’ fictitious creation - Big Daddy.  He looked and sounded just like that bombastic plantation owner.  Bill was a macho homosexual with a voracious appetite for other macho homosexuals encountered on a daily basis in the Harrogate Royal Baths where I met him in 1966. 

He hated effeminate men and harboured an aversion to African Americans.  He was wealthy and unwilling to disclose the source of that considerable wealth living permanently in THE OLD SWAN HOTEL a short walk from the baths. 

My cycling tour through England was very pleasantly interrupted for nearly a month when this lascivious obesity invited me to share his palatial suite at the hotel.  I loved every minute. 

Despite his basic white-trash-education and coarse, plantation-field-hand speech, Bulman was not your average red neck.  He was a self-taught man aiming for culture.  In adult years he discovered England, art and was horrified to find that I, a self-confessed lover of Derbyshire, had never even heard of Joseph Wright, the famous Wright of Derby!  From a man born in the Mississippi Delta, I heard all about an 18th century artist who was born at number 28 Irongate in Derby.  

Bill waxed enthusiastically on the skills of this painter who created beautiful contrasts between darkness and light.  He raved about moonlight, flames of candles, fire and furnace.  In graphic detail, he described ‘An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump’, a disturbing scene which illustrates Wright’s skill portraying a range of emotions on the faces of those watching. 

His knowledge of Derbyshire and the different towns visited was considerable.  However, the big man was disappointed that I had never explored his favourite Derbyshire town. 

“Why – you missed the best one!” he bellowed.  “Wirksworth is fascinating!  Old, REALLY old with a wealth of history.  Aint ya seen the Puzzle Gardens?  You should.  Intriguing.  Why - quirky miners’ cottages, tiny tiny homes perched perilously on the hillside.  Yad think they’d all fall over!  They’re linked by … how would you say … rabbit warren-like walkways.  We don’t have in the States.  You have a name for them …ginnys?” 

“Jitties and ginnels?” I suggested.  

“Right!  THAT’S what they call those things.  ARR CAN HARDLY GET THROUGH THEM!” 

A street map will not help DERBY TELEGRAPH readers to find the Puzzle Gardens.  They are a well kept secret located about a quarter of a mile north west of the Market Place.  You go up The Dale which ends at an old quarry.  Ascend until the end of the row of cottages on the right.  You’ll see a narrow, very steep jitty leading up to a collection of older cottages perched steeply on the hill.  Just enter and explore.  You can easily get lost - part of the fun - but the panoramic views of the old town to the south east below will always guide you back. 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, September 26th 2017

 

We must not stand by in the face of these hate crimes 

The inaugural meeting of Golden Rainbows, the new Belper LGBT support group on September 20th, was a success.  We enjoyed a balance of camaraderie and serious discussion about modern challenges to those who share same sex attraction. 

One man, I’ll call him John, in particular, benefited from sound professional advice offered by one of the two group leaders. 

A few weeks back, John suffered a painful incident in a local cafe wounding with emotional damage.  Even in the 21st century, it should be remembered that some gay people are always going to be a tempting target for cruel louts looking for fun.  This particular instance was especially humiliating for a man with a strong sense of his own worth and dignity.   

There are now hate crimes and hate incidents which attempt to protect LGBT victims.  In the absence of violence, John’s experience would be classified an incident. 

He fled that dreadful drama, his meal half eaten, to a chorus of homophobic taunts, catcalls, jeers, whistles and shouts.  Everybody witnessed the scene - many laughed - some were silent - nobody tried to stop it.  I am reminded of what Edmund Burke told us over 200 years ago. 

‘It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph.’

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, September 2nd 2017

 

Support group launched for older LGBT people 

On Wednesday, September 20th, Derbyshire LGBT are launching ‘Golden Rainbows’ a new social support group for people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender over the age of 55.  They will meet on the third Wednesday of each month between 1 and 3pm at The Cottage Project, 16 Chapel Street in Belper just opposite the bus station.

 

Our first meeting will be to greet and plan a programme which will include guest speakers, craft afternoons, workshops, armchair keep fit and a Christmas Party.  This venture is funded by the Peoples Lottery and Amber Valley District Council.

 

A Derbyshire LGBT research paper published in June 2017 highlighted the immense isolation and loneliness faced by older members of the gay community in rural Derbyshire.

 

I’d like to pay tribute to Connor Fittall and his team based at 7 Bramble Street in Derby who have conceived and promoted this much needed initiative in the Belper area.  The aim is to reduce loneliness, potentially a killer for older people who share same-sex attraction. 

 

In one respect, I’m lucky.  On September 3rd, Terry and I will celebrate our 41 years together.  In other respects, at the age of 72 and having been disowned by family and heterosexual friends since the 1960s, I share the same problems of other homosexuals we are trying to help.    

 

In past decades we have been criminalised for chatting up other men, for loitering in public places even if no sexual act took place.  Some of us were convicted under this law before and after 1967.  You could be charged for merely smiling and winking at other men in the street.

 

Connor and his team are improving the lives of senior gays who should not be marginalized or restricted to a ghetto of lonely segregation. 

For further information - phone 01 332 207704.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

 

 

Printed in the Nottingham Post, July 13th 2017

 

50 years since law changed

 

July 27th marks the 50th anniversary since the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967. 

 

On the front page of Nottingham’s excellent QB magazine, we are told that Lord Arran proposed the bill and also sponsored another bill for the protection of badgers.  He was asked why this effort failed whereas the gay sex bill had succeeded.  Arran replied - ‘There are not many badgers in the House of Lords.’

 

I recall ugly homophobic rants in the Lords and Commons up to July 1967 such as ‘A Charter for Buggery’ from Field Marshall Montgomery.  Monty added - ‘It would do less harm to tolerate buggery over the age of 80.’ 

 

Mischievously, The Times reminded readers that the old soldier was 79!  Biographer Nigel Hamilton, citing some evidence, suggested Monty was a repressed homosexual.

 

This Act was a step in the right direction, an important milestone in the battle for gay rights but it only partially decriminalised homosexual acts between men over 21.  Even after 1967, the main gay crimes continued to be anal sex, known in law as buggery, and gross indecency which was any sexual contact between men other than anal sex, including mere touching and kissing.

 

The law against soliciting and importuning remained in force and was interpreted as an immoral purpose.  It criminalised men chatting up men or loitering in public places with carnal intent, even if no sexual act took place.  Men were convicted under this law before and after 1967.  You could be charged for merely smiling and winking at other men in the street.

 

Gay and bisexual men continued to be prosecuted right up until the 1990s for public displays of affection, such as kissing, cuddling or just holding hands.

 

Good news - Nottingham now has a new social group for older gay men called Silver Pride.  We meet on the first Friday of each month from 2 to 4pm at Bradbury House, 12 Shakespeare Street NG1 4FQ.  Admission is £1 to include free refreshments.  I’ll be there on September 1st.  Call 0115 844 0011 for further information.

 

Narvel Annable

 

Feedback

 

On my Facebook page -

 

http://tinyurl.com/narvelannable

 

I was pleased to read heartfelt, brave and honest support from Bill Smith a friend from teenage days.

 

William Smith wrote -

 

‘I was arrested in 1968 and came close to prosecution merely on suspicion of my being homosexual under 21.  To state that one had to be physically caught in a compromising situation as implied by Paul Smith in a Derbyshire Times letter to editor of May 25th - is a fallacy.’

 

 

Hello Readers

 

On September 1st as the guest speaker, I was delighted to address a full house at Nottingham’s new social group for older gay men called Silver Pride.  They meet on the first Friday of each month from 2 to 4pm at Bradbury House, 12 Shakespeare Street NG1 4FQ.

 

A big ‘thank you’ to all who attended.  You took an interest in my campaigning and genuinely appreciated readings from my novels.  I’m especially grateful to a group of loyal readers who made a special effort to be there with strong support.  Some of them travelled from far and wide.

 

I was particularly impressed with the friendly informal atmosphere which encouraged intelligent questions and polite informative comment.  It reflects credit on those who have created Silver Pride.  They have conceived a successful policy - a true democracy which is working very well.  Well done!  This winning formula could be a useful template for similar LGBT groups.

 

As usual, reliable friend and helper Allan Morton (a true gentleman in every sense of that word) enriched the occasion with his technical proficiency filming the Froggy reading. 

 

The other reading, Jasper the Belper Crone, already on my Facebook page (thanks to Allan) was also fitting to mark the 41st anniversary of marriage between myself and husband Terry Durand.  We first met at Jasper’s home.  As always, Terry is a rock of personal support in many ways on such important days.   

 

I’ll certainly be at the next Silver Pride meeting on October 6th and perhaps several other first Fridays of the month at Bradbury House.

 

Narvel Annable.

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, June 16th 2017

 

Why I worry about pact between PM and DUP 

After the turbulence of the election, my thoughts go back to 2012.  I met Pauline Latham MP in our local supermarket.  Testing her gay-friendly credentials, she seemed supportive, but made her opposition to Same-Sex Marriage perfectly clear.  The arguments in favour of the Bill, already well rehearsed in my previous letters, were unsuccessful making no impression on the Member for Mid Derbyshire. 

‘Sorry Narvel.  I’ve received an overwhelming number of emails and letters about homosexuality.  My own conscience and many constituents have urged me to vote against this Bill.’ 

All entreaties, letters and emails from myself (and no doubt others) failed to move Pauline – she would not budge an inch!  She voted against the First and Second Readings.  On May 28th, 2013 at the Third Reading - up to the Division [the vote] being called, she sat on her hands for six out of the eight minutes during which a Member had to decide which lobby to enter.  Eventually, she entered the Aye Lobby.  

For this indecisive decision, I was pleased, and said so in a letter printed in the Derby Telegraph, June 6th 2013 - ‘Grateful to MP for making gay marriage decision’ 

The success of that bill sent a powerful message to all ignorant bigots.  Gay people today who still suffer homophobic discrimination are also grateful.  

Many Derbyshire LGBT people and fellow MPs were probably influenced by moving speeches on that day.  Stuart Andrew MP told The House about being beaten unconscious by three men - just because of who and what he was.  Several of my gay friends in Derby have endured a similar level of violence.  Stuart added –

‘Where legislation leads, society follows.  Our society has become more tolerant – a huge leap forward for me personally.’ 

Four years on, the PM who once described the Tories as the ‘nasty party’ clings to power with the help of the homophobic DUP.  Her LGBT credentials are - and have always been - dubious.   She voted against both same-sex couples’ right to adopt and parity in the age of consent.  She abstained on the Equality Act and the repeal of Section 28.  All that together with an intention to allow the legal infliction of pain, suffering and death on foxes. 

I wonder how far the ‘dead woman walking’ - will walk?

 

Narvel Annable 

 

 

June 6th 2017

 

feedback@radiotimes.com

 

Radio Times

 

Dear Editor, 

With reference to Queer Britain BBC3 and the feature ‘Does God Hate Me? - Riyadh Khalaf explores what it’s like being gay in Britain today.’  

This year we celebrate 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of gay sex and have come a long way, but there is much more to do.  Many older gay men - like me were criminalised and traumatised by a disapproving ignorant majority. 

Yes, gay men were criminals and they went to prison.  That criminality led to an underground culture which allowed myths and stereotypes to flourish unchallenged.  The associations of gay men with effeminacy, dressing up as women and touching up little boys became rooted in the public consciousness. 

You lived a double life and never told anybody.  You couldn’t defend yourself.  The police, the law, the church, society - everybody was against you.  It was the blackmailer’s charter.         

In 1965, I fell into conversation with a canon who warned me about the dangers of queer life.  He told me a distressing story.

          “Once your name is in the paper, your job has gone, everything has gone.  The only way out if you got caught ... well, a lot committed suicide.  A man came to talk me in the cathedral.  He said he was gay and his family was against him.  The next day I picked up the local newspaper and read that the man had hanged himself.” 

Riyadh made some important points in his article but neglected to mention old men who suffer rural isolation and loneliness.  Like me, many have been disowned by family and friends.  Having written several autobiographic novels about the horrors of homosexual life, I receive letters from older gay men who remember the dark dangerous days of the 1950s and 1960s. 

That said, I applaud Queer Britain and wish the series well.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

June 20th 2017

 

Derbyshire Times

 

Dear Editor, 

From one of your Chesterfield readers, I’ve received a cutting of the LGBT RIGHTS letter printed in your May 25th edition of Derbyshire Times - ‘Thanks, but please stick to the facts,’ written by Paul Smith.
 
Paul Smith denounced the line in your May 4th edition which stated that - ‘It was possible to be arrested by police under suspicion of a homosexual act just for smiling at a stranger.’ 

‘Where is the evidence?’ asks Mr Smith who goes on to condemn the statement as ‘fiction’.  Wrong!  The information supplied by Ryan Whittington and Connor Fittall is factual and completely accurate. 

Peter Tatchell and his Foundation have just published extensive research - ‘Myths of the 1967 Sexual Offenses Act’ which only partially decriminalised homosexuality.   

 Even after 1967, the two main gay crimes continued to be anal sex, known in law as buggery, and gross indecency, which was ANY sexual contact between men other than anal sex, including mere touching and kissing.


There was also the offence of procuring; the inviting or facilitating of gay sex.  Bizarrely, the 1967 reform decriminalised anal sex in certain circumstances - but banned men from procuring lawful anal sex for other males, such as arranging a gay sex date for a friend.
 
The law against soliciting and importuning REMAINED IN FORCE and was interpreted to designate homosexuality as an immoral purpose.  It criminalised men chatting up men or loitering in public places with homosexual intent, even if no sexual act took place.  Men were convicted under this law before and after 1967.  You could be CHARGED FOR MERELY SMILING AND WINKING AT OTHER MEN IN THE STREET.
 
Gay and bisexual men, and some lesbians, continued to be prosecuted right up until the 1990s, under public order and breach of the peace laws, for public displays of affection, such as kissing, cuddling or just holding hands.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, May 18th 2017

 

I’m donating book sales cash to LGBT charities

We’ve all heard about the horror of the current Chechen crisis where gay men are currently being imprisoned and tortured.  I was pleased to see that Dan Webber has decided all monies raised on Friday evening at the Guildhall Theatre Derby will be split between Derbyshire LGBT+ and Chechen LGBT+ Charities.

After the performance - I’ll be selling copies of Scruffy Chicken and Secret Summer at the reduced price of £5 per book.  For each book sold, I’ll give Dan a £2 donation. 

I’ll be reading 'A Tale of Jasper, The Belper Crone' this Friday, 19th May at The Clubrooms at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby.  Doors open at 7pm, the show starts at 7.30.  ADMISSION FREE.

In this piece, edited from the YouTube video ‘Queens’, I use a total of six voices based on real people I knew.

Jasper - the hideous old hunched back Belper Crone who spent his days giving pleasure to others in public lavatories. 

Mr Toad - the pushy pompous ugly lewd lecher, proud of his impressive manhood, always looking for his next conquest. 

Julian - the effeminate affected artificial ponce who is racked with religious guilt.

Clarence Soames - the sneering sarcastic super snob of Nottingham.

Dolly - a softly spoken, funny little fat ‘Queen of the Cottages’, renowned for his beautiful round vowels.  

Narvel - as he was, more a half century back.  The onetime scruffy chicken with his scruffy broad Derbyshire accent. 

Allan Morton will film and promote my performance on one of his Allan Morton Presents YouTube videos. 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Click on above to see  A Tale of Jasper, The Belper Crone

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, April 12th 2017

Groundbreaking gay movie was inspiring

With trepidation, I went to see Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? recently screened at the Derby Quad.  Trepidation comes from past experience with gay films.  Too close to home.  People point out that I’ve written four novels including graphic descriptions of painful homophobia.  What’s your problem?  I can write it, but can’t take it.  I walked out of Maurice during a distressing scene reflecting an excruciating incident in my murky past.  Decades later, saw a film about the harrowing horrors of gay life in Nazi Germany.  With growing apprehension, the first 20 minutes of Bent were endured before I fled the auditorium.

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? celebrates the triumph of love over hate, of understanding over ignorance and the melding of cultures who traditionally view each other as extreme.  It was billed as a ‘beautifully heartfelt story of one man’s journey and the power of his forgiveness.’  Forgiveness is a quality I have yet to achieve.

At the age of 21, Saar Maoz arrived in the UK after being kicked out of his religious Kibbutz.  Following the highs and lows that accompanied his newfound freedom, he discovered an alternative family with The London Gay Men’s Chorus.  After 19 years, he reached out to his conservative Israeli family in a successful attempt at reconciliation.

For me, ‘the triumph of love over hate’ was a tough call.  Saar had a deep-rooted affection for his family.  I doubt his father inflicted on his 12-year-old son a savage hostility causing post-traumatic stress disorder equating with emotionally damaged soldiers who have endured excruciating experiences in the field of battle.  That happened to me in 1957. 

In school, I doubt Saar was mercilessly bullied and prevented from using the lavatory, arriving home with soiled trousers.  Unsympathetic, mum couldn’t cope.  Deeply ashamed, she reprimanded me with -

          ‘You make work for me.’

I can certainly empathize with Saar’s ALTERNATIVE family, The London Gay Men’s Chorus which soared, lifting the roof with an exhilarating resonance which has to be seen in the cinema to be fully appreciated.  No heterosexual men’s choir could equal the fervor of a group which had suffered a lifetime of cruel discrimination.  Every face in that group was pulling together with a strong visual exuberance.  Every man sang his heart out with an explosive defiance against a monstrous majority.

For me, the choir was Saar’s real family.  Notwithstanding, I salute him for the amazing achievement of this ground breaking documentary, five years in the making,  inspiring others to seek family reconciliation in the ranks of those who share same-sex attraction.

Narvel Annable

Click on the link below to see the trailer of Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?

 

 

 

Printed in the Nottingham Post, Friday March 10th 2017

 

NOTTINGHAM COUNCIL HOUSE BALLROOM EVENT - FEBRUARY 28th 2017

 

Dear Editor, 

It was an inspiring full house.  As informed in QB 94, we met young people who bravely go into schools to deliver lessons, assemblies and discussions on homophobia.  There are now five LGBT youth support services in parts of Nottinghamshire where previously there had been nothing.  I was especially glad to hear a reference to Mansfield.  

The Editor of Queer Bulletin is a modest man who prefers to remain in the background.  Notwithstanding, please permit a few words of appreciation.  With regard to the life blood and continued existence of Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage, I have never forgotten the importance of your conscientious hard work and inspirational leadership of the Nottingham team.  Sincerely, I thank you for your years of effort and dedication. 

We’ve had some good evenings at the Nottingham Council House Ballroom in recent years, but February 28th was particularly special to me.

Vaguely familiar, a handsome man requested orange juice.  With a friendly smile, he enquired if I was ‘Mr Annable’? 

It was an emotional moment for several reasons.  Tim, a former pupil at the Valley Comprehensive School in my GCSE history class, certainly was different.  The fact that he is gay - never entered my head.  He was unusually polite and respectful, always hanging back after class to discuss aspects of the lesson.  As a teenager, Tim was certainly ‘easy on the eye,’ but, last Tuesday, I was impelled to compliment him. 

       ‘Few of us improve with age, you certainly have!’  

Tim, today a 40 something - is gorgeous.  As a teenager, he was likeable with a level of charm and diplomacy far advanced for his years and those gentlemanly qualities still did him credit.  Beauty is only skin deep and, without doubt, Tim’s goodness has depth. 

Sometime after he left school, I was surprised and distressed to see his face in a gay magazine.  Tim had revealed his homosexuality to parents.  He was disowned, summarily ejected from home and became homeless.  I gathered that he’d been offered assistance from a gay charity.  

Tragically, this appalling event is not unusual.  I have known several similar examples of parental eviction in a homophobic colliery community. 

Still teaching, still in my closet, I was spurred to write to the editor and asked him to convey sincere good wishes to Tim from ‘one of his former teachers’.  It was a cowardly act because I withheld my name and address.  Perhaps it was something, but not enough.  Tim told me he knew the greeting came from Mr Annable. 

In a class of 30, on average there are likely to be three boys or girls who were either gay or bisexual.  In a hostile homophobic atmosphere, most would keep their secret deeply buried.  In nearly 20 years of teaching, I was approached by only a few boys who, having heard rumours about Mr Annable’s private life, were desperate enough to reveal their sexuality and ask for some form of counselling.  This was given, but always on the understanding that Mr Annable never confirmed his own same-sex attraction.  On the other hand, choosing his words carefully, he never denied his sexuality.  To such pupils the schoolmaster presented himself as a man of the world who had met all kinds of people.  He urged compassion, condemned prejudice and ignorance. 

These discussions always took place in his classroom during school hours or in the interlude following the last period when the campus was still buzzing with hundreds of dawdling, socialising and slowly dispersing pupils. 

All this took place at a time before the excellent professional assistance available from Worksop Out on Wednesday.  Today, Derbyshire teachers can point a vulnerable pupil to Derbyshire LGBT.  Nottingham teachers have Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage to support LGBT youngsters.  In the AIDS and Thatcher-ridden 1980s, I had just myself. 

The most distressing example of my failure to give adequate aid to a pupil in need began when an anguished youth approached me after school near the end of the school year.  I’ll call him Jack.  Following gentle prompting, Jack finally admitted to me his infatuation with another boy.  There followed a heartrending catalogue of frustration and profound unhappiness ending in tears of grief.  He knew that I was unmarried and lived in Clowne.  He pleaded with me for permission to cycle over to that village for a home visit in which he could talk -

       ‘All I want to do is talk to you in a quiet way.  I don’t know who else to talk to.  It would be so helpful - please - please ...’ 

This dangerous exchange set off warning bells and flashing red lights.  I feared that an unfortunate and unstable teenager could destroy my teaching career.  Jack crept away, a picture of misery after I’d tactfully tried to explain my position.  I’ll always be haunted by that scene.  He had come to me for help - and I turned him away.  I failed him. 

A sad situation which could hardly have been worse.  Yet - worse was to come.  A few months later in the new academic year, there was a knock on my door.  I opened it to find Jack dressed in a smart suit.  He was with a woman and a young boy.  My former pupil, pale, looking a shell of his former self spoke first -

       ‘Hello, we are Jehovah's Witnesses ... ’ 

All the life-force (as I recall) seemed to have been drained from him, but, like a puppet, an evil alien was pulling the strings.  He quoted Leviticus and various other homophobic Biblical passages.  He spoke of carnal sin, buggery and the disgust of degeneracy.  I said very little - but closed the door in his face at the point when he urged -

       ‘You can be cured, you know.’ 

More than anything else, that one incident is responsible for driving my campaigning against homophobia.  It also fuels my enthusiasm for the splendid work of Worksop Out on Wednesday. 

Jack was the third victim of Jehovah's Witnesses known to me personally.  The previous two, dear friends now deceased, were Walter and Brian. 

Another friend warned me about Jehovah's Witnesses (and their like) in my teenage years along the lines of -

       ‘They are a nasty group of po-faced pious bigots who mooch from door to door seeking out vulnerable homosexuals.  They specialise in finding that seed of self-loathing, which, of course, they have planted in you in the first place.  They hide behind little children and creep around dressed in bible-black like crows.  They brainwash.  They destroy queers, people like us.  Effectively, they are murderers committing murder with impunity.’ 

Accordingly, as I said in my recent letter to the Worksop Guardian, we should all pull together to combat homophobia: which is precisely what the excellent Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage team have been doing for many years. 

With gratitude, 

Narvel Annable

 

Printed in the Worksop Guardian, March 10th 2017

 Poignant Film

 Pull together to combat homophobia

 I was delighted to see the latest short film made (in association with EDEN Film Productions) by the boys and girls of WOW - Worksop Out on Wednesday.  

The management and volunteers of Centre Place should be praised.  They’ve been supporting young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people since 2010.  This is evidence of good organisation, dedication and hard work from an excellent team who provide activities and counselling for young people who are coming to terms with their sexuality.

Having taught history at the Valley Comprehensive School [1978-1995] - I am well acquainted with prejudice against homosexuality in Worksop and Bassetlaw.

In an imaginative and heartrending presentation, we see brave and honest youngsters who have suffered appalling problems.  We walk in their shoes, endure the harsh realities, the trials and tribulations of LGBT life and feel their pain.  We are reminded that human unhappiness has effects far beyond the individual.  It reaches out to touch the lives of everyone.

Centre Place is one of the most successful groups of its type.  These skilled specialists run an excellent service.  They rescue modern youngsters from the anxiety and shame inflicted by a cruel and ignorant heterosexual majority.

There has been progress - but even well into the 21st century, many gay pupils get beaten up and are more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.  Accordingly, we should all pull together to combat homophobia.

 

Click on above to view video 

 

Narvel Annable 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, March 24th 2017

 

Sexuality explored in nostalgic records

 

Matlock Records Office currently has an excellent exhibition which explores the history of sexuality and gender identity in Derbyshire.  Entry is free until May 27th.  OTHER STORIES examines local trials and tribulations of LGBT people over the last two centuries.  It includes an important milestone in the battle for gay rights: 50 years since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which only partially decriminalised homosexual acts between men over 21. 

Congratulations to imaginative project leader Greg Pickup who has been awarded £86,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to organize two years of activities, displays and events across the county and beyond.  I’m delighted to have been asked to give talks and record video interviews. 

Helpful staff welcomed and guided me through the Matlock display.  They were not allowed to show me the infamous Derbyshire Police secret list of ‘known homosexuals’, who were ‘active’.  Freedom of Information Act makes it possible to request if your own name is on the list, but, quite rightly, you can’t see the other names.

As a naughty teenager in the early 1960s, I was certainly an ‘active’ homosexual and more than a little acquainted with a few leading lights of the day.  Naturally, I wondered if any former pals had been catalogued.  Perhaps it is better not to know.

Newspaper extracts and yellowing old documents revealed tragic stories of men who were convicted and punished for committing crimes labelled ‘gross indecency’ and ‘buggery’.  There were old photographs and information about Derbyshire resident and Victorian gay-rights pioneer Edward Carpenter together with accounts of runaway teenagers who escaped life in Peak District villages more than 100 years ago ‘masquerading as a boy’.

There is a sad picture of a fire gutted building which once held happy memories in the 1970s for those of us who share same-sex attraction.  Formally a cricket pavilion in Shardlow, it was known affectionately as ‘the handbag club’ run by a committee of gay men.

For those of us of a certain age, this nostalgic exhibition will conjure mixed memories - our joys and sorrows.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, February 1st 2017

 

Potter so professional in handling taboo subject  

I was deeply saddened hearing that BBC Radio Derby’s popular DJ, Andy Potter, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I gather it’s just a matter of months. 

Andy, a highly respected professional, has a reputation for championing those who need a lift.  When he interviewed me in 2013, I was at a low point after a challenging and, at times, painful five year process writing my autobiographic novel - Sea Change.

I was surprised to receive an invitation to speak on a taboo subject which, in my view, the BBC would not touch with a bargepole.  In front of the microphone, Andy put me at ease and gently steered the conversation through LGBT issues including the thorny subject of paedophilia.   

Our chat was a personal retrospective set in 1957 at Mundy Street Boys School in Heanor.  I was twelve.  A sadistic schoolmaster choreographed classroom situations inflicting humiliations wreaking emotional damage which will follow me to the grave. 

Courageously, Andy tackled the most sensitive and controversial aspect of the novel.  He encouraged me to reveal help from an unexpected source, the old man who became a friend and protector, persuading me to abandon thoughts of self destruction.

Following the Potter interview, I embarked on several sessions of counselling focusing on harrowing activity I experienced nearly 60 years ago.  After several sessions, PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder was diagnosed equating me with emotionally damaged soldiers who have endured excruciating experiences in the field of battle.  I am now on the mend. 

What can you say to a man who has only a few months to live?  I say this -

       ‘Andy, my interview with you on January 14th 2013 is regarded by readers and friends as the best of several BBC Radio conversations in previous years.  Your compassionate career has focused on those who needed assistance - and you were there for them.  Thank you for giving a boost to me and the conscientious team at Derbyshire LGBT.  You will certainly leave the world a better place than it was before you arrived.’ 

Narvel Annable  

To hear the broadcast click HERE

 

Printed in the Nottingham Post, January 19th 2017 

We should not return to homophobic past 

The recent issue of Nottinghamshire’s Queer Bulletin is outstanding in terms of its useful and interesting news content.  They are a valuable reference for gay history.  Congratulations to the Editor and his team.  I’m deeply grateful for his hard work and the continual supply of copies which are a lifeline to all who share same sex attraction. 

Not all is comfortable reading.  I was distressed hearing of the suffering of John Clarkson and his partner Billy who were sent to prison in 1965 after Nottingham police found a Christmas card which said - 

‘To Billy, with all my love, as ever - John’. 

John was bullied into admitting that he slept with Billy.  Held separately at the police station, each being told that the other one had confessed, they both allegedly gave statements incriminating each other. 

Eventually a trial took place at the court which is now the Galleries of Justice Museum.  Ray Gosling reported on the humiliating trial which involved ushers holding up bed sheets and a clerk pointing out stains to the jury.  A jar of Vaseline was passed around.  Words like disgust, perverts, slimy, degenerate, vile and abomination - appeared in the press.  John was sent to prison for two years.  Billy was sentenced to three years.  

As a teenager back in 1965, I met up with a funny little fat man known as Dolly who appears in my novel Scruffy Chicken.  He warned us gay chickens about the police and agents provocateur - CID.  Not really believing it, we just laughed at him!   

“Never put anything in writing.  A jar of Vaseline is enough to convict you.”   

Even the notorious homosexual known as Mr Toad made fun of Dolly frequently ‘taking him off’ using those very words.  We fell about in a heap of giggles.  Now I know why other old-timers were so paranoid about it.  They would have read about John and Billy.  I thank QB for enlightening me 52 years after the event.  One posh high ranking snob hit the roof when he discovered a list of addresses and phone numbers in my wallet.  I resented the reprimand, but can understand it better now.  They were terrified.  It was a grim time.  

Enraged by this ignorant homophobic wickedness, I’m more than ever spurred on to fight for gay rights in the teeth of the recent Trump disaster.  He has appointed virulently anti-gay types to key posts in his upcoming bigoted administration.  With such an impending nightmare, we are all in danger of a homophobic regression back to the dark days of cruel discrimination. 

Even now, ugly voices are raised against LGBT rights our community has fought long and hard to achieve.  Unless we stand up to be counted, those precious gains could be lost. 

Against this background, I salute the splendid efforts of Nottinghamshire’s Rainbow Heritage team who publish QB

Narvel Annable 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, October 26th, 2016

 

I can empathise with WWII code breaker 

On October 21st, a Parliamentary Bill to wipe clean the criminal records of thousands of gay men - failed.  The vast majority were entrapped by agents provocateurs, CID undercover police officers. 

I visited the statue of Alan Turing in Manchester and was asked a question.  This war-hero and mathematical genius is depicted seated on a bench with an apple in his hand.

       ‘Why an apple?  Is it significant?’ quizzed a bystander. 

It is 104 years since the birth of this Cambridge University teacher whose secret work was of vital importance during World War II deciphering codes encrypted by the German Enigma machine.  It’s generally acknowledged that Turing’s contribution to the war effort was instrumental in our victory - so why the enigma of an apple? 

In 1952 he was arrested, tried and convicted on a charge of gross indecency.  In other words, he was punished for being gay.  The judge suggested the prisoner should be made to see the error of his ways.  To avoid a lengthy prison sentence, Turing agreed to undergo a ‘cure’ for his homosexuality – oestrogen injections to neutralise his libido – a form of chemical castration in the interests of his ‘rehabilitation’. 

Back to the apple.  After two years of a cruel, Nazi style cure, Alan Turing, the once brilliant visionary of the modern computer and Artificial Intelligence was reduced to a depressed, disgraced broken man.  He saw only one way out of an intolerable situation – self-destruction.  He ate an apple laced with cyanide. 

Fast forward to 2009 – PM Gordon Brown released a statement offering Alan Turing a posthumous apology from a grateful nation.

       ‘We are very sorry, you deserved so much better.’ 

Being arrested for consensual sex is an excruciating and traumatising experience.  I should know.  It happened to me in the 1960s when homosexuality was illegal in Britain and the USA when arrested on a charge of gross indecency and taken to the main Detroit Police HQ.   

Occasionally handsome young officers in plain clothes were dispatched to men’s rest rooms to tempt ‘degenerates’ into committing an ‘immoral’ act.  Alas, on this particular ill fated afternoon, I yielded to the promise of instant ecstasy.  In the high-crime-rate Motor City, famously averaging ‘three murders a day’, officers could safely get good results from wholesale easy ensnarement of homosexuals with a gentle disposition.   Detroit held an appalling reputation for violence, gangsters, Mafia, muggings and general hooliganism. 

Like so many before and after, in shock, after disclosure of a police badge, mouth dry as dust; my world suddenly collapsed.  I came quietly.  They all did.  Before being escorted into a cell with hardened criminals, I was allowed one phone call.  Tragically, the only number available was the number of the last person I wanted to call.  Five hours later, a relative bailed me out.  I was released and taken to the main desk in the foyer.  Utterly disgusted, the relative had come - and gone.

The prisoner stood alone before a towering Police Desk Sergeant.  Behind his elevated fortress, the officer’s head was ten feet above my head.  The former inmate was seen as half-living slime which had dared to creep out of the gutter.  That high countenance twisted into such an expression of execration that I flinched from the assault of its sheer malice.  Three words were uttered.  And those words were invested with all the bitterness and venom available to the man who spat them out –

       ‘Call your relative.’                         

Reeling from the impact of such a tongue lashing, frozen to the spot for several seconds, the detainee realised there would be no formal dismissal and, in fact, I was free to go. 

Homosexuality had always been a useful stick to hit me with.  Oddly, it occurred to me that my relative might seize this calamity as an opportunity to heal old wounds.  The next day I paid over $100, was candid and admitted the folly of my conduct.  The relative took full advantage of my distress and misery.  My weakness was denounced, my useless life, my sordid behaviour and deviant personality which had disgraced the good name of Annable. 

That was a trauma.  For all time it locked out all hope of reconciliation with my family.  Yet more excruciating was the bitter memory, those hateful three words lashed out from the twisted lips of a Desk Sergeant closely following his short conversation with a self-righteous ignorant homophobic family member. 

Narvel Annable.

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph - October 11th 2016

 

Extremist cleric should have his visa revoked 

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary should revoke the visa of an Islamist extremist preacher who is calling for the execution of homosexuals.
 
In a free society, Hamza Sodagar has a right to believe that those who share same-sex attraction are sinful, but not to preach about ways to kill lesbians and gay men.  

‘The cleric should be ordered out of the country,’ said human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell
 
The US-born radical who has released a video detailing five ways to kill homosexuals – is speaking at the Islamic Republic of Iran School in London.  His lectures started on October 4 and run until October 12. 

"If there's homosexual men, the punishment is one of five things.  One – the easiest one maybe – chop their head off, that's the easiest.  Second – burn them to death.  Third – throw 'em off a cliff.  Fourth – tear down a wall on them so they die under that.  Fifth – a combination of the above."
 
Watch this appalling video of his hate speech starting at 53 seconds into the clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncdi8Bq608E

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph - September 9th 2016

 

Homophobic attacks hark back to the 1970s 

I’m often told to stop banging on about queers seen as mad, bad and sad!  They say that same sex relations are no longer a sin, or a crime or a sickness.  And yet, in one weekend, two gay revelations screamed from newspaper headlines taking us back to the early 1970s.  

Keith Vaz and Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain news items are similar.  They are rooted in institutionalised homophobia and share elements of entrapment. 

It appears that male escorts were paid thousands to uncover the apparent double life of Mr Vaz who might be gay or bisexual.  If so, trapped in a deeply conservative culture, gay hate certainly kept this longest serving Asian MP in the closet.  Mr Vaz is a respected popular politician with considerable abilities as demonstrated in his chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  After a cruel sting, he remains the same man in possession of the same experience and is still valuable to his country.  Was it in the public interest to denounce Mr Vaz?   

Appointing the new Bishop of Grantham has been attacked by the conservative Anglican group Gafcon as ‘a major error and a serious cause for concern.’ As with Mr Vaz, a Sunday newspaper was about to ‘out’ Nicholas Chamberlain as a homosexual in a long term relationship.  It didn’t happen because, bravely, he went public strangling the damaging headlines at birth. 

Mr Vaz and the Bishop are dignified gentlemen in the best sense of that word.  They have the potential to be excellent role models for young people who share same-sex attraction.  They have done nothing illegal and are both successful professionals in a world where gay people are still seen by bible bigots as sinful, unnatural, immoral and inferior. 

Half a century back, Dr Martin Luther King urged attractive African American actress Nichell Nichols to keep her prestigious post as Senior Communications Officer Lt Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise in Star Trek.  In that high profile role, untold numbers of little black girls around the world, for the first time, saw a black woman in an exalted position instead of endlessly being portrayed as cleaners and maids. 

Although racism and homophobia are still endemic, black Americans have made progress, gay Asians can contemplate becoming openly gay Members of Parliament and gay children can aspire to the rank of an openly gay bishop. 

Narvel Annable      

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, June 30th 2016  

How hate, bigotry and ignorance ruins lives 

Derbyshire LGBT+ [01332 207704] held a memorial event on June 21st for the victims of the Islamist homophobic gunman who murdered 49 innocents in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  The dignified event was well organised.  We lit candles to remember the fallen and were urged to stop hiding, to stand up proud and be visible as a community.  This gay charity located at 7 Bramble Street, has been improving the lives of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals and Transgender people for 33 years. 

There was a Book of Condolences and an open discussion in which we heard heartrending stories from some people including one man who disclosed a staggering catalogue of cruelty.  He suffered emotional trauma since an occurrence during his schooldays.  He was seen kissing another boy.  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 another town where they were unknown.  Now in his 40s, unable to work, deep trauma has adversely affected this victim’s mental and physical health - a life ruined by ignorance and bigotry. 

There will be no Derby Pride this year, but Derbyshire LGBT+ will host a Street Party in Bramble Street on July 2nd to celebrate those of us who share same-sex attraction.  Festivities will be interrupted by a minutes silence to honour those massacred at Orlando. 

  

Narvel Annable

 

 

UK Premiere of Secrets of the Sauna on Channel 4 - March 2nd, 2016

 

This letter was printed in the Derby Telegraph, March 1st 2016 and upgraded to a full page feature with two photographs. 

http://m.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Secrets-Sauna-Derby-gay-campaigner-Narvel-Annable/story-28816235-detail/story.html

 

‘Why Terry and I opted to take part in

Channel 4 show about gay saunas’

 

Gay rights campaigner Narvel Annable stars in Channel 4 documentary Secrets of the Sauna tomorrow night.  Mr Annable, of Belper, is a regular contributor to the Derby Telegraph and often writes about challengers facing gay people in the modern day.  Here, he shares his thoughts on the upcoming 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.  As of February 2016, this Firecracker Film directed by Michael Ogden has already aired in Australia, New Zealand and Denmark.  I’m given to understand that it will be televised in the USA, Canada, and perhaps other countries and will premiere in the UK at 10.35pm on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016.  Now listed in the Radio Times and reviewed by Patrick Mulkern.  As part of pre-publicity, I was interviewed by The Sun.

 

In this film, Michael’s work 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.

 

Michael, a specialist in documentaries, has a track record of producing acclaimed films.  Here was my big chance to tell the nation about the reality of homosexual lives by asserting the positive aspects of gay saunas. 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 spirits.

 

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.

 

As I gather from friends and associates, DVDs of Secrets of the Sauna are now circulating around the gay community.  We have seen it several times.  Terry was distressed at our private life exposed to public scrutiny.  I’m philosophical.  I went into this project with my eyes wide open.  I can’t complain about a result which is disappointing in parts where it gives viewers a bad (if accurate) impression of some gay bathers.  On balance my friends are more optimistic about the effect it will have on my reputation as a serious writer and campaigner.  I remind them -

          ‘You realise this will ruin me for presenting Housewife’s Choice!’

 

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 40 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 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 Church of England hell hole.

 

I pay tribute to 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.

 

Narvel Annable

https://www.dropbox.com/s/z4ma12off051rlu/Derby%20Telegraph%2001-03-2016.jpg?dl=0

 

Upgraded to a full page 3 feature from a letter printed in the Belper News on February 17th and in the Worksop Guardian on February 19th

 

Something About Us

http://tiny.cc/belpernewsfeb16

The electronic version is available on my Facebook page  

http://tinyurl.com/narvelannable

 

I’ve been interviewed by Sheffield based E.D.E.N project film makers and appeared in Something About Us first shown at Worksop Savoy Cinema on February 3rd.  Together with several other gay people with a colourful and troubled past, I was privileged to have been asked to make this contribution to Gay History Month 2016.

 

Something about Us will also be screened at the Nottingham Council House on February 23rd.  This is part of Nottinghamshire’s Rainbow Heritage annual Celebration and Awards Evening.

 

The stars of this film were not only in front of the camera, they were also in the audience making it a splendid event, full of fun and jubilation.  I refer to the management and volunteers of Centre Place who have been supporting young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people since February 2010.  This is evidence of good organisation, dedication and hard work from an excellent team who provide activities and counselling for young people coming to terms with their sexuality.

 

E.D.E.N stands for Equality and Diversity to Educate and Nurture.  That says it all.  This oral history documentary vividly portrayed the impressive educational achievements of working class young people who have created a valuable contribution to the gay cause.  We see boys and girls hailing from a colliery culture researching in libraries, interviewing professionals and clerics with critical intelligence and probing questions.  Amongst themselves, they discuss complex issues, all the time gathering confidence and becoming more articulate gaining experience.  I was impressed.

 

Parts of the film were heartrending.  We heard from brave youngsters who had suffered appalling experiences.  We walked in their shoes, endured the harsh realities, the trials and tribulations of LGBT life and felt their pain.  We were reminded that human unhappiness has effects far beyond the individual.  It reaches out to touch the lives of us all.  We also learned that we can help by supporting WOW (Worksop Out on Wednesday) located at the Abbey Community Centre.  Having taught history at the Valley Comprehensive School [1978-1995] - I am well acquainted with prejudice against those who share same-sex attraction in Worksop and Bassetlaw.  WOW is a charity close to my heart.

 

Centre Place is one of the most successful groups of its type.  These skilled specialists run an excellent service.  They rescue modern youngsters from the anxiety and shame inflicted by a cruel and ignorant heterosexual majority.  True, there has been progress.  However, even today many gay pupils get beaten up and are more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.

 

I salute the gutsy girls and brave boys of WOW; they are the future.  We should follow their lead and pull together to combat homophobia.

 

Narvel Annable

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, November 25th 2015.

 

So happy to become a husband after a long fight

 

Regarding the Derby Telegraph Soapbox of February 19th 2013 - ‘I’ll never get married but will fight for the rights of other gay people to be wed - your readers may be surprised to learn that Terry Durand and I tied the knot on November 16th to become husband and husband.

 

Many civil partnered same-sex couples might not be aware of the simple conversion process which has been available to gay people over the last year.  Enshrined in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, it has been possible to upgrade / convert a civil partnership (formed before March 29th 2013) into a civil marriage giving full equality with heterosexuals, seen by some couples as the gold standard, for just £4.  If you get to your local register office before December 9th, couples will be issued with a certificate back-dated to the date of the original civil partnership.  Essentially it is an administrative procedure proving identity, signing a few papers, no witnesses needed, all inside of half an hour.

 

Our civil partnership was celebrated on July 14th 2006, but we first met on September 3rd 1976, one month after 13 years of living in Detroit.  Belper was a quiet conservative backwater at a time when the nearest ‘gay’ scene for a non-drinker, such as myself, was the Derby Turkish Baths.   

 

In this small town, the only gay venue was the home of an old-fashioned elderly man who hosted an open house for secretive repressed visitors, warmly welcomed into his picturesque cottage, anytime day and evening.  Anonymous men were treated to tea, cakes, friendly conversation and the occasional massage in Becksitch Betty’s bedroom.  He was nicknamed from one of 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 leer reminded me of the old witch in Disney’s Snow White.  He was a bent, humped, effeminate, gangling, toothless old queen presiding over the comings and goings of shy shadowy gay men, in and out of his quaint old cottage.  To the best of my knowledge, at that time, it was the only safe way to meet other gay men in the old mill town.  Over his mantelpiece, a brass plate proclaimed - ‘Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other gold.’

 

As with many of Betty’s other visitors, Terry was a married man with children.  We fell in love.  At age 36, coming to terms with a lifelong double life was a crushing trauma, too much to bear.   He suffered a break down and spent several weeks in hospital where electric aversion therapy was suggested to ‘cure him’ of his homosexuality.  Nearly 40 years later, two different men with different backgrounds are still together in a good relationship but reconciled to a partnership which can never be monogamous in the heterosexual sense.

 

The passage of the Marriage Bill was marred by an intolerant bigoted campaign to retain homophobic discrimination thwarting the hopes of those who share same-sex attraction.  A number of wrecking amendments were proposed and debated exposing appalling religious hostility against the LGBT community.  I was deeply affected by this public display of hatred.  However, at the stroke of midnight on Saturday, March 29th 2013, I rejoiced to see live TV coverage of gay men and gay women, against all odds, making history, celebrating equal marriage.

 

Accordingly, Terry and I decided to subsume into what has been described as an arcane institution in decline, rooted in inequality, suppressing homosexuals for centuries.  This is still true.  However, after 15 years of writing and gay campaigning, I want to be on the right side of history.  I endorse this astonishing victory and thank the good people who have worked long and hard to make it possible.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, August 7th 2014

 

Alex Salmond deserves credit for backing gay people

 

‘The Commonwealth is a comic-book phantom of international organisations.  It is the ghost that walks.’  

This savage criticism, written by an Australian editor in 2011, is as true today during the Commonwealth Games as it was then. 

Peter Tatchell invited Alex Salmond to rebuke the homophobic policies of 42 of the 53 (80%) in this loose association of member states where homosexuals are routinely targeted with threats, violence and endure long sentences in brutal prisons.  These cruel countries continue to treat same-sex relations as a serious criminal offence.  Every day gay people suffer vilification and punishment inflicted by cruel laws dating from colonial days. 

Generously, Mr Salmond has exceeded Peter’s expectations with several initiatives such as flying the rainbow flag from government headquarters, launching a pro-equality One Scotland campaign and has publicly embraced same-sex parents with their children. 

That same-sex kiss (John Barrowman and a lucky fella) during the opening ceremony, televised to tens of millions across member states, must have given hope to untold numbers of repressed and intimidated gay men and lesbians. 

Well done, Alex Salmond!

Narvel Annable

 

Alex Salmond's support for gay rights at the

Commonwealth Games, July 2014

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, June 2nd 2014

 

Tackling institutionalised homophobia in schools

 

Manchester University invited me to a conference called Rub Out Homophobia.  Schools are one of the last bastions where gay hate is stubborn, casual, institutional and endemic.  I should know!

 

Schools Out UK were celebrating 40 years of campaigning for LGBT inclusion.  As the authoritative voice on gay matters in education, they have been providing resources, training and services to schools and educational institutions.

 

It was packed with presentations, talks, workshops, interviews peopled by educators past and present to share best practice and improve experiences for future generations.

 

Four brave campaigning teachers who suffered but survived the bigotry and ignorance of Section 28, shared harrowing homophobic memories from the Thatcher years which filled me with shame.

 

Shame because I taught as I was taught in the 1950s - too strict, too formal, too unwilling to modernise.  This ‘Mr Chips’ mindset was a cloak to conceal continuing anxiety of leading a double life.  Inside, I was a frightened homosexual trying to look like a confident heterosexual on the outside.  It had to look like a teacher easily fitting in with pupils and staff. Like most isolated, closeted gay men, I spoke little of myself and was constantly on guard.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

          ‘You should make more effort to socialise.  Try to fit in.  Get yourself a girlfriend.  Talk about her.  If the headmaster thought you were queer, he’d have you out of this place so fast your feet wouldn’t touch the ground!’

 

At the conference, two men invited me to participate in an Oral History Interview which focused on these painful memories.  An in-depth exchange explored my past, discussing different aspects of homosexual life.  The recording will be archived and made available for use in further projects.  I was asked me to address their LGBT Youth Group on the subject of my books and activism over the last 20 years.

 

www.lgbtyouthnorthwest.org.uk

 

www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/our-resources

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, May 5th 2014

 

21st century Britain is no longer a Christian country

 

David Cameron caused uproar by singling out Christians for special praise.  He said -

          ‘Britain is a Christian country.  We should be evangelical about Christianity.’

 

Significant statistics have come into sharp focus following the PM’s words.  Only 2% of the population go to churchon Sunday.  Practising Christians, around 2.5 million of the population at 7%, are only just ahead of practicing Muslims numbering 2 million.  For the most part, Easter and Christmas are not celebrated as religious festivals.  They are an excuse for a lie-in, shopping or watching football like any other holiday.  In short, Britain in the 21st century has become a multi-faith and no-faith society where Christianity is more cultural than religious. 

Over 50 prominent writers, scientists and academics have criticised Mr Cameron in an open letter denouncing this claim to great moral virtue.  Peter Tatchell pointed out that social and political influence of many Christians has often been detrimental.  In the past they have supported royal tyranny, slavery and cruel colonialism - not to mention the 2013 intolerant, bigoted campaign to retain homophobic discrimination and prevent same-sex couples getting married. 

During the passage of the Marriage Bill, a number of wrecking amendments were proposed and debated exposing appalling religious hostility against the LGBT community.  Some opponents, trying to kill the Bill, likened loving and committed gay relationships to incest and bigamy.  I was deeply affected by this public display of hatred.  However, at the stroke of midnight on Saturday, March 29th; I rejoiced to see live TV coverage of gay men and gay women, against all odds, making history, celebrating equal marriage.

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, April 5th 2014

 

Enlightened thought on gay marriage wins the day

 

Just 24 hours before the historic first same-sex marriage took place in England and Wales; Derbyshire Friend was alive and kicking.  We all thought the gay charity on Friary Street would be dead by April 1st but an unexpected financial defibrillator was applied to extend life another year. 

Thursday’s topic, a discussion on ‘coming out’ was effectively and professionally steered by a man who had clearly taken a great deal of time and trouble to deliver a skilled presentation.  Well done!  We saw a YouTube about a 90-year-old who revealed his homosexuality to family and friends – tragically two weeks before he died.  This heartrending account triggered equally moving responses from members of the Reach Out group.  One man in his 60s thanked the internet and Derbyshire Friend for giving him the courage to come to terms with his sexual orientation.  Another man of similar age suffered a mental breakdown in his 20s due to struggling with a double life - and others, including myself, have endured abuse and violence. 

The first gay marriage was celebrated with full media coverage in Brighton.  But Brighton is not Belper where some homosexuals are still hiding behind the façade of apparent heterosexuality.  I should know.  They stop me in the street, phone me, email and write to me.  They are trapped in a mindset fuelled by religious bigotry.  This was clearly demonstrated on BBCs Question Time broadcast from Brighton.  Fortunately the minority anti-gay arguments were soundly trashed by an avalanche of enlightened thought from the majority.  

In the last five years, the LGBT cause has snowballed to a level of which we had hardly dared hope.  At long last logic and justice has won the day.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

 

Printed in the Nottingham Post, January 28th 2014 with a photograph of President Vladimir Putin

 

Smug and Nonchalant

 

The 1936 Berlin Olympics took place in an ambiance of Nazi hatred against Jews.  The 2014 Winter Olympics on February 7th will appear in an intensely homophobic atmosphere orchestrated by President Putin’s gay hating government.  His smug and nonchalant responses to Andrew Marr’s recent probing questions cut no ice with me.  He is pandering to an ignorant bigoted mindset which trashed the lives of UK gays in the early 1950s.  Shades of 1980s Section 28 – anyone in Russia who portrays gay life as ‘interesting’ or ‘attractive’ or equal to heterosexuality will be subject to the full force of Putin’s law.

 

Against this appalling background, teenage Russian homosexuals are lured to rendezvous where they are stripped and tortured.  These horrific acts are videoed and posted on line.  The Russian police?  They do nothing - apart from threatening the victims who report these crimes.  Homosexuality is equated with paedophilia, bestiality and ‘decadent’ western values.

 

Gay marches, festivals, posters, magazines, books, films and welfare advice for people of same-sex attraction are likely to face criminal prosecution.  The International Olympic Committee has warned athletes who might express support for LGBT equality during the games.  They will face disciplinary action.  They could be expelled and stripped of any medals won!  This is the same IOC who are supposed to uphold Olympic values and human rights.  The Olympics are big business.  Could it be they are more driven by commercial interests?

 

Dozens of countries sending competitors to Sochi criminalise same-sex relationships.  They actively discriminate, banning openly gay athletes from competing in the games.  Many gay contenders will be at Sochi, but silent, as I have been silent for most of my life.

 

Much gratitude to President Obama who will boycott the games and send an all gay US Olympic delegation including the brave and outspoken Billie Jean King.  No silence there!  Thank you, Mr President.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

 

Printed in the Nottingham Post, January 15th 2014

 

Think again about the closure of Breakout

 

Thanks to conscientious volunteers, a much loved Nottingham support group called Breakout has been improving the lives of gay and bisexual men over the last 16 years.  Sadly, this good work could soon be coming to an end. 

As an isolated teenager of the homophobic 1960s, unlike heterosexual boys who met girls in dance halls and public houses, I had to meet my friends in public toilets and Turkish baths.  In 1997, Breakout began the process of rescuing tens of thousands like me from all that.  I’m so grateful. 

On three occasions, I was invited to Breakout as a speaker to address enthusiastic guys exploring and analysing issues which are central to the LGBT community.  We were all welcomed with a cup of tea.  All had an opportunity to contribute to the debate.  It was a quality evening, an enjoyable experience.  As a non-drinker, fifty years ago, my heart sank at the thought of entering the Flying Horse, the only ‘queer pub’ in central Nottingham known to me. 

Breakout has been a venue in which we can actually talk to each other, getting much needed support.  Meaningful communication replaced a stressful, lusting silence across a depressing smoky space - not to mention sneering snobbery which undermined confidence and blighted the lives of scruffy youths such as myself.  Much gratitude is due to this successful group. 

In recent years, membership has included a significant number of older men who suffered the scars of a life criminalised and marginalised.  Stonewall research shows older gays are more likely to live alone, fear for their future and lack the family bonds we all need as we grow older.  Most heterosexuals take these bonds for granted.  Many homosexuals have been cut off from their families – I should know!  Nearly half of LGBT people would be uncomfortable being ‘out’ to care home staff and one in six wouldn’t feel comfortable telling their GP about their sexual orientation. 

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 provocateurs.  

Although the potential end of Breakout is not directly connected with local government cuts in funding, the difficulties with other groups in the area are, and I urge the powers that be to think again.  Human unhappiness has effects far beyond the individual himself.  It reaches out to touch the lives of everyone.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, December 26th 2013

 

SOAPBOX Narvel Annable: we can’t let place of camaraderie be closed down

 

Derbyshire Friend has received notice it will suffer a 90% reduction of its income and might not exist after March 31st.  Thanks to the work of Andy Cave and his conscientious team of staff and volunteers, this much valued gay charity has been improving the lives of Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals and Transgender people for the last three decades. 

It is heartening to see a regular full house exploring and analysing issues which are central to the LGBT community.  All have an opportunity to contribute.  We talk about religion, ageism, relationships, bereavement etc.  As a non-drinker, my heart sank at the thought of entering a queer pub or noisy disco – hence my zeal for Derbyshire Friend where we can actually talk to each other.  We receive much needed support.  At long last, meaningful communication has taken the place of a stressful, lusting silence across the depressing smoky space of the one-time seedy Corporation Hotel and the sneering snobbery which once blighted lives in the Friary Hotel.  Derbyshire Friend has created an alternative venue. 

Membership includes many older gays.  A culture of camaraderie has helped thousands who are more likely to live alone, fear for their future and lack the family bonds we all need as we grow older.  Most heterosexuals take these for granted.  Like me, many homosexuals have been cut off from their families. 

Derbyshire Friend helps young people.  At a comprehensive school I was quietly doing my job, keeping my head down, keeping my private life very private.  Like many 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.  We existed as outlaws dodging disapproval, violent thugs and the dreaded plain-clothes police who haunted gay venues as agents provocateurs.

I was approached by a distressed pupil – a grim picture of self-hate tormented by a strong sexual attraction for other boys.  He needed to know 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.  Should such a thing happen today, a teacher could safely refer him to the Derbyshire Friend Youth Group under the guidance of trained counsellors. 

A few months later, he turned up at my door a shadow of his former self - pale, drained and defeated, accompanied by a woman and child.  This unfortunate teenager 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. 

With regard to a drastic cut in funding, I urge Derby City Council to think again.  Do not force Derbyshire Friend to close.  Human unhappiness has effects far beyond the individual himself.  It reaches out to touch the lives of everyone.  It is in the interest of local government to help all Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals and Transgender people. 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, November 27th 2013

 

SOAPBOX Narvel Annable: American Dream died when I was told President Kennedy was dead

 

http://tiny.cc/derbytel

 

The time was exactly 1.30pm.  It was my second day in the USA being shown around a High School in Detroit.  I was blissfully ignorant of an assassination which took place at that moment. More than a thousand miles away, John F Kennedy had just been shot in the head.  Jackie Kennedy, covered in his blood, was cradling him in her arms. 

I was answering questions about life in the Derbyshire pit village of Stanley Common.  Suddenly, the whole class became still and quiet.  The teacher and all students stood to attention.  A strikingly distinguished looking man in his early 50's walked into the room and was reverently received in silence.  He was smiling a sad, weary smile.  Briefly, Mr Hackett made necessary introductions.

          "Dr DeLoach!  Welcome.  This is the Englishman, Narvel Annable, the one I was telling you about.  He's fresh off the Queen Elizabeth.  Narvel, this Dr DeLoach, our Principal."

          "Glad to know you, Narvel.  I hope you'll be very happy here in the United States."  His eyes swept over the class before returning to meet the newcomer.  He continued in a deep, rich voice.  "I'm sure we're all going to make you feel at home." 

I accepted a large hand graciously extended and replied with a barely audible -

          "Thank you, sir."

 

During that moment, I felt honoured and took an immediate liking to this charming and cordial gentleman.  The time was exactly ten minutes past two.

          "Please be seated, Mr Hackett, Narvel, ladies and gentlemen.  As you know, I normally use the public address system to make announcements, but this one needs the personal touch.  It is rather different.  My three Vice-Principals are gradually getting around the school with the same news, tragic news, I'm afraid.  A few minutes ago it was confirmed our President, Jack Kennedy, is dead.  He died 25 minutes after being shot several times by an unknown assassin ... " 

He said a few more words to his hushed and shocked audience.  Little by little, they slowly absorbed this doleful intelligence.  Each individual interpreted the news in a slightly different way.  My private feelings were fairly typical of the general view.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy, with his attractive boyish smile, came across as sincere and had come to symbolise all the fresh green hopes of young America.  His auspicious inauguration speech included -

          "The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans." 

At the age of 43, he was the youngest ever President.  He had been in office barely three years since his election on November 9th, 1960.  As a 15-year-old at school in Heanor, I welcomed his appearance as a good omen.  The desirable, dashing, eloquent and calm Kennedy contrasted strongly with his opposite number who ruled the Communist world.  Nikita Khrushchev was old and repulsive.  He was a little, bald rotundity given to tantrums.  He once took off his shoe and banged it against the podium at the United Nations.  Often ominous, he threatened to 'bury' the west.  His wife, plump, dowdy and grey, looked more like a Russian road sweeper; hardly the 'First Lady of the Soviet Union'.  Seeing her walk alongside the beautiful and glamorous Jacqueline Kennedy reinforced the deepening fear and prejudice of the day. 

Very soon we all saw television images of a tragic blood-splattered Jackie, desperately clambering on the back of an accelerating open top Lincoln Continental, in a panic-stricken, pathetic attempt to rescue bits of her husband's brain, the handsome husband who was as good as dead.  

For me John Kennedy had come to be the essence of all the promise, all that was best, all that was good in the United States.  The 35th American President had come to symbolise the American Dream ... and, at that moment, my American Dream died with that young President.

 

Narvel Annable of Belper is a Derby Telegraph reader.

 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, November 9th 2013

 

Brave stance against a homophobic regime

 

Valery Gergiev is an accomplished and internationally acclaimed Russian conductor.  He has received personal honours and massive grants for his pet projects from Russian President Vladimir Putin.  October 31st was the opening night of his new London Symphony Orchestra concert season at the Barbican. 

Shortly after the orchestra assembled on stage, minutes before Gergiev made his entrance, a man dressed in a tuxedo strode onto the stage.  It was assumed he was a spokesperson making an official announcement.  It was an announcement, warming the hearts, giving comfort and support to homosexuals all over the world. 

Brave Peter Tatchell told the gathering that Gergiev is a friend an ally of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin whose homophobic regime arrests peaceful protesters and opposition leaders.  Gergiev defends the new anti-gay law that persecutes LGBT Russians. 

Peter was manhandled off the stage by staff and then voluntary left the concert hall to some slow hand claps – but mostly to enthusiastic applause. 

Thank you, Peter.  Thank you for that courageous act and all previous valiant deeds which have improved the quality of life for all who share same-sex attraction.  Keep up your good work. 

With gratitude, 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, October 9th 2013

 

We’ve waited too long to witness this splendid justice 

 

I punched the air; cheered loud and long when, for the first time, two Derby County fans were arrested for shouting homophobic abuse at a Brighton football match.  On August 10th, brothers Shane and Daniel Davies were fined and banned from football matches for three years.  Following decades of suffering, the LGBT community have waited too long to witness this splendid justice. 

Rewind 18 years and see similar gay hate at the Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop terminating a 20 year teaching career.  Throughout that time, my private life remained very private, but some pupils began to speculate on Mr Annable’s sexuality.  They turned him into an object of fun inflicting humiliating hurtful episodes.  I might have survived a few, but there were too many.  A steady torturous drip destroyed my credibility and confidence.  At the edge of a breakdown, a shell of my former self, there came a point when my position was untenable.  I was unable to discharge professional duties.  These appalling disrespectful attacks were never taken seriously by senior management.  One culprit was told –

‘That was a silly thing to say.’ 

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

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, September 9th 2013

 

SOAPBOX Narvel Annable: ‘Army Officer’ exposed my own prejudice in action 

 

In Detroit 1966, like most 20-year-olds, with a sinking heart, I received draft papers ordering me to an army medical and was likely to be sent to Vietnam.  It was a de-humanising routine.  Naked boys were barked at, ordered from station to station to be tested, touched, poked and prodded to assess fitness to serve Uncle Sam.  

One question - 'Do you have any homosexual tendencies?'  At that time, the United States Army decided - 'If to avoid military service, a man is prepared to claim he is a moral degenerate - true or false - we don’t want him.  He is unfit to serve his country.'  I said yes, remained a civilian and nursed a life-long bias against the military - until a recent visit to Brixham. 

Above Fishcombe Cove, I scaled the steep Battery Garden Park to visit the Military Museum.  [01 803 85 24 49]  An enthusiastic guide entertained and was informative.  This be-whiskered gentleman of Victorian appearance came across as an archetypal army-officer caricature complete with an impressive public school bark, edged with assertive no-nonsense martial discipline.  Standing to attention!!  It felt like meeting the original – ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’.

 As one who regularly attacks prejudice in others, it came as a surprise to discover this military historian; Robbie Robinson is a member of the local Labour Party!  Here was my own prejudice in action.  I marked him true-blue-Tory who, at the slightest inkling of homosexuality, would recoil in horror ordering an immediate exit from his museum at the point of a Bofors gun.

  Over a cup of tea in the earnest political tête-à-tête which followed, I put my pre-judgement to the test.  From my rucksack, I extracted several Derby Telegraph sheets of letters documenting various aspects of my campaign against homophobia.  Robbie, warm, friendly and sympathetic was entirely in my corner.  Just how wrong can a man be?

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, July 8th 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Gays living with scars of a life that was criminalised

 

I commend Gay People in Later Life, a recent publication from Stonewall.  It contains alarming statistics.  It speaks of old folks.  It’s about me – and ever increasing numbers like me.  We live with the scars of a life criminalised and marginalised.

 

Research shows older gays are more likely to live alone, fear for their future and lack the family bonds we all need as we grow older.  Most heterosexuals take these bonds for granted.  Many homosexuals have been cut off from their families.  Nearly half of LGBT people would be uncomfortable being ‘out’ to care home staff and one in six wouldn’t feel comfortable telling their GP about their sexual orientation.

 

Stonewall are fighting to make sure future generations don’t have to suffer homophobia and discrimination simply because of the way they’re born.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

 

Here is a 30 second Derbyshire Friend YouTube Link.  In an interview by John Raybould re concerns of older members of the LGBT community, Narvel was asked to contemplate life without Terry and imagine his last days in a care home. 

 

 

click on this image

 

 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, July 29th 2013

 

Homophobic witch-hunts should be condemned

 

Gay activist and journalist Eric Lembembe was found dead in his home on July 15th.  His neck and feet were broken.  His hands and feet burned with a hot iron.  The Cameroon Police, totally indifferent, have not apprehended a single suspect!  I strongly protest the torture and murder of a respected campaigner.  I’ve written to the Cameroon High Commission and urged an investigation.

 

This recalls memories of 1960s Derby; we were all fearful of an encounter with the dreaded ‘Burton Basher’.  He lured his victims to lonely spots inflicting beatings with impunity.  To the best of my knowledge, the police were never informed.  I was lucky.  I never met him.  A friend, severely assaulted, was left unconscious on the canal towpath.

 

President Paul Biya’s Government is already an international pariah with regard to the current wave of appalling homophobic violence against the Cameroon LGBT community.  Homophobic witch-hunts and on-going state-sponsored victimisation should be condemned by him, the Commonwealth Secretary General and all right-thinking world leaders.

 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, June 6th 2013

 

Grateful to MP for making gay marriage decision

 

Last year, I met Pauline Latham MP in our local supermarket.  Testing her gay-friendly credentials, she was supportive but made her opposition to Same-Sex Marriage perfectly clear.  The arguments in favour of the Bill, already well rehearsed in my previous letters, were unsuccessful making no impression on the Member for Mid Derbyshire.

          ‘Sorry Narvel.  I’ve received an overwhelming number of emails and letters about homosexuality.  My own conscience and many constituents have urged me to vote against this Bill.’

 

So far – so bad.  Since that time, all entreaties, letters and emails from myself (and no doubt many others) have failed to move Pauline – she would not budge an inch!  She voted against the First and Second Readings.  Last Tuesday, May 28th, at the Third Reading up to the Division [the vote] being called, she sat on her hands for six out of the eight minutes during which a Member had to decide which lobby to enter.  To her credit, she wrestled deeply with her conscience.  Eventually, she entered the Aye Lobby sending a powerful message to all ignorant bigots and all gay people who still suffer homophobic discrimination.  Well done. Pauline!

 

Many Derbyshire LGBT people and fellow MPs will have influenced that eleventh hour choice.  In a recent letter, Pauline assured me that my views were taken into consideration.  Moving speeches also affected her decision.  She heard Stuart Andrew MP telling The House about being beaten unconscious by three men - just because of who and what he was.  Several of my gay friends in Derby have endured a similar level of violence.  Stuart added –

‘Where legislation leads, society follows.  Our society has become more tolerant – a huge leap forward for me personally.’

 

Thank you, Pauline.  I’m profoundly grateful to you for making that very difficult decision.

 

Narvel Annable

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, June 25th 2013

 

Grab the second chance to see Fairyland Garden

 

Until she invited me to join other authors at Belper’s Literary Festival, I had not heard of Kathy Fairweather.  Later she appeared on BBC TV organising volunteer gardeners at the Railway Station – a busy public spirited lady.  Kathy’s most impressive achievement occurred on June 16thwhen, for charity, she opened her own garden to delighted visitors.

 

At the top of the town, Windmill Rise, a pleasant cul-de-sac accommodates several nice homes.  You’d expect nice gardens – but hardly a memorable magical experience meandering through a soup of sweet scents.  Terry and I thought we had entered the spring equivalent of Santa’s Grotto!  A darkened tunnel of foliage chased by a fast stream terminated in a pretty fish pond.  From here the visitor had multi-choices to explore in all directions.  A cornucopia of delightful surprises involved nooks and crannies of light and shade, over flagstones, brick paths and wooden decking.  We slowed down trying not to miss more secluded ponds, more fountains and every kind of shrub contrasting with a riot of colour from every kind of flower.

 

This ever expanding experience was anchored around several mature trees whose knotted convolutions, a ballet of boughs, caused spots of sunlight picking out brilliant greens with equally brilliant white blooms against a contrasting stygian backdrop.  In broad daylight, there was a clever quality of night in the depths of this beguiling Secret Garden.

 

Quite simply, it’s fairyland!  Kathy’s ingenuity, her creativity, her work of art can be enjoyed again on July 28th.

 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, April 22nd, 2013



So many people suffered because of anti-gay law

The passing of Lady Thatcher has provoked adulation and scenes of dancing in the street. I don’t feel like dancing, I greave for people who suffered under her appalling 1988 homophobic law, Section 28. It was the first anti-gay legislation passed in a 100 years! Like living in a police state, it prevented any positive mention of homosexuality in schools, banned Local Authorities from publishing material expressing the acceptability of homosexuality as a ‘pretended family relationship’. In other words, it told gay children, lesbian and gay parents – ‘you are not a real family, you are unacceptable, you are inferior.’

Teachers were afraid to challenge homophobic bullying. To this day, it’s a serious problem in our schools: 41 % of gay pupils get beaten up and are six times more likely to commit suicide. From 1978 to 1995, at the Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop, fearing exposure and humiliation, I kept my head down, said nothing about my private life and tried to be invisible.

It didn’t work. A series of painful incidents, homophobic abuse from some pupils and indifference of senior management, effectively terminated a teaching career. The repeal of Section 28 in 2003 came too late for me.

At the 1987 Conservative party conference, Thatcher mocked people who defended the right to be gay, insinuating there was no such right. During her rule, there was an explosion of queer bashing, murder, whilst gay men were demonised for the AIDS pandemic. In that year, after a bout of flu, I returned to my classroom and was greeted by a scrawl on the board – ‘Annable’s got AIDS.’

Such is the Thatcher legacy for people who share same-sex attraction.

Narvel Annable

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/12/margaret-thatcher-anti-gay-speech_n_3071177.html

 

 

August 28th 2013

 

Postcard from Babbacombe

 

The Babbacombe holiday was another success.  Babbacombe twice a year, every year!  People ask why.  Thereare other places in this world to holiday!  David and his charming Bulgarian wife Milka Browne are hoteliers who deserve to succeed.  Some friends feel that a gay man should support a gay hotel.  My response – show me the owner of a gay hotel who will drive all the way to Newton Abbot to greet and meet me off the train and chauffer me to his excellent hotel – and I’ll consider a change.  On the afternoon of the last day, David drives me back to Newton Abbot Station where he lugs my heavy suitcase right on to the train – not forgetting to wave me off.  It’s home from home. 

I don’t sing well, but often sing the praises of the Exmouth View Hotel first introduced to me by my dear friend Paul Sharpley, Mr Toad in Scruffy Chicken.  On that occasion, the foyer was crowded by a clutch of enthusiastic women admiring a new-born-baby reposing in the arms of mother Milka.  Fully aware that Toad hated babies, mischievously I urged him –

          ‘Fuss the baby, Paul!  It is customary.’   

After a quick ‘coochy coochy coo,’ he removed himself as far from the situation as politely possible.  I was privileged to be one of those invited to hold Ivantony – now a handsome teenager.  All years since, I’ve enjoyed good value first class accommodation on the top floor - a double room en-suite with balcony overlooking the sea - as described on page 163 in Lost Lad www.exmouth-view.co.uk  0800 7 81 78 17  

A few years back, walking up through the coastal Babbacombe Woods, I suffered an attack from a swarm of angry bees, presumably roused to fury by a group of boys seen in full retreat.  I can’t run as fast as boys, and, alas, bees are not bright enough to differentiate between the guilty and the innocent.  Their unjust stings, excruciating in the extreme, made me ill.  I feared a severe reaction.  I gather death is not uncommon.  

Abandoning his evening meal duties, David rushed me to the nearest A&E.  Several hours later, he made another journey to bring me back to the dining room where at 10pm; he prepared and served up the superb meal I shouldhave eaten at 6.30. 

The years have seen several adventures.  Snorkelling near the gay beach off Petit Tor Point, just round the corner from Oddicombe Beach; I was STONED from cliffs overhead by a gang of stupid youths.  They were tombstoning; that is, jumping into the sea from a great height.  As reported in the Herald Express, I could have been knocked unconscious.  

Youths hurl stones at swimmer Narvel – was the headline of a feature printed on August 8th 2006 – see Sheet 61.

 Back to 2013, this last holiday - August 15 to 22nd - has not been without its dramatic highlights.  At Babbacombe, I’m early to bed - early to rise - for a pre-breakfast constitutional over the downs, into dense, precipitous coastal woodlands, descending to Babbacombe Beach.  It’s really a very pleasant cove of nooks and crannies haunted by notorious Victorian Butler, Babbacombe John Lee – ‘the man they could not hang’.   

A walk along the old stone pier is rewarded with magnificent landward views of Blackball Rocks and leafy heights up to St Marychurch where a once £1,000,000 house has been half demolished by a massive land-slide.  

However, on the morning of August 21st, halfway down the pathway of thick forest, on a dark dank hairpin bend, I was confronted with a sludgy bedraggled barefooted man painfully crawling towards me.  He couldn’t speak!  In heartbreaking gesture, silently he implored me to take his hand which was profoundly cold, alarmingly cold, and dangerously cold.  I was shocked.  A few sun mottles picked out his mud stained shorts and a mud caked Torquay United tee-shirt.  Appropriate beach dress for August midday, perhaps, but this was a cool 7.30am!  Clearly he’d been in that dirty place for hours having suffered bloody injuries to his head, face and mouth.  An accident?  Had he fallen from above?  Had he been attacked?  After rushing back up the path to Babbacombe Downs, I managed to alert the emergency services who were able to warm him, carry him to an ambulance and the local hospital.

They took my name and contact details.  Notwithstanding, the mystery of the wild man of the woods remains a mystery.  I hope he is now fully recovered and well.

Most of my week was more pleasant than that pre-breakfast incident.  To the delight of mums, dads and their children, Sammy the Seal made several appearances begging for fish at the pier.  I enjoyed three lunches at the secluded Anstey’s Cove Café and two at Cockington’s delightful Tea Garden. 

After another lunch at Brixham’s well hidden Fishcombe Cove Café, I scaled the steep Battery Garden Park to be entertained and well informed by enthusiastic Robbie Robinson, an excellent Military Historian and now Senior Guide to the Military Museum – well worth a visit.

This be-whiskered gentleman of Victorian appearance came across as an archetypal army-officer caricature complete with an impressive public school bark, edged with assertive no-nonsense martial discipline.  Standing to attention, it felt like meeting the original – ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’.

As one who regularly criticises prejudice in others, it came as a surprise to discover that Mr Robinson is a member of the local Labour Party!  Here was my own prejudice in action.  I assessed him true-blue-Tory who, at the slightest inkling of homosexuality, would recoil in horror ordering an immediate exit from his museum at the point of a Bofors gun.

In an earnest political tête-à-tête which followed, I put my pre-judgement to the test by producing several Derby Telegraph sheets of letters documenting various recent aspects of homophobia.  Robbie, warm, friendly and sympathetic was entirely in my corner.  Just how wrong can a man be! 

A fitting end to an adventurous and relaxing holiday.

 

 

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, April 1st 2013



Gay campaigner’s name will go down in history

Mired in Christian gobbledegook, a reader expressed irritation over my frequent Tatchell quotations in your letters page. He said –
‘In 500 years time, Christianity will be strong – the name of Peter Tatchell will be nowhere – forgotten – dead.’
Wrong! Unless Christianity reforms, it will be severely weakened. In 500 years time, Peter’s good name will be revered by millions of grateful gay people. The evidence has recently appeared in a splendid development. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has offered to meet Peter Tatchell after Easter.

“Dear Mr Tatchell, Thank you for your very thoughtful letter. It requires much thought and the points it makes are powerful. I would like to explain what I think to you without the mediation of the press, and listen to you in return.”

This follows Peter’s Open Letter to the Archbishop in which he criticised him as “homophobic” for supporting a legal ban on same-sex civil marriage. He also criticised the Anglican Communion for colluding with local dioceses that endorse the persecution of homosexuals in Africa.


Peter responded - “I commend Justin. His swift, personal reply is laudable, especially given how busy he is with his enthronement and Easter. His willingness to engage in discussion is praiseworthy - all the more so because he comes from the conservative evangelical wing of the church. I hope our meeting will be more than just window-dressing and good PR for the church. I’m expecting a bit more than tea and sympathy.”

Great News! Here is a truly heart-warming development, an Easter message of hope for us all – homosexual and heterosexual.

Narvel Annable

 

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, February 19th 2013

Narvel Annable I’ll never get married but I’ll fight for the rights of other gay people to be wed.

Printed in the Worksop Guardian, February 15th 2013

Responding to the Derby Telegraph Soapbox, December 31st, Let’s hope for same-sex marriage progress in 2013, I received a letter from John. It was challenging, thoughtful and a well constructed argument around speeches in the House of Commons on February 5th. I found his effort exhilarating, educating and clarifying..;/'

‘Narvel! What are you doing? Why are you, of all people, campaigning for same-sex marriage? Do you really want us to mimic that arcane institution? I don’t want to be part of that ESTABLISHMENT which has suppressed us for centuries! Your novels celebrate gay guys enjoying their sexuality and the freedom it confers. You describe a Golden Age, the early days of gay liberation when we espoused our sexual freedom as our gift and privilege. Do you really want us to join the dull, heterosexual sad, married and respectable, law abiding bigots?’

Terry and I have probably had the benefit of a more interesting and colourful life than the average heterosexual. We are unlikely to get married. ‘Forsaking all others’ is alien to my very being. Accordingly, it seems a Civil Partnership is probably more suitable for Narvel who will always be naughty. I make no apology for a pattern of behaviour imprinted by association with a 1950s secret-sect hiding away from the law and visceral abhorrence from an ignorant, smug, po-faced, so-called-respectable majority.

However, we had the privilege of dining with Councillor Ian Campbell, former Mayor of Retford and leading light of the gay community. Having suffered horrendous homophobia, he has worked hard becoming an excellent role model for young gay people. We were chatting about relationships when I revealed our partnership to be open. Ian said, ‘I couldn’t cope with an open relationship,’ – but was careful not to express or imply any criticism of my conduct.

MP for Tottenham, David Lammy reminded us about 1950s laws of South African apartheid and life in racist Alabama. Blacks were restricted to their own water fountain, had to sit on Blacks-only benches, were ordered to the back of the bus, confined to live in a ghetto, attend Black schools etc. ‘What are you complaining about!’ yelled the bigots. ‘You are separate, but you are EQUAL. Be satisfied!’ In that historic Commons debate, David told us - ‘Separate is neverequal.’

Several MPs trotted out the old mantra – ‘What do we tell the children?’ Answer - stop telling children lies! We tell our children we were wrong to discriminate which destroy homosexual lives. We must undo damage caused over past generations. We quote Nick Clegg – ‘Homosexuality is normal and safe.’ We should follow the example of Walthamstow; teach Gay History in our schools as we now teach Black History. In so doing, we show how ignorance can inflict pain and suffering on minority groups.

Marriage is an institution in decline, rooted in inequality. Notwithstanding, I have campaigned for same-sex marriage for people like Ian Campbell and all boys and girls, yet to be born, who, quite rightly, will insist on equality with heterosexuals. I’ve enjoyed some of my life, but want a better life for those LGBT people who will come after me.

Narvel Annable

Celebrating our Honeymoon at Matlock Bath 1976

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, March 13th 2013

Great party to celebrate birthday of a true friend

It included a free hot buffet, free tea, free coffee, live music, a disco, special awards and an entertaining, informative review of a proud 30 year history. All this was the work of Andy Cave, Chief Executive of Derbyshire Friend with the help of his conscientious team of staff and volunteers who hosted a successful birthday party at The Spot Conference Centre last Friday, March 1st.

Derbyshire Friend, the gay charity located on Friary Street, has been improving the lives of Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexuals and Transgender people for the last three decades. However, I go back further. As an isolated teenager of the homophobic 1960s, unlike heterosexual boys who met girls in dance halls and public houses, I had to meet my friends in public toilets and the Turkish Baths on Reginald Street. We were barely tolerated in the passageway of the Corporation Hotel in the old Cattle Market. I can remember being frozen out by my own kind. These were the superior, secretive, sneering, professional men who, in a climate of fear, rehearsed their artificial vowels in the Friary Hotel in an effort to demean the ‘lower orders’.

In January 1983, Derbyshire Friend began the long and difficult process of rescuing me and many thousands from all that. I’m so grateful.

More information on 01 332 207704 also at

 info@gayderbyshire.org.uk

Visit  www.gayderbyshire.org.uk

Terry   Ian   Narvel   Gerald &  Alex

Celebrating at Derby Friend's 30th. Birthday Party

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post, January 2nd 2013

Bigoted Bishops

EVERY time I write to agree or sympathise with Narvel Annable (Nottingham Evening Post - Letters, December 31st 2012) I get anonymous, hateful and obscene letters through my letter box.

I am not gay and the cowardly letters do not bother me in the least. I can and do laugh at them.

The fact is that the writers are projecting something they cannot face within themselves on to others.

No doubt the bishop and the archbishop who have upset Narvel are of the same nature. They cannot face that they are latent homosexuals.

And what does it say about Christianity where a priesthood that persecutes gays often tolerates paedophiles?

R L Cooper

Harlequin Close

Radcliffe-on-Trent

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on December 31st 2012

SOAPBOX   Narvel Annable: 

Let’s hope for same-sex marriage progress in 2013

January 1st 2013. Posted on the LGBT Gay History Month 2013 and SchoolsOUT website: Narvel Annable’s New Year Message

Tag Archive for "Narvel Annable" - LGBT History Month

I’m shocked by immoderate language from senior clerics, Bishop Mark Davies and Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Eyes blazing, they hijacked Christmas to spit fire at the gay community. The Bishop used deeply offensive twisted logic invoking the spectres of Hitler and Stalin. Nichols accused the Prime Minister of ‘Orwellian’ practices with regard to proposals to legalise same-sex civil marriage.

Over the last 37 years, I have enjoyed a loving relationship with a man, Terry Durand, now my Civil Partner. We’re grateful to Mr Cameron and the Deputy PM Nick Clegg for continued support in respect of total equality. Please press on! Do not be deterred by this yuletide outbreak of rabid homophobia.

For perspective, it should not be forgotten that before 1967, all homosexuality was illegal in the UK. Transgressors risked more than a jail sentence. Violent inmates inflicted their own unspeakable punishments on men whose only crime was to share same-sex attraction.

There was a culture of cruelty at Mundy Street Boys School in Heanor 55 years ago. You were graded by ability to inflict pain and suffering on others. A sadistic schoolmaster choreographed classroom situations in which I suffered excruciating humiliations. They wreaked emotional damage which will follow me to the grave. To this day, I endure vivid flashbacks, intrusive thoughts causing distress which still disturbs my sleep. If not tattooed on my body, the traumas inflicted by that ruthless Church of England regime are burnt into my psyche. Cruelty has a cost. Approaching my 70s, I am now paying the bill.

The relentless emotional brutality will for ever be associated with a pious, scripture-obsessed ayatollah of a headmaster. He presided over a bleak midwinter of daily torment where the greatest sin was to ‘tell tales’. Result – I bottled up my stress for more than half a century until the emotional problems became deeply ingrained.

In December 1957 my parents took the view that, due to a perverse nature, I brought opprobrium down on my own head. I wouldn’t / couldn’t fight. Male Annables were fighters giving a good account of themselves with bare knuckles in the school playground. I dishonoured the family. I was the boy who didn’t like football. In working-class, coal-mining Heanor, this was unheard of! Unacceptable – sissy - mardy - queer!

I couldn’t spell, do sums and sank to the bottom of the class in most other subjects. That might have been forgiven had I displayed any practicable ability – of which there was none. Rough Heanor lads were supposed to make things. I made nothing. Tortured children tend to do badly in school.

In the dying years of the 20th century and early years of the 21st century, gay progress in the form of a better press and slow decline in homophobia made it possible to be a little more open about the reasons for being a bachelor. Little-by-little, constantly testing the water, I was always ready to make a quick retreat.

I sincerely hope the Coalition Government will not retreat from gay marriage in 2013.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, January 16th 2013

Therapeutic Weekend in Celebration of Gay Liberation

In the gap between Christmas and New Year, Terry and I were invited to enjoy a magnificent candlelit dinner helping to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Gay Liberation at an intriguing Victorian mansion in North Derbyshire. Originally the home of a coal magnate, Unstone Grange, impressive, peaceful and surrounded by mature trees, became a cosy, convivial home to a gathering of men allied in same-sex attraction.

Amiable co-hosts Richard McCance, Joseph Nicholas and Tony Challis arranged a three day weekend including country walks, supportive conversations, story telling or, as Richard put it - ‘Just doing your own thing toasting your toes around the fire with a cuppa – you choose’.

After a delicious meal of many courses, I was asked to chat about my books to an informal audience infused with warmth and mutual affection. This was the secret of Unstone! Richard, Joseph and Tony had succeeded in creating a chemistry of kindness in which we all felt able to share deeply personal issues which have touched our gay lives. For some people who have felt isolated, the result was fresh air, exercise and a dose of good natured healing therapy.

The next Unstone event will be February 1st to 3rd focusing on creative writing. For more information contact Richard on 0115 9 78 01 24 or email dunedin10@yahoo.co.uk

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph, October 23rd 2012

SOAPBOX Narvel Annable: Spreading the gay word and breaking down barriers

I received a communication from a woman who has been reading letters about homophobia printed in the Derby Telegraph.

Billie Thompson is a Support Services Team Leader for Futures Homescape, a not-for-profit housing association serving Amber Valley. Billie and her Neighbourhood Support Co-ordinators [NSCs] work on the front line promoting independent living in sheltered properties. They have come across elements of homophobia, sadly, endemic in all communities.

She asked me to talk to her staff.

‘Homophobia,’ she said, ‘is unacceptable. Can you define gay-hate; explain it to my team using your own experiences as a homosexual? How do we address this particular ignorance and turn it around in a positive way so that our NSCs can promote this positivity?’

This was a big ask! However, being no stranger to addressing a variety of audiences on the subject of same-sex attraction, on September 19th I turned up at Field Terrace Community Centre in Ripley to find a sea of faces eager to be educated on an issue which, only a few years ago, was considered taboo.

To slay the dragon of prejudice and discrimination, it was helpful to appear with my partner of 36 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.

There was no hostility in that splendid gathering, the best audience I have ever addressed! Positive body language, encouraging expressions, constant eye contact exuded warmth, boosting my efforts.

A round of applause concluded with a moving moment when Billie offered her thanks … and something else.

‘On a personal level, this has been more than just another talk. I’d like you all to know that my son is gay. I hope we’ll all heed what we’ve heard this afternoon and do our best to eliminate the bigotry which has blighted so many gay lives.’

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on May 7th 2012

Liam Nolan is a fine role model for gay teachers

For most of my life, homosexuals have been depicted as psychotics, vampires and serial killers. Lesbians and gay men were often portrayed as misfits on the verge of either suicide or emotional breakdown.

I’m grateful to Stonewall for sending me an impressive book of exciting role models for gay people. It’s been eagerly studied by several friends – a truly inspirational publication.

As a repressed teacher at the Valley School in Worksop, I hid in a very dark well locked closet in fear of being exposed, embarrassed and humiliated. In the macho, football crazy, working class, coal mining culture of North Nottinghamshire; homophobia was not just endemic, it was almost a badge of honour with some pupils and some staff. A thief, thug or murderer would be afforded more respect than a gentle, honest homosexual. After suffering several painful incidents in 1995, my position as a schoolmaster became untenable ending a 17 year career on medical advice.

Seventeen years on, I can now identify with a real role model. Openly gay head teacher Liam Nolan has transformed a failing inner city Birmingham comprehensive and doubled the GCSE pass rate. Despite his sexual orientation, he is well respected by parents and pupils. The staff feel ‘empowered and inspired’. In 2011, the Times Educational Supplement named Perry Beeches ‘Overall Outstanding National School of the Year’. Mr Nolan’s brave example is a beacon of hope for all future teachers who share same-sex attraction.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on June 26th 2012

An answer to the enigma of Turing statue’s apple

After visiting the statue of Alan Turing in Manchester, one of your readers asked me a question. This war-hero and mathematical genius is depicted seated on a bench with an apple in his hand.

‘Why an apple? Is it significant?’

June 23rd will mark 100 years since the birth of this Cambridge University teacher whose secret work was of vital importance during World War II deciphering secret codes encrypted by the German Enigma machine. It’s generally acknowledged that Turing’s contribution to the war effort was instrumental in our victory - so why the enigma of an apple?

In 1952 he was arrested, tried and convicted on a charge of gross indecency. In other words, he was punished for being gay. The judge suggested the prisoner should be made to see the error of his ways. To avoid a lengthy prison sentence, Turing agreed to undergo a ‘cure’ for his homosexuality – oestrogen injections to neutralise his libido – a form of chemical castration in the interests of his ‘rehabilitation’.

Back to the apple. After two years of a cruel, Nazi style cure, Alan Turing, the once brilliant visionary of the modern computer and Artificial Intelligence was reduced to a depressed, disgraced broken man. He saw only one way out of an intolerable situation – self-destruction. He ate an apple laced with cyanide.

Fast forward to 2009 – PM Gordon Brown released a statement offering Alan Turing a posthumous apology from a grateful nation.

‘We are very sorry, you deserved so much better.’

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on June 8th 2012

Changing attitudes over gays in the Salvation Army

In a Derbyshire village, a former friend attended a Salvation Army bible reading group over a period of several months. By inclination he is suggestible and appears to have been adversely influenced. This gay man lost his sense of humour and suffered a change of personality. He said 'the Bible is anti-gay' and trotted out several well known homophobic passages which are frequently aimed at the LGBT community.

I wrote to the Divisional Commander at Chilwell about my concerns. The reply was disappointing.

“With regard to homosexuality, the Salvation Army takes the view that people can’t help what they are – but they are responsible for what they do.”

Effectively, he is saying gay life is wrong and the bible group is right! He is telling us to be celibate if we are to receive full respect and dignity in the eyes of the Salvation Army. This out of date attitude is unacceptable to all who identify with same-sex attraction.

That letter, dated January 25th 2007, was dispiriting. It made me feel like a voice in the wilderness. Six years on, I’m delighted to discover some support. There is an organization called Boycott the Salvation Army urging people not to donate. It has concentrated minds! A gay-friendly member of the Salvation Army informs me that the recent William Booth Anniversary Congress received many live tweets calling for more acceptance and inclusivity. At long last, reform is coming from the foot soldiers within.

Good news – and very welcome.

Narvel Annable

Printed in The Independent on April 21st 2012

Cruel ‘cures’ for homosexuality

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on April 18th 2012

Well done to Boris for banning anti-gay posters

Bad news - I was horrified to hear that an aggressively homophobic Christian group has paid £10,000 for anti-gay posters to appear on the sides of 24 London busses across five routes! Good news – it won’t happen. Mayor Boris Johnson has stopped this outrage saying -

‘London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world. It is offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness which can be cured.’

In 1976 my partner Terry was offered electric aversion therapy to ‘cure’ his homosexuality. We’ve all moved on. The British Medical Association has attacked these primitive practices as ‘discredited and harmful to those treated’. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that ‘so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish. There is no sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.’

On a personal level, I have been profoundly disturbed witnessing three people brain-washed by ignorant religious groups who have turned previously healthy gay men into miserable zombies claiming to be heterosexuals – in fact - deeply repressed homosexuals. To this day, bible-bashers knocking at our door are utterly abhorrent.

Accordingly, I pay tribute to Boris Johnson and former minister Chris Bryant MP who said the bus advert was –

‘Cruel, causing emotional damage and would hurt teenagers struggling to come to terms with their sexuality’.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on March 13th 2012

We are winning the fight against anti-gay army

I’ve received a number of communications from readers of the Derby Telegraph expressing concern over three critical responses to my letter (“Archbishop of York out of touch with modern thinking.” February 8th) ‘Hit back!’ they urge, ‘Don’t let them get away with it.’

I say to your readers, take heart. Regarding same-sex marriage - we are winning the battle. Leaders of the three main political parties are on our side. A majority of MPs, reflecting two thirds of the population, wish to see Civil Gay Marriage enshrined in law. It will happen.

On BBC Radio 4, March 5th, John Humphries interviewed Cardinal O’ Brien and skilfully demolished his recent rant against same-sex marriage which was deeply offensive to the gay community.

It was expected correspondents like Nigel Tilly - February 14th – (“Try to judge a man by his views and not his origins”) - twisted my comparison with 1960s racism and 21st century homophobia. On the other hand, I was surprised Colin Clark – (“Archbishop of York is best person for job”, Letters February 14th) descended to making two inappropriate references to my mother.

In similar low taste, Ray Jordan (“What goes on in your home should stay there” Letters March 5th) is ‘sick and tired of reading about you and your life-style’. Mr Jordan reminds me of Rod Clulow’s letter of last year under the heading – “Frequent letters will not affect views of the majority”.

Wrong! Thanks to sustained campaigning from LGBT people, Mr Clulow’s majority is now the minority. Debate is necessary and desirable for educating the ignorant and is important in keeping gay issues in the public arena. Accordingly, I was pleased to see 46 comments about my Dr Sentamu letter posted on the Derby Telegraph website.

To all homophobes disposed to join the chorus against my efforts, I’d make two points: you belong to an ever diminishing army in retreat and your immoderate letters say more about you than they do about me.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on February 8th 2012

As of February 24th this letter received 46 comments on the Derby Telegraph website.

Archbishop out of touch with modern thinking

Dr John Sentamu has condemned the government over its plans to legalise same-sex civil marriage. As Peter Tatchell said–

‘The Archbishop of York’s demand to preserve the tradition and history of marriage is similar to the arguments that were past used by the church to justify slavery, colonialism and the denial of votes for women. His stance brings shame and dishonour to the Church of England.’

I find it appalling that, of all people, an unelected Archbishop should be telling the elected PM to discriminate against gay people who wish to enter into a loving same-sex civil marriage which is now approved by two thirds of the population. These government proposals to ensure marriage equality for all couples are for register offices only; nothing to do with the church.

Dr Sentamu’s recent homophobic outburst shows him intolerant and out of touch with modern thinking. Dismissing my 2006 civil partnership to Terry Durand as a mere ‘friendship’ is insulting to our 35 year union. This bigoted Archbishop wants to preserve the status quo. He wants lesbians and gay men to remain inferior to the heterosexual majority, to continue to be treated as second class citizens.

Before advocating discrimination against the LGBT community, this former Ugandan would do well to reflect on the bravery of those protesters against racism who, indirectly, made it possible for an African to become the Archbishop of York.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph and the Nottingham Evening Post on November 10th 2011

Remember Rose, a great champion of young gays

As we approach November 11th, spare a thought for Rose Robertson who died last August, age 94. She was a secret agent in Nazi-occupied France, a member of the Special Operations Executive suffering trauma and had great difficulty talking about her wartime experiences.

However, she did reveal an incident which occurred in 1941. Billeted with two young male French Resistance agents, Rose entered their room and discovered them in an embrace. She knew nothing of homosexuality, was curious and horrified to hear of family prejudice and rejection. Their story affected her deeply. She was shocked that ignorant parents could be so heartless to their gay children.

In the years after the war, Rose set out to learn more about people like me. She met distressed gay teens damaged by self-hate from religious groups chanting biblical passages with a homophobic interpretation. She met parents – like Mr and Mrs Annable – who were variously distraught, angry, guilty, ashamed and hostile towards their children’s ‘perversion’.

In 1965 she formed the Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays – FFLAG – which seeks to mediate between parents and kids in an effort to find understanding, acceptance and reconciliation.

Rose was an effective campaigner, an enlightened heterosexual with a conscience impressing people who had been wary of supporting teenagers of same-sex attraction. Gradually, police, local authorities, irate mums and dads began to trust this reassuring middle-aged figure with her family orientated approach.

It all comes too late for Narvel. My parents are dead. To the best of my knowledge, I have one sister living in the USA. We have not spoken since 1963. Could Rose have made a difference?

Narvel Annable

Printed with a photograph of Sepp Blatter in the Nottingham Evening Post on November 22th 2011

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on November 25th 2011

Handshake is never enough / Handshake does not deal with the causes of prejudice

The recent controversy over racism in football, hinged on the significance of a handshake. This put me in mind of a parallel incident when I was approached by two Mormons. They assured me that I was loved by God but my homosexuality was unnatural and unacceptable. I counted with the fact that my sexuality and the host body were one and the same. We came as a package. We could not be separated. Several minutes of heated negotiations ended, as always in these cases, in stalemate.

One of them suggested that we should agree to disagree and offered me his hand. I refused. I explained that accepting such a gesture would condone centuries of ignorance and bigotry. I argued against being a party to religious prejudice. A handshake would not deal with the root cause of the problem which is called homophobia. When the Mormons renounce and apologise for their medieval beliefs and cruel conduct, at that point, I will gladly shake a Mormon hand.

Homophobes and racists should look to the example of Sepp Blatter who gave a fulsome and gracious apology when made aware of his hurtful comments.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post on October 21st 2011 and in the Derby Telegraph on October 22nd 2011

Nick’s homophobic view shows he’s in a time warp

In 1998, I was delighted when Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education included my book Heanor Schooldays in his list of ‘Recommended Publications’. Thirteen years on, I am now embarrassed by that praise.

On BBC 1’s Sunday Morning Live, 16.10.11, he held forth on ‘moral and family values’ criticising teachers who, in sex education lessons, inform their pupils about same-sex attraction in a ‘non-judgemental way’. He said teaching that homosexuality was OK will ‘destroy society’.

Had it not been for a speedy intervention from the author, historian and playwright Francis Beckett, this outburst of appalling ignorance and homophobia would have gone unchallenged.

It should be remembered that schools are now required by law to represent homosexuality in the same positive light as heterosexuality. In other words, being gay is quite normal for people born with same-sex attraction and homophobia is illegal and unacceptable in just the same way as racism.

Mr Seaton is living in a time warp when the schoolmaster condemned gay people as immoral, wicked and sinful at worse – sick, abnormal and disordered at best. As in my own schooldays in Heanor, LGBT children of the 1950s, afflicted with self hate, hid inside of themselves and drifted into a secret world of fear and insecurity.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph and the Nottingham Evening Post on November 3rd 2011

The ghost that walks

‘The Commonwealth is a comic-book phantom of international organisations. It is the ghost that walks.’

This savage criticism was written by Greg Sheridan, the Foreign Editor of The Western Australian to coincide with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on October 30th 2011.

Such a ferocious attack on a loose association of 54 countries is hardly surprising. In the teeth of a clear commitment from the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, to ‘tolerance, respect and understanding in matters of sexual orientation’: it is a disgrace that 36 member states continue to treat same-sex relations as a serious criminal offence. Every day gay people suffer vilification and punishment inflicted by cruel laws dating from colonial days.

On BBC TV, 30.10.11, Andrew Marr reminded the Prime Minister that people have looked to this conference to take a hard line with the homophobic nations in Africa. He gave the example of Uganda where homosexuals are routinely targeted with threats, violence and endure sentences of up to ten years in brutal prisons.

Thank you, Mr Marr. And I’m grateful to Mr Cameron for confirming that British foreign aid will be withheld from countries who continue to persecute their gay citizens.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Harrogate Advertiser on December 2nd 2011

Always a good place for men to come out

Further to Vicky Carr’s review of my book Secret Summer, May 6th 2011, here is a comment on your item of November 18th 2011 – Sexism row erupts over Turkish Baths.

I take issue with the Borough Council spokesman who said that gentleman only sessions have a traditional low attendance. Wrong. During the 1960s and 1970s when I visited the Royal Baths on numerous occasions, it was full of men – gay men! In those secretive dark and dangerous homophobic days, the luxurious Turkish Baths were an ideal meeting place for those of us who share same sex attraction. It was a comfortable and safe venue for nondrinking homosexuals like me who hate pubs and noisy clubs. Completely relaxed, we could chat over a pot of tea and something nice to eat in a civilised atmosphere. Nostalgic memories recall a warm place to make friends under the splendour of medieval Moorish alcoves in what could have been a Cecil B DeMille set for the Palace of Saladin.

As with the Derby Turkish Baths which closed in the late 1980s, it is not an exaggeration to say that 90% of the men would be gay or bisexual. In general, we were invisible. Our conduct was very discreet and great care was taken not to offend any of the heterosexual 10%.

Here in the 21st century, younger gay men are not prepared to be as quiescent or fearful as the past generation. They refuse to tiptoe around disapproving bigots and prefer to spend their pink pounds at new gay saunas which have opened up around the UK.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post on January 25th 2012

I have been criticised for comparing Gay Rights with the 1960s Civil Rights movement in the USA. Accordingly, in Nottinghamshire’s February / March 2012 edition of Queer Bulletin I was delighted to read the words of Coretta King –

‘Dr Martin Luther King would be a champion of gay rights if he were alive. Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery, Selma, in Albany, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida, and in many other campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement. Many of these courageous men and women were fighting for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own. I salute their contribution.

‘Homophobia is like racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanise a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimise the next minority group’

On this day [20.01.12] of all days when the news from Derby Crown Court sends a powerful message to all homophobes who threaten violence against the gay community, I am proud to have made a decision to major in African American History at Eastern Michigan University at a time when the Detroit race riots were tearing that city apart.

I thank Coretta King for her encouraging words and am grateful for the good work of Bayard Rustin, a gay African American who was the organisational ‘mastermind’ behind much of the Civil Rights movement’s work.

Narvel Annable

Printed in The Independent on August 23rd 2011

Printed in the Derby Telegraph and the Nottingham Evening Post on August 29th 2011

I thought that the Equality and Human Rights Commission protected gay people from bigotry, prejudice and discrimination? If so, why is this tax payer-funded organization supporting four cases which are to appear before the European Court of Human Rights to allow anti-gay workers to avoid serving gay men and lesbians? In other words, some bigoted people of faith are seeking permission to break the law of this land.

I’m appalled! It gets worse! Christian fundamentalists are lobbying Members of Parliament to back this blatant homophobia. So far, thirteen members have already signed a motion. Quite rightly, there would be outrage if a similar motion was proposed to victimise Jews or Muslims.

Christians of African ancestry who hold ‘deep and sincere views’ like Lillian Ladele, Eunice and Owen Johns would do well to remember two important facts. Men like me were born with same-sex attraction. As with race, it can never be changed – not even with electric aversion therapy which was offered to my partner Terry in 1976 to ‘cure’ him of his homosexuality. Here in the 21st century, we must be eternally vigilant and resist all attempts to return to a primitive, medieval mindset.

In work and public service, orthodox Christians, Catholics and others who think they occupy the moral high-ground are asking for the right to turn back the clock and discriminate against the LGBT community. They should hang their heads in shame.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post on June 9th 2011

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on June 11th 2011

Courageous inmate sets an excellent example

Richard was 15 when first ‘sent down’. He was beaten to a pulp because he was gay. Eleven years on, he has become hard and strong. I’d like to pay tribute to this courageous inmate who, behind bars, has set up a support group for gay men. That would be brave and difficult anywhere but, infinitely more so, serving time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure at HMP Armley in Leeds.

Richard came to my attention in BENT Magazine when he made a plea for books and magazines to better inform the inmates in his group who have, on a daily basis, endured appalling suffering, a target for prison bullies. Some are not strong. Some do self harm, some do worse and some have joined his group seeking solidarity, education and self-respect no longer tolerating insults like puff, queer or batty man.

Richard does not ask for sympathy. He asks for practical help for those who need to look out for each other and meet for discussion and mutual support. As part of that process, here we have an excellent example of leadership and rehabilitation. This prisoner knows his stuff! His letters impress me with a finely honed critical intelligence, a grasp of material relating to LGBT issues, probing questions and capable responses.

He was quite right to remind me that the Editor of BENT and Armley’s Senior Diversity Officer should be apportioned due credit for the establishment and success of that group. Such good work is a team effort and things can only improve when we all pull together.

Most of all, Richard’s world of the inside strikes a chord with my own life experience on the outside. It was (and for many still is) a repressed world where gay men, effectively, existed as outlaws dodging disapproval, violent thugs and the dreaded plain clothes policeman.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post on May 18th 2011

Time for royals to approve

Forty years ago, I would have criticised the Republican backlash to the recent royal wedding. Pining for the Derbyshire hills, I displayed a photograph of The Queen in my Detroit home and longed for all things British. The mystique of Monarchy has become celebrity culture and soap opera.

Perhaps the better informed out-and-proud 65-year-old of 2011 has lost the innocence of the ignorant closeted 24-year-old, as I was, back in 1970. Peter Tatchell said –

‘Never in Queen Elizabeth’s 58-year reign has she ever acknowledge the existence of the gay community. Had she treated blacks or Asians in the same way, she’d be denounced as a racist.’

Her Majesty is the head of state for the homosexual minority just as much as for the heterosexual majority, yet she banned gay palace employees from bringing their partners to staff events until the human rights group OutRage! protested. Responding to a complaint about ‘too many homosexuals in the palace’, the Queen Mother was heard to say – ‘Yes, but if we dismissed them all, who will look after us?’

As yet, I am not able to take that irrevocable step and join the call for a Republic. I’m hopeful for improvements for those who share same-sex attraction from a future sovereign. We have seen encouraging indications. Recently, gay activists have been honoured with an MBE and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have gay friends - albeit never publicly acknowledged.

The US has its first black President. I look forward to a UK where Royals do not have to hide behind sham marriages and where it is possible to be an openly gay king or an openly lesbian queen.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the May 2011 edition of Midlands Zone Magazine

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post on April 4th 2011

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on April 15th 2011

Homophobic interpretation of the Bible leads to gay pain and suffering

Responding to the national furore over Mr and Mrs Johns the homophobic Pentecostal foster parents, Alan Walker from Stanley Common in Derbyshire (the village of my birth) said that ‘unless you are gay, you do not command any respect’. He is ‘sick and tired of the coverage they get on TV and in the papers’.

I sincerely wish the LGBT community did, indeed, command more respect. I wish it was not necessary to continually fight our corner in the media. Mr Walker goes on to say that he has ‘nothing against gay people’. However, his homophobic interpretation of the Bible gives licence to gay bashers who hang around gay venues looking to enjoy their Saturday night sport.

Many youngsters, who share same-sex attraction, fearing abuse or violence, are afraid to go near these places and continue to be lonely. Mr Walker has no such problem. He will be able to enter and leave his church without any threat of humiliation. Due to his intolerant religious doctrine, many older gay people are also lonely and reclusive, isolated by the ignorance and prejudice of homophobic relatives.

At long last, the Equality and Diversity efforts of Derby City Council are trying to undo centuries of emotional damage inflicted upon a vulnerable minority. Before the election, Nick Clegg proposed that all schools should be required to teach that homosexuality is normal and OK. Some are doing just that.

I agree with Mr Walker when he says ‘enough is enough’! If all gay people ‘stood up to be counted’ they, like Christians, would ‘gain the respect they deserve’.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on March 26th. 2011

I'm a gay man without any religious beliefs. Mr & Mrs Johns are a black couple with religious beliefs. So what's the problem?

Well from my own experience of living in this country, here goes. At school (in the 1940s) I fancied my own sex but went along with the majority and kept my thoughts to myself. In my teens and early 20s, I went to dances like most lads and dated girls. Eventually I gave in to pressure and got married. I suppressed my feelings and kept them very private.

On the September 5, 1976, I met a man who swept me off my feet. At the age of 36, I fell in love. Thirty-four years later I am still with this wonderful person. Nature won the battle.

So Mr and Mrs Johns think on. Being black is what you are – no choice. Being gay is what I am – no choice. Religion is what you do – your choice.

Terry Durand

Printed in the Worksop Guardian on May 5th 2011

Let’s combat homophobia

I was delighted to read the feature [March 11th] about ‘Worksop Out on Wednesday’ celebrating its first birthday party at the Abbey Community Centre on February 16th.

I salute the management and volunteers of Centre Place. They have been supporting young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for more than a year. This is evidence of good organisation, dedication and hard work from an excellent team who provide activities and counselling for young people who are coming to terms with their sexuality;

Having taught history for 17 years at the Valley Comprehensive School [1978-1995] - I am well acquainted with prejudice against homosexuality in Worksop and Bassetlaw.

This splendid event you described, full of fun and jubilation, came into sharp focus when a profound silence descended. In that heartrending interval, we heard from brave and articulate youngsters who had suffered appalling problems. We walked in their shoes, endured the harsh realities, the trials and tribulations of homosexual life and felt their pain. We were reminded that human unhappiness has effects far beyond the individual. It reaches out to touch the lives of everyone.

Centre Place is one of the most successful groups of its type. These skilled specialists run an excellent service. They rescue modern youngsters from the anxiety and shame inflicted by a cruel and ignorant heterosexual majority.

True - there has been progress. However, even today, 41% of gay pupils get beaten up and are six times more likely to commit suicide. The Samaritans have described this as a ‘national scandal’. Accordingly, we should all pull together to combat homophobia.

Narvel Annable

Narvel Annable was invited to address Worksop Out on Wednesday on April 27th 2011. He entertained the group by reading extracts from Secret Summer appropriately edited for a young audience.

Three readings gave the boys and girls ample opportunity to ask questions, exchange views and comment on a variety of LGBT issues.

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on April 21st 2011

Neighbourhood will miss this much-loved feline

The purr of a cat is the most soothing sound you’ll ever hear. Over the last 12 years, I have been calmed and comforted on a regular basis by the purr of Sooty - the delight of Dovedale Crescent, always greeting us with unconditional affection.

Up at the front window sill, she signals a demand for admission coupled with a welcome interruption to work. A quick cuddle, my face buried in that thick, lush, ebony fur, is followed by a brief reconnaissance of each room including a visit to my partner Terry, enhancing the quality of both our days.

Never outstaying her welcome, this friendly feline returns to my window with a goodbye meow asking for exit.

I wouldn’t compose a letter about any cat. Sooty is different. Over the years she has ran up (yes, ran up) to greet local children – many of them now grown up. Such a character, such a pleasant demeanour owes much to the kind nature of the good people who have cared for her over the last 12 years.

Recently, kindly; Sooty’s ‘mummy’ came to my door to share dreadful news. Sadly, I will never hear that purr again.

The keyboard before me swims with tears. I mourn the passing of an affectionate pussy cat, loved by neighbours, popular with passing children.

Good night, Sooty; sleep well, fondly remembered friend.

Printed in the Harrogate Advertiser on May 20th 2011

Cameo will honour Big Bill memory

Thank you for reviewing my autobiographic novel – Secret Summer in the Weekend Book Club 06.05.11.

As Vicky Carr said, the last chapters are set in the Old Swan Hotel where I met an obese American gentleman who, in 1966, was in permanent residence. Called Big Bill Bulman in the book; his real name was Bill Silvey - an anglophile with a love of Harrogate’s beauty and charm, often expressing his feelings in a roaring Deep South accent. Some of your older readers will remember this colourful character. He wrote me letters raving about the crocuses which were - ‘as big as tulips!’

In an effort to reduce his great weight, Bill was also resident on a daily basis in the Harrogate Royal Baths where he would return a standard riposte to any comment about his size with – ‘I’m a landmark in these parts!’

Some time towards the late 1980s, I was surprised to hear that he still lived in Harrogate at 34 Swinton Court. The sad news of his death came shortly afterwards and I wanted to honour his memory with a cameo in Secret Summer.

As with so many gay men who were born in the early years of the 20th century, rabid homophobia caused Bill to suffer a repressed and secretive life telling very little about himself. Accordingly, if any of your readers have any information about this kind and gentle man, I should be grateful to hear from them.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Ripley & Heanor News on April 28th 2011

Tugging at the Memories

Regarding your Memory Lane Tug-of-War feature 17.03.11 at Howitt Secondary Modern School in Heanor: it was an emotional surge to recognise myself as one of the ‘heave ho’ team members.

One of the best summers any of us could remember: 1959 was the happiest year of my life. As described in Lost Lad, after four miserable years suffering the Dickensian cruelty of Mundy Street Boys School, Narvel had been reinvented, rechristened as ‘Dobba’ and welcomed into a culture of kindness by the good people you picture such as Peter Lambert and Valerie Billet, the Captains of Dale House.

Fifth in that line, I was probably the weakest puller, yet Dale House won! Just months before, my self esteem was zero. Look closely at that photograph. With good reason, you’ll see me smiling and tugging for joy.

For the first time in my life, here was an experience of true camaraderie: the joy of being respected and valued, pulling along with such leading lights, powerful hunks as [right to left] Peter Lambert, David (Rocky) Martin, Geoffrey Wilton and (Ricca) Ratcliffe. The boy behind me, face obscured, is John Lavender. More than half a century on, I send them greetings and sincere gratitude.

Narvel Annable (Dobba)

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on February on 23rd 2011

Gay marriage row has echoes of segregation

On the Andrew Marr programme – BBC1, 13.02.11 – the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu was asked about new proposals for gay marriage. Dr Sentamu said he had no problem with religions allowing the marriage of LGBT people. However, with regard to ceremonies under the auspices of the Church of England, he made his disapproval quite clear.

He said churches should have the right to marry couples of the same sex, but those rights should not be imposed upon Anglicans and Catholics who choose not to marry homosexuals.

Back in the 1950s when segregation was commonplace, this same view was taken by owners and managers of ‘white only’ American lunch counters.

“Negroes have their own ‘all black’ lunch counters. Why should they make such a nuisance of themselves by invading our eating places? Why should their rights infringe our rights?

I recall these voice-overs on American TV. We were horrified by the sight of ignorant racists squirting ketchup over the heads of brave African Americans suffering appalling humiliation.

Before advocating discrimination against the LGBT community, John Sentamu would do well to reflect on the bravery of those protesters who, indirectly, made it possible for an African to become the Archbishop of York.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on February 4th 2011 in the Soapbox column

 

HOMOPHOBIC MOTHERS


Written by Christopher Street who works for an advertising agency in London.
“You’re just weak”.
“It’s drugs isn’t it, he’s got you into drugs”.
“You can’t be gay. All gay people have got that seedy look about their face”.
“But you’re good looking, and sporty and you’ve always had girlfriends, how on earth can you be attracted to someone old and wrinkly like that”.
“But it’s so unnatural. I mean, look at AIDS for example”.
This smattering of quotes from my Mother, whom I will always love and respect for everything she has done for me, is not what compelled me to write. Whilst such demonstrations of ignorance and bigotry incited anger and frustration, my first thought was not, “I must write about this”. What compelled me to write was a letter that I received from her, in which she recalled a local event that she attended:
“Last Monday we went to Matlock to a talk by local author Narvel Annable.”
“How nice”, I thought.
“He was so boring and turned out to be a gay rights activist so his books and talk were all about homosexual activities. Many people including myself walked out. 99% complained to hotel management – a very sad and bitter person. Saturday was much better – Barbara Dickson at Gawsworth – brilliant voice, excellent variety of old and new.”
I was glad she enjoyed Barbara. I was not so comfortable with her attack on Narvel, who as far as I could see was a force for good who had clearly suffered enough at the hands of such views. It was this personal attack that compelled me to write. I wanted Narvel to know what had been said about him. I’ve always found it frustrating that we never know what people say about us when we are not present. I wanted him to know. I wanted to tell him my story.
For as long as I have been sexually aware, I have experienced an attraction to older men. With age came a growing sense of comfort and acceptance of this within myself. Then I fell in love with someone. It was at this point that I knew I had to declare it. I was not going to put myself through the turmoil of denial or deceit. It was July 2010 when I told my Mother. I was 25.
I wanted this to be a liberating experience, a chance to involve her in my personal life, to bring us closer together. What I was met with from her shocked me, but is sadly something that still pervades our society. I’ll use the words again: ignorance and bigotry. Her exclamations demonstrated denial too, which I half expected. What I was surprised at was the level of her misunderstanding. To suggest that AIDS is a consequence of homosexuality best captures her misunderstanding. To suggest that it was drugs that had got me involved in it shows how people still couple homosexuality with all that is antisocial and immoral. That my partner does not drink, never has done, and certainly does not take drugs could not change her mind. Her views are set. It is 6 months since I told her and there is still no sign of any willingness to accept that perhaps her views are misplaced.
The most infuriating thing about homophobia is not the views themselves, but the lack of willingness to question them when confronted with someone such as myself, or Narvel Annable.
Christopher Street

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on February 18th 2011

I don’t recall complaints after my talk at hotel

Regarding the February 4th Soapbox, I thank Christopher Street for taking the time and trouble to compose such a well written, articulate and interesting item. I’m sorry his mother took a negative view of my talk on August 2nd 2010 at the New Bath Hotel in Matlock Bath.

Out of an audience of about 60 people, my partner Terry recalls two people leaving the room in the early part of my reading from Secret Summer. At the time, he didn’t connect it with any disapproval. This extract took up most of the hour. It was carefully edited, chosen for that particular gathering.

LGBT issues are woven into the storyline, but there was no sexual content. Essentially it was a celebration of Matlock Bath’s beauty inspired by my love of the area. Body language from some people suggested interest and, indeed, enthusiasm. The event ended in applause with several people staying behind to ask questions about my work. I was paid and thanked by the hotel. To the best of my knowledge, there were no complaints. It was my second guest appearance at the New Bath Hotel.

This is a familiar story. Untold numbers of gay people have had their lives blighted by a homophobic reaction from an ignorant mother. The man whose signature follows is a good example.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on December 11th 2010

Weather gave respite from hurtful bullying

The snow has brought cold, chaos, danger; to a few, even death. Others have gained stolen time - time to enjoy lots of fun.

More than half a century back, sudden snow gave one miserable boy a respite from a daily routine of humiliation and despair.

In bed - even before I opened my eyes – something was different. Softness had descended upon a world which - mysteriously – magically - had become still and completely quiet. On this special day, there would be no school, no torment. The world was on hold.

I looked out onto an alien landscape with sculptured curves of sparkling brilliance. It used to be our garden; now it was fairy land. Peace and tranquillity presided over a new enchantment of beauty where everything had been purified, even the very air itself.

Like the boy in The Snowman, I scrambled for wellingtons, warm clothes and dashed out to enjoy freedom in an environment where shrubs and dustbins has been adorned by a thick cover of gleaming ermine. Crunching through deserted streets transformed into pretty Christmas cards, I rejoiced at the fall of yet more snow! Huge flakes gently descended, alighting and tickling my smiling face: smiling because several days of freedom from hurtful behaviour was now more likely.

That was 1957. How much has changed? Homophobic bullying in our schools has reached epidemic proportions. This recent enforced natural festival of white and light has closed hundreds of schools. Snow will have gladdened the hearts of thousands of pupils who are perceived to be ‘different’.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on March 16th 2011

Vital to protect children of all sexual orientation

On BBCs Question Time from Derby - 03.03.11 - Liam Halligan demonstrated appalling ignorance when he supported the homophobic Pentecostal foster parents, Eunice and Owen Johns, in their dispute with Derby City Council.

Mr Halligan stated that a child of nine would have no sexual feelings and could not possibly experience same sex desire. Wrong! At the age of nine I was attracted to my teacher Mr Crofts at Mundy Street Boys School. I knew I was ‘different’. That fact, subtly communicated to other boys, nearly ended in a suicide attempt. Even today, LGBT children are six times more likely to kill themselves than heterosexual pupils.

Other members of that panel pointed out that Mr and Mrs Johns had a record of being caring foster parents. Mr and Mrs Annable were also caring parents, but their entrenched gay hate demanded that Narvel Annable should come into their family without his homosexuality. Accordingly, that particular sexuality was deeply repressed into self-hate, a damaging shameful secret. I could not change my sexuality anymore that Mr and Mrs Johns could change their skin colour. I ask them to think on that.

In taking this matter as far as the Royal Courts of Justice, Derby City Council were protecting the rights of gay children. They were considering all LGBT children who might be severely harmed by the ignorance and bigotry of Pentecostal Christians who are well known for a strong homophobic prejudice which has no place on the 21st century.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the March edition of Midlands Zone magazine with a large photograph of the Rainbow Flag

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post on February 12th 2011 – with a photograph of the Rainbow Flag

 

Having taught history for 17 years at the Valley Comprehensive School [1978-1995] - I am well acquainted with endemic homophobia in Worksop and Bassetlaw.

Against that background, I was horrified to hear that Bassetlaw District Council has rejected Councillor Ian Campbell’s request to fly the Rainbow Flag above Worksop and Retford Town Hall’s for LGBT History Month, February 2011.

If my former pupils and the people of Bassetlaw are prevented from learning about the problems, the harsh realities, the trials and tribulations of homosexual life – how can they ever be educated? How can they recognise and combat homophobia? How can they possibly know what it is like to be me? How can they feel my pain: such as the time when a group of ignorant pupils once shouted out at me, as loud as they could, in Worksop’s Tesco – ‘ANNABLE’S A GAY BASTARD’?

During those 17 years, this was one of several similar attacks. An unmarried teacher who keeps his private life very private, a strict traditional schoolmaster who was not afraid to make his students work in silence – that schoolmaster is a tempting target to a disruptive minority.

The suggested compromise of an ‘internal’ display for history month is welcome but hardly adequate. It will not reach the homophobes in North Nottinghamshire. During this month many councils, police stations, schools, hospitals and any number of public buildings will be flying the Rainbow Flag. For my sake - and for the sake of many more people like me who have yet to be born – fly that flag.

Narvel Annable

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post on January 11th 2011

Printed in the Derby Telegraph on January 12th 2011

 

We are proud of TONI MONTINARO

For most of my life, the words ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ were never uttered in polite company. ‘Homosexual’ was a dirty word. According to my mother, they were - ‘No good to any woman. If I thought you were like that, I’d strangle you.’

For decades, such language describing this persecuted minority was taboo. It was not mentioned in our house, or, indeed, any decent household – until now. Very soon those ‘dirty’ words will be read out by the Lord Chamberlain in the highest household of the land - Bucking Palace. Isn’t that the same Lord Chamberlain’s office which censored ‘homosexual’ plays in the 1960’s?

In the teeth of hostility, ignorance, discrimination and bigotry, the manager of Derbyshire Friend, Tony Montinaro, has been included in the New Year’s Honour List for helping to improve the quality of life for LGBT people in Derbyshire over the last four years.

My mother would have been 100 years old on 10.01.11. I wish she had lived to hear about Toni Montinaro being presented with an MBE for –

‘Services promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.’

Well done, Toni. We are all proud of you.

Narvel Annable.

 

Printed in the December 2010 / January 2011 edition of QB Magazine

Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage www.nottsrainbowheritage.org.uk

Looking back 51 years: what happened to Jack?

After several years of enquiry trying to breach a wall of silence, I have finally solved part of the mystery of the Stanley Common postmaster, Jack Carrier, who disappeared suddenly in 1959.

It happened when I was a frustrated, deeply repressed 14-year-old. The shy and gentle man behind the counter of that Derbyshire post office shop was there one day - and gone the next

‘What’s happened to him?’ I asked mother.

‘That one! Huh! Good riddance,’ she snapped. One of them funny sorts. No good to any woman,’ she growled.

‘Well, ‘e were always nicely spoken and polite,’ sniffed Aunty Brenda, taking another swig of tea.

The effect on me? 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.

Clearly Jack had been discovered in some way, denounced and driven out 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 and humiliated in the local press. Did this happen to Jack?

I don’t know, but I know this; the Carriers had been postmasters in Stanley Common since 1924 and John H Carrier, born in 1920, died in the early 1960s - a broken man. Bravely, he had served his King and Country and suffered appalling cruelty in a Japanese POW camp. My informants speak of scars on his wrists. This inoffensive and mild mannered gentleman returned home damaged and morose. He was a model citizen harming nobody until bigots in that close-knit colliery village unearthed his homosexuality and hounded him out of their sight. In effect, it was a gay hating lynch mob.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post [with a photograph] on Monday September 20th

Politicians need more openness

Printed in the October edition of Midlands Zone magazine

Making it worse

On BBC Radio 4 [02.09.10] Max Clifford said –

“Why would a multi-millionaire need to share a hotel room with a man nearly half his age?”

He reminded us that Christopher Myers was poorly qualified for his job as Special Advisor to the Foreign Secretary. By issuing denials of homosexuality, William Hague has turned a small problem into a massive problem. A few days ago, the vast majority of the population would never have questioned the heterosexual credentials of Mr Hague. His denunciation of the rumour mongers has changed all that.

Why do I get a feeling of déjà view? Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws precipitated a personal and political tragedy in late May when he continued to be defensive and closeted about his secret lover James Lundie. Such conduct gives succour to homophobes who press the case that open homosexuality is still damaging to people in the public eye.

I wish Mr Hague well. I don’t know if he is a homosexual or not. [He has said he is not]

As a gay man myself, I had hoped that the David Laws debacle had sent a strong message to all politicians who share same-sex attraction. I say to them all - you have a duty to help yourselves. You have a duty to help all LGBT people and all the LGBT people to come. You have a special responsibility to challenge bigotry and fight for gay equality starting by being honest about your own sexuality. Do us all a favour - ‘out’ yourself before being ‘outed’ by others.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Sheffield Star, September 3rd 2010

Teach Common Sense and Love

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post, November 3rd 2010

Shame on you, Archbishop

Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola declared that homosexuality ‘is clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African’. This so called ‘man of God’ needs to recruit people into his flock. The gay community have no need to enlist new members. They are born into the human population. I was born homosexual just as Akinola was born black. Neither of us can change our nature.

The Bishop’s homophobic rhetoric has given the thumbs-up to thugs who attacked the father of Leo Igew. He was brutally beaten - subsequently his right eye had to be removed. Leo, the Nigerian Humanist and gay rights activist, has several times suffered violence following fearless campaigns in support of LGBT rights.

In 2006 he made an impassioned appeal to the members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage, but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship.

The Nigerian Anglican Church should remember that Christianity is supposed to teach common sense, thoughtfulness, knowledge, love, tolerance, solidarity and empathy. Instead, to its ever lasting shame, it encourages hate and homophobia.

 

Narvel Annable.

Emailed to the Nottingham Evening Post, July 19th 2010

Nottingham City Council would do well to remember that human unhappiness has effects far beyond the individual. It reaches out to touch the lives of everyone. And, in the process, can become very expensive! Accordingly, they should reconsider an ill judged cut which will certainly end up as an appalling false economy.

Providing activities, support and counselling for young people who are coming to terms with their sexuality; OUTBURST is one of the most successful groups of its type in the UK. These skilled specialists run an excellent service. They rescue modern youngsters from the anxiety and shame inflicted on me by a homophobic society a half century back.

True - there has been progress. However, even today 41% of gay pupils get beaten up and are six times more likely to commit suicide. The Samaritans have described this as a ‘national scandal’.

Nottingham City Council would argue that LGBT children with problems will be subsumed by the general youth services. Unfortunately they are staffed by workers who are well meaning, but ill informed. Some are indifferent and a few are hostile to those who share same-sex attraction.

Heterosexual youngsters can usually turn to their parents for advice and guidance. Alas the 1957 attitude of my parents is still far too common today. They took the view that Narvel had to face the rigours of real life and get ‘the softness knocked out of him’. I was the family shame. The Annables had been lumbered with a lad who was ‘not a proper lad’. A son who could not defend himself with bare knuckles in the playground brought dishonour upon a macho working class father. It left a long shadow which darkened both of our lives.

I beseech the City Council to THINK AGAIN.

 

Narvel Annable

Emailed to the Derby Telegraph, August 11th 2010

Belper’s Salvation Army Corp in the Market Place has closed after 78 years due to a dwindling congregation. Many will be sorry. My partner and I would also have been saddened – but not now.

Just before Christmas 2008, a vulnerable man attended a Salvation Army bible reading group in north Derbyshire. By inclination he is suggestible, easily manoeuvred, easily influenced, often bullied and appears to have been influenced by a nest of homophobes who are bigoted, prejudiced and ignorant. This gay man lost his sense of humour and suffered a change of personality. He said 'the Bible is anti-gay'. He trotted out several well known homophobic passages frequently aimed at the homosexual community.

We were appalled that a group under the auspices of the Salvation Army - the Salvation Army we have always respected - should harbour such intolerance. These ‘teachers’ exploited self doubt and induced self hate.

I wrote to Major Jonathan Roberts at Chilwell about my concerns. His reply was shocking!

“With regard to homosexuality, the Salvation Army takes the view that people can’t help what they are – but they are responsible for what they do.”

Effectively, he was saying that gay life is wrong and that the bible group is right! Terry and I have been together for 34 years. Roberts was given a chance to amend / clarify his views, but held firm to his main point. He was telling us that we must be celibate if we are to receive full respect and dignity in the eyes of the Salvation Army. This out of date attitude is unacceptable and insulting to all who identify with the LGBT community.

Narvel Annable.

Printed in the Nottingham Evening Post, August 6th 2010

Debt owed to gay campaigner

In 1983, I was a teacher at the Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop, 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. I was 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.

In 1983 Richard McCance had just been elected to Nottingham City Council as an out and proud gay man giving an enormous boost to the fledgling Campaign for Homosexual Equality. He went on to publish a gay and lesbian free sheet called Gay Nottingham, then Metrogay and finally Outright 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.

I would like to thank Richard for organising that excellent and informative Public Meeting at Nottingham Pride on Saturday, July 31st. It was an emotional and significant day. I’m also grateful to him for introducing me to the principal speaker, my hero Peter Tatchell who has generously allowed his good name to appear on the cover of my latest effort Secret Summer.

Narvel Annable.

 

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NEW
Coming out later this year




Sea Change



Secret Summer




Scruffy Chicken



Lost Lad



A Judge Too Far



Death on the Derwent

 



Heanor Schooldays

Copyright 2006 Narvel Annable. All Rights Reserved.