Narvel Annable 




My Videos


Click on above to hear Narvel talking about Froggy, a boy he met at Heanor fair in 1965




Click on above to hear A Tale of Jasper, The Belper Crone' performed on 19th May 2017 at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby



Belper Womens Institute talk


Belper WI invitation to Narvel







Then the talk was cancelled











To hear what Central News had this to say, click on the above






Bradford Pride 2009

Introduced by Paul Hunt 



What I call my "Window of Dispair"

Coal Town (part one)

filmed & presented by Allan Morton



Allendale Road

Coal Town (part two)

filmed & presented by Allan Morton



Click on the picture below to view a 7 minute video based on

 Death on the Derwent





Narvel Annable featured in ITV's Real Crime Series




Click on above for short clip



Transcripts from the following videos can be seen below the Big Bill Bullman video



Click below to meet a selection of some outrageous characters in my novels



Horsley Woodhouse

Click below to meet georgeous Gary & my relatives in Horsley Woodhouse Derbyshire




Snobs video link

Click below to meet the snobs

from Scruffy Chicken




Toad video link

Click below to meet Mister TOAD, Dolly & Becksitch Betty

also from Scruffy Chicken




Big Bill Bullman video

From Scruffy Chicken



Video transcripts



In my last effort, you met, gorgeous Gary - who had a horror of effeminate men.  They were not so easily tolerated in Detroit as in Derbyshire.  Highly visible outrageous homosexuals seemed to dominate the English scene in the 1960s. 

Chicago had an active gay resort called Saugatuck, on the east side of Lake Michigan.  Gary and I were there often. 

Somewhere in the dunes, I fished out, as he would say -

‘One of your freaks.’      

It was a screaming black queen known as 'Bun Bun'.  He referred to himself as 'This Lady'.   

Bun Bun assumed that Gary, a tempting blond bombshell, would be as accommodating as I had been. 

There was poor Gary, of stony countenance, sitting on his towel on the beach, helplessly watching an 'attention grabbing' hullabaloo - a one queen mini circus. 

Bun Bun danced and pranced around him, wriggling her back side, thrusting out already prominent begging buttocks, yelling out in a thick black accent -  

‘Yea Babe!  You is some sweet meat!  Ooo oo oo!  Hunky honky.  Tasty honky.  Ooo, This Lady - she hungry - yeah.   

‘This Lady is one hot slut!  Bun Bun ready for action.  She want fillin' - yeah!  Ooo oo oo!!’ 

This outrageous trollop continued to caper and orbited Gary's towel about three more times in her bizarre - war-dance-come-love-dance, pre-sex ritual. 

I’ll never forget the retreating figure of a disappointed Bun Bun -  moving just ahead of her eye-catching, rhythmic rump, mincing across the sand.  She disappeared into deep shadows of shrubbery - ever onwards - ever hunting - ever hopeful to find Prince Charming.   

And then the volcano erupted. 

‘How dare you!’ said Gary.  ‘How dare you bring that vile excrescence near my person?  Look at that butch number over there.’ 

I took note of a desirable sculpture of deeply tanned muscles languidly soaking up the sun, looking out over the water posing on his towel. 

‘He was looking in my direction,’ continued Gary.  ‘I was in with a chance.  He’s seen that grotesque spectacle.  Now he looks at the lake - no chance, kaput!’ 

I reminded Gary that Detroit has a few weird and wacky queens of its own in the Woodward Bar. 

‘What about that bitchy queen Marie?’ I said.  ‘Pure acid!’  I was referring to an incident which had recently taken place. 

There were four of us.  Gary - Hubert - Bill Scruggs and myself enjoying a quite drink minding our own business.  Marie spotted us and screamed out for the whole bar to hear -  

‘Miss Scruggs!  There ya are!  Honey am a comin' over.  Here comes my BODY.’      

We nearly died of embarrassment!  Especially poor Bill who'd just had a toupee fitted. 

‘Why, Miss Scruggs,’ quipped the queen.  ‘WHAT IS THAT!  A rug on ya head arr perceive.  Honey - you aint a foolin' nobody - an arr LOVE to pull hair.’  

She noticed Hubert.  To his horror, gave him a big hug like he was a long lost friend - 

‘Ooo so cuddly, nice-big-fat-belly!  Look everybody - it's Hubert.  Poor Hubert, those evil queens should not be referrin' to you as 'The Lady of the Vapours'.  Why that’s just not true.  You don't go to the sauna seven days a week - no - you take Mondays off don't you?   

‘But be careful baby, you've had three re-treads on ya tongue this year to date.  Yeah, an those teeth 'll need scrapin' again soon.  That cum just builds up and up. 

‘Well it's true!  It is.  When I go to the sauna - they hand me a towel.  When you go, Hubert, they hand you knee pads!’    

Gary hated such tittle-tattle from the low life of my quirky collection of friends.  He had no time for any of this nonsense.  He viewed old fashioned Hubert as one of the dregs of Detroit, a shabbily dressed overweight beer belly who broke wind too often. 

‘For God's sake don't suggest another meeting,’ said Gary.  ‘I can't take the body odour.  He doesn't like me and I don't like him.   

‘Have a good look at him.  Hubert is 'The Depression'.  He gets his clothes from the Good Will.  He belongs to the 1930's.  He should have stayed there. 

‘And PLEASE don't keep talking about Marie.  She may be funny to you but, anybody who is anybody avoids her like the plague.  A vicious mixture of show-off, spite, chiffon and cheap make-up.  ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME! 

‘As for Scruggs, well, he's just a complete waste of space.’    

Gary was utterly frustrated by the social gay scene.  His reasoning was simple.  If a man wants to attract another man then - 

‘Why in hell's name do they behave like a woman?  Why turn themselves into freaks.  For God's sake - that's just what they are - FREAKS!  I'd like to punch their stupid faces!  I really would ... ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?   

‘I'm at my wits end just trying to find one - SINGLE-REAL-MACHO-MAN!’ 

Many gay men are naturally effeminate.  Marie wasn’t so bad.  He was revenging himself on men who’d shunned him, on the streets, out of fear of being labelled a homosexual themselves.  I was always friendly with Marie.   He was a sensitive and, essentially, a kind man. 

Hubert was nothing to look at.  But - he was a friend and I enjoyed his company.  Like many repressed gay men, estranged from a disapproving family, sometimes depressed, eventually, he fell into the clutches of religious bigotry.  

Untold numbers of homosexuals have had their lives warped, effectively destroyed by active evangelism and rabid homophobia.  

After years of unceasing brainwashing from Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hubert became celibate.  He cut himself off from gay friends and gay support.  He died - a lonely, sad, broken man. 

Back in England - on holiday, I introduced Mr Toad to an attractive but affected effeminate youth called Julian.  

Consumed with lust, Toad invited us to stay with him one weekend.  All went well - until bedtime - when Toad said - 

‘Should you require an aspirin or any assistance in the night, Julian, don’t hesitate to cum into my boudoir.’ 

Always waggled his fingers when excited. 

Julian, however, thrust his snooty nose in the air -  

‘Most unlikely,’ said Julian, who sounded just like a girl.   ‘You, Mr Toad are GROTESQUE.  It would be scraping the bottom of the barrel.’      

During that night, I was awakened by whoops and screams.   

‘Oooh!  Oooh!  Oooh!’ 

A camp queen with - HIGH VOICE - was in rapture - impaled on a stiff stake of impressive proportions. 

Toad - proud of his inflated weapon - was well practiced in the art of inflicting supreme ecstasy upon a willing victim. 

The climax came.  Toad’s deep guttural groan signalled a milky gush, concluding high delight. 

Alas - a reaction set in.  The rapturous rider denounced his delirious gallop to that final moment of PURE JOY.  He lectured the ugly loathsome lecher. 

‘Mr Toad!  We have SINNED!  We must pray for forgiveness.’   

Hours later - breakfast was difficult.  Julian, in foul mood, hardly spoke to his host.  But the gloating toad was triumphant nudging his guest with a wicked elbow. 

‘Ay ay.  Last night ay.  HOW WAS THAT FOR THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL?  You enjoyed that ride on my stallion last night - didn’t you!  He he he.’ 

‘As Anne Boleyn said to Henry the 8th,’ responded Julian, ‘last night was a sample of what you won’t get.’ 

‘Well - I’m not going to give you the pleasure of refusing me, Julian,’ retorted Mr Toad. 

‘It would not be a pleasure, Mr Toad,’ responded Julian, ‘it would be - a necessity.  For you see, I shall journey afar, to join a monastery, never to have sex again.’ 

He packed his bags and stormed out of the house.  We never saw him again. 

Some days later, at the Derby Turkish Bath, I found myself sitting next to Clarence Soames - a desiccated toff.   

His naked body seemed to be as white as his very white face - contrasting sharply with short, neat, raven black hair.  A delicate gentleman. 

He seemed supremely indifferent to everybody, showing no interest at all.  Clarence was senior figure from the ranks of the Nottingham Camp - a social climbing snob.  I attempted conversation. 

‘I like ya car.’ 

After quite a long pause, the deathly-white face slowly turned to assess the young speaker.  With legal precision, one sharp word was delivered in cut-glarrss quality - 


"Ooo arr,’ I continued.  ‘Neat, really neat.  Looovely posh leather - nice wooden finish inside - all good taste.  I were admiring it when a tied me bicycle oop tat lamp post outside.’ 

"Bicycle.  How quaint," came the concise reply, pregnant with derision. 

I continued with enthusiasm, trying to ignore the put-down,  

"Switches and boottons everywhere ... an automatic transmission!  Very few English cars as got automatic transmission." 

"We have everything .... except money." 

Condescending words, carefully enunciated with subtle sarcasm, was offensive to me.  And yet, for 51 years, I’ve remembered and admired those words as much as I had genuinely admired the posh car.   

Clarence was heading off a request for money.  He needn’t have worried, I have never asked for money - before or since. 

However - I was enormously impressed with the way this gentleman had pronounced that one word - 'money'.  

It sounded like 'manaaaieryyy' - in stark contrast to my working class - 'm-oo-ny'. 

The character attracting most comment in my books is The Belper Crone.  I call him Jasper.  He dwelled in a primitive isolated cottage practising legendary talents of body massage - very keen to offer the 'extras'. 

He was gnarled and craggy.  At first sight, I beheld a large hawk nose, far forward of deep set grizzled leering eyes.  This hideous hunchback looked positively Jurassic.  I though it wise not to introduce him to Gary.

Nobody knew Jasper’s age, but he used an earth closet lavatory.  The family were nightsoil men.  Back in the 1880's, young Jasper assisted his father and brothers who were called 'honey dumpers'. 

He was the 'limey-lad' - a boy with a naked flame torch who walked after the cart spreading lime over any spillages of excrement to 'get shut at stink'. 

After years of emptying buckets of 'jollop', Jasper was totally immune to all known germs! 

Sadly, he was the butt of lavatory jokes.  I heard about the time when he was ordered to retrieve his father's false teeth from the bottom of a tank of human excrement!      

Decades later, Jasper spent many hours in a notorious Belper lavatory.  He used a little hammer and chisel to make a hole at crotch level.  It was as big as a dinner plate. 

A camp rotundity called Dolly, occupying the next WC cubicle, amused us with the following anecdote - 

‘I recognised the spread!’ said Dolly.  ‘A sort of picnic - cracker biscuits, butter, cheese and a flask of tea.  Sustenance you understand.   

‘Well it’s important because he’s there all day long.  That’s how he got that hump you know.  A lifetime of bending down giving pleasure to those naughty rough workmen. 

I said “Hello” and he replied  

“Ello.”  We’re old friends of course.  “Have you been busy?” I asked. 

“Very busy!  Ave ad me teeth out all day.  Meh.  One were as big as a cucumber.  Meh”   

Jasper often ended a sentence with ‘Meh’ - a sort of an expletive - possibly indicating ‘so there’ - or - perhaps - expressing irritation. 

Stories about Jasper and his false teeth were rooted in gay folklore.  I’ll never forget my first encounter.  A damp foggy night, Dolly guided me past a decrepit Victorian latrine to a dark cubicle apparently empty.   

I hear a sound, a sort of 'click'. 

‘Did you hear it?’ whispered Dolly.  ‘Lucky boy!  The Click of a Crone.  It's the prelude to pleasure,’ sighed this little fat man in soft, round vowels. ‘Advance!  Yield!  Offer yourself to this master of the extended orgasm, give yourself - and know true bliss.’ 

On dark winter evenings, Jasper would creep into a public toilet to service and drain the desperate, but he’d forget where he’d put down his teeth.  

‘Where’s me choppers?  Meh.  A put em somewhere.  Ave ya seen em?  Ooo sorry!  Well move out at way.  Shift!  Where are thee.  Meh!’

Bye for now ...


Horsley Woodhouse 


Here is the fourth YouTube, bringing to life characters from my autobiographic novels.  This time, I’ll take you to Bog Hole or Bog 'ole, as it was called in Horsley Woodhouse - locally known as ‘osly woodas. 

If you’ve read Lost Lad you’ll have met gorgeous Gary.  In 1960s Michigan, we were teenagers together - but had different friends. 

I liked the unusual.  Gary despised the effeminate - the fat - the ugly - the sick - the old - the poor - the narrow - the parochial - the ignorant - the untraveled - the uncultured - the unsuccessful and the stupid. 

Which meant he was none too keen to meet my 1960s relatives who - in many ways - were stuck in a time warp decades before the 1960s.    

Gary revered the young, the butch, the beautiful, the intelligent, the rich and the sophisticated.  He hated my -  

"Weird and wacky menagerie of creeps.  What's wrong with normal people?  How could you possibly have become bored with a gorgeous guy like Earl Vandenburg?  He looks like Rambo for Christ's sake!  And lives at the top of The Jeffersonian Building: a view to die for!" 

He was saddened by my ongoing homesickness to get back to the beautiful hills and dales of Derbyshire and visit my aunts and uncles in Horsley Woodhouse.  Due to homosexuality, relations with my immediate family in Detroit had completely broken down leaving irreparable estrangement.  

But we were good friends and he agreed to join me on a holiday in England. 

Bog Hole sounded like a slum - but it wasn’t a slum.  It was a row of six terraced houses occupied by Annables.  The accommodation was simple - Victorian - 'two up, two down', built for coal miners. 

Walking down the cobbles, we met Uncle Wilfred.  He stared very hard at us.  It was like - we’d just landed and emerged from a flying saucer!  This familiar and rude ogling had never failed to annoy me.  Big round rheumy eyes, a pouting lower lip, and an annoying silence seemed to shoot out a reproach from the cantankerous old man who eventually gave voice to his grievance - 

Yown com then! 

I translated - You have arrived at last - I'm being rebuked.  I addressed Wilfred directly, in a sharp manner, to head off a further reprimand.   

‘Hello, Uncle Wilfred.  How are you?"      

"Huh!  Our am a?  Are think our am a.  If a were an os they'd av shot me." 

Sorry to hear that, Uncle Wilfred.  You look fit enough to me. 

Know what day it id? 

It's Sunday, isn’t it? 

Huh.  Arr think Soondy.  It me bothdy.  Am 84 tady. 

Congratulations, Uncle Wilfred.  Oh!  By the way, this is ... err - Gary. 

Hi!  Happy birthday. 


Now if you’ll excuse us, we really must visit all the other Annables before it gets too late. 

Ya nedna goo fa may. 

Gary looked puzzled.  I translated - He said, 'You need not go for me' or, 'Please don't leave on my account'.  It's pit talk from his coal-mining days.  I'm not quite sure about 'Huh!'  Some sort of expletive, no doubt a censure expressing dissatisfaction ...       

Yo what?" 

I was just telling Gary we'll have to be going, Uncle Wilfred. 


For a moment the sun went out!  It was the shadow of a low flying aeroplane.   

"Ooo a should loove ta be in that," wished Aunty Joyce who had just joined us.  

Huh.  Ad sooner cape me fate on t' ground! demeaned Uncle Wilfred. 

Moving on, we were arrested by the sight of a toothless old woman sitting on a chair in front of number three.  On nice days, relatives often sat outside their front doors. 

She stared up at us - stared hard through crumpled, screwed up piercing bullet eyes.  We were held by this silent leer which was both inquisitive and interrogating.  I mustered a cheerful -  

Good morning, Aunty Nelly.  How are you today?"  No answer.  I soldiered on - "Meet my friend Gary.  He lives in America." 

A slight sardonic nod and contemptuous grimace spread over her wrinkled face.  Gary was repelled by this old hag and couldn’t even bring himself to utter his usual - 'Hi!' 

Nelly solved the embarrassing impasse by suddenly shooting out a spray of verbal bullets as if from a machine gun: a cascade of irrelevant speech without benefit of punctuation - 

Our Vivienne were on t' rec an the were this lad oo were goin' t 'it our Vivienne - but our Vivienne sez - 'I've got a stick and I shall 'it YOU!" 

As this brief narrative came to an abrupt halt.  We took a few seconds to absorb and decode such staccato intelligence.  Gary was particularly fascinated by her mouth on the word 'you' which became a perfect circle.  I muttered polite apologies and moved on to the house of Aunty Joyce who had invited us - ‘Shall ya cum in an ave a bita tea?’ 

Joyce, a lifelong spinster, had always been very nervous of strange men.  The physical nearness of a tall unknown handsome blond was a challenge. Each time Gary addressed her directly, in her primitive kitchen, she averted eye contact.   Downcast, Joyce examined a filthy old peg rug made years ago from bits of coloured rag.       

Three tiny cakes and three cups of lukewarm stewed tea concluded the sparse meal - for which she was thanked.  Small talk had run its course.  The conversation gradually dried up leaving long and slightly embarrassing pauses - causing a small amount of tension.  

During one silence, Joyce looked up through the window and eased the tension with a slow and easy - " ... mmmmmmm."  The bird moved.

       "Nice parakeet," said Gary.

       "We call it a budgerigar," I said.

       "Mmmmmm," said Aunty Joyce. 

Suddenly - the tinkle of a bell!  To the rescue came - Joey.  All eyes turned upon the little budgie who had cleverly rang his bell and provided a delightful distraction.

       "Elo, Joey!  Are ya showin' off.  Joey Joey Joey!"  repeated a delighted Aunty Joyce.  She pushed her face up close to the cage and pursed her lips to make a kissing sound - which both revolted and annoyed Gary.  For the benefit of his hostess, he tried hard to maintain a half smile to suggest his pleasure at such charming behaviour, but was further aggravated when his mischievous friend said -

       "Joey Joey Joey!  Look at Joey, Gary!"

       "I can see Joey," responded the other, through his teeth. 

We were all rewarded by a single chirp, a cocked head on one side and a second peck of the bell.  At that moment the show became really interesting when Joey did his party trick.  

He put his little head under the bell giving the amusing appearance of wearing a hat.  Aunty Joyce twittered and chuckled. 

"Put ya 'at on, Joey.  Joey Joey Joey.  Look, Narvel, Joey's got 'is 'at on!  Joey Joey Joey ... " and so on. 

Back on the cobbles I said - You must meet favourite Aunty Gertie at number two ... 

‘Spare me!  Spare me!’ interrupted Gary.  ‘I can’t take anymore Annables’ 

‘I think you’ll like her’ I said - ‘a highly entertaining harridan - the sharp tongued matriarch of the Annable clan.’   

Entering number two (nobody knocked - you just walked in) we carefully trod around several little kids crawling along Aunty Gertie's spotless floor.   

As long as I could remember, Gertie's living room was full to overflowing with a humanity of Annables - fussing doting and cooing at their little ones. 

Gertie was generous.  The kettle was always on the boil supplying an endless supply of tea for the multitude.

       "Mash 'em some tea, Arr Fred."    

Two mugs arrived and Gary tried to look grateful for the tea he didn’t want - but the home-made fruit-cake was delicious. 

"Ear - Get thee chops round that!" ordered Aunty Gertie thrusting a tea plate at her grinning nephew.  "Thas like a bloody Cheshire cat!  

I liked Aunty Gertie.  Her entertaining banter was a treat.  She sounded and looked like a typical battle-axe.  At 81, with robust health she was still going strong, criticising, bossing, dominating and intimidating.   

The show went on and on, and it went better when I had an opportunity to direct.  I knew which mischievous buttons to press to get Gertie going.  

"We've been talking to Joey.  He put his hat on for us!" 

Bloody 'ell!  An t' bod on t' middle at table.  What must ya friend think?      

"Oh, it was different," said Gary, cautiously.  Slightly intimidated by the crowd in that small room.  Aunty Gertie continued her assault on Aunty Joyce - 

Nowt else ta do but talk tat bod all day.  Bloody pathetic.  Silly owd bogga!  Owd fashioned as Methuselah.  What must ya think, Gary?  An you from America where it's all posh. 

Crowded the room may have been - but there was plenty of room for the elephant in the room - the dread of homosexuality.  Nothing was ever said, but they all knew that nephew Narvel - couldn’t kick a football, couldn’t knock down a pint of beer, couldn’t defend himself with bare knuckles and worse - much worse - couldn’t fancy a lass. 

And Gary felt this too.  He had issues with his own family.  Accordingly, like me, he needed a change - a bit of gay company perhaps - and expressed a desire to meet the washed up drag act, Becksitch Betty who lived in Belper. 

Betty’s small room had a comfortable, quaint simplicity.  Darkened by heavily-curtained windows, a blazing fire shot out a cheerful warm orange glow. 

"Nice fire," complimented Gary. 

"Could be better," replied their host.  "Woodside 'ards!" (a cheap type of local coal)  "Like tryin' ta burn bloody slate!  Grey as me granny's 'air.’ 

Once more, I was mesmerised by a mouth which seemed to - move all round his face. 

‘That loose bitch next door - she gets Derby Brights  (the best local coal)  for nowt.  ‘She’s filthy!  A sat beind er at bingo.  Ya could grow bloody taters in her neck.’ 

This last precipitated a tirade against Betty's neighbours and his personal assessment of the social scene of lower Becksitch Lane. 

She stands need ta go on about my morals.  She's 'ad bloody coalman, dustman ... nowt but a tart - dirty cow!  She's 'ad more prick than a second 'and dart-board.  Criticisin' me!   

A cut off all 'eads of 'ere daffodils.  That's what a bloody did.  That'll learn 'er .. callin' me ta that dotty bugga other side, ya know, 'im as keeps piddlin' 'is bloody dotty toes.  An 'er filthy kids!  Thee stink!  Thee run round with their knickers droppin' down.  And that fat lass, one tooth black, one wobblin'.  What's up we 'im? 

Once again, I was breathless with laughter.  It was a splendid performance - however - we took note.  Becksitch Betty, when crossed, was capable of a spiteful act; vandalising the garden of a neighbour.  The old queen ranted on - 

"Can't keep 'er bloody legs closed."  Gary looked suitably shocked.  "Big family .. yes.  All ignorant as pigs. 

She feeds 'em boiled bones ya know .. oo are, an little 'n in t' chair, like a bloody monkey.  'Eee is enjoyin' them bones,' she sez.  

An grandma sitin' there, all bloody day, daft old bogga, three sheets ta wind, red face, piddlin' scabs on 'er legs, veins stickin' out, six bloody chins ... 

Gary had had enough of my weird and wacky friends and relatives.   

At the end of our UK holiday he’d met sneering snobs, Dolly, Nobby the Gnome, the Belper Crone, the Toad, Guzzley Granddad, Gutter Gobler etc etc ... 

Bog ole!  Belper!  No. Not for Gary. He yearned for the fleshpots of London, Paris, New York or San Francisco.  

To conclude - a tribute to Joyce.  Why did we get on so well?  Because we had a lot in common.  We were the butt of family jokes - the unmarried - the odd - the childless.  We shared this indignity.  It brought us together.  She liked me.  She respected me and when I became a teacher - she was proud of me.   

Know what - that meant everything.



Snobs Transcript


In 1965, I lived in Detroit but enjoyed an extended cycling holiday in Britain.  I was taken to the Friary Hotel in Derby, in those days an exclusive meeting place for upper class homosexuals - the elite Derby Camp as it was known.  David, my guide, affected a cut-glarrss accent.  During one picnic, he remonstrated with a group of curious cows - 

‘No.  No.  Go away, go away.’    

On another occasion, a man alighted from a Rolls Royce and said to his wife - ‘Come on dook, urry oop’ 

‘Oh dear!’ commented David, ‘It would have to be the self-made type’ 

On entry to The Friary, there seemed - soft silence and darkness.  Eventually, the eyes adjusted to dim lighting revealing a large Georgian emptiness - empty, except for a group of shadowy be-suited gentlemen standing near the bar.  Gradually, I discerned ... a low murmur of ornate voices in conversation.  ‘Oh yes, indeed, quite ... hear hear’ 

David and I approached the gathering.  All eyes were inclined to a big man, slightly stocky wearing a sneer on his aquiline profile.  It was a classic face, yet, I was utterly repelled by an artificial slimy drawl.  Words were exhaled in a breathy whisper.  The sibilance of voice was matched by a sickening softness of body. 

"Hilary Raymond Hawley," whispered David - sardonically - in the style of a grand announcement.  "He's HRH to the bitchy Nottingham Camp.  He has an extensive knowledge of royal families, parrst and present.  He knows all the royal highnesses and all the serene highnesses.  It fascinates him."      

Addressing the gathering, he was holding court with a narrative interrupted by a frequent, forced laugh - ha ha ha - a nauseating wheeze which accentuated his aristocratic sneer. 

"He's the number two," added David.  "Watch out!  He's powerful.  Not one to be crossed or it could mean social death.

Have you ... identified the boss?" 

At the moment of entry I had indeed identified the Top Man.  About a dozen pairs of eyes were on him ever looking for approval.   

The most striking aspect of Claud Hoadley - the First Homosexual of Derbyshire - was his posture.  Possibly this gave him that ... indefinable air of authority.  Hoadley was BOLT upright, straight as a pole - always.  

To this stern schoolmarrster, slouching was a sin and, in that room, every person appeared to be affected, appeared to be standing at attention, in dread of imminent reprimand which might shoot out like a whiplash. 

"Straighten up there boy!  How dare you loll in front of me!  Such disrespectful drooping is indicative of an indolent and disorderly mind." 

He had sharp clear-cut features with shrewd, cold, grey eyes and cruel lips.  

Hoadley's suit was distinguished by its superb cut.  He was the very quintessence of good taste and excellent grooming, from the top of his perfectly combed hair down to his highly polished, expensive shoes.   

Everything about Claud Hoadley was correct.  Those around him seemed to be anxious to approach his high standards. 

I was very impressed when this paragon broke into speech - I - a lowly Derbyshire teenager, in awe of an extraordinary accent.  If David's 'cut-glass' diction had been impressive, this Hoadley orgy of enunciation, such high art of lavish articulation - was more impressive. 

Do you know, it hit my Derbyshire ear like a thunderbolt.  One word in particular was drawn out with striking embellishment: 'after' became very southern, sounding like arrrfter. 

I noticed that on a walking holiday.  Very often, some peasant would say - 

‘Owe do’ - to which Hoadley would respond - ‘Good arrfternoon.’ 

In a Youth Hostel, he was holding court, mesmerising his admiring listeners with impressive vowels.  One woman said - 

       ‘Ooo - a say Gertie.  Dunt ‘e talk nice.  Ooo a could listen to im all day.’ 

Following a long hard walk, cold and starving, I was desperate for sustenance -  

‘Surely it’s near dinner time,’ I said, ‘Won’t the warden bang that gong?’   

‘No need to strike the gong, Narvel.  No.  We’re all so hungry - we’re HERE.’  All heads nodded. 

Friday Night at the Friary was a ritual for Claud’s retinue of elite homosexuals.  Class conscious values were communicated - subtly.  Members of the club were encouraged to appear to be, at all times, inwardly assured, stable, smug - even arrogant.  I was experiencing a culture shock.  Unlike in Detroit, in Derby discussion of money was considered vulgar, unearned privilege was admired and American pushiness deplored.   

Steered by Hoadley and Hawley, the conversation meandered around various subjects but the correct code of conduct came out loud and clear;  

manual work, technical skills, people in trade, self-made types and all manner of 'doers' - were to be despised by this entourage of nodding heads. 

I often reflect on that 'elite' of Derby queers - as they called themselves before the word gay came into general use - you were either queer or normal.  Oppressed people who - to make their own position safer - felt the need to denigrate other human beings regarded as inferior in the British class structure. 

These were the sad folk I described in Scruffy Chicken - affected professionals, fearful timid men trying to survive in the homophobic 'dark ages' of Derby in 1965.  A time when gay people tried to be invisible, a time when desires were repressed, were illegal, were a deep, dark dangerous secret. 

Claud Hoadley was now in full flow, holding full attention, denouncing The Beatles.  They’d just been awarded the MBE. 

‘It was an honour we should all aspire to.  But I arrsk you, what can we expect from a Labour Prime Minister?  Outrageous!  atterly, atterly outrageous.  That Canadian Member of Parliament ... Hilary - what was his name?" 

‘Ha ha, Hector Dupuis,’ replied the effeminate and effete Hilary Raymond Hawley. 

"Oh yes.  That man is quite right.  They are vulgar nincompoops.  Mr Dupuis has been cheapened, a gentleman of his position!"  He spat out the next sentence with gathering fury.   

"He’s been debased to the level of common working-clarrs ruffians.  I applaud his action in returning his insignia to the Palace.  I would have done the same.’ 

All heads nodded with approval - Hear! Hear!  Nobody dared to mention that Claud had never received an honour of any kind. 

Even David enunciated more carefully, more formally, in the regal presence of Claud Hoadley. 

The lofty shrewd eyes came to rest upon the scruffy youth who stood at the side of David.  The tone was sharp, clearly cool and censorial. 

"Good evening, David.  A soupcon late - perhaps - this evening.  I see you appear to have acquired ... a yang person.  May we know the name of this ... new acquisition?" 

"Good evening, Claud.  Well now, this is Narvel.  He lives in Detroit but he’s as English as the rest of us." 

"Indeed," replied the pedant.  "What part of England, may one arrsk?" 

"Horsley Woodhouse," I said.  I’d carefully and slowly pronounced both H's in Horsley Woodhouse, so carefully and so slowly - that it sounded like a foreign place in my own ears. 

That smug gathering knew, only too well, that the rough lad before them was much more accustomed to saying 'Ossly Wuddus'.  I winced under the slimy sneer of Hilary Raymond Hawley, who emitted one of his numerous breathy 'ha ha ha ha's'.        

Back in 1963 when I’d just arrived in the US, as a novel curiosity, I was invited to address a class at the local high school.    

Clean-cut, all-American hunky boys yelled out -

       "Greetings England!"  "Welcome to the US of A."  "Hi, buddy."  "Hi ya, Englishman." 

My former Heanor mates would have said - ‘Thee teckin t’ piss Dobba!’         

Questions were asked.  All went well until I started to describe my house..   

"We don't 'av asses like yours.  Arr ass's touchin' t' next ass.  Ya know, like ... sort a - all asses in a row, like.  Nar me mate orris - he’s got a nice ass ... 

This produced a sea of shocked faces.  Half a second later, there was an explosion of loud guffaws from raucous males.         

Teacher came to the rescue.  An important clarification.

       "Err, Narvel!  Perhaps you'll run that past us again.  I think you're referring to the building in which you live, if I'm not mistaken.  

No sweat.  Nothing wrong with the way you speak.  If these kids were bedder educated they’d know the French don't sound the H either.  I think you were referring to Horace’s HOUSE.’ 

Back to the Friary - something was said against a new progressive Canon at Derby Cathedral attempting to modernise the service.  I couldn’t believe it! 

"They go to church?"  I whispered to David.  I was shocked!  Homosexuals going to church! 

‘My dear boy!’ said David, ‘You have so much to learn - they practically own Derby Cathedral!  Smells and bells; they invented it.  I'm surprised the whole congregation don't rise when Hoadley and Hawley make the grand entrance.   

It's the same every Sunday, the great and good of Derby sit near the front, always in the same order.  First Miss Bulstrode, the headmistress of the prestigious Derby High School for Girls.  She chats with Hoadley in Latin and Greek.   

Then we have Hawley, who sits next to the tweedy Miss Penelope DeHaviland, the editor of Derbyshire Life and Countryside Magazine.  They exchange bits of gossip about the Lord High Sheriff and the Lord Lef - tenant.’       

Well so much for snobs.  People ask me - why did call it Scruffy Chicken?  The title is more a comment on the snooty snobs who made me feel scruffy.  Scruffy accent, scruffy clothes, scruffy education, scruffy friends, scruffy table manners etc. 

Looking back half a century, it seems to me that the ultra polished diction of nodding heads was an attempt to compensate for the low status of gays in general society. 

I’d guess that most of Hoadley’s devotees came from humble origins like me in Stanley Common existing in a primitive terrace cottage.  There was precious little difference between an £8 a week coal miner and a cotton picking slave.   

Yet, to uplift their lowly status, black homosexuals in Detroit drove around in huge beautiful automobiles with awe inspiring fins! 

At the same time most of my relatives with coal black faces after a day labouring in the bowels of the earth - well they went home on pushbikes. 

So there you have it - my African American friends asserting their status swanking at the wheel of a Lincoln Continental or a Cadillac  

and Claud Hoadley’s gang in Derby, asserting their superiority with affected vowels trying to sound like royalty! 

I really do think there is a strong link between them. 



Toad Transcript

This video features Mr TOAD - so called because he actually resembled a toad.  It also includes an obnoxious queen known as Betty and a nice little fat man called Dolly.

On the front cover of Scruffy Chicken you see a cyclist [that’s me] dwarfed by two craggy moss covered rocks each profiling - ugly faces.

Look carefully - and you’ll see a toad looking at an old hag.  The hag was Becksitch Betty.

Toad was the very essence of old-fashioned Englishness in its purest form.  He was as salty and as vulgar as a seaside postcard.


The best times of my life were not in the company of intolerant chickens.  They despised him.  No.  The best times were when we were together like two naughty little boys being tossed and blown about on the North Sea - on board the Bridlington Belle - under a perfect blue sky.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those precious moments back in 1965 were the beginning of a lifelong friendship, nay, a love affair; a love affair which would last into the 21st century.

Toad was quaint.  Toad was funny - a bundle of fun - a barrel of laughs.  He represented an amusing character in caricature - perhaps one of the last of the type.

I first heard about him in the company of a little camp queen called Dolly - the famous Dolly of Derby, an obese rotundity.  He looked like tea cosy on top of a ball.

Dolly!  It was the perfect name for this dolly tub creature who,

 With full, fat lips spoke nicely with beautiful round vowels.  Nice soft voice. 

I liked Dolly.  He was nice.  He took me to the little terraced cottage of another strange man, a nasty man, a washed-up drag act, actually, the infamous Becksitch Betty - so called because he lived on Becksitch Lane in Belper.

He was the ugliest man I’d ever seen.

‘Allo, Dolly!’ he said in effeminate tone, ‘Ooo's this then? (pointing to me) Ooo a say, Dolly, yav bin robbin' t' cradle!’  I was still a teenager.

His features and colouring had me utterly transfixed.  Discoloured skin was tightly pulled across a hideously sharp bone structure.  It was difficult to describe such a repulsive facial tint.  At times, it seemed to be livid, at other times - pallid - most unhealthy.

In full spate of chatter, that horrible face was mesmerizing. In a common accent, the mouth contorted and distorted as it painfully - heaved - forth its words.

It was like his mouth went all over his face.  Sort a talked like that.  Possibly from a broken jaw which deformed from side to side causing the full countenance to twist and writhe.

I was amused and yet repelled.  In that mobile face, mark you, I detected viciousness in the moving flesh, its kinks and its warps. 

He steered the subject to a certain Mr Toad.

       Ya know, Dolly, 'e never talks ta me.  'e looks grotesque.  'e does! 

The hideous continued to pass judgment on the hideous.

It's right!  'e looks just like a toad: oogly as sin.  'av ya seen 'im in that 'orrible car?

‘Oh yes,’ said Dolly, ‘I've told him to get a different car, if only to change the number plate - for cottaging you understand." 

Cottaging means going from toilet to toilet

Lives in them smelly lavatories, said Betty, addressing me.

"That ugly little car - it doesn't help," continued Dolly.  "It's the pugnacious way he's huddled over the wheel.  It rather suits him actually.  That car looks like a slug.

Toot toot!  Toot toot!  added Betty by way of sound effects.  Ya've ta ger out t' way before 'e knocks ya over.

 "Oh yes, he does like his tooter.  All part of his pushy personality you know."

Eventually, I gathered that it was the pupils of the Herbert Strutt Grammar School in Belper who, many years before, christened their odd little Music Master 'Mr Toad'.  According to Dolly, he was not only a very talented musician - but - he had … other … delightful talents to offer.

‘You should let me introduce you to him."   

Dolly's voice dropped.

He became conspiratorial.   

‘It's not what he looks like.  It's what he can do for you, Betty.  Now then!" 

This was uttered in a deep purr of strong significance as the fat man, with wide, orbicular eyes, head cocked to one side, advised his friend after the style of a parent giving sage advice to a child.  To emphasise, Dolly raised his finger.

"How many times have I've told you?  What do they say about Mr Toad?  You were on the front row when they were given out.  He’s a big lad.  He's especially good at what you like, Betty."

Becksitch Betty was getting interested.  His body writhed in anticipation.  His face twisted.  His crooked mouth became gymnastic.

Ooo a say!  A sometimes think, Dolly, eee - if somebody'd just give me one, just do it to me. 

Ooo it'd be grand it would.



Big Bill Bulman




 “Big Bill Bulman” who was an obese American gentleman I first met in 1966. 

Please note - I quote him directly using the offensive racist language of that period. 

At that time, Bill was resident in the Old Swan Hotel.  He was also resident, on a daily basis, in the Harrogate Royal Baths.  Exquisite services to fellow bathers are described in some erotic detail.  They queued up for it!  Masked behind a hot hissing haze of gurgling steam, a muscular tongue conscientiously satisfied a whole line of horny hunks. 

Big Bill, a cultured anglophile with a love of Harrogate’s beauty and charm, often expressed his feelings with a roaring Deep South accent. 

He wrote me letters raving about the crocuses which were - ‘as big as tulips!’ and bellowed self-promotion 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.  The sad news of his death came shortly afterwards.  I wanted to honour his memory with a cameo - but also needed to inject honesty by exploring the paradox of his racial bigotry contrasted with an assertion of gay rights and the need for homosexual self-respect.   

Many former friends who share same-sex attraction have proved to be racially prejudiced and quick to discriminate.  Sadly, Big Bill, an amusing character recalled with affection, is a good example of that illogical ignorance.  

The big man’s throaty conversation was informative, thoughtful and cultured.  And yet, curiously at odds with his gruff manner.  In thick and crusty tones, Bill Bulman was able to deliver intelligent comment on a range of diverse subjects.   

He was a regular visitor to a rough and rowdy pub called The Junction in Bradford.  Intolerant of effeminate men, he was appalled by an outrageous and garrulous queen known as Hetty Howitt, who regularly held court.  This flamboyant flame admitted to 45, but a scruffy urchin called Fluff had been complimentary, suggesting that Hetty, well preserved, could get away with late thirties.  My private estimate was middle fifties.  Bill, however, was more experienced and less kind - with a sharp eye.  He let rip an explosive guffaw. 

That ol’ queen?  Forty five!  Why, that mendacious bitch!  Why, he’s a painted hag.  He done put the clock back some 20 years.  Next time – look again.  You’ll see more art than nature.  Check out the little haggard lines at the corners of his eyes.  And those eyebrows!  Why, they’re more black than a nigger’s ass; more black than nature ever intended.  Huh!” 

This fat old American from the Mississippi Delta possessed a curious mixture of innate racism and [for 1966] a progressive attitude to homosexuals.   

He passed judgement on the actor Alan Bates who had twice stayed at the Old Swan Hotel. 

Didn’t ya know?  Why, sure.  It’s true.  He’s as queer as a three dollar bill but he don’t like it.  No, sir.  He’s paranoid about his lover Peter Wyngarde.  Peter told me so himself.  

‘I have to walk two paces behind Alan.  If we go to a party, we can never arrive together.  I have to go earlier – or later.’ 

Shit!  I wouldn’t stand for that!  No way.  I’ve been in this hotel for years an I seen it all.  It is so sad.  

Dirk Bogarde.  He’s been here with his boys but … shit … creepin’ around the corridors ... obsessed with secrecy, caution an God knows what!   

I don’t say to shout it from the rooftops but if folks like us could just find the courage to acknowledge friendships …  Shit!   

We should face the world as we are.




Future videos will feature Mr Toad, Dolly, Becksitch Betty, Jasper the Belper Crone, Nobby the Gnome, Guzzly Granddad, Simon Tonks, Shaun Stokes, Monks and Muckles.   

These quirky curiosities were seen as the ‘lower orders’ by my collection of sneering snobs forming the Derby and Nottingham elites headed by Claud Hoadley and his ‘nodding heads’.  They include David Bond, Hilary Raymond Hawley (HRH) and the appalling Clarence Soames.        






Double Life

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.