Below, click on the screenshots for each of
Additionally, below the last video you can read
Click below to meet a selection of some
outrageous characters in my novels
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 &
from Scruffy Chicken
Big Bill Bullman
From Scruffy Chicken
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
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,
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
‘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
‘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
‘As for Scruggs, well, he's just a complete waste of
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
‘I'm at my wits end just trying to find one -
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
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
Untold numbers of homosexuals have had their lives warped,
effectively destroyed by active evangelism and rabid
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
‘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
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
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
‘Ay ay. Last night ay. HOW WAS THAT FOR THE BOTTOM
OF THE BARREL? You enjoyed that ride on my stallion
last night - didn’t you! He he he.’
‘As Anne Boleyn said to Henry the 8th,’ responded Julian,
‘last night was a sample of what you won’t get.’
‘Well - I’m not going to give you the pleasure of refusing
me, Julian,’ retorted Mr Toad.
‘It would not be a pleasure, Mr Toad,’ responded Julian,
‘it would be - a necessity. For you see, I shall
journey afar, to join a monastery, never to have sex
He packed his bags and stormed out of the house. We
never saw him again.
Some days later, at the Derby Turkish Bath, I found myself
sitting next to Clarence Soames - 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
"Ooo arr,’ I continued. ‘Neat, really neat.
Looovely posh leather - nice wooden finish inside - all
good taste. I were admiring it when a tied me
bicycle oop tat lamp post outside.’
"Bicycle. How quaint," came the concise reply,
pregnant with derision.
I continued with enthusiasm, trying to ignore the
"Switches and boottons everywhere ... an automatic
transmission! Very few English cars as got automatic
"We have everything .... except money."
Condescending words, carefully enunciated with subtle
sarcasm, was offensive to me. And yet, for 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
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
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
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
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 ...
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
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
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?
Huh. Arr think Soondy. It me bothdy. Am
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.
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
I was just telling Gary we'll have to be going, Uncle
For a moment the sun went out! It was the shadow of a low
"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
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
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 -
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Know what - that meant everything.
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
"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
"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.
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
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
I noticed that on a walking holiday. Very often,
some peasant would say -
‘Owe do’ - to which Hoadley would respond - ‘Good
In a Youth Hostel, he was holding court, mesmerising his
admiring listeners with impressive vowels. One woman
‘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.
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
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
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
"Good evening, Claud. Well now, this is Narvel.
He lives in Detroit but he’s as English as the rest of
"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
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’
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
Teacher came to the rescue. An important
"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
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
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
I really do think there is a strong link between them.
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
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
A WAS IN THAT COTTAGE ALL DAY LONG - OLE AS BIG AS A
DINNER PLATE - AND NEVER REFUSED ONCE! AS I ALWAYS
SAY - THERE’S CORN IN EGYPT.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
On February 29th 2016, Ian Skye of BBC Radio Derby
interviewed me about my part in the Channel 4 film
Secrets of the Sauna which premiered in the UK on
March 2nd. I found Ian and his roving reporter Alex
Howick friendly and keenly interested in all aspects of
the documentary. Still a little under the weather
recovering from a cold, our conversation was quite a tonic
and perked me up no end.
here to hear the broadcast -
The titles below are available on kindle at
Sea Change and
Death on the Derwent
Are newly available in paperback
Click on titles below to look inside
Sea Change is Narvel's ninth
For more information click on the NEWS page or
Death on the Derwent
was first published in 1999 in paperback and was sold out
for many years, so we have re issued it by popular demand
To view Narvel's YouTube clips
To see Narvel's Information Sheets
Central Television and
The Central TV News item is available.
Click on to the following
Central TV News video
Extract from Lost
Lad and Heanor
Billy Fury, an icon of popular culture for Heanor youth in
1959 was the subject of discussion between Narvel Annable
and John Holmes on BBC Radio Derby in 1998. John surprised
the author by playing the original 1959 recording of Maybe Tomorrow at
the start of the interview. Having not heard that
particular version for some years, you can hear the
emotion in Narvel’s voice.
The Heanor Market Café of 1959 had two halves. To the
right of the central corridor, the snack bar, to the left
a quieter dining room for meals. Above the clatter of
pots, cutlery, comings and goings and the continuous hum
of conversation, the young diner could hear melodic
strains which travelled across the two rooms and
passageway. Music came from something very un-Heanor,
something new and different, rather like Simeon's American
dream car. It was a space-aged, push buttoned chrome and
gaudily illuminated cabinet called a 'jukebox' which
needed to be fed a three-penny bit for one play, a silver
sixpence for two plays, or five plays for a silver
shilling. Fascinated eyes watched a mechanical arm lift
selected popular 7" 45 rpm records and place them
precisely on an automatic deck. As the needle fell into
the lead groove, an anticipatory delicious electronic
'thud' would precede the ecstatic sounds to follow.
For the teenager in the next room munching through his
beans on toast (or whatever) - this was the birth of real
music. The charts of 1959 and 1960 were the very epicentre
of his musical experience. Simeon Hogg would spend the
rest of his life worshipping at that shrine of talented
excellence. He will, forever more, listen with nostalgic
reverence to the lush orchestrations and sexy boyish
voices which sang out through that small window of
creativity. Marty Wilde, Bobby Vee and Adam Faith
crystallised and defined his fresh green hopes, inspired
his dreams and fuelled his fantasies.
One day he
was entranced by what seemed like a sweet sounding choir
of angels ascending and descending the scale, complemented
by a resonant twangy bass guitar. Into this euphonious mix
came, exactly at the right time, a deep masculine voice
with just a hint of the sexy adolescent croak so typical
of this new young genre. He could easily have been
mistaken for Elvis, but, these dulcet tones were a touch
lighter and, for Simeon's taste, with great respect to The
King - better. This sensuous singer had composed both the
music and lyrics for this beautiful work which lasted
barely more than a precious two minutes. After such an
orgasmic audible experience, in complete contrast to the
hateful pious dirges of just a stone's throw away at the
bleak Dickensian Mundy Street Boys School, this new music
now became an important part of his life at William Howitt
Secondary Modern School – a culture of kindness.
During the following weeks, the same record was played
every day. Simeon struggled to hang on to those illusive,
hypnotic notes, above the ambient din of the busy Market
Cafe. A few occasional words were discerned -
and in the evening, by the moonlight ... "
knew not the name of the singer or the song title to be
able to ask for it in a record shop. A pointless exercise
not possessing a record player, let alone the expensive
seven shillings needed to purchase. Eventually the time
came when, nervously, this scruffy youth entered a shop
and held the precious vinyl disc with its grooved integral
encoded magical music, bearing the legend - Maybe Tomorrow.
Later, in that same store, examining the sleeve of a
prized long playing record; he stood very still and looked
… and looked. He peered long and hard into the stunningly
handsome features of his teenage idol - Billy Fury: an
image of Heanor popular culture in 1959.
1998, I've been interviewed on
BBC Radio Sheffield, Derby,
Nottingham, Manchester and Leicester.
To hear some
of those conversations, click on the following
Archive radio interviews
The following link will take you to the
Radio Derby interview of January 14th 2013. All extraneous
items have been edited out to leave about 20 minutes of my
Andy Potter interview
Narvel Annable's Biography has been
posted on the Writing East Midlands website. He is
available for Community Group Work / Lectures / Talks /
Panels / Live Performances and Workshops.
Narvel & Terry
at the Belper Literary
on May 18th. 2013
About Narvel Annable
My life has been a series of
re-inventions. In September 2010, a sudden promotion
catapulted me from local to global author. The Nazca
Plains Corporation in Las Vegas published my fourth novel
Secret Summer which is now available all over the world.
This boosted the sales of previous efforts including Lost
Lad set in Heanor, Derbyshire; a rugged, macho,
homophobic, hill top colliery town. Lost Lad follows the
transformation of a miserable prepubescent into the
confident and happy adolescent who was re-invented and
rechristened Dobba by his mates. This move from a grim,
gas lit, Dickensian Church of England all boys junior
school in 1958 to Howitt Secondary School, a culture of
kindness, was a dramatic improvement.
The first part of Lost Lad
documents growing suspicion brewing in Heanor at Mundy
Street Boys School, 1955 to 1957, where I was subjected to
a daily routine of physical and psychological torture. My
day started with prayers and hymns and ended with a desire
to be dead. Every day, one damaged boy endured humiliating
experiences affording no mercy. A sadistic schoolmaster
encouraged aggressive taunts, brutal insults, screaming
jeers reducing an already wretched boy to a very low level
of self esteem. And all that was dismissed as 'part of
cultural. The Annable's had been lumbered with a lad who
was 'not a proper lad'. A son who showed no interest in
football and could not defend himself with bare knuckles
in the playground brought dishonour upon his working class
A further re-invention is
described in my second autobiographic novel Scruffy
Chicken. It took place in 1963 when I immigrated into the
United States and arrived in Detroit on the day before the
assassination of President Kennedy. It was a steep
learning curve. The repressed Derbyshire teenager of thick
accent, deeply locked inside his shameful homosexual
closet, had to fit in as a clean cut American, to be
comfortable with his all-white racist buddies and appear
hot to trot for the chicks.
The following years in
Motown involved several jobs before graduating from
Eastern Michigan University (magna cum laude) in 1975
followed by a year teaching African-American history at St
Bridget High School. Adapting to this strict Catholic
environment, behind respectable spectacles, Narvel
imitated his former teachers and transformed himself into
a strict schoolmaster with traditional views. This was a
far cry from his parallel existence, the promiscuous,
secretive chicken who consorted with Negroes and haunted
the notorious bath houses of Detroit, Chicago and New York
from 1964 to 1976.
People have asked me, 'why did
you describe yourself as a scruffy chicken during your
1965 six month vacation in Britain?' Scruffy in the title
of Scruffy Chicken is not so much a comment on me; it is
more a criticism of the Derby and Nottingham snobs who
made me feel scruffy, scruffy accent, scruffy clothes,
scruffy manners, scruffy education etc.
Narvel Annable, Peter Tatchell & Terry
The secretive world of same-sex
attraction in the East Midlands of the mid 1960s was very
different from the gay scene in America where, for the
most part, men behaved like men. By British standards
Detroit was classless, a doctor sounded the same as a
dustman. Immaculately dressed effeminate English
homosexuals used their refined affected accents to demean
and exclude roughly spoken homosexuals classed as 'the
lower orders'. These were the invisible people who
inhabited an underworld of seedy public houses and back
street lavatories. Scruffy Chicken uncovers this twilight
world of curious characters - queens, crones, gnomes,
toads, goblins, feral boys - who were warped by vicious
homophobic cruelty and bigotry of mid 20th century
The following year, a rollercoaster of
passion and pain, magic and menace, is celebrated in my
latest novel Secret Summer. In 1966 I fell in love with a
mysterious tough guy who held me in the grip of agony and
ecstasy. The title - a comment on the necessity for gay
teenage boys to lust in secret, hunt in secret and love in
secret, is, sadly, still true here in the 21st century.
After several annual holidays in the UK in the late
1960s and early 1970s, chronic homesickness fuelled my
departure from Detroit, in 1976, to resettle in
Derbyshire. In the September of that year, I met my future
long term partner Terry Durand who was married with
children. The trauma and shock of coming to terms with his
life-long repressed same sex attraction triggered a
breakdown and several weeks in a psychiatric hospital.
Electric shock aversion therapy was suggested as a 'cure'
for his homosexuality. This low point was followed by a
painful and slow journey to eventual contentment and
Narvel & Terry on Honeymoon in Matlock Bath in 1976
On September 3rd 2013, we celebrated our
37 years together.
From 1978 to 1995, I was
a history master at the Valley Comprehensive School in
Worksop, North Nottinghamshire, quietly doing my job,
keeping my head down, keeping my private life very private
and contributing nothing to the gay cause. Like many other
homosexual teachers, I was isolated, terrified of being
exposed as 'a queer'. I was frightened of being humiliated
by ignorant pupils and colleagues in a deeply conservative
homophobic colliery community.
During this same
period, 'out and proud' brave people were giving an
enormous boost to the fledgling Campaign for Homosexual
Equality. A good example was
Richard McCance who was
elected to Nottingham City Council in 1983. He went on to
publish a gay and lesbian free sheet which eventually
expanded to 16 pages with a circulation of 5000 which must
have given succour and hope to untold numbers in the LGBT
community. Well done! He did all this. I did nothing.
Gay sex was decriminalised in 1967. However, people
like me, hiding in my small bungalow in the pit village of
Clowne, in the 1980's, effectively existed as outlaws
dodging disapproval, violent thugs and the dreaded
plain-clothes police who haunted gay venues as agents
To support this assessment of a
bleak decade, a disturbing incident seared into my memory.
I was sussed out and approached by a distressed teenage
boy, a grim picture of self-hate - tormented by a strong
sexual attraction for other boys. He needed to know that
there were others like himself. He needed a sympathetic
ear and practical advice. In fear of losing my job and the
good opinion of my colleagues, I gave him neither. I
played safe. To my eternal shame, I turned my back on this
cry for help.
The second incident, a few months
later, was horrific. He turned up at my door! He was a
shadow of his former self, appearing pale, drained and
defeated, accompanied by a woman and a child. This
unfortunate young man, like two former friends in Detroit,
had been brain-washed, bible-bashed into a heterosexual
zombie. He spoke a few well rehearsed words about sin and
redemption before, for the second time, out of fear, I
made polite apologies and closed my door on this victim of
active evangelism and rabid homophobia.
further re-invention: in 1995 I seized an opportunity to
escape from the restricting bonds of being a bogus
heterosexual schoolmaster to become a writer. I wrote as I
taught, with caution, hiding my true face from those who
would condemn me as immoral, wicked and sinful at worst,
sick, abnormal and disordered at best.
Several local newspapers and gay
magazines have supported me in printing letters which
challenge medieval religious attitudes. See LETTERS in
this website and read about my confrontations with
Catholics, Pentecostals, Mormons, the Salvation Army and
Jehovah's Witnesses. I am grateful to The Independent for
allowing my voice to travel far and wide on the subject of
Christian and Muslim fundamentalism. Especially pleasing
was the letter printed in The Independent on August 23rd
2011 in which I criticise the damaging 'deep and sincere
views' held by Lillian Ladele and also the homophobic
foster parents in Derby, Eunice and Owen Johns.
After two efforts dealing with my early schooldays, Death
on the Derwent, published in 1999, was received with
polite encouraging comments in the local press. This first
novel, like the author, was peopled by frustrated and
inhibited gay characters. It was followed by the biography
of a former teacher, A Judge Too Far in 2001. However, His
Honour Keith Matthewman QC is not the judge I best
remember. That honour goes to a High Court Judge of the
Old Bailey' Sir Brian Smedley 1934-2007 who was partly
the inspiration for Martin Harcourt QC in Scruffy Chicken
and Secret Summer.
Click on above to enlarge
In mid 1960s gay circles, it
was common knowledge that Brian was a Barrister. I met him
frequently in several venues and drooled over his
beautiful white Jaguar. He was a regular at our
'gentleman's club, the Derby Turkish Bath and was a
prestigious dinner guest in the homes of senior members of
the Derby and Nottingham LGBT community.
Richard Narvel &
at the Belper Literary
on May 18th. 2013
researching A Judge Too Far, it was a coincidence to
discover that Keith and Brian shared a close friendship
which went back to their early barrister days in Chambers
at The Ropewalk in Nottingham. In a formal letter, a blast
from the past, I politely asked Sir Brian if he would care
to contribute to the biography by sharing any interesting
or entertaining anecdotes about his one time colleague
Keith Matthewman. It seemed foolish to pretend that we
were strangers, so, in the last paragraph, I touched on
the fact that we had met and mentioned memorable dinner
parties and the names of a few old friends from our past.
His reply was hurtful. It included a few useful
references to his teaching days in Long Eaton and
recollections of his association with Keith and Jane
Matthewman. Notwithstanding, at the end, his tone became
stern and rather grand. Sir Brian Smedley, the High Court
Judge of the Old Bailey informed me that I was mistaken.
He had no memory of a teenager called Annable, no memory
of dinner parties or any of the people cited.
some minutes I stared into that letter from a man who
once, after dinner, counselled good advice to an anxious
boy trying to navigate through a frequently unreliable
world of secretive gay men riddled with all their own
personal problems, repressions and hang-ups. It felt like
a slap in the face. And yet - this lordly figure on high -
resplendent in his judicial robes had set off a process
which released me from my own repressions and hang-ups.
Another re-invention? I think so. The writer of
mediocre and safe subjects would transform into a writer
of important issues, essentially, he would battle with the
bigotry and ignorance which had blighted his life,
homophobia. After an escape from teaching, the fire in my
belly became a positive force for good. It burnt bright
and hot, fuelled by a deeper understanding of gay history
and the injustice which spanned centuries of human
existence. The discovery of writing and fighting for the
LGBT cause gave my life a new shape and real purpose.
Click on above to enlarge
On June 1st 2010, The Independent
printed my letter responding to a personal and political
tragedy which had come as a great blow to the new
coalition government. It could have been about Brian
Smedley. It was, in fact, about the Chief Secretary to the
Treasury, David Laws, who had just resigned after the
exposure of his secret lover, James Lundie, a relationship
unknown even to family and friends.
personal experience, I argued that continuing to be
defensive and closeted about his sexuality, David Laws
allowed homophobic elements in the heterosexual majority
to portray being gay as a personality flaw, or worse. Over
the previous ten years, his conduct has contributed to
undermine and undervalue the lives of millions of people
like me, making it more difficult to fight bigotry,
discrimination and ignorance.
To support this
position, I referred to Alan Bates and his secret lover
Peter Wyngarde who complained, 'I'm told to walk
two paces behind Alan. If we go to a party, we can never
arrive together. I have to arrive earlier, or later'.
Alan and Peter make a brief appearance in Secret
Picture by David Hemm
taken at Nottingham Pride
When Lost Lad was published in 2003,
sales slumped when local readers uncovered a gay theme. A
local councillor told me, 'After page 45, I didn't want
to read any more'. A few others had misunderstood the
homoerotic adolescent incident, graphically described in
the Belper Baths locker room, which actually happened in
the summer of 1959. It was as much about boasting and
boyhood power as experimental sex.
This dip in
sales was dramatically reversed after strong support from
an unexpected quarter in September 2005. On the strength
of previous titles, the Belper Women's Institute asked me
to talk to them about my work. I accepted and sent them a
selection of press cuttings and comments about Lost Lad to
assist the members in framing questions. Within a few
days, a curt letter arrived withdrawing the invitation
stating that 'It would not be suitable for our ladies.' As
I pondered this missive through doleful eyes, the phone
rang. The caller, from Torquay, described herself as a 66
year old grandmother who attends church regularly.
'I've just finished your novel. I'm deeply moved by
the sorrow and hurt suffered because of your sexual
orientation. Thank you so much for that window into an
interesting life and the guided tour of hills and dales of
Derbyshire: so picturesque.'
Appreciation for these
comments was expressed. However, she heard the melancholy
in my voice and asked why her enthusiasm was received in
such gloomy tones. I explained.
'What are you going
to do about it?'
'People like me are used to this
sort of attitude. There's not much I can do'
'Well! I know what I can do about it, and will do!'
She wrote a lengthy letter of outrage to the
Belper News. The latter sported a front page
headline screaming 'NO GAY SEX PLEASE, WE'RE THE BELPER
WI' followed by text sympathetic to the rejected guest
Click on above to enlarge
The Derby Telegraph COMMENT of September
21st 2005, under the headline 'A STANCE ROOTED IN
THE PAST' - fully supported my position. That, in turn, was
buttressed by a full page under a banner headline
author's talk is scrapped by WI ' and sub headline
'Blatant discrimination shocks retired teacher'. Both papers
displayed a large photograph of the author holding up the
front cover of his latest effort
Lost Lad. The result:
hundreds of copies were sold!
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Click on above to enlarge
Sales were further
buttressed by coverage on
Central News, the local
Narvel Annable would like extend a big
'thank you' to the Belper WI and the kind reader from
This event boosted my name and fame [or
infamy] from local to national level. Many UK libraries
stocked Lost Lad and Scruffy Chicken which followed in
2006. I can even credit these good ladies for ensuring
that The Nazca Plains Corporation in Las Vegas had become
aware of me when they received the Secret Summer
manuscript in the August of 2010.
Terry Durand and Ian Campbell
An invitation from Local Authorities and libraries to
talk about my work has been especially helpful in
educating and challenging homophobic ignorance. Support
from the Nottingham Evening Post, Derby Telegraph and the
Belper News to publicise these events, has been both
generous and essential to achieve a healthy turn-out, and
quite often a full house.
Click on above to
Click on above to
Click on above to
In February 2007, via
the Derby Telegraph, Derby City Council invited the public
to hear readings from Scruffy Chicken at the Central
Library and engage the author in conversation. In the
audience, I was delighted to see the former Mayor of the
City of Derby, Robin Wood, whose contribution in
questions and comment was much appreciated.
in that gathering was an unknown Canadian who took a
special interest in the proceedings which would give
Scruffy Chicken international promotion. On May 10th 2007,
Vancouver's Lesbian and Gay Biweekly newspaper XTRA! West
www.xtra.ca, ran a
generous half page feature under the headline 'Ugly Old Trolls'
and sub headline 'Gay life
through the eyes of a scruffy chicken 'OLD VS YOUNG' by
Brad Teeter. Thank you, Brad.
Click on above to
All these events are
well documented with press cuttings which appear on my
regular A4 hard copy News Sheets which started with Sheet
1 in 2003. The XTRA! West feature dominated Sheet 77 and,
at the time of writing, the most recent Sheet 130, dated
June 2011, is typical. Three letters about a courageous
gay prison inmate called Richard appeared in the
Nottingham Evening Post and
Derby Telegraph. To give
depth, my original letter is placed next to a letter of
support and a critical letter. Next to a photograph of the
Nottingham Council House, there is an item from
Queer Bulletin about the
Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage
www.nottsrainbowheritage.org.uk Celebration Evening in the
Council House Ballroom in February 2011. Two further
pictures show a display board highlighting my campaigning
and letters over the last three years. A caption gives
thanks to Roger Hollier for his skill, time and trouble in
producing this effective exhibit.
If readers are
interested in seeing any of these 130 sheets, free of
charge, I can post via 'large letter' up to 12 sheets at a
time. Please send a postal address to
email@example.com or write to me at 44 Dovedale
Crescent, Belper, Derby DE56 1HJ, or phone 01 773 82 44
On Sheet 83 - the Heanor Library event of
February 2008 was also memorable. The two back rows where
full of women - so enthusiastic, so supportive in body
language, so helpful in eye contact - they deserve special
mention. Throughout my gay life, I have seen a continuing
social apartheid between gay men and lesbians. How very
sad ? one half of homosexual humanity ignoring the other
half. If we take that attitude, we are all diminished and
The success of Lost Lad gave
me the opportunity to be interviewed on
Television, BBC Radio Derby and BBC Radio Nottingham.
Scruffy Chicken took me further afield.
Manchester [GMR] invited me to discuss the novel twice
during March 2006. In 'Gay Talk'
'Scruffy Chicken was a great read. I know it's the old
clich' but, really; I just couldn't put it down!'
In the following edition of 'Gay Talk', I was in
conversation with its producer, Ashley Byrne who took a
special interest in my next project Secret Summer.
On April 3rd 2006, I was the guest of
Robinson of BBC Radio Sheffield. Several phone calls from interested
listeners extended the interview up to one hour. It was
good to be invited back in March 2010 to discuss issues
raised in Secret Summer. I had the opportunity to be a
part of the
BBC Radio Sheffield discussion on homophobia
ahead of Sheffield Pride on July 16th 2011. Giving air
time to these important matters was appreciated. It was
kind of Toby Foster to invite my comments on the gay
marriage controversy on August 20th 2011.
to thank the
Sheffield Star. Over the years, it has
printed my letters, articles and one full page feature
[Sheet 52] on Scruffy Chicken by
Martin Dawes - 18.04.06.
It highlighted trials suffered during a lifetime trying to
hide from the ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and
bigotry from some of the heterosexual majority.
April 24th 2006,
Julie Mayer of BBC Radio
questions about Scruffy Chicken. She focused on my life
and encounters with homophobia.
As part of Gay
History Month, February 2009,
Heritage invited me as Guest of Honour to the launch of
'View from the Top' the biggest LGBT exhibition in the UK
at Waterston's in Nottingham. It is a valuable collection
of photographs, books, pictures, diagrams, newspaper
cuttings and a wide range of LGBT memorabilia going back
many years. Had it not been for the brave efforts of
Nottinghamshire's Rainbow Heritage, Scruffy Chicken would
never have seen the light of day.
In March 2009,
Derby City Council held a Tri-Network Event in which I was
invited to address the gathering about my life and work.
In January 2010, the Derbys Rainbow Fringe Festival
asked me to speak
at Derby Central Library and also at a number of other
venues for Gay History Month, February 2010. After putting
sparkle and hope into a usually drab month, they
organised, managed, promoted and hosted several LGBT
events in the autumn of that year and the following Gay
History Month of February 2011. I am grateful to have been
associated with the Derbys Rainbow Fringe Festival. They
gave me the opportunity to speak at Chesterfield Library,
Derby University and to have the honour of introducing
Peter Tatchell on his first visit to Derby.
invitations as a guest speaker came from Nottinghamshire's
Rainbow Heritage. In February 2010; I gave readings from
Secret Summer to a full house at the Voluntary Action
Centre. I'm indebted to the Editor of Queer Bulletin for
providing necessary publicity for my books, several
Nottinghamshire engagements and some campaigning letters,
not least the sudden disappearance of Jack Carrier in QB
It happened in our colliery village
of Stanley Common in 1959 when I was a frustrated, deeply
repressed 14 year old scruffy chicken. We had a shy and
gentle postmaster called Jack Carrier. One day he was
there - the next day he was gone!
to him?' I asked mother.
'That one! Huh! Good
riddance,' she snapped. 'E were one of them funny sorts.
No good to any woman,' she growled.
The effect on
me? Well, it was the same as the effect on hundreds of
thousands like me. I hid inside of myself. I became
withdrawn and tried to pretend to desire girls. I drifted
into a secret world of fear and insecurity.
Jack had been discovered in some way, denounced and driven
out of Stanley Common by ignorant homophobic outrage. In
those dark days of rabid gay hate, it was considered quite
natural for a heterosexual to 'chat up' a woman. However,
if a homosexual engaged another man in conversation, that
was seen as 'soliciting for an immoral purpose'. Many
victims were entrapped by the CID in plainclothes and
humiliated in the local press. Did this happen to Jack?.
The above formed the main theme of my visit to North
Nottinghamshire College in Worksop, when I addressed
students and staff on the subject of homophobic ignorance
in March 2009. On the strength of that occasion, in the
following July, I delivered a similar talk to an audience
of Nottinghamshire teachers in Mansfield at the West
Nottinghamshire College. Following an imaginative
presentation about homophobic bullying by Councillor Ian
Campbell - (future Mayor of Retford) to make my point, I
revisited the pain and suffering of a famous actor called
Wilfrid Brambell who was entrapped by agents provocateurs
Cruel and humiliating tabloid headlines
screamed out 'Old Man Steptoe caught importuning to commit
a lewd act' . 'Albert Steptoe arrested by police' and
Junk Man charged with gross indecency'.
over the pages of the popular press, this reinforced the
generally held prejudice that a homosexual looked and
acted just like the shambling, dirty decrepit, toothless,
unshaven old man better known to the nation as Albert
Steptoe. I'm grateful to Gay Times [Sheet 102] for
printing my letter about this event in October 2009.
In May 2010 [Sheet 111] in recognition of valuable
contributions to the LGBT Community of Derby, along with
several others, Derby Pride nominated me for the Jeffery
Tillett Award. Quite an honour. However, many of us
concurred with the choice of the eventual winner who has
done so much to improve the quality of life for local gay
people. His insistence that the award be presented to the
whole Derbyshire Friend team of conscientious workers /
volunteers will add even more respect and prestige to the
good name of Toni Montinaro MBE.
, 01 332 20 77 04
In February 2010, I was
also nominated for an Equity Partnership Award for Best
Individual Contribution to LGB Communities in Bradford at
a prestigious ceremony in the French Ballroom of the
Midland Hotel. Once again, a better man won. Mark
Michalowski, for many years the editor of Shout! Magazine
has made an invaluable contribution to the West Yorkshire
gay community. www.gayers.co.uk
It is always
heartening to have a campaigning voice travel far and
wide. I would like to thank the Bradford Telegraph & Argus
for printing a number of my letters on gay issues ? not
least the generous full page 'Book of the Week' feature by
Emma Clayton praising Secret Summer on April 15th 2011.
The last nine chapters are set in Yorkshire. See Sheet
Whilst not hailing from Bradford, I had been
invited as guest speaker at several Bradford Pride events
and also at the first ever Civic Reception for the LGB
communities in the city to mark the International Day
Against Homophobia in May 2009.
Paul Hunt, leading
light of West Yorkshire, Chief Features Writer of SHOUT!
Magazine and chairman of Bradford?s LGB focus group told
the Derby Telegraph ?
'All Narvel's books are
successful in Yorkshire. We felt he would give an
excellent speech and connect strongly with the hundreds of
people who will be there on this IDAHO Day.'
from his review of Scruffy Chicken in 2007, Paul Hunt has
been a stalwart source of encouragement and support for my
activism and writing. Thank you, Paul.
In some of
my letters to the press, in an assessment of gay progress,
you will see the occasional use of the clich' 'We have
come a long way, but there is still a long way to go'. How
true. There is plenty of evidence to support both cases.
For example, 21 year old gay man, Oliver Hemsley might
well take a pessimistic view of LGBT progress. During a
homophobic attack in October 2008, he was battered over
the head with a glass bottle and stabbed seven times,
leaving him permanently paralysed and disabled. This, one
of many 'queer bashings', was near the George and Dragon,
Oliver?s local gay pub.
There had been warnings,
and those warnings continue! In early 2011, stickers were
plastered around East London declaring it to be a 'Gay
Free Zone,' threatening that Allah's punishment for
homosexuality was severe.
Graeme Taylor who
attends high school in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA might well
take an optimistic view of LGBT progress. At the age of
14, he is an excellent, confident speaker. In August 2011,
he was a guest on an American national TV programme, the
'Ellen De Generes Show' courageously explaining how and
why he came out of his closet, telling his friends he was
Martin Luther King told us that 'people
shouldn't be judged by the colour of their skin, but by
the content of their character. I want to be treated in
the same way. I should not be judged by who I love.'
A New Novel from Narvel
A Mystery set in Derbyshire 1958
Here is a
controversial story of transformation: a journey from
despair to delight. Adolescence is the change from boy to
man. In a sequel to Lost Lad, Simeon Hogg escapes from a
living hell into an enchanted world of fairytale people
inhabiting the hidden nooks and crannies of deepest
Derbyshire. Follow him as he transforms from a rough and
miserable urchin who - 'suffers a sea-change into
something rich and strange' as sung by Ariel, the airy
spirit from The Tempest.
In previous titles,
Narvel Annable has disclosed a promiscuous life style. He
includes confidential erotic and embarrassing details
which many gay boys and men of the 1950s have taken to
their graves. In this brutally honest autobiographic
novel, he goes further. He revisits his Dickensian Mundy
Street Boys School ordeal of sex slavery and cruel
bullying in Heanor. He reveals more youthful adventures
set in the shadowy world of homosexuality. With the help
of legislation and enlightened education, the gay
community of the 21st century hopes these horrors, which
have damaged so many, have gone forever.
novel explodes myths and challenges conventional thinking.
Whilst not condoning, it does not condemn. At the brink of
self destruction, Simeon's sexual abuser becomes his
saviour, persuading him, giving him courage to escape and
live, rather than to stay and die.
Hopefully to be published
before Christmas 2014
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Narvel’s links with Matlock Bath
The Grand Pavilion
October 2012, Terry and I were pleased to become Friends
of the Grand Pavilion and take an interest in the regular
emails sent to us by Gregor Macgregor.
to Trina for time and trouble invested in visiting Terry
and myself on the Monday morning of March 11th. She told
me it was a preliminary interview in advance of a more
formal recording for the Oral History part of the Grand
Pavilion Project. An hour with Trina was quite an
experience! An entertaining whirlwind of enthusiasm and
energy, she must be a powerful asset for the Grand
To slay the dragon of prejudice
and discrimination, I was delighted the project wanted to
hear from people like me and my partner of 37 years, Terry
Durand. Most of us meet gay people every day – but don’t
know it. LGBTs can make themselves invisible! Being open
about our sexuality is the best way to cut through decades
of fear and mythology. To be closeted and secretive,
simply hands ammunition to the hostile.
Terry and I
spent our ‘honeymoon’ in our favourite resort of Matlock
Bath at the Temple Hotel in the first week of September
1976. In the following week, after the stress of coming to
terms with his sexuality, Terry suffered a breakdown, was
removed to a psychiatric hospital [Mickleover] and offered
Electric Aversion Therapy to ‘cure’ him of his
Homophobia is unacceptable. I hope
the Oral History will address this particular ignorance
and turn it around in a positive way to promote that
positivity. In this way, people who hear our voice might
be educated on an issue which, especially in rural
England, only a few years ago, was considered taboo.
Around Matlock Bath and The Grand Pavilion there is a
whole untold secret history – now told in two novels
Scruffy Chicken and Secret Summer - copies of which I have
donated to The Grand Pavilion together with several sheets
of cuttings for background information. Extracts from the
Matlock Mercury and
Derby Telegraph highlight my long-term
connection with Matlock Bath.
A former friend,
Matlock man and popular drag act Herbert Siddons
[1924-2003] was famous for his Old Mother Riley
impersonations at the Matlock Lido in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Matlock Mercury feature Popular Drag Artiste
Remembered was printed on March 16th 2006. It explains how
Herbert inspired the character of Becksitch Betty
inScruffy Chicken. An odd effeminate man, he had a
strangely mobile writhing mouth: it seemed to move all
over his face, possibly the result of a broken jaw.
I have a faint memory of Herbert reminiscing about his
appearances at the Matlock Picture Palace and the Matlock
Bath Grand Pavilion. He also performed as Carmen Miranda
and Gracie Fields.
The principal character of
Secret Summer, a gorgeous butch-as-a-brick hunk I call
Ahmed, detested all effeminate men and especially Matlock
Bath! During his first visit to the UK in 1967, at his
expense, we travelled around in an impressive flashy Ford
Zodiac staying at top hotels. He loved London and was keen
to visit the Derbyshire his ‘Booby’ [pet name for Narvel]
had always raved about. I thought Matlock Bath was the
most beautiful place in the world. My lover had hardly
ventured out of hideous-flat-tar-and-cement Detroit.
Therefore, I was so sure - once he had explored the mossy
nooks and crannies of this idyllic Derbyshire Shangri-La –
Ahmed would never want to leave it. To my horror, he
wanted to leave it, as soon as he set eyes on it!
As a contrast to the posh hotels, I booked us into a
quaint friendly B&B called The Laurels at the foot of
Holmes Road where it meets Brunswood Road. It was a
The Christmas before, I infuriated one
of Derby’s snooty set by leaving the party with a fellow
teenager, a stunning stud with golden hair. Our host,
Claud Hoadley, as I call him in Scruffy Chicken, the First
Homosexual of Derbyshire, ranted about this ‘unacceptable
elopement’ in which two chickens, perfect strangers,
presented themselves at the door of The Laurels asking for
accommodation under heavy snow fall in the bleak
midwinter. The kind lady showed us a double bed – no
questions asked. An excellent breakfast complete with a
pretty yuletide view over the magnificent panorama of High
Tor was just as romantic.
Six months later, Detroit
met Derbyshire – it was hate at first sight. In sulky
silence Ahmed and his Booby strolled along North and South
Parade. Nothing pleased the American; nothing charmed him.
Deeply in love, I’d dreamed of the day when we’d steal a
kiss on Lovers Walk - but he refused even to cross the
River Derwent via Jubilee Bridge. He found the whole thing
primitive (I think he said ‘medieval’) nasty, common,
parochial and horribly cheap. The disaster came to an
abrupt end after a miserable night on a lumpy bed in The
Laurels. He would not eat breakfast and even declined a
cup of tea practically throwing two pound notes at the
bemused lady – ten shillings more than she needed. We were
back in London before noon. I was utterly miserable - but
we refused to give up - desperately trying to bridge the
unbridgeable, attempting to make our fragile relationship
work against a backdrop of hostile homophobia.