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

Here follows follows the Froggy transcript 

I’m often asked - how does a homosexual meet up with another homosexual?  I’ll tell you about Froggy - yes, Froggy.  A daft name perhaps, but many of my friends have false names because they lead double lives.   

They move in circles of anonymity.  I met Froggy at Heanor fair in the autumn of 1965.

October was more than normally very cold, misty with ever longer nights and shorter days.  It was dark before seven. 

Bundled up with a thick black bomber jacket under a black woolly hat; I gravitated to my favourite ride, the Waltzer. 

My garb was part disguise and part trying to keep warm on a chilly evening. 

Recognition from Howitt Secondary Modern School friends would have been welcomed, but the Market Place fair was just a stone’s throw from the menace of Mundy Street Boys School which nearly destroyed me in 1957. 

Mundy Street was a culture of cruelty.  Howitt was a culture of kindness where I was known as Dobba.

I suppose I came out of a nostalgic compulsion to reconnect with boyhood excitement - to soak up all the fun of the fair. 

I’d enjoyed the October fair of 1959 with Howitt mates, cheek by jowl, crammed into one of the Waltzer cars spinning furiously with assistance of rough fairground lads.

These sexy greasy gaff boys, in their tempting tight blue jeans, were an important part of the erotic atmosphere. 

With poise, they rode the whirling Waltzer waves - round and round - up and down - perfectly balanced as I strained to catch glimpses of beautifully formed buttocks. 

Butch bums were irresistible - but - I did resist making comment to my mates.  Their comments were along the lines of -

       ‘Whoor!  Dobba.  Look at them tits!!

The strains of Helen Shapiro lamenting I Don’t Care - conjured a dangerous cocktail of menace and magic.  Dangerous, because brawny bottoms can quickly become violent if deviant desire is detected. 

I’d long since learned to avoid eye contact with the alluring features of a yob that needed little excuse to punch a poof for the amusement of his fellow thugs.

Watching the Waltzer - and that untouchable gaff boy, I recalled the frustrations of years before when Gaff boys aroused a lewd longing. 

Trying to sneak a crafty peek at a tantalising ruffian, I noticed a different type of lad in the crush of others on the Waltzer gantry.

It was a small face - a pretty face - under a bobble hat with a few escaping curls. 

In the moment when eyes met eyes, I felt empathy and sympathy for this little chap with his button nose and cheeky grin. 

I muscled through the crowd along the gantry to the place where bobble hat was last seen.  Nostrils were assailed by the odour of crushed bodies blended with hamburger, hotdog, diesel and candy floss. 

Raucous yelps and screams blended with generators and blaring pop records - all contributing to the unique magic of a fairground.

Bobble hat had gone!  Not there!  I felt sudden panic.  Where was that peeping pale face? 

I wandered over to the ghoul infested frontage of the Haunted House with its artwork of skeletons, skulls, gravestones and various bloody impressions of the living dead. 

Somebody jostled me.  It was a small smiling bobble hat, very close, straining upwards, up close to my face making a funny noise - ‘Eeeee!’

An immediate judgment was formed.  This diminutive boy was odd - very odd!  I assessed him as child-like rather than child-ish.  In gentle tones, I said - 

       ‘Hello.  I'm Dobba.  What's your name?’

      ‘Froggy.’

      ‘Froggy?’

      ‘Froggeeee!’

     ‘That’s an unusual name.’

In that first glance across the Waltzer, I’d established a certain understanding, a feeling that here was a kindred spirit on the same wavelength. 

Not simple, not a feeble mind, but a character who has cleverly adapted himself to survive in a cruel homophobic world.

Under bright lights, I had an opportunity to assess my intriguing companion.  He was clean and well dressed.  This spoke of parents who took their duties seriously. 

Froggy was well fed and well shod in a culture where such adequate standards were not always reached. 

In the 1960s, Heanor was still relatively primitive.

Feeling the need for a quiet chat, a stroll to the park was suggested behind the Market Place where silence and darkness would be more conducive to a heart-to-heart.

At the park gates, Froggy plunged into an unending chirpy chatter on a variety of subjects.  At 19 to the dozen, he rattled on about fair rides, slot machines, the weather (lots of weather) - and now his latest boyfriend.

       ‘Eeee, lookeee; look wot I got!’

From somewhere on his person, Froggy produced a newspaper cutting.  Many times folded, it was a frayed photograph of a young man, an impressive fellow with dream-boat features. 

I looked long and hard at this greased, groomed image of a fantasy boyfriend.  Now in the park, just visible from the street lamp, Froggy burst into sudden song and dance -

       ‘Like a tiger, oooh, oooh, oooh, like a tiger - WOW!  I wanna growl...  eeee.’

With oodles of enthusiasm, he launched himself into several orbits around me - hopping, hoofing, skipping with twirls and whirls in an ecstasy of homage to his teen idol.

The hunk causing Froggy to do cart wheels around me was a one-hit-wonder. 

Truth to tell, by 1965, this singer was already passé.  His short reign was more early 60s - but - oh God!  His dazzling beauty! 

I kid you not, he drove me crazy!  He had a good singing voice, plus a mesmerising speaking voice - so sexy!  It was smooth yet tremulous like ... he on the edge of orgasm.  He was 17 and oozed eroticism.  Oh! to be young again.

What’s a Fabian?  That’s how he was packaged - promoted.    Later it was, “Fabian is coming” and then “Fabian is HERE.”    

Then the record came out.  Everybody was singing - “Like a tiger, oooh, oooh, oooh, like a tiger - WOW!  I wanna growl...” 

I remember it being played endlessly on the jukebox in the Heanor Milk Bar.  For a while, the world went Fabian mad. 

Anyway, we ambled further into the park and deeper darkness.  The mood was different.  We found a bench.  Froggy became serious losing some of his child-like chatter.   

I saw a different side of this little chap.  Like many of us, he had an alternative personality - one serious and one seen by the world.

I should know.  For decades, I hid behind the stern mask of a strict schoolmaster. 

The boy I’ve described was real enough and he had depth.  On that bench he revealed a heartrending history, disclosing a staggering catalogue of cruelty. 

Emotional damage was sustained by a single occurrence in his earlier schooldays. 

He was seen kissing another boy. 

That’s it, just a simple kiss.  This incident triggered months of appalling bullying extending beyond the school gates into his home with gay hating abuse and bricks through windows.  The family was forced to move to Heanor where they were unknown.

With much in common, Froggy and I became lifelong friends and we’re still friends today. 

As an adult he was unable to work because deep trauma has adversely affected this victim’s mental and physical health - a life blighted by ignorance, bigotry and homophobia. 

But - he’s a fighter - a survivor and a loyal follower of my campaigning.  It’s a privilege to have known him. 

I dedicate this little story to Froggy.

 

 

To see 'A Tale of Jasper, The Belper Crone' performed on 19th May 2017 at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby - click on the link below

Hello Readers,

Here, follows the script of this performance.

All characters in my autobiographic novels are based on real people and real events.  The funniest has to be the one known as Mr Toad.  

Way back in 1965, when I was a scruffy chicken, mischievously, I introduced Mr Toad to an attractive but affected, artificial effeminate youth called Julian.

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

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

Always waggled his fingers when excited.

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

‘Most unlikely,’ said Julian, who sounded just like a girl.   ‘You, Mr Toad, are GROTESQUE.  Look at your mouth.  It’s like a crack in a pie.   Sex with you would be scraping the bottom of the barrel.’     

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

‘Oooh!  Oooh!  Oooh!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘It would not be a pleasure, Mr Toad,’ responded Julian, ‘it would be - a necessity.  For you see, I shall journey afar, to join a monastery, never to have sex 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 - no less, 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 a senior figure from the ranks of the Nottingham Camp - a social climbing snob.  I attempted conversation.

‘I like ya car.’

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

"Indeed?"

"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 52 years, I’ve remembered and admired those words as much as I had genuinely admired the posh car. 

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

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

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

We move on.  The character attracting most comment in my books is The Belper Crone.  I call him Jasper.  He dwelled in a primitive isolated cottage under raucous rooks.  There was no electricity.  Water came from a well in the garden.

Jasper practiced legendary talents of body massage very keen to offer the 'extras'.

He was gnarled and craggy.  At first sight, I beheld a large hawk nose, far forward of deep set grizzled leering eyes. BIG EYES This hideous hunchback looked positively Jurassic.

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

At that time, a camp rotundity called Dolly was circulating around the cottages.  Occupying the next WC cubicle, he amused us with the following anecdote.

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

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

So through the hole, I said “Hello”

“Ello.”  Came the reply

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

“Very busy!  Ave ad me teeth out all day.  Meh. 

Ooooh - big blokes!  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 an old decrepit Victorian latrine.  We came to a dark cubicle apparently empty.  

Couldn’t see anything - but heard - a sound - a sort of 'clickkkk'.

‘Did you hear it?’ whispered Dolly standing behind me. 

‘Lucky boy!  It’s the Click of a Crone.  It's the prelude to pleasure,’ sighed this little fat man in soft, round vowels. ‘Advance!  Yield!  Offer yourself to this master of the extended orgasm.  Give yourself - and know true bliss.’

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

‘Where’s me choppers?  Meh.  A put em somewhere.  Ave ya seen em?  Ooo it’s dark!  A can’t see oat.  Ooo sorry!

Fuck off!!!

Well move out at way.  Shift!  Where’s me teeth?  Where are thee.  Meh!’

And that folks, crude at times, gives an accurate flavour of life, as it was, for me, way back in the dirty dark desperate days of the 1960s.

Despite free admission, it was good to see that £70 was raised and split between Derbyshire LGBT + and the Chechen LGBT+ charity to help those poor people where gay men are currently being imprisoned and tortured.

Special thanks to Allan Morton who filmed and promoted part of Dan Webber’s event on one of his ALLAN MORTON PRESENTS YouTube videos together with photographs, tweets and Facebook postings.

 

 

Hello Readers, 

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.

 

Click here to hear the broadcast -

 

 

 

The titles below are available on kindle at

  £2.11  each

 Sea Change and

Death on the Derwent "Second Edition"

Are newly available in paperback

Click on titles below to look inside

 

                          

Sea Change is Narvel's ninth title

 

 

Death on the Derwent was first published in 1999 in paperback and was sold out for many years, so we have re issued it by popular demand

-----------------------------

 

 

To see Narvel's Information Sheets

click here

 

 

Central Television and BBC Radio



Hello Readers,

The Central TV News item is available. Click on to the following

 

 

 


 

 

Extract from Lost Lad and Heanor Schooldays 

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 ... "

He 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.
 



Since 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 BBC Radio Derby interview of January 14th 2013. All extraneous items have been edited out to leave about 20 minutes of my conversation with Andy Potter.

Andy Potter interview


Best wishes,

Narvel

 

 

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 Festival

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 growing up'.

It's 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 family.



 

 

 


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 Durand

 

 

 

       Terry       Julie       Peter         Sonya     Narvel

 


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 Britain.

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 happiness.

  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 provocateurs.

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.

Cue a 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 & Terry at the  Belper Literary Festival

on May 18th. 2013



In 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.

For 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.

Drawing on 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 Summer.

 

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 Derby Telegraph and 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 speaker.

 

 

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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  'Gay 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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Sales were further buttressed by coverage on Central News, the local East Midlands TV.

Narvel Annable would like extend a big 'thank you' to the Belper WI and the kind reader from Torquay.

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.

 

 

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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.

Also 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.

 

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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 Nottinghamshire?s 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  narvel@narvelannable.co.uk  or write to me at 44 Dovedale Crescent, Belper, Derby DE56 1HJ,  or phone 01 773 82 44 83.

 

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 socially impoverished.

The success of Lost Lad gave me the opportunity to be interviewed on Central Television, BBC Radio Derby and BBC Radio Nottingham. Scruffy Chicken took me further afield. BBC Radio Manchester [GMR] invited me to discuss the novel twice during March 2006. In 'Gay Talk'  Nigel Soni said ,

'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 Rony 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.

I'd like 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.

On April 24th 2006, Julie Mayer of BBC Radio Leicester asked questions about Scruffy Chicken. She focused on my life and encounters with homophobia.

As part of Gay History Month, February 2009, Nottinghamshire's Rainbow 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.

Other 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 January 2011.

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!

'What's happened 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.

Clearly 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 in 1962.

Cruel and humiliating tabloid headlines screamed out 'Old Man Steptoe caught importuning to commit a lewd act' .  'Albert Steptoe arrested by police' and 'TV Junk Man charged with gross indecency'.

Splashed 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.

Derbyshire Friend ,  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 124.

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.'

Dating 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 gay.

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

Sea Change

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.

This 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 Project

Last 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.

I’m grateful 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 Pavilion Project.

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 homosexuality.

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 favourite.

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.

 





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NEW
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.