Extracts from Secret Summer
Dreams of Derbyshire
As usual, Simeon Hogg was homesick for England. As usual,
to ease this chronic misery, he indulged himself by
'playing back' a pleasant memory of cycling along leafy
Derbyshire lanes. He selected a recollection from his
early teens, a ride from Belper to Wirksworth, a cool
bright day in late September. The boy stood hard on
pedals. Slowly, very slowly in low gear he pumped up a
steep, pretty little lane, up, up to those windswept
heights, up into the scent of fern and browning bracken.
This trip was memorable for its beauty, but also for its
challenge. Simeon was often stopping to study his
precious, cloth-bound, 'one inch' Ordnance Survey map in
an effort to carefully navigate through a confusing myriad
of many narrow, winding country lanes, all going
everywhere. There were lots of cross-roads with intriguing
signs pointing to odd sounding places - Gorseybank,
Shottle, Alderwasley, Alport Height, Idridgehay - all so
very strange - all so very Derbyshire.
Illuminated by dazzling autumnal sunshine, brilliant white
clouds were chased by the wind across a heavenly vault of
deep blue. This same wind roared through a battle-scared
ash tree, danced the bracken, flattened the open meadow
but appeared to have no power over a stubborn craggy old
hawthorn at the edge of his pretty lane. Tirelessly, it
speeded Simeon and moved a million different weeds. There
were weeds mature after a long summer, weeds deep green
and weeds beautifully brown flashing by as the lane sank
into a ravine and then suddenly ascended to reveal
magnificent views to the west.
The physical exertion, the physical pleasure, the rhythm
of waving trees was consistent with Simeon's own body
rhythms. Breaths of sweet fresh air, his increased
heart-beat born of ecstatic exercise could never be
achieved in a vast conurbation called Detroit.
Here, in his head, he was home. Here, over a swath of
impenetrable prickly gorse he could see forever. Here, on
his bicycle, he was on top of the world, could see a view
of the whole world endlessly stretching out until it
dissolved into a misty distant ... and, as the reverie
weakened ... the scene dissolved and resolved back into
the present reality ... a grim reality.
These were not the sunlit green hills of Derbyshire in
late September 1959. These were the hideous, blighted,
flat expanses of an endless, benighted conurbation in
early January 1966. A sadder Simeon, barely out of his
teens, navigated his car off the I94 Edsel Ford Freeway to
join the John Lodge Freeway which would speed him into
Even though his destination was sex, he was still sad
owing to a massive complexity of problems, of which,
homesickness for England was just a part. At this moment,
on the Lodge Freeway, this unhappy 20 year old, trapped in
an alien land, was overwhelmed by a multitude of vague
miseries. He was incapable of analysing, unable to
untangle the convoluted complications of his present
circumstances. No professional gay-friendly counsellors
were available - would not be available - for another four
decades. Simeon was repressed. Simeon was isolated from
friends, family and colleagues by the brick wall of
ignorance, bigotry and prejudice which today we refer to
as homophobia. Emotionally, he was hiding inside of
himself. Effectively, he was an outlaw. He was cut off
from all the well established heterosexual social
structures of family support.
Simeon knew that he was queer. He knew it every time he
saw a comely face, every time he saw nice butch bulges
held snug inside of tight fitting sexy jeans. He also knew
that it was wrong to be queer. He accepted received
opinion about a certain 'disgusting disorder' which was
sometimes treated with electric shock aversion therapy.
Still imprisoned inside the primitive peasant values of
his working-class family, and, in the absence of educated,
enlightened counsel, Simeon Hogg was falling victim to
that most dreaded malaise which often infected homosexuals
in the mid 20th century - self hate.
For as long as he could remember, the heterosexual
majority had, at every opportunity, reinforced their hard
line against queers, perverts, poufs. These ingrained
homophobic attitudes, written in stone, written inside his
very being, came down from the very top of society often
referred to as 'the Establishment'.
When the World Health Organisation was established in
1948, homosexuality was officially regarded, classified as
a 'severe mental sickness' and remained so until May 17th
1990. This was one of the most important events in Gay
History, an event now celebrated annually by Lesbian, Gay
and Bisexual people as the International Day Against
But Rainbow Flags, Gay Pride Events and publicly funded
support groups like Derbyshire Friend were still
unthinkable, still decades away from the current reality
of this sad young Englishman who was trying to survive,
trying to make sense of, trying to engage with the
illegal, seedy, secret homosexual underworld of North
America on this bleak mid-winter evening, January 8th,
Brief Encounter in Bradford
Reading for Bradford Pride - 28.05.09
An edited extract from Secret Summer.
Not far from Bradford city centre, Simeon cycled down
narrow terraced streets, surprised and impressed to see
women on their hands and knees scrubbing doorsteps and
whole sections of pavement in front of their house.
He fell into conversation with a man who looked just like
Andy Capp from theDaily Mirror,
but Mr Capp was doubtful when asked about bed and
breakfast. Kindly, he had a quick word with ‘the missus’
and suggested the cyclist might share a simple meal and
stay the night. A man of few words, he ignored the boy’s
offer to pay the standard fifteen shillings.
Simeon reasoned that a city the size of Bradford could
support at least one gay pub – possibly more than one –
but - especially in 1966 - a warning instinct prevented
him from putting that question to Mr and Mrs Capp over the
dinner table. Accordingly, after the repast, he consulted
at the nearest homosexual Tourist Information Centre – the
“The Junction! It’s at the bottom of Leeds Road. That’s
need to be,” said a chatty chicken, with a cheeky smile,
known as Fluff. “I’ll take you there.” For an underage
drinker, this sexy number was surprisingly well informed.
“It’s really old, seventeen something. The atmosphere in
there is fantastic! Hey! In Victorian times it became a
regular haunt for actors,” continued Fluff, flashing
another enticing smile.
“Cora, she’s the landlady, well, she’s
stern - but fair. She always manages to keep order. Hey!
Listen.” He stopped and faced Simeon. “Bet you can’t guess
how she keeps order?”
“I’m all agog,” said Simeon. “How does Cora keep order?”
“Cora’s got an artificial tit! It’s hard, black and heavy,
like a discus. If somebody’s a nuisance, she’ll chuck it
at them to sort them out!”
Simeon, who preferred tea shops to pubs, was beginning to
wonder if he really wanted to patronise The Junction with
its ambiance of raucous laughter, rough company – not to
mention the threat of flying tits. He considered returning
to the cottage. It
a very busy cottage! On the other hand, it seemed rude to
detach himself from this enthusiastic youth who was
clearly enjoying his role as a Bradford tour guide.
Like most queer pubs, The Junction was noisy, crowded and
smoky – even on a Thursday evening. As in most queer pubs,
Simeon hated being pierced by those staring, leering eyes
each time he made an entrance into any homosexual venue.
He rationalised. Two chickens were likely to attract more
attention than one chicken. Moreover, at least these
cheery Yorkshire folk were not the sneering, leering eyes
of the Derby Friary snobs. And another thing -
Bradfordians shared something of the camaraderie he had
enjoyed in the cramped, Derby Corporation Hotel
Simeon hated squeezing through a density of humanity to
reach the bar for an orange drink he didn’t really want –
so - sensing that young Fluff had no money, two half
crowns were pressed into his sweet, soft chicken hand with
an instruction to purchase two drinks. Fluff was surprised
at Simeon’s choice of a soft drink.
“Truth to tell, I’d prefer a pint mug of hot tea. You
know, the sort you’d get in a transport café.”
“If you don’t drink, why ask for a pub in the first
“I asked for a
pub. Anyway, I had to say
to you to get you out of that cottage, didn’t I?
A common feature of a gay pub is one dominant personality
who holds court. In The Derby Friary it was Claud Hoadley.
In the Derby Corporation it was Dolly. In The Junction it
was a boastful queen, complete with bad teeth, known as
Hetty Howitt who sported an odd sort of hair style, a
bizarre zigzag effect which intrigued the observer from
“It must be a wig!” he said to Fluff who had returned.
“Oh no,” replied the soft, downy chicken under his own
mousy hair, beginning to look tempting and cuddly. Their
hands touched, lingered, for longer than was required for
the passing of a drink and change. Both boys held eye
contact … until sheer embarrassment triggered a question.
“Not a wig?” said Simeon, wistfully, studying the
adolescent fuzz on the other boy’s chin.
“Oh no,” said Fluff, again, more softly. He lowered his
eyes and slightly craned his neck to better enjoy the
effect of Simeon’s bottom, nicely filling out his
He stirred himself.
“No, not a wig. It’s all his own. Know what,” he added,
warming to his subject, “he’s bald except for the back and
sides! He’s let it grow long at the back and drags it over
to cover the top. It’s held in place by a half tin of
lacquer. Hey! Know what? I saw him walk down by the Wool
Exchange – it was windy. Fascinating! It started to lift –
just like a pedal bin!”
Both lads giggled. And in that giggle, mindful of the
crush giving a modicum of privacy, naughty Fluff felt free
to feel, and made free with Simeon’s backside as Hetty’s
bragging increased in volume, fired up by the recent
purchase of his new Sunbeam Talbot.
“My dear it’s a
on wheels! I insist! You must all go out and admire it.
All of you. It’s stunning! You’ll
drool. It’s beautifully finished in black and gold.”
“Very nice,” drawled an acid queen next to Simeon. “It’ll
match her teeth.”
Fluff and Simeon went out with the multitude – but
to admire a new Sunbeam Talbot. Unobserved, they crept
down a scruffy, but interesting old cobbled lane – hand in
hand. Past nine and getting dark, the cobbles were quiet,
the only thing left of a one time neighbourhood of slum
housing, probably cleared after the war.
Crossing a rough recreation ground, they broke hands after
catching sight of a few grubby kids playing with a
football. Minutes later they stood in front of a council
house, one of many on that estate.
at the pub. Come in and listen to my records.”
At this, Simeon expressed concern about finding his way
back to the Capps residence, in order to return at a
reasonable time, as is courteous for a B&B guest. At best,
he could spend no more than an hour with his new friend.
Fluff was miffed. He did not agree that it was necessary
to ‘check in’ before 11.00 o’ clock. Simeon parried.
“I’m careful about my sleep! And I need to be in good
shape to cycle to Harrogate tomorrow. As long as I’m back
by half ten. Promise you’ll guide me – please?”
The promise was given. Moving through a depressing miasma
of musty smells, they entered into a cheap, tacky
atmosphere, clomping up stairs barely covered in thin,
worn carpet. Fluff’s small bedroom, his little world, was
equally in bad taste in terms of lurid colour and shoddy
furniture, probably purchased from Woolworths circa 1959.
But this was his little world. It was all he had, and it
clean and tidy, an attribute common to most gay boys.
The window overlooked ‘the rec’. Scruffy kids were still
raucously yelping, laughing and kicking around an old ball
in near darkness. It was even darker in Fluff’s little
domain – time for a cuddle. It was an interesting cuddle
because Simeon was overwhelmed by a strong, yet sad
affection for this vulnerable child in his arms. Gentle
and tender was the feeling, as if, gingerly, holding a
young fluffy bird. Once again, it amused him to note that
his bum was an area of erotic fascination receiving more
strokes, more caresses from those sweet fluffy hands. They
felt so good.
Simeon pulled back. His own hands, somewhat less naughty,
cupped fluffy pale cheeks which had seen little sunshine.
Sad eyes met sad eyes. Words were not spoken, but thoughts
were thought. They said –
“Don’t go back to the Capps. Stay with me. Stay here all
night. Don’t go to Harrogate. Let’s be together - always.”
Fluff broke the silence with an enthusiastic reference to
his room decorated in brash radical contemporary patterns.
Books, with garish covers displaying images of Roy
Rodgers, Gene Autry and PC 49, competed with a few
and an intriguing poster of a handsome man with cap and
“Who‘s that?” asked Simeon.
“Che Guevara,” said Fluff.
“A pop star?” pressed Simeon.
“Don’t think so. Hey! Look at this! It’s only second hand,
but it was 11 guineas new! It’s got
speeds! Dansette’s one of the best record players. It’s
got an Italian styled cabinet!”
Only one speed was required – 45 revolutions per minute.
Fluff went over to a rack of records and selected one
which he considered to be romantic enough to suit the
situation. It was a catastrophic failure! Simeon begged
him to remove it from the turntable
on the grounds that he detested
by Ken Dodd. Something by Jim Reeves was offered. Simeon
responded with a look of horror - but
Don’t Worry Baby
by the Beach Boys was very acceptable and played several
times. With feathers slightly ruffled, Fluff suggested
that Simeon’s wholesome insistence on early-to-bed, eight
hours of sleep might be spoiling his fun in life.
“Bet you’ve never been on the Milk Train. You’ve got to be
up late to catch the Milk Train.”
The next ten minutes were given over to an exposition of
Fluff’s exciting Saturday night adventures in Manchester.
He described wild escapades with his mates from Leeds in
The Union at the junction of Princess Street and Canal
Street. The Rembrandt and Trafford Long Bar were also
mentioned. These well known gay pubs of Manchester were
familiar to Simeon because he had been carted around them
by the notorious Dolly of Derby in the previous year.
Tongue in cheek, Fluff explained that ‘chucking out time’
coincided with Simeon’s bed time – ten o’ clock – but -
activities continued in the nooks and crannies of
alleyways, jitties, tow paths and toilets until five
minutes to midnight when the last train departed from
Manchester Railway Station.
“I expect you were one drained, worn out Fluff dragging
yourself on to that train!” asked Simeon with a slight
edge of concern.
“Not always. Sometimes we were a right bunch o’ sluts! We
deliberately missed that last train and
“Extended! No wonder you’re thin and pale. You can’t
possibly keep on having seedy sex after midnight. Well,
for starters, it’s not safe.”
“Manchester’s full of excitement into the night,” insisted
Fluff. “Come and join us sometime. You’d like it. You
could be nuzzling up to dodgy chickens in that sleazy all
night café in Dale Street. You’d love it.”
“No I would not!”
“Yes you would! You could drink yourself silly at a
shilling a time downing big pint mugs of tea.”
A big hug followed. They both fell on to a lumpy little
bed and Fluff fumbled. It didn’t take long. In due course,
the two boys lay quite still, silently, side by side,
staring at the ceiling. The satisfaction was physical.
Simeon was never hypocritical about sex. He enjoyed it,
but in this instance, the experience had left him …
troubled. He reasoned that there must be thousands of
Fluffs in West Yorkshire who claim to be having a great
time each weekend, out late, ‘on the piss’, ‘burning the
candle at both ends’ and doing themselves little good with
such an unhealthy life-style. Simeon knew that Fluff was
unhappy and, abruptly, Fluff broke into these brooding
considerations with an unexpected suggestion, an echo of
his previous thoughts.
“Let’s be ‘an affair’!”
‘An affair’ was common parlance in mid 20th
century homosexual English circles for a relationship /
partnership. Simeon was more accustomed to the American
“No kidding,” he insisted, “let’s go steady. I - I love
Simeon looked at Fluff as an older, wiser person might
look indulgently at a child. Emotionally, Fluff
a child and, quite simply, Simeon was not much wiser and
did not know what to say to him. He considered reaching
for the usual clichés such as – ‘Aren’t you confusing love
with desire?’ or, ‘Where would we live, we have no money.’
or, ‘We have very little in common.’ On the other hand,
Simeon respected the boy’s sincerity and was far more
sympathetic in contrast to the callous cynicism often
voiced by the older, sneering and envious types like Claud
“I expect you think you’re Prince Charming,” said Fluff,
slightly tearful, but miffed by the delay in receiving an
answer to his heartfelt proposal.
“Actually, I’m running
from Prince Charming.”
Having articulated the reality which now controlled his
life, coupled with the passion for Ahmed which still
obsessed, Simeon’s countenance clearly registered the
anguish of his deep feelings, and Fluff, with alarm, noted
that sudden pain.
“What’s a matter? Are you in trouble then? What’s wrong?
Tell me. Please tell me.”
Simeon, feeling that, at the very least, he owed his new
friend an explanation gave a brief and discreet outline of
his escape from America. He spoke of Ahmed, butch as a
brick, the gorgeous but dangerous criminal lover who still
held him in a grip of passion.
“Why not? It’s a nice place. It’ll do for a few days. I
just have to keep moving to keep safe. Oh yes. I can see
it in your face. It
sound like a tall story, but it happens to be the truth.
Take it or leave it.” He looked at his watch and gave
Fluff a kiss. “Sorry, little bird, time to go. Remember
They walked across the rec, now deserted and cheerless, in
sad silence. At the far end, the gloomy tension was eased
when Simeon remembered Fluff’s earlier absorbing reference
to the Milk Train.
“Oh, that!” he brightened. “They’ve got the right name for
it, haven’t they! Slipping, sliding and that old train
jolting and lurching – it’s a wonder I don’t break my
neck. On some Saturday nights it’s a right gangbang. No,
not Saturday - Sunday; because it pulls out of the railway
station at four every Sunday morning.”
He was describing the early Sunday newspaper and parcels
train which left Manchester with one ancient passenger
coach which had no corridor. After missing the last train,
just before midnight; Fluff and his randy friends had to
wait four hours before boarding the Milk Train.
“It’s like this – you walk down the platform, along side
the carriage and check who is in each compartment. If you
see something nice, something you fancy – well - you get
in with them. As soon as the train moves, you’re
completely cut off because there’s no corridor, so nobody
can catch you at it! Great! You can get cracking. You can
get down to it. I’ve had fantastic rides in that lovely
old ramshackle train! Last month, it was heaving; there
were six of us going at it hammer and tongs! You’d love
“No I would not! Don’t get me wrong, I
orgies – but a
in the middle of the night! No way.”
Eager to secure as much time as possible, Fluff walked
Simeon right up to the Capp’s front door at the entirely
acceptable time of a few minutes past half ten. Simeon
yawned, Fluff did not. Simeon was sad. Fluff was
heartbroken and broke down into heavy sobs as Simeon tried
to say goodnight. Alarmed, he pulled the tearful chicken
into a side entry and, for a few minutes, comforted him,
as best he could, with hugs, kisses and tender words.
“You need love, not Milk Trains,” he whispered.
“I love you,” moaned Fluff, miserably.
meet Prince Charming,” said Simeon, pretending to be wise,
pretending to be strong – a strength which was necessary
for them both at that moment. “But don’t expect him to
like Prince Charming. Life is full of surprises.”
The few minutes turned into about a quarter of an hour
before Simeon could extricate himself from his pitiful
friend. The hardest part for both parties was the grim
prospect of no further contact, save that they
meet again, sometime, by chance. But they never did.
Simeon’s own heart was breaking as he gave a last wave to
the sweet, slight, fluffy lad who looked alone, so very
alone just before he turned the corner and went out of
sight - forever.
Just for a moment he hoped that Fluff would turn and run
back. Simeon would say – ‘The hell with the Capps! I’ll
get my bike and we’ll go to a hotel and cuddle all night.
I’ll hold my pretty little Fluff and never let him go’.
But Fluff did not come back and now it was Simeon’s turn
to hide his wretched face, give in to the spasms of
despair and weep in that dark, lonely entry which was
somewhere in Bradford
signed copy of Secret Summer can be obtained from the author by sending a cheque for
Narvel Annable, 44
Dovedale Crescent, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1HJ
Phone 01 773 82