Narvel Annable 






It’s arrived!!!

At last my latest Gay thriller “Double Life” a GHOST STORY  is now available.

Personally signed from the author by sending a cheque for
£10.00 [this includes P&P]

Narvel Annable, 44 Dovedale Crescent, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1HJ
Phone 01 773 82 44 83


 Also available on Amazon PRIME.

In paperback or on kindle.

Click on the front cover below to take you to where you can look inside for a preview & maybe if you like what you read to obtain.


Kindle at £2.11

Paperback £10.00 free postage






Here is the link for the BBC1 TV Inside Out LGBT programme first aired on Monday, September 16th at 7.30pm.

Reporter / Producer Simon Hare has accomplished a professional job.  At the following Belper Golden Rainbows meeting on Wednesday, September 18th, there was unanimous praise for his excellent work. 

We discussed and analysed the programme and were in full agreement that he had done a great job.  Positive feedback is still coming in. 

I commend Simon for kind and courteous diplomacy which effectively unified diverse opinions on the matter of publicity.  He has brought us together.  In his field, he is a true professional and I’m deeply grateful for his interest in our group which has now given television viewers a flavour of what we do and what we hope to achieve at the Cottage Project. 

Allan Morton has now posted to my Twitter and Facebook page the BBC link with screen shots.


In October, Allan will also edit and post the BBCs East Midlands INSIDEOUT TV programme on to a YouTube together with a number of still photographs from the documentary.  Several recent letters to the press have been posted on my website under LETTTERS.

 Warm wishes



Printed in the 2019 June edition of Ilkeston Life


Click below to see a three minute video explaining the 1959 Mystery of Jack Carrier


4,551 people have now viewed this film on Facebook since its original post on April 14th by good friend Allan Morton.  

It happened 60 years ago.  A shy and gentle postmaster called Jack Carrier was harried out of our colliery village of Stanley Common - effectively by a homophobic lynch mob.  

In 1959, I was a frustrated, deeply repressed 14-year-old.  Jack Carrier was there one day; 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.

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

The effect on me?  It was the same as the effect on 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 ejected from Stanley Common by ignorant gay-hating outrage.  In those dark days 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.  Some committed suicide.  Did this happen to Jack? 

For many years an appalling wall of homophobic silence has surrounded the primitive coalmining community into which I was born.  Ten years ago I wrote to the local press asking for information to solve the mystery. 

An archivist discovered that the Carriers had been postmasters in Stanley Common since 1924 and John H Carrier was born in 1920.  He could still be alive!  Armed with press cuttings, I asked the 2009 Stanley Common PO and general store to display a poster appealing for information.  They refused and would not discuss the matter. 

Somebody in Stanley Common must know what happened to the inoffensive, mild mannered Jack Carrier who suddenly disappeared more than half a century back.  If any of your readers have information, please contact me.


Narvel Annable.  



Narvel's new book coming out later this year



It is 1995.  A long serving history master, a shell of his former self, is alone in an empty classroom in a rough North Nottinghamshire comprehensive school in an ultra conservative colliery town.  He is recovering from a severe breakdown which destroyed his credibility and confidence leaving him depressed and disorientated.  Some pupils and staff had turned this sad case into an object of fun inflicting humiliating hurtful episodes.  A steady torturous drip made his position untenable.  He was unable to discharge professional duties.  Effectively, gay hate had terminated a teaching career. 

Simeon Hogg, a strict formal schoolmaster, taught as he was taught in the 1950s.  This mindset was a cloak to conceal the continuing anxiety of leading a double life.  Inside, he was a frightened homosexual trying to look like a confident heterosexual on the outside.

After 20 years of dodging disapproval, maintaining a mask of po-faced respectability, this isolated closeted gay man spoke little of himself.  He was constantly on guard in a macho male hotbed of football fanaticism, foul language and laddish crude humour.

Following a period of recuperation and counselling, Mr Hogg is now in a halfway house of solitary lesson planning before he can return to actual teaching.

Memory is a problem.  Everything is in a haze, confusing like a dream, swimming in treacle.  Notwithstanding, Simeon is protected by a shield of invisibility.  Nasty elements have lost interest.  He is ignored like a caretaker or a cleaner.  Bored with pointless scribbles, he observes life passing by through the glass door

 Suddenly!  Everything is changed - changed for the better.  Old broken Hogg looks up - and there is Ronnie!  Ronnie - large as life.  The powerful disruptive pupil, cock of the comprehensive, is mischievously grinning at him through the glass door ... 

This is a ghost story.  This is an LGBT history.  It covers the cruelty of the Thatcher era examining gay hate of the 1980s and 1990s.  The moral panic of AIDS is set against a blighted colliery landscape after the fall of once mighty King Coal.


Narvel Annable draws on his memories from both sides of the Atlantic.  He makes comparisons with pit village coal encrusted cousins of the 1950s and the subculture of gay African Americans protecting their secret double lives in the war torn inferno of 1960s Detroit Riots.  

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

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner


Hello Readers, 

To hear my "Quirky Characters" come to life, click below.



Quirky Characters Transcript 

Quirky Characters was first performed on May 16th, 2018 at The Cottage Project, 16 Chapel Street [the A6] in Belper just opposite the bus station.  Derbyshire LGBT + launched ‘Golden Rainbows’.   

It’s a social support group for older people who identify as gay.  We meet on the third Wednesday of each month between 1 and 3pm.  A free car park is available behind the cottage.  It’s free to come in and there are free refreshments.  You’ll get to enjoy Terry’s delicious sandwiches at all meetings. 

In this short film about the odd bods who inhabit my novel - Scruffy Chicken - I’ll attempt ten distinctive voices.  Hopefully, this’ll bring to life the quirky characters who were all inspired by real people - people I’ve known. 

They were all warped by the vicious homophobic cruelty and bigotry which has blighted the lives of many gay people. 

There‘s a good selection here, existing in a subterranean underworld taking shelter in their twilight existence - monsters, clowns, the mundane, the pretentious, the pompous, the scented and the sneering, the common and the crude.   

After living in Detroit, Belper seemed like a quiet conservative backwater.  In 1965, the nearest gay scene for a non-drinker - such as me - was located at the Derby Turkish Baths.  

Belper was a small mill town in the 1960s and the only gay venue was the home of an old-fashioned elderly man who hosted an open house for secretive repressed visitors.   

They were warmly welcomed into his picturesque cottage, anytime day and evening.   

Anonymous men were treated to tea, cakes, friendly conversation and the occasional massage in Jasper’s bedroom.   

He resided in a maze of narrow lanes which climbed up the steep rise of the Derwent Valley. 

This gentle and kind gentleman, of repellent aspect, was also known as the Belper Crone.  His penetrating reminded me of the old witch in Disney’s Snow White.  

He was, in fact, a bent, humped, effeminate, gangling, toothless old queen presiding over the comings and goings of shy shadowy types - in and out - of his quaint old cottage. 

To the best of my knowledge, at that time, it was the only SAFE way to meet other gay men in that conservative community.  

I felt comfortable in his primitive Victorian kitchen.  Over the mantelpiece, there was a brass plate bearing a few trite words.  As I recall them, I can see the nodding head and hear his squeaky croak -  

Make new friends, but keep the old.  Meh!

One is silver, the other gold.  Meh! 

Between 1963 and 1976, I returned to the UK each summer for an annual holiday of as many weeks as I could afford.  In 1965, as 19-year-old, I’d been away from my beloved Derbyshire for over 18 months and returned to a quaint world redolent with childhood nostalgia - smells, sounds and sights of scruffy folks crowded into quirky picturesque nooks and crannies.   

After a sterile existence in a well scrubbed United States, I was fascinated by the friendliness of crooked oddities who constantly addressed each other as DOOK 

Detroit offered nothing like the variety of odd bods interbred over generations from mining stock.   

I felt I’d arrived in a fairytale world of curiosities resembling toads, goblins and gnomes, more medieval than 20th century clean cut American youth - more Grimm than US glitz and glamour.   

Here the crooked coal encrusted indigenousness seemed to be - older, uglier and have more character making them all much more interesting. 

Wandering around Ripley Market, pondering these quirky contrasts, I came on one stall which specialised in sweets, chocolates and all manner of confectionary in a cacophony of trivial chatter. 

Oombug?  said the man behind the counter.  He did a quick funny wriggle with dancing shoulders.  He’d two stumps instead of hands.  Toopence, dook. 

Arr Fred wants it, you know - replied his customer, No teeth, but e can still sook.  Thanks, dook.  Aaa’s ya mam? 

Bit better taday, dook.  It’s a fortnight since she took bad. 

Ooo, dook, said the ancient customer.  An you we no ‘ands!  A think you’re a brick dook, a do, dook. 

This was a magical experience, made all the more magical observing this commonplace exchange dominated by the one word - dook.   

The old hag’s nose seemed to meet her chin giving a witch-like appearance.  Her cackling inappropriate comments highlighting a serious disability, made a contrast to the stallholder whose cushy caring voice seemed to blend with a downy personality.   

This ductile chap (known only as Dook) made an immediate impression on me.  Somehow it made me feel safe and secure.  

In this moment, a lifelong friendship started with plump, cosy Duck who was always kind and considerate. 

Eventually, I was invited back to meet Mrs Duck at the Duckery just around the corner from Ripley Market Place.  It was just Duck and Mrs Duck, there was no Mr Duck.   

Occasionally, they were visited by a robin - it hopped on to the window sill.  Duck said - 

Ey oop, Arr Mam, look - it's me dad, it's me dad coom back 

Encouraged to visit anytime, I just walked in.  That was the custom in working-class Ripley.   

I saw two large eggs.  Eggs with faces deeply reposing into a cosy sofa and formed the impression they’d been sitting there forever.   

Each face wore a smile of welcome.  Both fat faces were devoid of a single wrinkle which caused me to wonder about the age of Mam dook.   

Over the long years of friendship, Duck never changed.  He’d always looked the same.  He was just ... Duck.  The 'Mam' egg - quite small - cocked up her legs which couldn’t quite reach the floor and spoke first. 

Eeeee - it is nice ta see thee, dook.  Are ya all right then, dook? 

The Duck egg appeared to do a quick wriggle with dancing shoulders and flapping stumps.  

Shall ya ave a coop a tea, dook?  Put kettle on, Arr Mam. 

No, Dook.  Ave joost sat down.  You put kettle on shall ya, Arr Dook. 

All right, Arr Mam, I'll put kettle on. 

You've made it really nice, I said looking around.  So very cosy and comfortable. 

The Duckery was fixed somewhere inside a time warp, in this case possibly mid 1930's.  Everything was soft and cushy.  The conversation in this room was all ductility, well matched to the occupants, mild and downy.   

It became a favourite place.  In this old fashioned feathery room, I felt cushioned from the hard knocks of life.  Nothing nasty or hurtful ever came from Duck, friendly podgy Duck.   

At worst, on the occasions in which he did criticise, he’d begin with his characteristic wiggle, dancing shoulders and the one word - Meself  Like regarding the subject of Annie Oaks at the corner shop. 

Meself, a think she's a bit dear.  Don't ya think so, Arr Mam 

She is, Arr Duck!  Them eggs were 6d cheaper int' town.  She teks advantage.  She knows a can't walk far. 

The conversation continued to touch on similar inanities which included the thoughtless Vivienne whose bouncing ball often annoyed 'Arr Mam' - a dripping tap which Fred the neighbourly fixer had promised to fix last year (and still dripped) and an unpleasant character in a popular 'soap'  ont telly, who was - 

Nasty!  Is really nasty.  No need ta be like that.  It's oopset Arr Dook, 'e 'as, ant 'e, Arr Dook? 

These trifles amused me.  Concerns about a fictitious character on television, somebody who doesn’t even exist - and an endless stream of minutia - it all had a calming effect. 

The Ducks were warm, generous and undemanding. Quaint chatter was balmy and mildly entertaining.  I was always happy in The Duckery. 

Years later I asked Dook if he’d mind appearing in my novels - assuring him that his disability and sexuality would never be mentioned.   

He and Mrs Dook were flattered.  They loved seeing themselves in Scruffy Chicken and Lost Lad.   

Much less lovable were several snobbish quirky characters in my novels collectively known as the Nodding Heads who wouldn’t touch Dook with a bargepole.  In fact, I was instructed never to mention creatures from the lower orders.   

This was the elite retinue (or entourage) who followed around and adored Claud Hoadley and his number two, Hilary Raymond Hawley, also known as HRH. 

I remember one particular incident in Nottingham’s Flying Horse bar when Mr Hoadley was addressing his admiring audience in refined tones of Royalty.  Beautiful round vowels.   

He’d just finished denouncing the new floating 'pirate' radio stations as an 'affrant to good taste' and expressed horror that the Beatles had been honoured with an MBE.  Nincompoops - he barked When a strange development took place. 

Hoadley, Hawley and a few of the others - relaxing after a few drinks, could get silly and become quite camp.  On this occasion they went further.  

I became mesmerised by the ornate body language of this pretentious troop of elegant Derby queens, moving about in front of the bar, parading and vaunting, reinforcing their social superiority with every sickening gesture like the Royal Wave.

Hands on hips: small dainty steps.  All the nodding heads appeared to be ... smiling, sneering, progressing slowly, in an etiquette-laden mince across that floor, accentuating their social position. 

In Hilary Raymond Hawley alone, I’d never seen a more affected, effeminate man.  

This scruffy chicken was a one-time fully paid up member of macho youth, a one-time mate of solid, working-class lads who marched across Heanor Market Place with a swaggering gritty gait.  

Well!  I was utterly repelled when the big, soft Hawley emitted an aristocratic giggle - Ha ha ha ha - and flourished his silk handkerchief and seemed to make an elaborate bow to his Lord and Marrster, the Great Hoadley.  

It was all so artificial, all so formal, so well-arranged, so well-choreographed ... What did it remind me of?  I’d seen all this somewhere ... recently?  Where?  When?  What? 

And then it came to me.  Marie Antoinette!  I’d recently seen the 1938 film full of toffs and fops, full of the exaggerated, stylised elegance of 18th century France.  

Of course!  It was the MINUET!   

It was the one scene which really revolted me when all these pampered ponces began to m-o-v-e in the most affected manner.  

In a slow - stately - dance.  Here and now, the Derby Camp appeared to be doing the minuet.  They seemed to move in a co-ordinated pattern dance, in three quarter time, to the dignified strains of Bach.  All around Claud Hoadley.  

Perhaps a bow here - a curtsy there - in this impromptu ballroom in front of the Flying Horse bar.  A nauseating display after the style of the worst excesses of affected 18th-century French dancing. 

From the elite, we now descend into the gutter.  I once knew a common little queen who felt compelled to share his lewd experiences with - wait for it - his outraged harridan of a mother.  

Olive Tonks always reminded me of Old Mother Riley.  

We join them sitting knitting in front of the fire, in a tiny old-fashioned kitchen.  Mischievously, her wayward son - Simon - speaks of an adventure of the previous evening.  

Chesterfield's dead rough, mother.  It’s not safe fa a lad like me.

Oh! [sharp]  What is it this time? 

Well, it’s like this mother.  Last night, two big strappin' toughs grabbed me! 

(sarcastic) Oh dear!  Ow awful! 

It were that.  They insulted me.  One said -  

You look like a randy tart.  Other one said - (deeper / Forbes)  


The second clenched fist - equally as menacing - was clearly meant to represent this yob’s aroused manhood.   

Ooo it were terrible moother.  Them big brawny lads, all muscle, thee dragged me ta that lavatory next t' crooked spire an bent me over t' bog.   

Pushed me 'ead right in t' bowl, thee did.  Ooooo thee banged me summat awful, one after t' other. 

Straight in, no manners, no ceremony - just brute force an ignorance - an there's me, an innocent 'elpless little queen wi me ead in t' bog! 

Simon cocked his head and twinkled at Olive relishing the wind up. 

Thee were abusive as well, addin' insult to injury. 

‘What did thee say?’  Spat out Olive sharply rising to a tantrum. 

One said, Ya as bent as that bloody spire, ya common cow.  Other said,



Ooo, Moother - a felt so ashamed.  No respect fa me.  Thee treated me like a spunk-rag. 

But, a will say this, thee were nice at t' end.  Thee said, 'Eee ya 'av given us a good time, lass.  Pull oop ya knickers, lass.  A bet you feel such a slut.  

Olive - a stalwart of the Pentecostal Church, ever quoting Leviticus - was now in a rage of indignation. 

A should think you did feel a slut!  Ad ave kicked and scratched em. 

(pointing) A notice ya didn’t much struggle!  Ya should be ashamed!  

A don’t know ooo ya tek after, a don’t.  I ated sex!  Thee told me ad see bloody stars.   

When e come ome from t’ boozer, all a saw was ya dad’s gret - big - fat - beer belly.  That’s wot you are, you’re a bloody beer baby!   

E stunk o’ beer.  E said ta me, “Spragg thee legs woman, a want me conjugal rights.” 

Well ... at least e were a proper man.  Look at thee!  Sittin knittin.  More lass than lad.   

Are ya listenin?  Put that bloody knittin down ya little puff.  Ya nowt but loose bitch! 

This presentation of assorted characters from deepest Derbyshire has more in common than you’d think.   

They’re intended to amuse - but, in fact, all are on the cusp of tragedy belonging to an underworld of crones, queens and social-climbing snobs of the 1960's.  

They inhabit a secret, subterranean world taking shelter in their twilight existence; monsters, clowns, the mundane, the pretentious and the pompous, the scented and the sneering, the common and the crude. 

They are all inspired by real people, all warped by the vicious homophobic cruelty and bigotry which has blighted the lives of many gay people. 

Bye for now,


Hello Readers, 

This link will take you to SECRETS OF THE SAUNA first aired on Channel 4, March 2nd, 2016. 

A full page feature with two photographs was printed in the DERBY TELEGRAPH March 1st 2016. 


Gay rights campaigner Narvel Annable stars in Channel 4 documentary Secrets of the Sauna tomorrow night.  Mr Annable, of Belper, is a regular contributor to the Derby Telegraph and often writes about challenges facing gay people in the modern day.  Here, he shares his thoughts on the show.   

In August 2014, I was invited by Channel 4 to be part of a documentary, Secrets of the Sauna, billed as an examination of gay relationships.  This film has aired in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, USA, Canada, and the UK. 

It explores erotic anonymity and orgiastic realities, common to many who share same sex attraction.  Despite advice from friends to avoid this TV initiative, I took the view that it could be a vehicle to extend my campaigning to a wider audience.  

Assured the programme would depend upon conversations, never descending to the explicit with graphic images; Terry and I were followed around by a camera crew for the five months up to Christmas 2014. 

This was a chance to tell the nation about the reality of homosexual lives by asserting the positive aspects of gay saunas.  

Having an aversion to alcohol and the thumping noise of a deafening disco, the quiet gay sauna where you can relax with a pot of tea and something nice to eat, has been a lifelong lifeline to me.  It’s my club.  It’s where I make friends, socialise and enjoy sex with kindred spirits. 

I was nostalgic for the musty, comfortable-smelling foyer of the 1960s Derby Turkish Bath with exotic Moorish halls within, occupied by older, well-spoken, flabby professionals, the soft, the shapeless and the retired.   

Through a crafted oaken door, the carpet became thicker and so did the atmosphere.  Here was the silence and restfulness consistent with a gentleman’s club in London.  It was a scene of deep maroon, lush curtained cubicles, gently decaying like the clients within, having seen better days earlier in the century. 

The documentary follows three gay couples - John and Joe, Robin and Andy and Terry and Narvel.  Terry is the only one of six who is not a visitor to the sauna.  In all our 42 years together, he has never acquired a taste for orgiastic sex with strangers and makes this clear on screen.   

Notwithstanding, our relationship has remained consistently strong even in the teeth of a sardonic Channel 4 voiceover who, with accompanying glockenspiel, constantly refers to tension caused by my weekly visits to the bathhouse.  Fortunately, our on-screen affection contradicts her doom laden comments. 

Almost from our first meeting, Terry has come to accept that my promiscuity has roots going back to 1957 when ‘Granddad’, a local paedophile, initiated a brutally bullied 12-year-old Narvel into his gas-lit, erotic harem.   

The documentary includes a brief reference to ‘Dickensian damage’ which I challenge.  This gentle old man actually disrupted a determination to take my own life.  Granddad used me, but a religious schoolmaster with sadistic intent drove me to the point of self-destruction at that 19th century Mundy Street Boys School, Church of England hell hole in Heanor.  In that regime, a boy was esteemed by the extent of pain and humiliation he could inflict upon other boys. 

I pay tribute to director Michael Ogden for his skilful editing in producing an informative, entertaining and often amusing film.  Michael captured the warmth of love between us.   

In some scenes Terry’s voice is near to breaking with emotion when looking back over the troubled years of our relationship.  In a deeply homophobic colliery community, everything was against us, yet, in adversity, we pulled tighter together and have stayed together. 

It’s been a privilege having the opportunity to work with Michael Ogden and Dane McDonald.  I commend their professionalism and diplomacy.  Hopefully, their efforts will educate, broaden horizons, increase tolerance and understanding for all who view Secrets of the Sauna.  

These links will take you to the Derby Telegraph feature. 


Narvel Annable



Click on the above to hear Narvel talking about the Detroit Riots

Below is the transcript of the above filmed presentation of Narvel speaking at Belper Golden Rainbows on January 17th.  It was also posted on Twitter and Facebook as an added promotion for the monthly Belper Cottage Project initiative.   

Friend and fellow writer Allan Morton filmed, directed and edited this YouTube video which can be accessed by clicking on the link below 

Last year, a film was made about the riot which tore out the heart of Detroit City 50 years ago.  I often think about Laurent.  He was the African American boy I loved.  I wonder if he’s still alive? 

In an attempt to maintain the authenticity, flavour and accuracy of the 1960s, when quoting I’ll refer to African Americans as Negroes.  

From 1963 to 1976, I lived in Detroit.  Each year, I came back to England on holiday for as many weeks as funds would stretch.  I had several jobs in Detroit, but was most content as a messenger at a major bank located downtown.   

The pay was poor but duties were undemanding and it was totally stress free.   

Each morning at 8.30, I stood on the sidewalk in front of the impressive Palladian frontage of the bank with its Greek columns and capitals asserting the confidence of American capitalism.  

It was my daily duty to meet the President of the Detroit Bank.  As the massive Lincoln Continental gracefully glided to a halt before the mighty edifice of finance, a regular exchange was like a mantra -

‘Good morning, Sir.’ 

‘Morning,’ came a grunt from the great man.  It sounded more like a reprimand than a greeting.  ‘Tell ‘em to wash it.’ 

It was the same every day.  The six-foot-plus President eased himself out of the driving seat set for a tall man, quickly replaced by a humble five-foot-nine messenger who would not dare to adjust the power seating position.   

With difficulty, I drove the stately beast.  It was dangerous!  I was deeply reclined in this luxurious glove with a restricted view together with inadequate control of a large vehicle.  

In these precarious circumstances, the Lincoln silently floated to the corner, right and right again and first left into a narrow street dwarfed by two skyscrapers.   

A little way down on the right was the entrance to an expensive downtown multi-storey car park used by executives.  A young black guy was waiting to take the car to its usual reserved location. 

I spoke to him. 

‘The Bank President would like his car washed.’                  

‘Yes,’ hissed the scowling youth somewhat aggressively. 

This ungracious response to a polite request irked me.  The unwarranted attitude had been endured for several days. 

His rudeness was no mystery.  An overnight sleep stealing low of unbearable humidity had not dipped under 70 degrees.  Worst was to follow!   

Another miserable scorcher in the 90s was fast approaching this hazy polluted oven of concrete and cement. 

Even worst still, the atmosphere was thick with ethnic hatred.  These were the 1960s when Detroit was gripped by racial turmoil eventually leading to an explosion of burning riots which left city blocks gutted resembling a war zone.  

Notwithstanding, the humble messenger - me - attempted a remonstration with the African American along the lines of their shared lowly circumstances.  I decided to challenge this attendant.    

‘Look!’ I implored, ‘I’m no different to you!  I’m not pretending that I’m better than you.  We’re about the same age and are probably paid about the same.  When I ask you to wash this car, I’m just following orders.  There is no need to be so nasty to me!’ 

The black boy seemed to be startled by this outburst (I was startled myself!)  

At this moment, the drama was interrupted by an older black man. 

‘Hey!  Hold on there!  What’s this all about?’ 

The man turned out to be the boy’s boss.  I reiterated my main points and tried to explain that I was not prejudiced against the attendant.  In so doing, the two Americans were suddenly transfixed by an unfamiliar foreign accent known in England as broad Derbyshire. 

‘Where on God’s earth is you from?’ asked the boss man. 

Now I must explain.  I first arrived in Detroit in 1963 when, as a curiosity, the boys next door took me to the local High School to address their class. 

It was an enthusiastic bunch of clean-cut, all-American boys - demanding to hear my unusual voice. 

"Greetings England!" Shouted one.

"Welcome to the USA." Shouted another. 

"Hi, buddy." Shouted someone on the back row.  "Welcome!" Yelled several followed by -

"Hi ya, Englishman." and "Hey, when is he gonna talk?"  "Yeah!  Talk, England!" 

"If you gave him a chance,’ said the schoolmaster, ‘If you could manage to ask a sensible question, he might respond.’ 

Sensible questions were asked.   

All went well until I started to describe my house which, unlike their detached houses, was joined up to all the other houses. 

This produced a sea of shocked faces and a deafening silence.  Half a second later the silence was smashed by a cascade of loud guffaws from raucous males in the room.  What I actually said was -  

"We don't 'av asses like your asses.  Arr ass's touchin' t' next ass.  Ya know, like ... sort a - all asses in a row, like.  Nar me Aunty Lizabeth, she's got a nice ass, she as, an thee all like ta look at it ... "

Teacher came to the rescue with an important clarification. 

"Perhaps, Narvel, you'll run us through that one again.  Ar think you're referring to the building in which you live, if arrm not mistaken.  No sweat.  Nothing wrong with the way you talk.’ 

Fast forward - back - to 1967, in the car park, I launched into an angry spiel describing my background of Stanley Common mine workers emerging from the bowels of the earth with faces encrusted with coal dust - so deeply ingrained - no amount of soap and scrubbing could ever remove the blackening which marked the lowly status of a common collier.  

I added my belief that, at £8 per week, existing in a primitive terrace cottage, there was precious little difference between a coal miner and a cotton picking slave.  For good measure, I threw in the fact that while Detroit Negroes drive around in huge beautiful automobiles, my kin folk get around on pushbikes. 

This tetchy polemic was cut short by the big boss striding forward with an air of menace.  He was a big man, albeit with a benign expression signalling good humour, indulging a child throwing a tantrum. 

‘Well, Englishman, arr guess that’s better out than in,’ he said it in full smile.  The smile faded when addressing his subordinate, ‘Laurent!  It’s your jarrb to be nice to our customers.  We don’t sneer at them, we help them.  You can start by explaining the pre-sets.’             

The boss was referring to the complication of power seat controls.  In past days he had noticed me struggling to drive this Lincoln Continental.   

Sullenly, with a touch of shame, Laurent slipped into the passenger seat and asked his customer to get back into the car. 

I was invited to push a button marked ‘medium’ which immediately raised and moved the driving seat forward to suit a man of average size.   

Both boys beamed at this sudden demonstration of electronic wizardry and made eye contact in that intimate space. 

For two youths looking at each other, the moment lasted longer ... than it should have done.   

Hostilities had magically evaporated and I was now free to savour perfect proportions of quintessential African features.  

I scanned tempting thick lips, a wide nose and big beautiful wondrous round eyes.  In return, the black boy was able to examine a Caucasian countenance so very enticingly close. 

Yes - we fell in love.   

But this was fantasy, all too soon violated by the feared explosion of city violence.  The long hot smouldering month of July 1967 burst into flames on Monday 24th.   

Like thousands of white workers from segregated suburbs carefully cleansed of Negroes, Narvel did not dare make the daily 20 mile commute from his home to downtown Detroit.   

There were fearful comparisons of the 1943 race riot in which 38 people were shot dead.  Some commentators spoke of this current incendiary event as the first spark of a civil war. 

During the previous few years dozens of major American cities had already suffered riots and looting.  After several city blocks had been gutted, beyond the control of regular riot police, Federal Paratroopers were sent in to Detroit to restore order.   

A few nervous employees of my bank started to trickle back on the following Monday.  I steeled myself for a return to work on the Tuesday.

My affair with Laurent didn’t last long.  You must try to understand the reality of my world.  Most people live in a heterosexual network where heterosexual friends get introduced to other heterosexual friends, heterosexual relatives and heterosexual colleagues. 

When something bad happens, people swap news, close ranks, offer help, support, advice, condolences - heterosexuals get the lot.  My family threw me to the wolves.  I was on my own. 

In 1960s Detroit we were the despised minority in hiding.  We were known as fags, queers or degenerates.   

The race issue simply complicated an already difficult situation.  Had the parking people been all white, I was still isolated from relatives and others who, in their view, knew there was something seriously wrong with me.   

Not a word was ever spoken, but the tension and shame was always hanging in the air.  There’s an expression, the elephant in the roomI was that invisible elephant, an embarrassment never to be acknowledged.  The love that dare not speak its name was another reference to homosexuality.  Humiliations were endured on a regular basis. 

At this time, 50 years on after that film about the Detroit riots, I often think about Laurent the boy I loved and wonder if he’s still alive.


Narvel Annable



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?’




     ‘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 -


"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 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.


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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,  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 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  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.

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.




Double Life

Sea Change

Secret Summer

Scruffy Chicken

Lost Lad

A Judge Too Far

Death on the Derwent


Heanor Schooldays

Copyright 2006 Narvel Annable. All Rights Reserved.