A New Year Message

Retired Derbyshire teacher and novelist Narvel Annable has a new Year Message.
I’m shocked by immoderate language from senior clerics, Bishop Mark Davies and Archbishop Vincent Nichols.  Eyes blazing, they hijacked Christmas to spit fire at the gay community.  The Bishop used deeply offensive twisted logic invoking the spectres of Hitler and Stalin.  Nichols accused the Prime Minister of ‘Orwellian’ practices with regard to proposals to legalise same-sex civil marriage.
Over the last 37 years, I have enjoyed a loving relationship with a man, Terry Durand, now my Civil Partner.  We’re grateful to Mr Cameron and the Deputy PM Nick Clegg for continued support in respect of total equality.  Please press on!  Do not be deterred by this yuletide outbreak of rabid homophobia.
For perspective, it should not be forgotten that before 1967, all homosexuality was illegal in the UK.  Transgressors risked more than a jail sentence.  Violent inmates inflicted their own unspeakable punishments on men whose only crime was to share same-sex attraction.
There was a culture of cruelty at Mundy Street Boys School in Heanor 55 years ago.  You were graded by ability to inflict pain and suffering on others.  A sadistic schoolmaster choreographed classroom situations in which I suffered excruciating humiliations.  They wreaked emotional damage which will follow me to the grave.  To this day, I endure vivid flashbacks, intrusive thoughts causing distress which still disturbs my sleep.  If not tattooed on my body, the traumas inflicted by that ruthless Church of England regime are burnt into my psyche.  Cruelty has a cost.  Approaching my 70s, I am now paying the bill.
The relentless emotional brutality will for ever be associated with a pious, scripture-obsessed ayatollah of a headmaster.  He presided over a bleak midwinter of daily torment where the greatest sin was to ‘tell tales’.  Result – I bottled up my stress for more than half a century until the emotional problems became deeply ingrained.
In December 1957 my parents took the view that, due to a perverse nature, I brought opprobrium down on my own head.  I wouldn’t / couldn’t fight.  Male Annables were fighters giving a good account of themselves with bare knuckles in the school playground.  I dishonoured the family.  I was the boy who didn’t like football.  In working-class, coal-mining Heanor, this was unheard of!  Unacceptable – sissy – mardy – queer!
I couldn’t spell, do sums and sank to the bottom of the class in most other subjects.  That might have been forgiven had I displayed any practicable ability – of which there was none.  Rough Heanor lads were supposed to make things.  I made nothing.  Tortured children tend to do badly in school.
In the dying years of the 20th century and early years of the 21st century, gay progress in the form of a better press and slow decline in homophobia made it possible to be a little more open about the reasons for being a bachelor.  Little-by-little, constantly testing the water, I was always ready to make a quick retreat.
I sincerely hope the Coalition Government will not retreat from gay marriage in 2013.
Narvel Annable.
This article was originally printed in the Derby Telegraph on December 31st 2012.
Narvel Annable’s mystery novel Death on The Derwentcan be purchased as an electronic book at Amazon