wordsout by godfrey rust
< st john's ealing >

Gary (the fastest hoover in the west)

for Gary Fenton, May 2011, originally to mark 25 years as caretaker at St John's, and updated on his retirement in 2022. To the "tune" of "Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west)". See video.

When the rain is slowly forming 
a large puddle on the floor
and the vicar’s locked his mobile phone 
behind the prayer room door,
when the boiler’s gone on strike and we’re all 
shivering in the nave
and the Lounge is left in chaos 
from the Brownies’ late night Rave

then everybody’s thoughts will turn 
to just one single man
to restore our equi-lib-ri-um if anybody can.
Who is this gentle giant 
so possessed of super power?
This quiet unassuming unsung hero of the hour
— his name is Gary! (Gary!)
And he pushed the fastest hoover in the west!

It's been 36 long years now since 
this young man came to town—
his mission it was clear: to stop
St John
from falling down.
He was loyal and resourceful, 
he was kind and he was keen
and he loved the congregation 
so he went to Haven Green.

Vicars came and went and preached 
a sermon here and there
and church administrators gave themselves 
some fancy names and airs
but Gary knows the greatest way 
of ministering grace  
is to move white plastic tables 
up and down from place to place—
that’s the Gospel according to Gary! (Gary!)
And he pushed the fastest hoover in the west!

Now some people has a hobby,
and others has affairs,
but Gary’s life revolved round
the positioning of chairs.
When there came a festive season,
or we’ve a special cause to pray
you can guarantee we’d rearrange
the chairs in some new way.

Now Gary he’s a patient man, 
he treats it as a jape,
and he marked the place where the rows begin 
with bits of coloured tape
because when all the fuss is over 
and the things is put away
if Enid’s armchair’s out of place
he knows there’s hell to pay—
she’ll tell poor Gary (Gary!)
And he stacked the best upholstery in the west!

When you wondered how the church is lit 
and the crypt was nice and warm—
Gary moved in a mysterious way
his wonders to perform.
You’d be thinking that you’re by yourself
and there’s no-one there at all
and you’d look around and silently 
he’d come right through the wall...

They say he knows some secret
passageways of old St Johns—
they say he’s been in places 
where no vicar’s ever gone—
and some say he walks on water—
a vital gift I’m sure
in a church that’s got a pond three feet
beneath its basement floor—
no wonder he’s a Baptist! (Gary!)
With the busiest mop and bucket in the west!

Now Gary was a Green Machine, 
and I don’t take the Michael,
for he’d travel anywhere to find
a place he can recycle.
It bordered on obsession, 
but this reason I have found:
he was an agent for the Wombles—
that’s why he was always underground!

He was loved by all the groups he served 
on many different sides—
on Monday he stroked the Stroke Club 
and Tuesday guided Guides,
on Wednesday opened Open Door, 
and Thursday nipped to Snips,
and then on Friday got it ready
for the weekend's apocalypse—
that was Gary’s working week! (Gary!)
And he pushed the fastest hoover in the west! 

But behind those modest features 
was a mind that’s going to read ya
and a memory that makes 
a mockery of Wikipedia.
He’d tell you every record 
played by Radio 1 DJs
and the films that won the Oscars, 
and the quotes from Shakespeare’s plays.

Where did he get this talent from?
We long were in the dark,
but the myst'ry was revealed
in conversa-ti-ons with Mark:
after quarter of a century 
his secret did slip through
when they talked about the latest 
episode of Doctor Who.

How did Gary know his history
just as if he had been there?
What could explain his eccentric dress
and his wild unruly hair?
How did he come and go at any time of day
     or night?
Gary is a Time Lord come to Earth to put
     things right!!
That’s Gary the Master! (Gary!) 
And the boiler room’s his Tardis, QED!

Gary, you were the master
when it comes to taking care,
not only for the building
but the people who build there.
Today you are our hero
and with love you’re being showered
(and very few know how well
you can take off Frankie Howerd—Ooh no, listen).

While vicars came and went and curates 
tried to cope with shock
or when two ton Pete from Will-es-den
came calling on his flock
there was one contant presence
to whom we raise our present voice—
Here’s to Gary the unflappable—
our caretaker of choice!

Now comes the time that comes to all
so rest now, as you oughter—
you knew people matter more than taking
care of bricks and mortar.
With love we will remember you
although you don't like fuss
as the caretaker who cared enough
to care for all of us—
let’s hear it for Gary! (Gary!)
And he’s pushed the fastest hoover in the west!

Performed after the morning service at St Johns's, West Ealing on May 8, 2011, with occasional backing from members of the music group. Updated in 2022 when Gary retired (changed to past tense and the last verse added) and recorded on video with performing help from Hilary Croft and Alan Perkins.

Doctor Who  Gary and the then Church Operations Manager Mark Parsons shared a common passion for the Time Lord and would discuss each new episode on Monday mornings.