wordsout by godfrey rust
< all souls

The Pilgrim Hall calypso

reporting on a "coping with stress" weekend conference in January 1983

Well it happened just last Friday,
and I have the evidence,
we took a few friends and a vicar or two
and went off for a conference.
We got away from the pressure
and left behind all the mess,
and we spent a peaceful day and a half
talkin' bout fear and guilt and stress—

     Well it was so stressful, so stressful
     I just don't know how we cope at all,
     it was so stressful, so stressful
     on the weekend away down in Pilgrim Hall.

The speaker was one Marion Ashton—
a counsellor of some note—
she brought her friend Mary Freeman,
who was pretty much in the same boat.
They spoke with such humility
that it cut us down to size—
they taught with the wisdom of Solomon
and the wit of Morecambe and Wise
     Well it was so stressful...

We had 45 minutes frustration,
then a crisis of identity,
we experienced lots of negative emotions,
and the coffee cost 15p,
but we could only scratch the surface
and when it came to the crunch
we took a few principles, a general approach
and then a broad overview of lunch
     Well it was so stressful...

I thought Saturday night would be a party
for it was called a social event,
but we got into groups of a dozen or so,
talkin' bout how our time was spent.
When we came to a conclusion
then a coat of arms was drawn
and we stick a motto underneath
about how all this pressure was borne.

Then we hold it up for inspection
like the Miss Universe Contest
and there were lots of valuable prizes
for the ones they thought were the best,
and when it came to the moment of judgment
the drop of a pin could be heard
but the judges were clearly unscriptural
because my group only came third
     Well it was so stressful...

But there was one special man among us
who must have carried the stress of ten,
it was Richard Bewes on his first weekend
coming down to the lions's den,
but he gave three good points from Philippians,
and he used a Greek word too
then made a joke about Roger Simpson,
so we all think, This one will do
     Well it was so stressful...

Sunday dawned bright and early
and the climax was mighty fine
while the sun streamed in through the windows
we all took of the bread and wine,
but as I drove back through Croydon
I thank the Lord gratefully
for if he wasn't leading the leaders,
how these leaders going to lead me?
     Well it was so special so special
     I thank the Lord for one and all
     It was so special, so special
     on the weekend away down at Pilgrim Hall.

Performed at the weekly prayer meeting in the Waldegrave Hall, All Souls Langham Place in January 1983.  I think this was the first occasional calypso I wrote so although neither subject matter nor wit are especially noteworthy I have preserved it. Michael Lawson asked me to report on the weekend "in any way I liked". In retrospect it reads like a generic description of many such weekends. This one also marked the first public engagement of Richard Bewes as Rector of All Souls, hence the significance of the penultimate verse.

The original manuscript which I gave to Michael contained this remark: "Metrical note: these lyrics are composed to fit the extraordinarily complex and subtle rhythms of the West Indian calypso. The fact that many lines appear therefore on first reading to scan badly or not at all should be attributed to this and not to the supposed poetic incompetence of the writer, a thought which never crossed your mind".