Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Clergy Conference

This picture comes with a poem attached

I was at a retreat for members of the Deanery clergy, sometime in the early '80s. One afternoon I went for a walk on the hills above the retreat house (which was later sold to the footballer Phil Neville) and took my camera with me. It was lovely weather when I started out- as you can see-  and then a storm blew up and I got very wet. It's no joke being caught out on the hills in bad weather. Especially if you're lost- as I was. You could get yourself killed.

Anyway the heart of the experience is in the poem,

                                    CLERGY CONFERENCE


                                    A soft-voiced bishop was speaking to us

                                    In the music room.  It was stuffed with vicars

                                    Mostly in mufti.  A marble Venus

                                    Standing in roses up to her hips

                                    Gazed in at us and a little stream,

                                    Tipped from the hill, went clattering past

                                    Down a stepped cascade.


                                                                            When the session ended

                                    I found a path.  There were purple shadows

                                    On ochre fields.  There were bones of sheep

                                    In the tough old grass and a barn or two

                                    With their roofs knocked off.  When the storm grew over

                                    I hadn't even a coat to keep off

                                    The beating it gave me.  I came back down

                                    With shoes full of water.


                                                                             I'd missed the session

                                    On urban mission.  A god as loving

                                    And hard to pin down as the city council

                                    Had not been much to my taste in the hills.


                                    It's not that the rainstorm broke my faith;

                                    That took much  longer.  It's only that after

                                    The conference I could remember nothing

                                    The bishop had said.  I had only the droning

                                    Mellifluous tone of his voice to counter

                                    The shout of the cascade under the window,

                                    The roar of the rain and, after it stopped,

                                    The slap-happy sound of a hillside, drinking.

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