And so to Tobago, little sister of Trinidad and a slow, quiet place with some lovely beaches. It is also quite hilly, as I find when I go looking for a little Anglican church I passed while driving. You don’t notice the hills so much when an engine is doing the work, but it only takes 10 minutes before I’m wishing I had brought the car. In the UK I walk everywhere and enjoy it, but here nobody goes anywhere on foot, and with good reason.
A lady in a car stops and offers me a lift, so I climb in, sweating profusely, and in five minutes we are at the church. It is a small place with an even smaller congregation and they make a bit of a fuss of me afterwards. Then I make the mistake (as it turns out) of telling them I play guitar. They have no musical instrument to lead the singing, so I am pressed into agreeing to play for them, starting the next week.
As nice as it is to play in church – and I’ve done it before – what I really want is to sit quietly in the pews and relax, rather than be solely responsible for the music, so I silently resolve to simply disappear again.
Anyway, I then find another Anglican church closer to my house, so I give that a whirl next time and it’s a lot bigger and very well attended. They prise the music thing out of me, though, and I agree to join the group – at least I won’t be running it myself.
Music practice is on Thursday at 6pm, so I turn up at that time, but there are only two other people there, and the group leader is not one of them. This, as anyone who has lived in the Caribbean knows, is called “island time”, which means people turn up as and when they feel like it. I hang around until 7.30, when one of the others phones the leader, who calmly announces that he’s not coming.
Call me a fastidious, uptight Brit if you like, but there is such a thing as professionalism and sheer courtesy, and I’m quite keen on both of them, so again I decide I’m not going back.
So I’m looking for a Sunday home again, and there are options, but all the services start at 7.30am. On a Sunday morning. Too much for me, even if I do get up early these days.
The rest of my year in Tobago passes without any church at all, apart from a one-off visit to the Catholic one, which is chock full and has a nice atmosphere. Quite simply, though, I don’t feel like I belong there.
But you can pray in your bed. You can pray on the beach. You can communicate with God on the settee. So I do all those things, and life carries on perfectly well.