‘Whenever George thought of the sea, it seemed to him a kindly place mainly because he imagined himself floating away on it leaving his unbuoyant father stranded on the beach. On summer holidays, first in Dawlish, then in Ilfracombe, Mr Grey led his family to this dangerous element like Moses going at the head of the Israelites on their passage through the wilderness. In his old school boater and black and burgundy striped swimming costume, he made strangers look up from their deckchairs and snigger. He always carried an upended prawn net like an episcopal staff. George’s mother walked six paces behind him with the picnic hamper (an aeon later, in Aden, George realised that his mother was a model Arab wife); George himself skulked twenty, thirty, forty yards behind, and did his best to announce to the world that he was in no way related to the odd couple ahead…’ .
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Copyright Jonathan Raban, 1985. From his first novel – Foreign Land.