Summer on the beach…


In this extract from my novel Peter and Paul, Sasha Thomas is remembering a summer holiday on the beach with her girlfriend Jess and Jess’s mother, who is a scientist whose attitude to life encourages Sasha to re-assess the values of her father, Peter, an Anglican priest…

Because she’d got it all sorted. There wasn’t really anything she wanted to study at uni but ideas and given her background and consequent inclinations there weren’t any ideas she wanted to study more than ideas about being. She’d only just realised that it was possible to experience being, what it meant to be conscious of being… ah. Headspin. She’d worked all that out during the last summer hols, that best of all summer hols, the one between lower and upper sixth when you’ve read enough by now to be able to really read properly for the first time, start to get the references, make the connections, run alongside the big boys and girls of literature, find out for yourself why the really good teachers were always so enthusiastic, yes, it was because their subjects actually were fucking awesome and she couldn’t wait to get back in September and tell them so… there was so much to find out! And the long beaches and gentle hills of Gower were going to be her research laboratory, no matter what Dad said, not the screaming tyres of Grotford. Because what was meant to be just a surfing holiday at Rhossili that magical summer had turned out to be a surfing and neuroscience and life the universe and everything supercamp with Jess and her Amazing Mum. Well, and her dad and her couple of funny little bothers too. The twin bothers! Someone’s spelling mistake ages ago, immemorial family joke now, funny how they still find it funny… They were off doing Boy Things most of the time, thank goodness. That hol had been a life-changer. Such a surprise to discover so much. That you could discover so much, and just in a few days. Jess’s mum Julia… wow, what a brain. Scientist, like my own dear Mama. Actually not like her at all… Julia the professional. Julia the lecturer. Books on it. Idle chat about waves had started her off that morning, paddle out into the sea, catch a wave, ride it, what is a wave, waves in general, mathematical expression of a wave, then brainwaves, yes electrical waves in your brain creating illusion of continuity and therefore individual consciousness emerges as a phenomenon wha? you’re losing me no it’s easy listen self awareness emerges in response to environmental stimulation hold on you’ll just need to… refresh rate varying between 25-40 hertz in waking mode which is pretty crap not even as good as a computer monitor but it’s all you’ve got my dears one day the sensation will cease to arise and that will be that… …run that past me again. I think my refresh rate is a little on the low side. This ought to help, then, Julia said, pulling me another can of lager from the coolbox before asking me what I thought language was. And off she went again. That holiday had been the start of something, all right. Came just at the right time. I was ready. Pointed me in the right direction. A ten day crash course in how absolutely fucking fascinating it would be just to try and get hold of what it really means to be. Oh, Hamlet, eat your heart out, that was for real. Something new and amazing every day from Jess’s Mum. And something new and amazing every night from Jess…

The sun was blazing down that afternoon. We’d been in the sea all morning. Gavin had taken the bothers off somewhere in the car and there were just the three of us lazing in the long grass near the tents, afterlunch sleepy, a little bit drunk. I’ve only met your dad a couple of times, replied Julia, smoothing suncream into her arms. He seems very nice. You’re not answering the question, says I, and then, sorry, that wasn’t very polite. It’s all right, Sasha, she laughed, I should be the one apologising. It’s an important question for you, and a difficult one, right? I don’t want to criticise your dad. But sometimes… you see it’s difficult to talk about the way the world works with religious people because you feel somehow you shouldn’t blow their house of cards down: sorry that sounds terribly patronising… I don’t want you to think I don’t value spirituality, Sasha, it’s more a matter of being perfectly clear what it is… what you think you’re doing when you practise it. I suppose in the end it’s all about whether you think religions are human inventions or not. It’s obvious to me that they are, along with the whole supernatural thing. Your dad presumably thinks they’re not, and I wouldn’t want him to get the impression that I thought he was deluded. Why ever not, Sash wants to know. If he’s built his life up to now on an illusion, shouldn’t someone tell him, before he wastes the rest of it as well? It’s not that easy, says Julia. Take my parents, for example… I couldn’t bring myself to tell them what I really think. I let them imagine I’m temporarily lapsed, or something. Couldn’t bear to… break their spell. That’s it, really, I think. Couldn’t bear to see them spiritually bereft. And to know it was my fault. Human kind cannot bear very much reality, right? Perhaps with a professional Christian I wouldn’t pussyfoot around, though. Tell him- or her- what I really think, maybe. I’m not sure. I’m not sure what I’d say to your father. But Julia, what do you really think? I need to know. Well Sasha I suppose I think a clergyman is someone who is committed to promoting a view of our existence which I guess I would say is, well, anecdotal at best. Where do they imagine the natural sciences fit in? What do they think the supernatural could possibly be? How do they deal with humanist ethics? Your poor father- he must find it very difficult to hold on to his beliefs sometimes. Yeah, it’s a real white knuckle ride in the church today, sez Jess yawning, rolling onto her tummy and unhooking her bikini top. Do my back would you, Sash?

Enjoyed this sample? You can get Peter and Paul as an e-book here. And do have a look at my other books here! Links open in new tabs. Happy reading…


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