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Authors: Catriona Child

Tags: #Fiction

Swim Until You Can't See Land

BOOK: Swim Until You Can't See Land

CATRIONA CHILD was born in 1980 in Dundee and spent a great deal of her youth ploughing up and down swimming pools. She has a degree in English from the University of Aberdeen and an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She won the Sunday Herald Blog competition in 2007, was shortlisted for the National Library of Scotland/
Crime short story competition in 2008, and has been published in the Scottish Book Trust
Scottish Family Legends
anthology and in
Northwords Now
. Her first novel,
(2012), was described by
The Herald
as having ‘all the makings of a cult hit’. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband Allan and daughter Corrie.

Swim Until You Can’t See Land

Press Limited


First published 2014

ISBN (HBK): 978-1-910021-45-3

ISBN (EBK): 978-1-910324-349

The author’s right to be identified as author of this book under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has been asserted.

The publisher acknowledges the support of Creative Scotland towards the publication of this volume.

© Catriona Child 2014

For Corrie



Hannah's Got the Wright Stuff!



It's All Wright for Local Swimmer



Life Bright for Wright



Going in the Wright Direction



Hannah Re-Wrights The Record Books



Hannah Wrights Her Mark On The World Stage



Hannah Struggles To Get It Wright



All Going Wrong For Wright



The Wrighting's On The Wall For Hannah



Hannah Hopes Things Will Turn Out All Wright



Hannah Dives Under The Knife



Swimming Star Sunk by Shoulder Injury



Also published by LUATH PRESS




Thanks go to –

Gavin and everyone at Luath Press for their continued support and encouragement.

Jennie Renton for, once again, putting up with my many fonts.

Grant for his help with the German, and Fred and Sarah for their help with the French.

Ossian for his medical knowledge.

Sue for reading the initial drafts and for her editing advice.

James for his continued support, and for giving me the chance to try out an early draft of chapter one on an unsuspecting audience.

The Yahoo group ‘Photo History’ who confirmed that I had not imagined the idea of ‘street photographers.’

Dr Juliette Pattinson from the University of Strathclyde, who helped with my questions on coded messages.

My local library who made the research involved in this book so much easier.

Mum, Dad, Jamie, Iona and Eilidh for being the best family in the world. Dad, especially for his constant nagging – ‘How’s the book coming along?’

Also my extended family and friends – Childs, Elders and Irvines, and my Grandparents (Connel and Dundee), especially Granny Dundee’s stories about

Speckled Jim, gone but not forgotten, and the inspiration for the fish character.

Allan, for always being there and making things easy.

Finally, to Corrie – our beautiful wee girl. Thank you for sleeping on my tummy while I looked at edits.

If you are a person who is drowning,
you put all your efforts into trying to swim.

Eileen Nearne

May 2000

Hannah’s Got The Wright Stuff!

Local swimmer takes four golds

Perth City Amateur Swim Club have a new swimming sensation in Hannah Wright, after she dominated the Midland District championships in Dundee this weekend. Hannah, aged only 11 and competing against girls two years older than her in the U13 category, stormed to victory in all four stroke disciplines.

She won the 100m Backstroke and Breaststroke on Saturday then followed this up with wins in the 100m Butterfly and Freestyle on the Sunday.

Coach, Greg Candy, said he was thrilled at how well Hannah had done but wasn’t surprised at her success. ‘I knew from the moment I saw her that she had a natural ability for the sport. I’ve never seen a swimmer like her in the 35 years I’ve been a coach.’



I curl my toes around the edge of the pool and adjust my goggles, push on them till they suck at my eyeballs. Bend forward, tap my painted toenails, then

I dive.

Streamline, I skim just below the surface of the water, catch a flash of yellow t-shirt as I enter the pool. Chris, the lifeguard, leans against the wall, eyes closed, hair sticking up. His whistle dangles from his shorts pocket. When he first started working here, he called me up for diving. Now he doesn’t bother. He knows who I am.

(who I was)

He knows I’m not about to go breaking my neck.

‘Will you keep an eye on things while I go to Bayne’s,’ Shirley asks.

‘Yeah, no problem.’

‘You want anything? Filled roll? Donut? Need to get there before the school’s out or there’ll be nothing left.’

‘Eh, cheese and tomato roll, if you don’t mind.’


‘Go on then, a custard slice.’

The door goes and I look up, expecting it to be Shirley, back again with another question.

You want a drink?

Bottle or can?

Butter on your filled roll?

(on top or doggy style?)

It’s not her though, some old woman I don’t recognise.

   She puts a bag of Revels on the counter, then rummages through her handbag, lifts out her purse and slides a piece of paper from it.

‘And a lottery ticket, please,’ she says and hands me the paper.

Six numbers scrawled in that spidery handwriting that all old people seem to have.

5  16  21  26  32  44

Her accent’s strange: Scottish, but with a twang of something else.

I print the lottery ticket, put it down next to the Revels.

‘£1.57, please.’

The woman doesn’t answer, doesn’t hand me any money, doesn’t move.

I follow her gaze. She’s looking at something behind my head. Does she want cigarettes?

‘Anything else?’ I ask.

Her face has gone a dirty silver colour, like the Brasso polish Gran used to buff on my swimming trophies.

It’s a dumb rule anyway, no diving. Diving is the only way to enter a pool.

None of this descending down a flimsy, metal staircase while it rattles off the tiled walls.

None of this lowering yourself feet first from the edge, the cold water chilling you from the toes up.

No, that just gives the water the advantage, gives it the power. If you don’t dive in, then you struggle to get your shoulders under. You have to bounce, bounce, bounce, try to plunge yourself deeper, deeeper, deeeeper, until you finally build up the courage to submerge completely.

You’re beaten before you’ve even managed to dunk your head under. Game over. Back to the showers with you.

Diving gives you the upper hand, puts you in control.

The woman doesn’t speak, although her lips keep moving. Vibrating, quivering. Dark, like she’s wearing purple lipstick.

‘Are you okay?’

Her fingers spread and the purse falls from her hand. Change spills, rolling and clattering off the counter and onto the floor.

I move out from behind the till but before I can get to her she crumples. There’s a thud as she hits her chin on the glass-fronted counter.

Shit, that was loud.

A crack runs out along the glass, slicing the reflection of Panini stickers, Rizla papers and mix-up sweets beneath it.

My heart’s pounding as I move towards her. She’s lying on her side, blood dripping from her chin. Her false teeth have fallen out. I accidentally kick them in my haste and they spin away across the floor.

I kneel beside her, knock a display of chewing gum off the edge of the counter. It falls, showering us with packets of Extra.

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