Overture | Janice Galloway | Granta


Janice Galloway

To catch an octopus needs stillness. And a keen pair of eyes.

Nothing more, nothing less.

August or September is best for then the young ones are alone, their mothers gone back to the deep and left them in more shallow water altogether. Pick a gorge that casts shadows between flat-sided cliffs, each side cratered enough to easily climb. If the pool at the bottom is deep but no wider than a well, so much the better: such a space will be calm even when the rest is wild. Check the speed of the incoming tide; note whether the water is rising or ebbing away. You do not want to drown. Note the pits in the cliff, their patterns and places so that when you descend, you will have hand and footholds enough to be secure. A great many pits are a good thing: below the surface, they make hiding places for fish and molluscs and boneless little bodies. Then, the route sure, begin. Keeping your face to the rock, your fingers taut, slip over the edge. Dig your toes into each foothold to test for slime or settled occupants before trusting your weight: test handholds the same. Something with claws will fight back. In this way, descend till your heels meet the water and the light above has grown less bright. Listen for the current. A lap like a cat means gentle. Steady your cheek against the rock and look down. Check what depth is visible. Hope there is sand beneath, not broken pottery or razor shells. And when you are sure, breathe deep and drop.


Janice Galloway

Janice Galloway is a award-winning author of short stories, novels and memoir. Her novel The Trick is to Keep Breathing was winner of the MIND Book of the Year Award; Foreign Parts was winner of the McVitie's Prize, and Clara was winner of the E.M. Forster Award, the Creative Scotland Award, and the Saltire Book of the Year Award. She is also the author of two memoirs This is Not About Me, winner of the SMIT Non-Fiction Book of the Year, and All Made Up. Her latest book, Jellyfish, was published in 2019. She has written and presented three radio series for BBC Scotland and has collaborated with musicians and visual artists. She lives and works in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

More about the author →