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What a gem! As usual these things land on our doorsteps at pertinent moments that underscore our own choices in life. This was no different. I have just packed my worldly possessions and put them into storage so that I may start my own personal quest of adventure and self-discovery. So to get a book already created by someone else on her own journey definitely has a certain piquancy to it, enough  to whet my appetite and tempt me to indulge in some quality reading time.

There seems to be a particular genre that is gaining strength in the market place. The first voice narrative in the written word and  film making enable the creators to recount particularly poignant life experiences they have encountered. As the audience we often have a vested interest in how the hero or heroine triumph over adversity and rise above challenges that could very well affect us too. It is very much more grounded in touchable existences that are far removed from the escapism fantasy adventures often portrayed by the big block buster film makers.

For many this style of writing and filmmaking used to be deemed as being rather self-indulgent and a tad narcissistic. Perhaps that is the tone in which they were written judged by our abhorrence of anyone wallowing in their self-centred little bubbles.  However audiences are changing. There is a general yearning for connections to real real stories, a craving born as an antidote to help us connect with our selves so we may recover from the razzmatazz and noise of a more show bizzy existence in which performance, advertising and selling is everything. 

Described as a combination of memoir, travelogue, nature writing The Fish Ladder is incredibly visual. It is no surprise to learn that Katharine trained as a film editor and has spent many years working in film and television drama. Her writing is a natural progression from this and empowers her to  take you on her journey effortlessly and with ease. Katharine seasons her tale with timely poetic snippets, just enough to give it flavour and style enhancing what could be a mundane and very ordinary series of walks. Not too much though, the poetry doesn’t overpower the lyricism of the landscapes in which she walks.

I love little surprises and the clever twisting of words that make you think. You can feel your synapses popping with excitement as you encounter unique combinations of words that create sentences that you know you have never read before. There is so much written these days that could be written by just anyone – often by a robot. It takes a special talent and at times courage to use words in your own style.

“I could make out occasional townships, slipped like love-notes into cracks along the coast.”

Just one sentence conveys so much depth of history and meaning should you choose to look and think. I like that.

“….. we seemed little removed, in our wicker chairs, from the old people gazing from the double-glazed care homes that bandaged the seafront like wraparound sunglasses covering the eyes of the blind.”

Whether this was a conscious or unconscious declaration of a youthful desire to seek and out and see the truth, does not matter but it is these subtleties throughout the book that make it all the more enriching.

“…. and a few aged sisters sat in pews, white as doves, tucked into prayer.”

Such a beautiful depiction of the purity of introspection and contemplation contrasting starkly to what I see as  the implied blindness of the few who choose to hurtle towards the cliff of retirement before plunging into the darkness of death having never learned anything about themselves at all.  

There are moments that take your breath away and make you stop and be still as you feel the enormity of what a few syllables can convey. There is a power to this sort of writing that not many can master.

“I could feel the boniness of his frame, pared by illness, and no matter how close we stood, or how tightly we embraced, the gap between us seemed to be widening, the pockets of air expanding, and then acquiring the solidity of Perspex. Dad felt like a fairy’s child that disappears when seen for what it is. I held in my arms a bundle of twigs and feathers, already splintering into dust.”

I immediately see it in film as one of those poignant moments of dealing with loss and grief that can only be felt to be truly understood. It is the authentic portrayal of a fellow human just like you or me, being that makes it so intimately personal and meaningful. As with hearing a song that touches your soul, you begin to feel like you have known them forever and they have written that song especially for you. The charm and the power lies within that openness and vulnerability. Without it the words are lifeless, mechanical and ultimately meaningless.

I am not personally familiar with the landscapes that Katharine portrays so beautifully, but I know them well. Wales’ hills and river walks have formed the foundation of my own journey into self. The woodlands have provided sanctuary and sanity as have the running waters serenaded me with their calming melodies. I relate to Katharine’s love of nature and trust that she will treat the sanctity of my own source with due respect.

Wales has a wild beauty that oozes with its own sense of identity. It carries the cloak of mythical mythological majesty imparting its own flavours of age old wisdom. It’s the kind of place where you feel that you can only come away wiser and more knowing having immersed yourself in its embrace.

The internet has liberated many voices. There is a wonderful cacophony of personal views of the world everywhere. We are encouraged to be truthful. There is no room for bullshit and fakery. Katharine’s book is a wonderful expansion of this trend for a real reality. I am already looking forward to her next endeavour whenever she chooses to write it.

Katharine’s journey is so symbolically pertinent for many of us seeking a better understanding of who we are and where we come from. We don’t need to go through tragedy to choose to do this. This book is far from being a self-indulgence. It is a rare and beautiful glimpse into the heart and soul of another human being on her own quest for self-knowledge. A gift to be savoured and enjoyed. Perhaps it will inspire you to go on a journey to discover the source of your own being at the heart of you?


Katharine Norbury was abandoned as a baby in a Liverpool convent. Raised by loving adoptive parents, she grew into a wanderer, drawn by the landscape of the British countryside.

One summer, following the miscarriage of a much-longed-for child, Katharine sets out – accompanied by her nine-year-old daughter, Evie – with the idea of following a river from the sea to its source. The luminously observed landscape provides both a constant and a context to their expeditions. But what begins as a diversion from grief soon evolves into a journey to the source of life itself.

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