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October 31, 2012 / Kate Gross

A car battery weighs 20 kilos

Welcome to my blog, which Jenny has suggested could be subtitled “my humourless cancer blog” (I shall do my utmost to live up to this, and let my funnier friends keep up the laugh quota by posting comments underneath to amuse you all). The idea of writing a blog resonated when I read about it in this very good book What Can I Do to Help. Billy has obliged by providing the technological know-how to set this up, and now all that is left for me to do is to tell you how I am feeling and post some nice pictures, which I think I can manage.

The first thing I wanted to write about was you lot. The last few weeks have been very strange, and brutal at times, but also astonishingly and delightfully full of love. I have seen more of my real and urban families than I have done for months (my fault, not theirs). And I have had messages of support, prayer and Buddhist chants from dear friends and colleagues all around the world, from San Francisco to Kigali. But it is very strange reading about yourself as others see you in the messages I have been sent. There is a lexicon about cancer which we all seem to follow (me included). I don’t think there is a friend who hasn’t told me how strong and determined I am, and how you are sure I will defeat this (this what? Nuisance is my favourite descriptor so far). I wanted to say two things in response to this. The first is that I appreciate you writing to me more than I can tell you (even if I don’t always reply). The second is that we all need to get a bit more imaginative. Of course, I am strong and determined, but really, you would say that about anyone with cancer, wouldn’t you? Delve deeper into what you know about me and use that to get beyond the cancer clichés. Remind yourselves of the stories about me which tell you just how strong I am. And if you can’t remember any, here are my two favourites.

When Billy and I were living in Oval, we drove my Gran’s old car, the 1970’s Toyota Starlet. This was my first car and I didn’t really know what to do with it. So when the battery finally died and it needed a new one, I just took it out of the car and down to the local car parts shop to get a new one. The car battery weighed about 20 kg and I carried it in a rucksack down the Clapham Road to Stockwell, swapped it over, and then carried a new one all the way home. The guys in the shop looked at me very oddly. I don’t think I fitted it – probably made my dad do that bit.

In 2005 we went to Glastonbury. It was the year 2 inches of rain fell in an hour on the opening day. Jenny, Ian and I arrived just as the heavens were opening – Billy was in New York trying to raise money for Owlstone. So I was left to carry our tent, rucksack and all other equipment far, far across the deluged fields of Glastonbury to find a campsite, accompanied by Jenny and Ian (who weren’t much help, frankly. I think Jenny had some inappropriate footwear issues).

So, dear friends, what do these stories tell you about me? That physically, I am from strong peasant stock (c.f. carrying the little twin brutes full term, even though I was the size of a house and people laughed when they saw me on the street). That once I start something I am not easily deflected, and I can be very stubborn in pursuit of a goal. That I am Pollyanna-ishly able to see the positive in any situation, and think anything can be done if you put a bit of elbow into it. That when I’m carrying a heavy load, Billy is no-where to be found*. And that whilst the next weeks and months will be horrible you can rest assured that I shall be able to draw on all of this. And finally, that I just love people telling stories, to me, about me, for me. Keep them up, gang.

*this is one of my humourless jokes. Billy is carrying my load with me, if not for me, as he always has done. Except in these two stories.


Leave a Comment
  1. David / Oct 31 2012 10:17 pm

    I’m the first! Great blog Kate – gosh, you write well. Reading it I realised I hadn’t read your writing before. Look, I’m not sure I’ve said it before, but I think you’re really – well, strong – and, dare I say it – inspirational!

    X x X

  2. Dave o / Nov 1 2012 12:37 am

    nice one! after merely a few hours you’ve already surpassed billy’s blog on useful excel shortcuts.

  3. Ruth / Nov 1 2012 10:19 am

    On the theme of effortlessly and elegantly carrying heavy loads…singlehandeldy transporting 3 stocky toddlers and a buggy across stepping stones at the botanic gardens whilst I watched on in a heavily pregnant wonderous gaze…love the blog Kate. Thank you xxxx

  4. emma / Nov 1 2012 12:13 pm

    What about the time in India where we had to wait 6 hours till the coach driver would stop to let us have a pee? Your bladder control is definitely strong too. E

  5. Ian / Nov 1 2012 1:23 pm

    Tarnation. There go two speech ideas. My speech is going to be reduced to a toast and how I think Billy’s head is shaped like the moon… Curses.

  6. Anna Cook (@Recruiter_Two) / Nov 2 2012 10:16 am

    Well dearest Cousin, you certainly have a way with words! I reckon you can beat that nuisance with your smile and eloquence! Yes, you’re strong, determined and wonderful, and at the end of the day, teamwork will get you through, with Billy and the kids and all of us rooting for you! Sending you a huge hug and plenty of across-the-Channel Swiss support! Anna xxxxxx

  7. Eileen / Nov 2 2012 3:48 pm

    Just read the blog, love it. Many thanks Kate for sharing this time
    Here is my most vivid memory of your strength and determination.
    When we were visiting in March 2011, Paul drove Catherine, Anne Marie and myself to the park and we were meeting you and the boys there.
    When we were in the car I caught a ‘glimpse’ of you pushing the double buggy down a street in Cambridge with your blond hair flowing behind you and a huge smile on your face. By the time we were parked and got Catherine into the wheelchair(broken ankle) you had already arrived at the gates of the park
    Not only strong, speedy too!
    Say hi to mum and dad
    eileen x

  8. Chris H / Nov 2 2012 8:20 pm

    Billy has a blog about Excel? I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next update on “that’s bad design” without satisfaction. Good to read this Kate – sorry won’t be seeing you this weekend, but look forward to seeing you soon. xx

  9. Pete H / Nov 2 2012 9:19 pm

    I have a Kate Quote: you were due to come to Liberia with Tony for a visit, but had to fly out the same day. I emailed to ask if you needed a hotel room to freshen up after hours of flying and you emailed back: ‘freshening up is for wimps’. It’s my favourite Kate quote, sums you up perfectly and is a candidate for blog title if you ever fancy a change..

  10. kateelisabethgross / Nov 2 2012 10:03 pm

    Jessica Glover would like to post this but she’s worried about upstaging me with her poetic talents.

    > In response to your great blog: in defence of the cliche
    > A bright blonde bombshell on Brussels descends Drinking and dancing,
    > Ardennes weekends I hoped we’d be one day, like cliches, old friends
    > One of Whitehall’s new stars, say the great and the good Takes on two
    > PMs, as only she could And now she’ll end poverty (though the proof’s
    > in the
    > pud!)
    > Got double knocked up, in the family way Double the trouble, let’s
    > hear everyone say.
    > Well if you will be so good at stuff, that’s the price you pay!
    > Next year you’ll get hitched, tie the knot, hip hurray We’re sure
    > you’ll be happy for ever and aye What a great couple they make. What a day!
    > Now you’ve got cancer. If there’s anything we can do…
    > If there’s anyone strong and determined, it’s you We’ll be right there
    > with you to see this thing through…
    > Though we say it so badly, Kate, it’s true.

  11. Anna Gibson / Nov 3 2012 5:24 pm

    hey kate its anna ,your blog is brilliant very inpirational and it just shows how stong and willing you are keep stong .lots of prayers and thougths eveyones thingking of you lots of love anna gibson x

  12. Sasha Howard / Nov 4 2012 7:40 pm

    Kate I have never seen you walk anywhere without your head held up and your jaw firm and your stride long and quick. So I have no doubt that is how you’ll tred your way through and over this nuisance. But even the strongest need love and support when they are tired and fed up of being strong, and what a brilliant blog with such wonderful messages of support from all the many people who love you and your family. We’ve got your back whenever you need us. Sashxx

  13. Laurie Lee / Nov 5 2012 10:32 am

    Not surprisingly, hard to top the response by Jessica. Great idea to do this blog Kate. I was really sorry to hear the news from Nick. But what a wonderful response to turn this into an opportunity to urge other people to think differently and – I suspect – you’ll probably also start writing about some very different things as you do this, because you’re bound not to only want to talk about cancer or the work you are taking a break from. Sitting through 14 hour meetings in Brussels with only coffee and Ferrero Roche to sustain you is certainly one definition of strength. Preparing prime ministers for their weekly grilling by MPs is another good one. But it’s great to hear your *new to me* stories above. I look forward to learning more about you from you and friends in the months ahead, as our professional lives have intertwined over the years but never quite with enough time to really get to know each other. With love, Laurie x

    • Sammie / Nov 6 2012 11:36 am

      Your blog just made me laugh and cry in the office – so well written and loving the stories. We’ve been thinking of you all so much, Kate. Bringing up two such beautiful, energetic boys (and Billy!) is a pretty good testament to your strength. Kov and I often quote Oscar shouting down to you guys “There seems to be a problem! We’ve got a lazy bones!” when they were failing to wake him from this hungover slumber. I’ve tried this tactic since but I don’t seem to have the same gravitas as a three year old.

      Looking forward to further blog entries, and wishing you all the very best. Love Sammie xx

  14. Lucy / Nov 6 2012 12:01 pm

    Personally, I always took the “strong and determined” bit for granted. It is your lovely and beautifully-applied Laura Mercier makeup that floats to the surface of my mind when I think of you. Which, these days, is often.

  15. Oliver Soden / Nov 6 2012 11:57 pm

    Few people here can claim that they were babysat by you (I’d imagine) and you always preferred me to Nick Bowles anyway (because he tied your shoelaces together under the table) so I can definitely share ‘strongness-of-Kate’ stories… though I rather think these are manifested in the fact that I always loved Beth in Little Women and you couldn’t wait to be shot of her and spend more time with Jo. If liking Beth was typical of a ten-year-old boy, I also think that, around that age, I once asked you to record with me an unabridged audiobook of Oliver Twist. And I seem to remember that we did. Which seems as good an example as any of strength, determination, and a will of iron…

    Remember too, Kate, that you’ve also read Clarissa. (Which seems to weigh far more than a car battery.) Memories, too, of cycling through France and sitting on the beach eating bread and sausage and cherries.

    Love to all four of you, and constant thoughts,

    O. xxx

  16. trenchantly / Jan 5 2013 6:58 pm

    I once drove a car for a week without a car battery. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but it can. Give it a try next time. This is what you have to do: (1) always park on a hill (2) don’t be afraid to fill with petrol with the engine on, it’s fine (3) never, ever, ever stall the car or you are fucked. It helped I was in Africa but I’m sure it works everywhere with hills. (Please also note I said nothing about you being brave, strong and all that determination stuff.)

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