Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Cath Kidston On Desert Island Discs

At the risk of this blog turning into a low rent version of Hello! with all the celebrity content of late, indulge me with one final splurge.

Cath Kidston is to the early Twenty-First Century, what Laura Ashley was the the end of the Twentieth. She is all about the homewares, selling everything from cowboy wallpaper (how I long for it to adorn an accent wall on my nursery, whilst at the same time teaching my children to respect indigenous inhabitants) to heart-breakingly sweet baby paraphernalia.

Last week Cath was on Desert Island Discs, you can listen again here if you are in the UK, however if you are not, what she said about not having children really moved me (to tears, goddamit) so I've gone to the trouble of transcribing that section of the interview (although it is more powerful if you can listen to it).

This is a woman who has done what Mariella and Grace champion. She has built up a fifty million pound international business, and I bet long haul flights hold no fear for her ...

The Interview

My step-daughter's 18. I've been lucky enough to know her since she was a year old. So not having children, I am very, very fortunate to have a step child

So you youself have never given birth although you've been very active in Jess' life. I have read, and I am not sure if it is right, that the reason you didn't have children was to do with being diagnosed with cancer. Were the two connected?

It's true. I had breast cancer in my mid-30s and it turns out there is something like 8 or 9 women in my family that have had breast cancer. Huge amount. But people never use to talk about it in the old days. Actually a lot of them survived it, we don't have the aggressive gene that you read about and I was very lucky that it was found very early on, and so I didn't even have to have chemotherapy. 

But I had a choice afterwards. We could have had children. At the time I was advised not to because of the risks, to have children quite soon afterwards was deemed to have quite a high risk.

And we didn't take that risk.

Then afterwards when we went to see a specialist, who I'd see for regular check ups, he said 'Oh what a pity you didn't have children, of course it reduces the risk.'

So it is very difficult and, you know, really hard decisions. But, I never imagined I wouldn't have children.

So it is very hard if I think about it. But I would never, I am sure, have had my business if I'd bought up children. In a way my business has been a bit like a replacement child. I've had to do that, to fill that gap. And it has served me in that way.

And if you'd said to me now, 'What would you have rather done?' I'd of course as a woman, I think, say I have rather had children. I don't know the experience of what I'm missing out on (luckily), and anybody I talk to who's had children say they wouldn't exchange it for anything.

I believe them. 

But I think I've been able to fill that gap by running a business and having this sort of, in a sense, it is an extended family within the business

Cath, I think that is almost breathtakingly honest of you, what you've just said.  And I think it is very rare to hear a woman say that ... to say that, you know, that they have managed to forge ahead in order to replace the thing that they didn't have.

Well, I think it is true. It is very primative, isn't it underneath? We think we are very sophisticated and off buying all these kind of fine things and doing this and that, but at the end of the day we're animals. I think.


  1. Wow. That puts it so well and is my fear.

  2. I heard this (podcast) during the week whilst I was wandering around the shops..... when I heard Cath K say what you recounted above, it literally stopped me in my tracks and like you, it brought tears to my eyes. I thought it was such an impressive interview - I'm not a huge fan of her stuff but as a woman, her bravery and honesty really impressed me.

    By the way, the non UK peoples might be able to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes? DID is my favourite podcast - I know, I know, I'm getting sad and old!

    How are you getting on though WFI? Have are the meds going for you?

  3. As a step-mother, I understand what she means. I'm as involved in my step-daughter's life as I can be and I've known her since she was 9 months old. However, it doesn't take the place of a child of my own and I do know what I'm missing. I wish I could hear the interview because I'm sure I too would be in tears over it.

  4. Wow. Breathtakingly honest is right.I have a newfound respect for her now, thank you for posting this.

    Not that I need an excuse to shop there but I feel I an online order coming on....

  5. i too listened and felt the tears well up. i almost knew the question was coming at some point but couldn't have imagined her reply. what a warm and honest woman. i think she'd have made an amazing mother.

  6. I imagine many women feel the same way.

  7. I'm impressed by her actually. I never really thought about her, except to think that some of her stuff was too flowery for me! But everyone has a story...
    I'm also increasingly wondering why it seems to be the women who'd make the best mothers that can't be. Is it something that happens as a result of your infertility or a character trait that came before? Because I haven't yet "met" a woman who is infertile or a recurrent miscarrier who isn't sensitive and kind warm and caring and intelligent...

  8. thank you for transcribing. And thank you other step-mothers for coming forward and validating... (makes me feel less alone or unsure)

  9. That's it, indeed.

    (BTW I am able to download and listen to BBC4 podcasts and streams -(Just as well, I could not live without it. I WOULD DIE with no Archers. DIE!) - not sure if it's just us, in Ireland, but I think you can elsewhere too. We can't watch online BBC telly. We do pay for that on Sky. Ehem.)

  10. I wanted to rush out and buy a Cath Kidston peg-bag in sheer solidarity. I don't even have any pegs.

  11. Tears have poured,though probably due to my period coming today. After two years of unsuccessfully trying, you'd think I'd get used to the feeling of total emptiness and failure. Cath Kidson has certainly deserved her MBE.


  12. That gave me goosebumps. The interviewer is right - it's so honest it kind of takes your breath away. I like how she acknowledges the good, and the not so good. Without sweeping anything under the carpet. That's rare, especially in a public personality.


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