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The Cleaver

10 Mar 2024 7 minute read
Kate and Roland Cleaver

Kate Cleaver

A bit of writing about being neurodivergent, disabled, ethnic and a woman in Wales.

You may have noticed that I missed January and there was a reason. On Boxing Day life changed in an instant and although I am okay, I am certain that it will never be the same again.

Roland, my wonderful husband, died unexpectedly and without warning. He left behind me and four beautiful children.

I wondered whether I would start writing again for Nation.Cymru and I did consider not. There is something private and a little shameful about grief. We don’t talk about it, and no one really knows what to say to someone who is grieving.

A friend of mine brought around some soft plastic toys shaped like the poop emoji. “Because It is shit,” she said.

I must agree with her, it is very shit. Roland has left four children and me to grieve before we are ready. Although I’m not sure you are ever ready for grief.

The thing is though that I have lost my husband, friend, soul mate, carer and partner while we were still making plans to move forward. Until five minutes before he died, we had no idea what was happening.

It took about twenty minutes from start to finish and we were talking until he was not conscious. For most of it we were laughing that he was going to miss boxing day because he would be in hospital. I won’t go into what killed him, just that it was painless, fast and there was nothing we could do once it had begun.

So, on Boxing Day I held my love as he died and since then I have been in one form of shock or another.

Roland didn’t have a will; we were going to sort that this year. Same as we were going to finish the house and sort the gardens. That is now something I have got to do alone.

Don’t get me wrong, we spoke about all the plans, and I think for the next year most of the decisions are going to be easy because I already knew what we were doing. I don’t have to face making any on my own until I run out of the ones we made together and that is going to be at some point in the future. A long time in the future.

I am having to make decisions that are different though. I’m still disabled and now my main carer has gone I need help. Currently friends and family are there for me but that isn’t sustainable for the future, especially not as my chronic illness is a progressive one.

Sure, the house is partially adapted, and I will put the rest of the adaptations in, but there are things that we had planned I will be unable to do myself. Roland really wanted a hot tub, but that is not something I can look after.

Instead, that area will become a studio space and because I find stairs tricky, I can’t move my study to his. Roland’s study is upstairs in one of the back bedrooms, but it would make a lovely sewing room and workshop for my many soft furnishing projects.

All the colours and decor will be the same as he wanted, the uses will change a little. When I am finally in a wheelchair, not for a long time hopefully, the lift will go from the living room and into this workshop, giving me access to both floors.

Roland was so worried about making sure I would be okay and be able to live. “Don’t just survive,” he would say. We did talk about the possibility that one of us would pass before the other. I had almost died twice during Covid, so we had these conversations.

I never expected that I would end up remembering those conversations and holding on to them to carry on. I am though.

“Don’t just survive,” he would say. “Promise me that you will live.”

“Same,” I countered. “If I go you can’t sit around and mope.”

He had smiled and nodded. “Promise.”

So, we had a pact. One that I know I must honour. It is so incredibly difficult to make these sorts of plans when your partner has died but every small decision you make has huge consequences.

To stay in the house and not go to my parents meant that I stayed in the house we were building instead of having to return to the house in which Roland had died.

Sleeping on my own in my own house that first night meant that the silence was a quiet solace rather than a scary monster ready to feed on my fears.

Accepting help has meant that I don’t have to be alone. And when I am alone, I can feel Roland looking over my shoulder and smiling, urging me to live.

As part of the journey back to a new normal I baked for the first time since Roland died. Blueberry muffins, a firm favourite of Roland’s and my own.

These are muffins that are the ‘American style’ and don’t include emulsifiers and anything else that would make them an UPF (ultra processed food).

Fancy having a go? Then please check out the recipe below but remember only mix enough to combine the ingredients, any more and the muffin will be a little on the tough side, although still delicious.

Blueberry muffins

225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
55g caster sugar
half a teaspoon of mixed spice or cinnamon
140g fresh blueberries
55g melted butter
1 egg beaten
200ml milk


Muffins are odd in the fact you can’t put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. You will get flat hard muffins. Instead take 2 bowls, in the larger of the two put all the dry ingredients and the blueberries.

Mix them together until they are combined. In the other bowl put all the wet ingredients and beat together until well combined.

Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold in until combined. Don’t try to beat in the air, you are looking for the ingredients to just be mixed.

Portion evenly into 12 muffin cases and bake at 20 minutes at 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Let them cool and eat. In an airtight tin they will last for about 4 days. Putting them in the fridge can extend their life but it will also make them firmer than you may like.


Instead of mixed spice use cinnamon or one teaspoon of grated lemon skin (the yellow bit only, the white pith can taste bitter).

The blueberry muffin was Roland’s favourite, although he loved a sponge filled with butter icing. I wouldn’t do as many of those as he liked, they weren’t good for him.

Now I wish I had made as many as I wanted, although that would have made me the size of a house. He could eat what he wanted but I only have to look at a cake and I’ve gained half a stone.

Roland, I do promise to live my life as we planned. As we promised. I am now the tree that will bend but never break.

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Ben Wildsmith
Ben Wildsmith
1 month ago

A truly beautiful piece of writing.

The Cleaver (Kate)
The Cleaver (Kate)
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben Wildsmith

Thank you

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