Category Archives: Wentworth Dwellings

MORE MEMORIES OF PETTICOAT LANE

 

My third floor window faced onto Wentworth Street. It was then above a hardware shop

Amongst my most powerful memories of living in Petticoat Lane are the smells. I make my own bread and when I smell baking I’m taken back to our cold water tenement in Wentworth Dwellings. From 1943 we lived on the third floor with my bedroom facing on to Wentworth Street and Kossoff’s bakery. The smell when I woke first thing in the morning was delicious – it made me ravenous. Then there were the aromas of pickled cucumbers and pickled herrings from the barrels outside Marks, the delicatessen. I don’t like pickled – or schmaltz or chopped herrings – but I love the pickled onions that came with them. In a sandwich of rye bread still warm from the baker they are heaven.

My bedroom was above the hardware shop with its odours of carbolic acid and paraffin. I was often sent down to buy a packet of flypapers – sticky yellow curls of stiff paper that you hang up and wait for flies to attach themselves. When it is completely covered with dead and dying flies you hang up another – but there were always more around in those pre-fridge days. Bed bugs were a constant problem. We tried Flit sprays and pouring white spirit over the bed springs, but neither did much good. The springs were attached to the headboards by tightly curled wires in which bed bugs made their home. My mother would regularly pour boiling water over them but there were always more. When the war ended in 1945, we were visited by council workers with DDT sprays that did the trick – at least for a time. We didn’t know then that DDT was dangerous – for humans as well as for bedbugs.

Earlier, my family had lived in a smaller Wentworth Dwellings flat, this time facing onto Goulston Street. On our side of the road were the chicken stalls with crates of live chickens clucking underneath. On the other side, by Brunswick Dwellings, were the fish stalls. The fish was always fresh that day – collected from Billingsgate Market as soon as it was light – but the fish heads and bits and pieces chucked away under the stalls made that side of the road really smelly. I can still conjure up that whiff of ammonia and hated walking on that side of the street. The discarded offal from the chicken stalls added their own aroma to the mix.

And then there were all the street cries. When my husband wants to tease me, he’ll call out ‘Ripe tomatoes, shilling a pound,’ reminding me of my East End past. I’d rather he’d have chosen ‘Sweet strawberries. Melt in your mouth.’

On Sundays, Petticoat Lane was quite different – much more crowded and spreading to all the surrounding streets. Now the hucksters were calling out their crockery and linen wares instead of fruit and vegetables. Completely different smells – now of leather and fabric.

If you were lucky, you might hear Prince Monolulu crying ‘I gotta horse!!’, the long ostrich feathers in his headdress and his chieftain’s fly whisk waving in the breeze. They said he’d won what was then the vast sum of £8000 in the Derby in 1920. It brought you luck to touch or even be near him.

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

Do cats really have nine lives? ‘Woman in a White Coat’ Book Reading #2.

The paperback version

Thank you for your comments on the first reading from my memoir Woman in a White Coat.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter #2 about a little black kitten called Rupert

 

Woman in a White Coat’  is available on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Reading from Chapter 2 Pages 18-22

(Scroll down to read text)

A kitten for me

Book Excerpt

Chapter 2 pp 18-22

We always had a cat. Most people in The Buildings kept a cat, because we all had mice, even on the third floor. I never caught sight of a mouse in our flat, but often there would be a few mouse droppings. Now and again my father baited two or three mouse traps with cheese, but he rarely caught a mouse. They were too wary. They had learned how to steal the cheese without getting trapped.

Continue reading Do cats really have nine lives? ‘Woman in a White Coat’ Book Reading #2.

Westminster Libraries – Book Readings from ‘Woman in a White Coat – 1. Petticoat Lane

The paperback version

Several people at the readings I have given from my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ in Westminster Libraries have suggested that I record excerpts. I am therefore appending  a reading from Chapter 1 and the corresponding text.

Please  contact me at abbyjw@outlook.com with any comments.

‘Woman in a White Coat’ is the story of a young Jewish girl brought up in a cold-water tenement in London’s East End. In spite of her disadvantages, she becomes in turn a Harley Street dentist, an entrepreneur, a Consultant Pathologist and Director of a Cancer Research laboratory, as well as a wife and mother of four children.

Woman in a White Coat’  is available on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

This excerpt starts in 1931 when Dr Abby J Waterman was born.

Excerpts from ‘Woman in a White Coat

116 Wentworth Dwellings  where I lived  on the 3rd floor 1931-1943 -. the entrance has been shuttered since gentrification

Chapter 1

My mother said she cried for days when I was born. I wasn’t the son she wanted, the son who would carry on the family name and say the prayer for the dead (the Kadesh) at her funeral. She didn’t need a third daughter.

Continue reading Westminster Libraries – Book Readings from ‘Woman in a White Coat – 1. Petticoat Lane