Category Archives: Covid-19

HAVING FAMILY TO DINNER AGAIN

Until Janice pointed it out, I hadn’t realised it was eighteen months since I last saw my daughter-in-law. She and Simon live near Bath, though Simon comes up to London for work four days a week and, once it was allowed, sometimes came to dinner. What with Lockdown and her job as a geriatrician, Janice and I just hadn’t met up.

It was lovely having them and our son Bernard to dinner. We had, of course, all carried out a Lateral Flow Covid test on ourselves before meeting up, just in case!!

Josh made one of his delicious signature salmon and asparagus frittatas, accompanied by a mixed salad, and I cooked a Waitrose recipe, plum cake. The cake was delicious, but I should have baked it in a larger springform tin. In the tin I chose, the dough rose so high it buried my pattern of plum slices on the top. The men had their dessert with crème fraiche, while Janice and I indulged in our favourite Puffer Cream.

Plum cake – Waitrose recipe

I enjoy cooking and baking. Not being able to have  friends and family to dinner is something I really missed during Lockdown. I’m sure it’s because I’m not sharing my cooking that I’ve put on the extra four kilos I am now struggling to lose. I shall just have to start counting calories again – the only way it works for me to slim.

Well, not quite the only way. When I was on a ventilator and fed by nasogastric tube after my heart attack, I lost 4 kilos in just 3 weeks. I wouldn’t want to go through that again and nor would my family. Simon told me that for ages he couldn’t bear to cycle past the hospital where I had been fighting for my life. At a meeting of heart attack survivors and their partners, we were invited to revisit the wards where our lives had been saved. A couple of wives told me they had difficulty getting in the lift to go up to the Intensive Care Unit – their memories of that time were so painful.

Another problem is that all my recipes are geared for six – for Josh and me and our four children. And of course, when they were younger and lived at home, the two boys could eat for four. I got used to us clearing up after a two or three course dinner only to hear a plaintive –‘Can I have a Sarnie, Mum?’ from one or both of the boys.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

THE QUEEN’S GALLERY – BUCKINGHAM PALACE

The entrance to the Queen’s Gallery

How wonderful to be able to visit Art Galleries and Museums again! Living as we do in Central London, in pre-Covid times we would have visited a gallery or museum at least once a month. Since Covid, our visit to the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, for the exhibition Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace is our first gallery visit in person for a year.

Attending a range of Art History Classes online and seeing exhibitions on a PC has been invaluable, but of course it’s not the same. Yes, you can zoom in on specific features on your computer, but there’s nothing like seeing the actual masterpieces like those on display in this present exhibition.

I would have liked to have seen more of my favourites – Rembrandt and Vermeer – but there was plenty to enjoy in the mixture of Rembrandt, Canaletto, Vermeer, Rubens and Titian, with just a few duds.

One of the great things about all the exhibitions in the Queen’s Gallery, is that all the paintings and other artifacts are in immaculate condition – or as good condition as several centuries will allow. The exhibitions there are always well curated, with easy to read, clear information, next to each picture. I’ve given up using the audio guide as I like to take pictures – allowed without flash – and I don’t have enough hands to listen and focus my camera at the same time.

We had to check in either with the NHS app or our completed tickets. You can get your tickets stamped to give you access to all the exhibitions at the Queen’s Gallery for a calendar year, which is a very good deal for those of us who live in London or visit London or the other palaces regularly.

We were lucky. The wretched rainy weather we have had recently cleared during the time we queued to enter – keeping our social distancing – and until we got back to the car. The skies opened again as soon as we got home and so we didn’t go out again.

Notices about Covid, Social Distancing and Directions to walk were everywhere – and Masks, of course. And which of us finished first could no longer sit on the bench by the entrance. A twisted cord stretched from arm to arm.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

 

THE FIREWORKS MUSIC SCHOOL

If you have a library card – certainly in Westminster – you can access Naxos and listen to a variety of interpretations by virtuosos.

I stopped having piano lessons at home a year ago, once Covid got into its stride. Online music tutoring didn’t appeal to me but now that Josh and I have had both our vaccines it seems safe enough to have a personal tutor again. The lively young Greek woman recommended by the Fireworks Music School is a Music Therapist and therefore fully vaccinated. I specified a tutor who was not only vaccinated but willing – like me – to wear a mask indoors.

I was eight years old and evacuated to a children’s hostel in Dawlish, South Devon, when I started to learn the piano with Mr Lawson, a brilliant teacher who was the organist at the local church. He instilled in me a love of music that has stayed with me for the 80-odd years since.

When I came back to London in 1942, I had lessons at Toynbee Hall and then with Miss Singer at my school, Central Foundation School for Girls in Spital Square. I gave up the piano while studying Dentistry and then Medicine, but started playing again when our four children were old enough to play a musical instrument. Our ensemble consisted of two guitarists, a clarinettist, a flautist and me playing the piano with one or two of them singing along.

Once they got involved in O and A levels and I went back to Medicine and became a Pathologist, I gave up playing again and we sold the piano.

On my retirement age 60, after a tussle with Breast Cancer, I started going to classes at CityLit College. I’d lost some of my manual dexterity but was delighted to find I was still able to sight read with ease. For various reasons I later changed to having private lessons at home and continued until Covid.

I was tempted to call this post ‘Tinkling on the Ivories’, but then thought about how many expressions, that were in common usage when I was a child in the 1930s, are now clearly racist, sexist and/or downright disgusting. To think that all those magnificent animals were slaughtered for tusks to be made into white piano keys so that all those Victorians could have pianos in their parlours!

My tutor suggested that I start with Mozart’s variations on the nursery rhyme Ah! Dirai-je vous maman – a lovely piece with enough different moods and techniques for me not to need Czerny’s exercises as well.

If you have a library card – certainly in Westminster – you can access Naxos and listen to a variety of interpretations by virtuosos.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

Amazon Review

Woman in a White Coat is an enticing mix of the personal and professional. Social and cultural history merge in a lively, pre-war East End of London, populated by a constant stream of colourful characters. Following evacuation and the end of war, Abby embarked on her academic career, and a post war struggle to be recognised in a profession with a limited quota for women. And no quota at all when the woman becomes a mother of four children.
In its poignant story telling of success and failure, love and loss, ambition and defeat, this book holds the reader’s attention from the first page in a perceptive and heartfelt mix of anecdotes about the characters, patients, autopsies, family and colleagues who have populated a long and uncommon life.

GREAT TO BE CHOOSING MY OWN BANANAS

 

Lovely to see full shelves

Now that we’ve been vaccinated against Covid and the rules for masking and social distancing are being more generally obeyed, we feel able to go shopping for ourselves, instead of having to have our groceries delivered. As a retired consultant pathologist, I have no problem with wearing a mask – it’s just like the old days!!

Last Friday, the Tesco store in Kensington was immaculate, the shelves stuffed full of goodies. It was lovely – going to the supermarket in person, being able to select bananas of just the right degree of ripeness and choose between Hovis’ own granary flour and Allison Country Grain flour, taking time to read the package details.

Yes of course I take a list, but at least I don’t have to keep checking that my shopping adds up to £40. Oftentimes, as an elderly couple with smaller appetites than in our youth, we’ve struggled to make our orders up to £40 and had to add things we don’t really need yet. Some supermarkets charge £4 –a whopping 10% – to orders under £40, while some, like Waitrose, won’t deliver orders under £40 at all.

I really missed being able to just wander around and get inspired by what is available and choose fruit and vegetables as they come into season.

But then I just love shopping. One of our regular weekend treats was wandering around shops, not necessarily buying anything – interspersed with visits to one of the great art galleries we have in London.

Zoom is super for browsing and online classes, but there’s nothing like seeing art in the flesh. Have to wait to redeem the tickets we’ve booked when finally, lockdown is relaxed.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

NOT AGAIN!! NOT MORE FRACTURES

I can’t watch even though I’ve carried out loads of injections as both a dentist and a doctor

I was hurrying towards the taxi to take us to the hospital for the 2nd dose of our Covid-19 vaccine when I caught my foot in one of those large triangular signs that indicate where pedestrians should walk outside some scaffolding and I went flying.

Having osteoporosis, I usually break a long bone when I fall. The last time I tripped was on the steps leaving our flats to go to the cinema, and I broke my left ankle. Previously I tripped over a broken paving stone while looking across the road to see where my piano teacher’s flat was. On that occasion, I broke my left wrist, managed to play my concert piece with him using just my right hand, and then drove home in heavy traffic through Trafalgar Square and St James’s Park using only my right hand. My worst fracture was of my right hip in Spain where I had gone to help Louise, who was having her second baby. We were on the way to the obstetrician for her to have a check-up when I tripped over my thick-soled Doc Marten’s lookalikes. This was during the severe ‘flu epidemic of 2000. The NHS Hospital, the Residencia, was full so I had my hip replacement surgery in a delightful private hospital up on the hillside above San Sebastian, but still covered by my NHS card. I’ve a couple of crush fractures of my vertebrae due to my osteoporosis. No idea when they occurred.

So, with Josh’s help, I picked myself, dusted myself down, got into the taxi, had my jab, and came home. I had fallen hard on my left side and by now it had started to ache badly. Over the rest of the day and the following day the pain got worse. Three ribs on my left side were tender. I couldn’t sleep lying down. Coughing, hiccupping, and burping were all agony. It’s not until you do any of these normal things and it hurts, that you realise how often you carry them out. I’ve tried strapping, hot packs and ice packs, but I think the cure has to be just time. Now, a week later, though those ribs are tender to the touch, they only hurt when I lean back in my chair or I forget and try to lie down on that side.

In normal times I would have asked my GP to book an X-ray at the local Health Centre just to check – I always have at the back of my mind that any fracture could be through a bone weakened by a deposit of my breast cancer, even all these years later. But in these Covid times, a not strictly necessary X-ray clearly isn’t on. It wasn’t until I had a full bone scan in 2002 to see whether my breast cancer had spread to my bones – it hadn’t – that I had a previous rib fracture confirmed. I’ll no doubt find out next time I need a chest  Xray for some other reason. Healed fractures leave a scar on the bones.

It’s been a horrid few days but worth it to feel we now have antibodies against Covid-19 and can at least start to get our own shopping at the supermarket – being careful to mask and keep to social distancing.

Many thanks to all those who wrote to say they were enjoying my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and my new book ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’.

Woman in a White Coat

 

 

 

 

 

COOK, EAT, TV, SLEEP then COOK, EAT, TV, SLEEP again

 

One year a Mallard duck came to visit the balcony of our 9th floor flat but not this year

Boring, boring, boring. It started in February, when I looked around my tightly packed Art History class and decided that with the accounts of the new circulating Coronavirus, it wasn’t safe to go on attending. There was a short gap in the summer, with the reduction in the number of Covid-19 cases, when we ventured out to get new spectacles, have our hearing aids adjusted and our teeth scaled and polished. Best of all, we felt able to visit supermarkets instead of having food delivered.

Then the second wave started. We are lucky in being old and vulnerable and able to get delivery slots, but we missed picking out the produce for ourselves. We would never have chosen a carrot weighing 500gms or tiny clementines, little more than a mouthful.

The local home library delivers six books every three weeks and I have attended some Art History classes on Zoom. Recently I made myself get out my Ancient Greek exercises and started practising the piano again. And I re-opened the sequel to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. I had written some 28k words but hadn’t felt able to face revisiting all those old memories of my ’25 Houses’ – the number of houses, flats, billets and hospital accommodations I have lived in.

I’m bored and fed up with being stuck indoors. Living in the centre of London, I don’t enjoy going for local walks, though we do drive out to quiet places to have a short walk on Sundays. We are back to supermarket food deliveries but now, finally, there is an end in sight.

I tick so many health problem boxes, I would be unlikely to survive a bout of Covid-19, so I am absolutely delighted to hear that the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine has been passed for distribution in the UK. Being well over 80, we shouldn’t have to wait too long for our turn to be vaccinated. It is recommended that we should still practice social distancing and wear masks when indoors after being vaccinated, but what freedom – feeling we can go to shops and art galleries and cinemas without fearing for our lives.

And No, I don’t have any reservations about getting vaccinated. We blithely had all those mandatory vaccinations when travelling to Africa without a second thought and some of them had quite nasty side effects.

From BBC News

RACKETEERING AND BAKING POWDER

As soon as it became clear that the coronavirus pandemic was here to stay, staple items vanished from supermarket shelves. Wherever you went, there were long shelves empty of toilet paper and sanitisers and bacterial hand-washes. The two back-to-back produce stands in the local Tesco were empty except for one watermelon. I bought in in desperation, but it lasted forever. I don’t think I ever want to eat watermelon again.

On eBay, someone was selling a £10 pack of 24 rolls of toilet paper for £49.99 + postage and you could buy a £3 sanitiser for £30.

When the vulnerable were finally allowed to meet one other person outside, we met with our elder son in our courtyard. He had asked for my recipe for Rock Cakes previously but had unfortunately used bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder. They tasted so awful he had to put them on the compost heap.

I thought I would make him some Fruit Scones using the same recipe I’d been using for years. It calls for soaking the raisins in orange juice for at least 30 minutes beforehand and I used some juice from some rather sour oranges delivered by the supermarket a few days before. I left one of the scones out for my husband Josh to have with his coffee and caught him spitting it out.

‘It’s vile,’ he said. ‘Tastes of bicarbonate of soda.’

I tasted one. He was right. It was awful but I thought it was the sour orange juice the raisins had been soaked in. I binned the scones and made another batch. They were just as bad. Then I realised that when I reprinted the recipe, I doubled the amount of baking powder to be added to the self-raising flour.

I wasn’t going to risk another batch, so I made some Rock Cakes instead. Josh likes them because they don’t contain sugar, just have a little demerara sugar sprinkled on top.

By now, of course, I had run out of self-raising flour and neither of the supermarkets we can get slots for had any. I looked on eBay. A 1kg bag of self-raising flour costing £1.50 in supermarkets was listed at £11.99 + postage!! Finally, Tesco listed it but every time I put in on my order, when our grocery arrived it was UNAVAILABLE.

I still have some baking powder left but I thought it possible it had ‘gone off’ and put it on my order. Needless to say,  when our order was delivered it was UNAVAILABLE.

I so wish we weren’t elderly and vulnerable, and could go shopping for ourselves. I know we should be grateful we can get supermarket delivery slots but like everyone else, I wish it was all over!!

Roll on the Covid-19 vaccine!!

At least this batch of Rock Cakes worked

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

Woman in a White Coat

Recipe for Rock Cakes

Makes 24

Bake at 200°C 15-20 mins Continue reading RACKETEERING AND BAKING POWDER

VERA LYNN PROMISED THAT WE’D MEET AGAIN -– AND WE DID

March 17th 2020 was the last time we were out and about and the last person we saw up close was an AA mechanic. We had gone to the local Waitrose and, when we came back to our car, it wouldn’t start. We called the AA and the mechanic told us that, after several good years, the battery had given up and we needed a new one. Fortunately, he carried a replacement in his vehicle.

Since then, the only other people Josh and I have seen in person are the concierges of our flats and the supermarket delivery people– one very jolly woman driver and the rest rather dour men.

Now that there has been some relaxation of lockdown, the Sunday before last we met with our younger son, Bernie, outside Tate Britain and last Thursday we met with our older son, Simon, in the courtyard of our flats – both at the required 2 metres.

We’re not a great family for kissing and cuddling but I really missed not being able to give them a hug and getting a hug back.

Louise, who lives in the Basque Country is hoping to come to the UK in the summer, even if she has to stay in a YMCA hostel and meet us in our courtyard, and we hope that Jane, who lives in Switzerland, will be able to pop over too.

Happy Days!!

The boys had a lot more hair then!! Simon is now almost 60 and Bernard is getting on for 58. Neither of them became an architect or a builder.

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

Woman in a White Coat