Category Archives: Woman in a White Coat


The Art History tutor at our Further Education college is absolutely  brilliant. I reckon he could make a lecture on any subject fascinating, whether on the depiction of pigs’ tails or of pigtails. I even persuaded my son-in-law, who lives in the Basque Country, to sign up for my present course ‘The power and influence of German Art from Early Medieval to Early Modern and Beyond’ – one of the of the benefits of the Internet and Zoom.

The course begins in Medieval times. Being Jewish, I don’t recognise all of the symbols of the many Christian saints and I find the images of jeering Jews with long noses by the Cross offensive. After all, Jesus’s family was Jewish as were His first disciples. But I can appreciate the anguish portrayed and the beauty and brilliant colour of the images.

From the time of the Reformation and the destruction of art works in Protestant churches, non-religious, non-history paintings found a ready market. From then on, the art works become more to my taste, though I can appreciate the mythical works painted during the Renaissance.

Still, for me, classes are just not the same on Zoom – sitting in my living room in a carefully ironed shirt, but wearing slippers and pyjama bottoms. Our tutor’s in-person Art History classes were always full, and I miss the buzz of conversation as we students caught up with each other, the hush as he began and our occasional giggles. I even miss the indifferent coffee in the canteen at our coffee break, as well as the wicked pain au raisin I could never resist.

I’ve downloaded ‘Smartify’  and ‘ArtPassport’ and I’ve bookmarked several other sites. I have also saved a load of emails about current exhibitions. They’re great, but I so miss visiting art galleries in person.

Now that Josh and I have been vaccinated, it is safer for us to go to art galleries wearing our N95 masks and keeping our distance, but of course just now they are all closed. Maybe by the Spring??

And thanks to all you lovely people who wrote to say you enjoyed reading my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. There’s something very special about hearing that I’ve given pleasure with something I’ve written.

Woman in a White Coat

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 on Amazon and £9.99 in paperback.


Woman in a White Coat

I first qualified as a dentist in 1953,and then as a doctor in 1959. In 1963, in between having 4 children, Josh and I opened an educational toyshop in Wimbledon but, having had enough of being an entrepreneur, when the children were all at full time school and aged 43, I returned to medicine. Five years later I was a consultant pathologist and director of a Cancer Research laboratory at a major London teaching hospital.

Now I suppose I can add ‘author’ as a fifth career. A near fatal heart attack in 2016 made me hurry up and complete my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’, self-published on Amazon in 2017.

Of course, I’d written papers about our work on the diagnosis of cancer and had needed to submit applications for funding. I hated the anxious times waiting for a response, especially once I had staff dependant on me for their salaries and futures.

Having long since retired and rather under protest, I finally joined Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I felt that Social Media really wasn’t my thing and certainly not for someone in their eighties.

But then, the summer before last, I got the bug and started posting regularly on Facebook. I found great pleasure in the responses to my little stories. making ‘pen’ friends from the USA and Canada as well as from the UK. It’s lovely ‘talking’ on Messenger with someone in Montreal in the middle of the night, when I can’t sleep and it’s still daytime over there!!

Writing posts for Facebook is just right for me under lockdown, fitting in writing between doing other things. I am still trying to master Ancient Greek; I play the piano and attend virtual Art History classes at Further Education college. I bake all our own bread and cakes, and Josh and I cook dinner on alternate days. No takeaways, of course.

If I can bear to delay posting for a few days, I discuss my latest offerings with my Writing Circle on Zoom. We still meet every fortnight, but I miss seeing my friends in person. I expect they miss the homemade muffins and cafetiere coffee I always provided.

Last summer I published a collection of my Facebook posts ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ on Amazon. It was discovering that Kindle started to publish in colour that persuaded me. Now my children and friends can have another souvenir of me for ‘if and when’.

When you reach your 90th year, ‘if and when’ is never far from your thoughts!!

Luckily we went to the supermarket the day before it snowed in London



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


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







‘Woman in a White Coat’ is the memoir of Dr Abby J Waterman, a poor Jewish girl who makes good. Born and brought up in London’s East End, she is now an 89-year old retired consultant pathologist who has been a Harley Street dentist, a doctor, an entrepreneur and finally director of a cancer research laboratory, as well as a wife and mother of four.

Can you imagine what it’s like to carry out an autopsy on a 4-year-old when you yourself have a young child at home? Or what it’s like to look into the eyes of a young mother nursing a babe in her arms, knowing she’ll be dead by the end of the year? Can you imagine what it’s like to be a pathologist who examines breast cancer cells under the microscope as her profession and then finds that she has breast cancer herself?

‘Woman in a White Coat’ is a poignant account of Abby’s journey from a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane, to being faced with life and death decisions in a London hospital. As a medical student, she brings babies into the world and helps to relieve the suffering of patients who are about to leave it.

Filled with insights and gentle humour, this book gives you a very real account of what it’s like to be a doctor at the sharp end. You’ll eavesdrop on the conversations from behind the scenes in hospitals, the stories of patients with strange “unexplained” injuries in embarrassing places, and the tears shed by the medical staff that patients never see. It will give you insights into what it is like, helping the sick to get better and the critically ill to die gracefully.

It also shows you that there can be a fulfilling life after retirement, even when it is threatened by near fatal disease.

Buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99, as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99 or get a free taster on Amazon using Look Inside.

Woman in a White Coat


I know it’s not a football match, but I can’t help being proud that the Old Country managed to get out the Coronavirus Vaccine before the USA did. The first woman patient in the UK had the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday December 8th and Josh and I had ours the next day, December 10th. We’re due the 2nd dose on December 30th.

We will still have to be careful – wear masks and socially distance – but we won’t feel we are taking our life in our hands when we venture out. Great to be able to go to the supermarket again. People are supposed to wear masks in shops, but they don’t all and there are stories of people being very aggressive if you try to tell them to be sensible. And we can go to Art Galleries again – once they re-open.

Josh said he didn’t feel the injection at all, but though I didn’t feel the needle go in, injecting the solution was a bit uncomfortable. The injection site was a little tender on the 2nd day, but now I’d have to look in the mirror to see where I had the injection to find the site. So far, no side effects. They do say that us oldies experience less side effects with the Covid vaccine.

Hope it works out for all of you.

My Vaccine Card

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 to get a taster for free.

Many thanks to all those who wrote to say they were enjoying my new book Abby’s Tales of Then and Now It 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








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


My neat little charger and my hearing aids

I keep my hearing aids in when I have a nap in the afternoon. A week ago, I got out of bed, stretched, and realised my left hearing aid was missing. I stripped the bed, looked underneath, looked under my bedside cabinet – no luck. I then went round the flat. Not in the bathrooms, the other bedrooms, the hallway, or the kitchen.

Although my Phonak hearing aids have Bluetooth, unlike my previous ones they don’t have GPS or an app to find them if you lose them, but they show how charged they are. Wherever I went, I was near enough to the charger to see both hearing aids.

I then stepped into the hallway outside the flat and both aids were still showing. They only disappeared from the app when I went right to the other end of the living room and shut the door,

Very mysterious!!

I finally realised that it must mean that I had both hearing aids somewhere about my person, but my trouser pockets were empty, and the missing hearing aid wasn’t caught up in my clothing.

Then the penny dropped. My T shirt has a pocket over my left breast and just tucks in below it. My hearing aid had fallen into the pocket and because of its position and that it was so small it didn’t produce a bulge,

The pocket in my M&S T shirt (without my hearing aid)

What a relief! The aids are insured, of course, but there is an excess clause so I wouldn’t get all the money back.

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now. It is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat


The new entrance to Morley College South London

Locked in again – I fear that for Josh and me it is for the foreseeable future – or until we get an anti-Covid 19 vaccine that is safe and effective.

It all started this February. I was sitting in a college classroom listening to the most popular Art History tutor. As usual, his class was full, the chairs pushed tight against each other.

News of the new Coronavirus was everywhere, and it was already clear that oldies like us – Josh going on 91 and me approaching 89, both with long standing medical conditions – would be unlikely to survive an attack of the virus.

When I came home and told Josh I had decided it just wasn’t safe to carry on with my class, it was to find that he had made the same decision about his jewellery classes. We withdrew from our respective colleges and were early enough to get partial refunds.

That was it for Josh, for whom online classes are not really on. He contributes to a jewellery making forum and exchanges ideas there. On the other hand, I have been taking Art History online classes since the summer – the present one a repeat of the class I had to leave at the beginning of the year.

It’s pros and cons. It’s good to see the images more clearly and zoom in on them. And none of those classes have had the breakout groups I have always hated. I think dividing the class into small groups, while the tutor corrects essays or reads their love letters, is a cop-out. The speaker for the first group covers most things and the rest of us say – ‘Well as the last speaker just said…’ I know that breakout groups are a godsend for language classes, enabling the shyer students to make their voices heard, but for everything else I’m likely to attend – no thank you!!

I thank all you wonderful people who sent our younger daughter, Jane, their kind wishes. Like so many cancer sufferers she is finding her chemotherapy very tough going. When her course is completed, she will have a total gastrectomy (stomach removal). It is wonderful that we have Zoom and WhatsApp so we can see and speak with her in Switzerland but awful that we can’t be with her at this time.


Jane aged 6

Our younger daughter, 53-year old Jane, is about to start treatment for Stage 4 Stomach Cancer – chemo then surgery.  She lives in Switzerland and would very much like to hear from someone of around her age who has come through similar treatment for the disease.

Please leave a message on or in the comments if you are such a person. Jane would contact you by WhatsApp or by phone.

Thank you for your kind wishes.

Her elder brother Simon, who took and printed this photo, is five years older than her. He and his brother Bernard were the guitar players. Jane later learned to play the flute while her older sister, Louise, played the clarinet.