Category Archives: World War 2

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

Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

A selection of books recommended by the staff at Foyles

Now that I finished the final draft Woman in a White Coat I’ve been scouring Waterstone’s and Foyles for ideas for the cover. Also looked at covers by designers who entered for The Academy of British Cover Design awards.

I know I’d like to have a white shiny cover and I’ve seen quite a few that I like, but unfortunately mainstream publishers rarely include the name of the cover designer.

Herewith a taster – the beginning of Chapter 3 of Woman in a White Coat

A Country at War

We were tired and hungry, my sister Hannah and I, as we stood waiting in Littleport Village Hall, waiting to be chosen by someone, anyone.

‘Don’t snivel,’ Hannah said. ‘No-one will take us in if they see you crying.’

She pushed my hand away.

‘You’re too old to hold hands Abby, and anyhow your hands are always wet and sticky.’

Operation Pied Piper’, the plan for the evacuation of children from areas likely to be bombed, was in place long before World War 2 was declared. People in safe areas with spare bedrooms were urged to take in evacuees. They would be paid 10/6d a week for the first child and 8/6d for each subsequent child. Nearly a million children were evacuated on Friday September 1st, 1939. London railway stations were packed with children and whole trains were commandeered.

Parents had been given a list of clothing to pack. Girls needed 1 spare vest, 1 pair of knickers, 1 petticoat, 1 slip, 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, a coat or Mackintosh, nightwear, a comb, towel, soap, face-cloth, boots or shoes and plimsolls.

Continue reading Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

Short-listed for the Wasafiri Prize

The Entry Details
The Entry Details

What wonderful news – being short-listed for the Wasafiri prize given in three categories – Poetry, Short Story and Life Writing. I submitted September 1939 about being evacuated to Littleport and then Ely.

Shows how valuable belonging to a Writers’ Circle is and having constructive criticism. Another member just had two Flash Fiction entries short-listed for the prestigious Bridport Prize and last year my memoir Woman in a White Coat was short-listed for the Tony Lothian prize for unpublished biographies.

WOMAN IN A WHITE COAT – VOLUME 1

Jody's self-published thriller
a meeting on self-publishingJody’s self-published thriller

I met Jody Medland of Penworksmedia at Indie Insights, a meeting on self-publishing, .  He self-published his scary thriller The Moors, a gothic tale of murder and child abuse set in present day Cornwall, and his company is about to publish a variety of books by other authors.

Jody liked the first three chapters of my memoir – Woman in a White Coat – so I am busy giving the manuscript a final edit before sending it to him.

I had originally written my memoir starting with my medical career, each chapter having  flashbacks to my childhood.  However, I decided it would work better if I split my memoir into two. Now, Volume 1 will cover my childhood until I start at medical school, 1931-1953. Volume 2 will take it from there.

What do you think?

Chapter 1 Continue reading WOMAN IN A WHITE COAT – VOLUME 1

September 3rd 1939

My middle sister and me evacuated to Ely
My middle sister and me in Ely 1939

My middle sister, Hannah, and I were evacuated first to Littleport in Cambridgeshire and then to Ely.

Excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat
Mrs Hopwood was waiting at the door of her stone cottage.
‘Come in. Come in,’ she said, giving Hannah and me a hug.
She was a tiny white-haired woman, not quite as tall as Hannah. She had bright blue eyes, lots of wrinkles and a big smile.
‘I’ll show you around. My little cottage is tiny compared with the farmhouse.’
On the ground floor at the front there was a parlour. At the back there was a kitchen, a pocket-sized garden and an outside toilet at the far end. Butterflies hovered over borders ablaze with colour. The lawn was smooth and bright green. We could smell newly cut grass.
On the first floor there were two bedrooms. Mrs Hopwood took us into the front bedroom.
‘This will be your room, my dears. I’ve no need for it now that Mr Hopwood has passed away.’
A big brass double bed, a tall mahogany wardrobe and a dressing table crowded the room. A porcelain bowl with a border of roses and a large ewer stood on the dressing table. A matching chamber pot peeped out from under the bed. The wallpaper was pale pink and decorated with tiny roses. It was all lovely and cosy.
‘We don’t have a bathroom, my dears. I still use my tin bath. We’ll have a big coal fire going in the kitchen, and you’ll be warm as toast. You can leave your things for now. Come on down and we’ll have a bite to eat.’
We had scones still warm from the oven, as much butter as we liked, homemade strawberry jam and strong sweet tea. When we’d eaten all the scones, she wiped the crumbs and jam off my face with a damp flannel.
‘There now,’ she said. ‘That’s better, isn’t it?’
She took us over to a large sepia photograph on the wall. There were two rows of children with a man and a woman in the centre.
She pointed to the man with a long white beard.
‘There’s the late Mr Hopwood, God Rest His Soul, with his hand on my shoulder, and there are all the children – had 22 and raised 19. We had to eat in shifts, we did. Even in the farmhouse there was never enough room for us all to sit down at once, save at Christmas, when we all squeezed up.’
I’d never heard of anyone having that many children. The nursery rhyme, The Old Woman who lived in a Shoe, popped into my head. Continue reading September 3rd 1939

Once upon a wartime

Evacuated to Devon 1941

In 1939 I was evacuated to Littleport (2 billets) in Cambridgeshire and then to Ely, and in 1942 to Dawlish in South Devon.

Excerpt  from my memoir Woman in a White Coat
Operation Pied Piper’, the plan for the evacuation of children from areas likely to be bombed, was in place long before WW2 was declared. People in safe areas with spare bedrooms were urged to take in evacuees. They would be paid 10/6d for the first child and 8/6d for subsequent children. Nearly a million children were evacuated on Friday September 1st 1939. Trains were taken over, and London railway stations were packed with children.
Parents had been given a list of clothing to pack. Girls needed 1 spare vest, 1 pair of knickers, 1 petticoat, 1 slip, 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, a coat or Mackintosh, nightwear, a comb, towel, soap, face-cloth, boots or shoes and plimsolls. We were also to take food for the train journey: sandwiches, packets of nuts and seedless raisins, dry biscuits, barley sugar, an apple and an orange.
I was seven, nearly eight and my sister, Hannah, was thirteen. Hannah hadn’t yet started at her grammar school, so she came with me to my school. She carried the cardboard suitcase we shared. Our gas masks in their square brown boxes hung on a tape around our necks, and we had labels tied through our buttonholes with our name and evacuee number printed in large letters. Our teachers marched us to Liverpool Street station and onto the train to Littleport. Some mothers and a few fathers came to the school with their children. Hannah and I were alone.
‘I don’t need to go with you,’ my mother said. ‘You’re old enough to go on your own. I’ve put a stamped and addressed postcard in your case. Mind you send me your address as soon as you’re settled.’
No kiss goodbye. Nothing.