Category Archives: CFS


Dawlish 1941

When my dad brought my middle sister and me back from an unhappy billet in Ely, Christmas 1939, I vowed I would never be evacuated again, but on September 7th 1940 the Blitz began. We tried taking shelter on the platform of Aldgate East Underground station, where we slept in rows tightly packed like sardines. I hated it there. I often walked in my sleep and, although I knew that the electric current was turned off at night, I was terrified that I might walk to the edge of the platform and fall onto the lines. Finally, we were allocated spaces in the basement of a factory in Middlesex Street and started to sleep there every night.

Soon, posters appeared saying that children still in London should be sent to the country. I told my parents I wouldn’t go. After the miserable time I’d had in Ely, I absolutely didn’t want to be evacuated again but a distant cousin was working at one of the hostels for Jewish children opened by Habonim in South Devon – one each in Dawlish, Teignmouth and Exmouth. There was room for me in the Dawlish hostel and I stayed there for two years, finally coming back to London in the summer of 1942.

I loved it there. I was the youngest and smallest and for the first time I was not just a third unwelcome daughter but was cossetted and made a big fuss of. And there were lots of children to play with. I don’t remember ever being homesick even though I only saw my parents a couple of times in the two years I was there – it was a long way from London and the fare was expensive. I wasn’t exactly alienated from my family but certainly there was now an emotional as well as a geographical distance.

I was entered for the Junior County Scholarship when I was 10 and awarded a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital. I’d read lots of books about boarding schools and couldn’t wait to go there, but my father wrote to the school asking if I would be able to take Jewish holydays off. Needless to say, the reply was that no special arrangements could be made for Jewish children and my Orthodox parents wouldn’t allow me to go there.

I was heartbroken and now I hated the hostel and begged my father to take me home. My scholarship didn’t guarantee me a free place at the local grammar school, Central Foundation School for Girls, but the headmistress allowed me to go there free of charge provided I won a Junior County Scholarship the following spring. It was a fee-paying school at the time, and my parents wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay fees. Fortunately, with a bit of taking in, my middle sister’s uniform fitted me, so my parents were spared that expense.

I won a Junior County scholarship in 1943 and spent seven happy years at CFS, including the last two as the only girl at our brother school – Cowper Street Boys School – but that’s another story!!

Read about this and other episodes in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

Buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99


My local hairdresser
My local hairdresser

Why is it that your hair is fine for weeks then suddenly one day it’s a real bad hair day and you have to rush to make an appointment with your stylist?

At school my straight black hair hung half-way down my back, to be replaced by a neat French pleat when I qualified as a doctor. Now, practically all grey, it’s really short.

No chance of my getting lice now but when I was 13 the health visitor found I had lice.  At that time it was a real disgrace.  My mother was furious.  It would be years before it was widely known that any child could catch lice – whether coming from a clean or dirty home. Continue reading BAD HAIR DAY – THANK HEAVEN FOR TONY AND GUY

CFS – My old grammar school

Our lovely old hall -derelict
Our lovely old hall – derelict when I went there in 2011
Now a post restaurant
By 2014 it had been converted into a post restaurant

Founded as a Charity School for boys in 1697, by 1715 the school also accepted girls – 6 girls to 30 boys. In 1892 the Central Foundation School for Girls girls’ school was opened in Spital Square just by Spitalfields Market. When I went back in 2011. the main school building had been demolished and the beautiful old hall was derelict. When I returned in 2014, like much of the district, it had been gentrified and the hall was now the Galvin la Chapelle restaurant.

I was delighted to find that my neighbour in my Art History class had not only been a CFS pupil about 10 years after me but like me had learned to play the cello. She’s had similar experiences carrying her cello through what was then an active Fruit and Vegetable market.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat

The school allowed me take the cello home to practise. My walk through Spitalfields Market, lugging the heavy black case, brought roars of laughter from the market porters.

It was ‘Give us a tune then.’ ‘Can you put it under your chin?’ ‘I’ll carry it for you if you give me a kiss, Miss.’ and ‘Can you put that big thing between your legs?’

Their catcalls followed me all the way to school.