Category Archives: Evacuation

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Bridport Prize and last year my memoir Woman in a White Coat was short-listed for the Tony Lothian prize for unpublished biographies.

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

Memorising piano music

 

Handel's Suite in D minor
Handel’s Suite in D minor

I can remember numbers, text, where I’ve put things but I’ve always found memorising music very difficult. Even as a child I always played from music, even in concerts. It’s not my age – though I am 83 – it was the same when I was young. The Sarabande from the Handel suite is easy enough but I’d have to make a real effort to get it by heart. One piece stuck, though, Satie’s Gymnopoedie No 1. I didn’t try to learn it. it was just there.

I am trying to memorise Grieg’s Album Leaf.  It’s quite a simple piece – two repeated sections, one with the melody in the right hand and one with the melody in the left. I think I’ve managed the first part, but it’s been hard work. What’s so silly, is that I’ve always had trouble not remembering things, especially numbers.

I learned to play in 1942 when I was evacuated to Dawlish. My first teacher was a wonderful man, the organist at a local church.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat
I knocked on the door of the room where the piano had been delivered the week before. The smell of cigarettes and mothballs greeted me as I pushed open the door. A short bald-headed man, wearing a rumpled dark grey pin-striped suit, stood by the piano. His waistcoat was tightly stretched across his paunch, a silver watch chain hanging between the pockets. His steel‑rimmed glasses were perched on the end of his nose and held together with sticky tape. On the top of his forehead, he had a round swelling, about the size of a plum. It was hard not to stare at it.
‘Come in. Come in. You must be Abby Waterman.’
He flicked open his pocket watch.
‘Right on time, my dear. I’m Geoffrey Lawson, the organist at St Stephen’s.’
He rested his cigarette carefully on the edge of the piano lid and held out a stubby hand for me to shake. Continue reading Memorising piano music

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.