Category Archives: Children

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

Simon and Bernard 1962. Hard to believe they are now 61 and about to be 59

My two pairs of children – two boys and after three years, two girls – adored each other as toddlers and babies. Our sons live in London and are therefore still close, but our daughters live abroad so rarely meet except for major family events like our 80th and 90th birthdays.

I’m sure that as a toddler Louise thought Jane was her special possession. At the first peep of a demand for a feed, Louise would pull at my skirt, wailing ‘Ninny crying! Ninny crying!’ Fortunately that nickname didn’t stick. This year when Jane, having had chemotherapy and a total gastrectomy for stomach cancer, was left alone when her husband needed surgery, Louise flew to Switzerland from Spain to be with her at that worrying time – braving the huge queues at the airports because of Covid.

Not that there was always peace between the sibs, but let no-one from outside dare attack any one of them!! Their motto was definitely ‘All for One and One for All’. 

It’s very sad to read of brothers and sisters who have lost contact, haven’t seen or heard from each other for years. One wrote to say she only discovered her brother had got married when she read about it on Facebook.

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.

Visit my blog at https://abbyjw.com

Woman in a White Coat

SISTERS AT ODDS

Typical primary school photo. You can see that the Tooth Fairy recently came calling!!

Our two daughters look friendly enough in this school photo, taken when Louise was 7 and Jane aged 6 There was only 17 months between them. Jane was 6 weeks premature and not expected to live through the night. However, she managed to struggle through her Respiratory Disease of the Newborn and even learned to play the flute.

When they were little, they were inseparable, adored each other. The cracks began to appear when they became teenagers.

‘If she’s going, I’m not going!’, was the response to anything more than an expedition to go shopping for school uniform. It was even their answer when we discussed our summer holidays, though for that they had no choice. For us, summer holidays were family holidays. At first our trips abroad included the boys, who both girls got on with, though the two middle children were closest.

Our daughters’ teenage years were a nightmare. Louise got the teenage sulks first, recovered and became sweet and loving, only to be followed immediately by Jane’s teenage angst.

At UNI, Louise, our elder daughter, read Psychology, took the TEFL Course and became a Foreign Language teacher in the Basque Country, while Jane read Physics and is a Professor of Physics in Switzerland. They met rarely as adults – we could put up one family, not two – so they usually came to London to see us separately. As adults, all four children only met for important birthdays. For my 80th birthday the six of us met up in a hotel in Malaga.

Jane is about to turn 54 and is recovering from a total gastrectomy for stomach cancer while Louise is 55. They are close once more – at least in spirit. Louise, who writes course books on teaching English as a foreign language, has retired as Director of Education after 32 years, to go freelance. Jane’s husband needed to have surgery, so Louise has flown to Switzerland to be with her at this worrying time.

I was one of three daughters, no sons, and we were each 6 years apart, so I was never very close to my elder sister, and my middle sister left to live on a Kibbutz when I was a teenager. I wish I’d had a sister closer in age, but I suppose I could have been at odds with her in my teenage years as were my daughters, and I might never have made it up.

Interestingly, as far as I could see, the boys always got on and now at 61 and nearly 59, they are very close, working in the same district, in similar fields, and meeting for coffee or lunch now and again.

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

 

 

A MOTHER’S PRAYER

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

With the prospect of an intrusive medical procedure in a week’s time, it’s hard not to ponder on what might go wrong and offer up a prayer whether you’re a believer or not. When I’m feeling happy, I write prose, but verse is more satisfying when I’m worried or sad.

A PRAYER

Your first born lies there pale and still

Bloody fluid in his ear

His skull is fractured

His life in the balance

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Six weeks later

He lies in a hospital bed

His kidneys failing

Bloody fluid in a bottle left for you to see

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Your last child, born six weeks early

Her lungs not properly finished

They say she will not last the night

But somehow she survives

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

And you’re not exempt

Breast cancer

Osteoporosis and

Multiple bone fractures

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Now comes the big one

The squeezing, gripping chest pain

You know this means that

Death has come a-knocking

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

You haven’t suffered enough

For then your youngest

Who fought death once

Has stomach cancer, chemo and major surgery

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

At the very end

When it’s nearly over

You pray – whatever your beliefs

For then you will finally know

If your prayers were heard?

Josh and the four kids 1970

 

Thanks to all the lovely people who have been reading and writing to me about all this in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’

Woman in a White Coat

 

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

SONS AND DAUGHTERS

We have two of each but for a time all four lived abroad – our elder son in Africa, the younger in Finland, our elder daughter in the Basque Country in Spain and the baby in Switzerland. Now the boys live in the UK, though the elder often goes abroad for conferences, but the girls work permanently abroad. I hated it then and hate it now, though they come and stay with us during the year.

The girls are not often in the UK together. We have only one spare room so if they bring their partners we have to put up one pair in a hotel, like when they came over for Josh’s 90th birthday.

But they are coming together this week – our elder daughter with her partner for a concert and the younger for a conference. The girls will share the spare room and Mark will have to sleep on the sofa.

School photo of Jane and Louise

They are great friends now but they weren’t always. It was fine when they were little. When Jane cried for a feed Louise would pull at me – ‘Ninny crying’, she’d wail. ‘Ninny crying.’ It didn’t last. When they were teenagers they were barely on speaking terms. There was only 17 months between them – Jane had been 6 weeks premature – and they seemed to have nothing in common. If we planned a trip or a holiday it was ‘If she’s going, I’m not.’

It got better when they both went off to Uni and now they’re best friends, though they don’t often meet except for events like Josh’s 90th birthday last year and my heart attack in 2016.

But I do miss them. I love my sons dearly, but mothers get a completely different kind of sympathy and support from our daughters. Lucky us!!

I thank all the lovely people who wrote and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat 

OUR FIRST JOHN DOBBIE TOYSHOP

Simon aged 3 and me looking in at our first bow-fronted toyshop.

It was 1962. Simon was 2½ and Bernard was 4 months old. Josh was working full time in our dental practice up in town and I was working part time in the dental practice I had set up in our small terrace house in Wimbledon.

Despite the fact that we were both working, we were overdrawn, having taken on too big a mortgage. We cast about for ways of making some extra money and finally decided to open an educational toyshop. It was such an ordeal getting two small boys ready to go up to town to find some toys that didn’t fall to pieces almost straightaway. The word you thought of then when someone said ‘toys’ was ‘broken’!! There was a very good toyshop owned by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt in Wimpole Street and Heal’s had some good toys, particularly at Christmas, but it wasn’t easy dragging the boys up to town.

We approached local agents in Wimbledon village only to be told none of the shops ever changed hands. All of them had been there for ages. Then, just before Christmas, one of the agents rang to say a small shop had come on the market.

It was ideal. A reasonable rent for a small bow-fronted shop – just one’s image of ‘Ye Olde Toy Shoppe.’ Winter 1962-3 was the coldest for years and we almost said ‘no’. I remember inspecting the premises, still with a post-pregnancy weak bladder, and finding the loo frozen solid.

Having managed to borrow £500 between the bank and a friend of my sister’s, we spent £250 on fitting it out and £250 on stock. If we visited any shop that stocked attractive sturdy toys, we turned them over to look at the labels to find the suppliers. We also managed to find some craftworkers making beautiful toys to order, as well as sturdy wooden toys imported from Scandinavia.

I wrote to all the Sunday glossies to tell them our shop would be opening at Easter and to our great good fortune the Woman’s Page editor, the wonderful late Moira Keenan, wrote about us on the Sunday before Easter. Fantastic!!

That Wimbledon shop later moved to a larger shop in the High Street and we opened a second shop in Putney. We never made much money out of them though it was a wonderful experience. Finally, having had enough of running John Dobbie, we sold the Putney shop in a property deal, and the Wimbledon shop to a couple who had opened a shop like ours elsewhere.

I decided to return to medicine, hoping to specialise in dental pathology. The professor who’d invited me to come and see him, if and when I was ready, had retired and when I approached his replacement for a job, he turned me down saying ‘A married woman with four children and no expertise – you’ve nothing to offer.’

Five years later I was a consultant pathologist with an international reputation. When we met later he swore he’d never said anything of the kind – but he had!!

‘Woman in a White Coat                      paperback

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

IT’S FANTASTIC HAVING A DAUGHTER

Louise fulfilling her promise as a pretty baby

Of course, I loved my two sons. Still do, even though they’re both now bald and getting on for 60, but daughters are extra special.

When I was pregnant with Louise in 1966, ultrasounds were not yet in general use so I was prepared for a third son or a daughter. As babies, the boys had slept in carrycots until they were old enough for a proper cot but one of the craft workers, who made wicker rattles and balls for our John Dobbie toyshop, made me a gorgeous wicker cradle. I spent ages lining and trimming it with a delicate pale turquoise checked fabric – the colour would do for either sex.

My labour started in the small hours and Josh took me and the boys – then six and four – to the nursing home. I hadn’t been able to book in to have another baby at the hospital where I qualified, as I was outside their catchment area and it was a normal pregnancy. The local maternity hospital was fully booked around the time I was due.

The boys were complaining that they were hungry when Josh left me tucked into a pleasant room with a lovely coal fire. He decided to take them to Covent Garden, then still a busy Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Market, and where there were cafes open all-night for the market porters.

Josh ordered sandwiches and hot milk for the boys. The counter assistant poured hot water over a couple of teaspoons.

‘Better to sterilise them for the little boys,’ she said.

Louise finally made her appearance in the evening after Josh had been up to see me and then taken the boys home to bed. It was love at first sight with this adorable little 6½ pound dark-haired little scrap. I’d fed the boys myself and she was as easy as they had been.

The only trouble was that I’d not eaten all day in case a problem would have arisen and I’d needed an emergency C-section. I was starving. I asked the nurse for something to eat but, believe it or not, being a private facility, the senior nurse had locked the fridges and food stores when she left at night. Luckily I was so tired that I fell asleep.

It was a nice comfortable room with pleasant friendly nurses but a bit slap-dash. On the few days I stayed there, after dinner I tucked my little one under the bedclothes with just her nose out so she could breathe. To my delight the nurses forgot to take her to the nursery. When she cried I fed her and she soon went back to sleep. Bliss.

I loved dressing her in pretty clothes and now she chooses pretty things for her daughter – and for me.

We mothers of daughters are the luckiest in the world.

Many thanks to those who wrote to say they enjoyed reading my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. Have finally started on the sequel.

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

About ‘Woman in a White Coat’

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_Whitee_Coat

ME AND MY TONSILS

Hannah was the prettiest of the three of us

It was still dark when my mother shook me awake and whispered, ‘Get up and don’t wake your sister.’

Since my grandmother died, I had shared the big double bed with my middle sister, Hannah. I crept to the bottom of the bed past her feet and crawled out.

When I reached for the Cornflakes my mother smacked my hand away.

‘You know you mustn’t eat before an operation.’

I would have liked to ask what an operation was but I could tell that my mother was already cross, especially when I couldn’t find my shoes. Somehow they’d got right under the bed and I had to crawl in amongst the dust bunnies to get them.

She marched me up Wentworth Street to Commercial, Street where we caught a tram to Grays Inn Road and the old Royal Free Hospital.

I was quickly admitted, and my mother left. I had my tonsils out that day and I remember waking up with an awful sore throat, helped a bit by a scoop each of vanilla and strawberry ice cream.

Once my throat eased a bit, I had a great time playing with the other children. We had Ludo and Snakes and Ladders to play with, but the very best was chasing over and under the beds – at least, until the nurses told us off.

I was almost sorry when the nurse said we would be going home. My mother was always late for everything and I was left all alone in the waiting room as the others were collected one by one. She finally came, only to tell me off because I’d spilled something down my jumper.

In those days it was just a couple of bad sore throats and out came your tonsils. Now we realise that the tonsils are large lymphatic glands that have an important role to play in our immune system.

Fortunately, there were still a few indications for tonsillectomy when I was a young Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) house surgeon in 1959. Because I had already qualified as a dentist as well as a doctor, and I suppose seemed steady and sensible, my consultant allowed me to have my own operating list, removing tonsils and adenoids. We took out tonsils by grabbing them in a steel snare and nipping them off. Usually we removed the adenoids as well by scraping them out. I loved it all.

By that time, Josh and I were married and, though I would have loved to have trained as a surgeon, I felt that as a married woman I was unlikely to get very far. In my hospital, there was only one woman consultant surgeon (unmarried, of course) and that was the usual state of affairs.

Woman in a White Coat paperback

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’.

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

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

MY TWOPENNY CLUB ROW FORTUNE

Simon before Babygros and Onesies

If I had been good and not been cheeky, on Sunday my dad would take me to Club Row to see the animals. That week I asked if I could buy a twopenny fortune. The fortune seller had a yellow budgerigar perched on his shoulder and a tray stuffed with rows of little envelopes suspended around his neck. When you handed over your two pennies, the budgie would fly down, pick out one of the envelopes with its beak and hand it to you. The bystanders watched in silence as I opened the envelope.

‘You will win the football pools, get married and have four children,’ I read out to a round of applause.

I managed two of the three, but winning the football pools wasn’t one of them!!

I had qualified in dentistry and was half way through my medical training when we got married in 1956. By the time I completed my second post as a house physician, and was now able to work outside a hospital, I was five months pregnant with Simon.

Unfortunately, I developed raised blood pressure and fluid retention towards the end of my pregnancy and was prescribed strict rest. I was bored out of my mind. Two weeks before Simon was due, I was delighted when Josh’s cousins invited us for dinner. Both of them were great cooks and bon viveurs.

In 1960 we weren’t generally aware of the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy so when we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of dry sherry, as was the custom. I had two glasses of a very good Hungarian red wine with the delicious meal and a snifter of brandy with my after-dinner coffee.

Then my waters broke and Josh drove to the hospital in our old Morris 8 banger as fast as it would go.

When I arrived at the hospital where I’d trained, the midwife settled me in and sent Josh back for the case I kept ready for such an emergency.

‘Nothing’s happening at the moment,’ she said. ‘Just take this Seconal. It will help you to sleep. As it’s your first baby it could be ages yet.’

‘I really don’t need it. I’m more like a dormouse than anything. I’ll be asleep in no time.’

‘Be good now, Dr Waterman,’ she said. So I swallowed the capsule.

But soon my contractions started.

‘I’ll just give you something for the pain,’ the midwife said.

‘It’s not really hurting,’ I said.

‘Be good,’ she said, and gave me an injection of Pethidine.

By now, I’d had a glass of sherry, two large glasses of wine, a brandy, a capsule of Seconal and an injection of Pethidine. I was as high as a kite!!

I knew a few dirty songs and sang them at the top of my voice, but I knew a lot more hymns and started to sing them while the midwife exhorted me to push.

Finally, her instructions got through to me and my gorgeous baby boy was born. Amazingly, the moment I held Simon in my arms, I was stone cold sober. What incredible beings we are!!

Many thanks to those who’ve contacted me to say they are going to give my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ as a Hanukah or

Woman in a White Coat paperback

Christmas present

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End and making good

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

WW2 – THE BLITZ. EVACUATED TO DAWLISH 1940-42

In Dawlish aged 8

I was the youngest and smallest of the 40 children evacuated to the hostel in Dawlish. The Blitz had started on September 7th 1940 and the Luftwaffe systematically bombed London for 56 of the following 57 days and nights. Many children, unhappy at being evacuated, had come back to London. Posters appeared everywhere urging parents to send their children back to the safety of the countryside.

After my awful experience evacuated to Ely, I said I wouldn’t go away again, but at not quite eight years old I had no choice. I was sent off to the hostel for Jewish children in Dawlish run by Habonim. A distant cousin, who worked in a similar hostel in Teignmouth, took me there.

For the first time ever, I was petted and made much of, though I found my chores tough, especially in the depths of winter. There were several dormitories and my job was to clean the basins in each of the bedrooms before leaving for school. It wasn’t too bad in the summer, but in the winter, when the water was icy and the patterns of Jack Frost covered the windows, I got chilblains on my fingers, as well as on my toes.

I had just been in trouble for refusing to comb my hair or wash on Saturdays. I had decided it was work and so forbidden on the Sabbath. The matron wrote to ask my parents whether this was their choice. They wrote back saying it was all nonsense and I had been thoroughly told off.

Then, to my surprise, my parents agreed to pay for me to have piano lessons. Mr Lawson was the organist at the local church and also taught the piano. A short tubby man, I would sit next to him entranced as he played for me. He smoked continuously, even while he was playing, the ash dropping unheeded onto his waistcoat. I expected a pianist to have long slender hands, but his nicotine-stained fingers were short and stubby, with coarse dark hair on the backs. But he made magic with them.

He invited me to come to the local church to hear him play the organ on Sunday, but I knew my Orthodox parents would be horrified so I never did, though the love of music was with me forever. I have had several piano teachers since, but none will ever compare with my first teacher, Mr Lawson.

Many thanks to all those who’ve contacted me to say they are going to buy my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ for Hanukah or Christmas presents

Woman in a White Coat paperback

‘Woman in White Coat’ – the memoir of a girl growing up the East End and making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat