Category Archives: Children

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!!

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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

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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’

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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

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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

THE KINDNESS OF A STRANGER

Don’t know whether they had solutions like this in the 1940s

Nowadays having lice is almost a badge of honour. I realised this when my very upper crust neighbour rang the bell to tell me that her daughter Fiona had lice, and that I should check my four for the nasty little things. She sounded quite proud of the fact. So different from when I was a child. Then if you had lice, it meant that you were poor, came from a dirty home and probably your mother didn’t love you. Same parasites – different time and different attitude.

It was Sophie who noticed the navy blue suited figure crossing the playground.

‘It’s Nitty Nora,’ she hissed, loudly enough for the whole class to hear.

The Health Visitor called at our school on a regular basis, checking for lice and scabies. Our form mistress, Miss Evans, came to our classroom at the end of Latin.

‘Make your way to the First Aid room, girls, and line up in alphabetical order. Behave yourselves now. You don’t want to make me ashamed of you.’

I was last but one – Waterman came before Zaperstein.

‘Hold out your hands,’ the Health Visitor directed. ‘I’m pleased to see at least one girl has got nice clean nails,’ she said, as she inspected my hands for the tell-tale burrows of scabies.

She went on to look through my hair, especially in the warm places behind my ears, and then dismissed me.

Miss Evans stopped me as I queued to leave at the end of the afternoon and handed me a small brown envelope. You used to be able to steam those envelopes open and be forewarned about any wrongdoing on your part, but the teachers now sealed the envelopes with a strip of sellotape.

I held my breath as my mother opened it.

Dear Mrs Waterman

This is to inform you that your daughter Abigail Waterman has been found to be infested with lice. You are required to take her to Finsbury Square Cleansing station at 8am tomorrow morning. She will be unable to attend school until she is certified free of lice and nits. 

My mother was furious.

‘You insisted on washing your hair yourself and now look at the state of you – lice indeed. You’ve disgraced me and disgraced our family. They’ll think I’m a bad mother.’

She insisted on washing my hair twice that evening and there was certainly no supper that day.

I went on my own to the Cleansing Station, sitting as far as possible from anyone else on the bus lest they see lice crawling through my hair. I stood at the top of the stairs leading down to a mahogany door with a porthole in it filled with pebbled glass. The brass handrail gleamed in the winter sunlight as did the fittings on the door.

Instead of the ogre I was expecting, a jolly plump red-faced woman opened the door wide, a beaming smile on her face.

‘Come on in, my dear. I don’t bite.’

She washed my hair twice with anti-lice shampoo that smelled strongly of carbolic and combed it with a toothcomb. Towelling it almost dry, she sat me down in front of the fire with a sweet cup of tea and a biscuit.

‘Don’t be upset, sweetheart,’ she said. ‘I get plenty of clean girls through my hands. Anyone can catch the horrid little things. I’m afraid you can’t go back to school today, my love. You need to come back tomorrow and if there are no lice or nits left, I’ll give you a note saying that you are free of them.’

I felt like kissing her, but I was too shy.

No-one at school seemed to know or care why I had been away for a day and I never had lice again as a child. It wasn’t until I had four louse-ridden children that I caught head lice again – but that’s another story.

I thank all those lovely people who read and commented on 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

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1944 AND WW2 IS DRAGGING ON

 

Hither Green Scarlet Fever Hospital 1897-1997

Hitler was still sending nightly bombing sorties against London so we slept in our designated shelter, the converted basement of a factory in Middlesex Street. The authorities had installed black metal bunk beds, as well as lockers and chemical toilets against one wall. I would gather up my most precious possessions – my pressed flower book from the Holy Land, my best cardigan and the placemats I was embroidering – and stuff them into a pillowcase, together with my homework and a torch, so I could read under the blankets after the main lights were turned off.

We children expected to get one or more childhood fevers. I caught measles, chicken pox, rubella and whooping cough in turn. That was about par for the course. I was left with a cough for years and a few little pock marks on my face, but I was lucky – there was a significant mortality associated with these infections. Some children were left blind or deaf from measles and every school had children wearing leg braces to support limbs damaged by polio. The only immunisation/ vaccination we had was against smallpox.

The last infectious disease I caught was Scarlet Fever and I loved having it.

As I trailed after my mother to the shelter, I was feeling worse and worse. My head ached and my throat was sore. By next morning my chest was covered in a vivid red rash.

I don’t remember at which stage I saw a doctor, but I was soon wrapped in a soft red blanket and packed off in an ambulance to Hither Green Isolation Hospital – Scarlet Fever is very infectious. It was so exciting. I’d never been in an ambulance before. I loved it when they turned on the bell when they couldn’t get through traffic.

At the hospital, the examining doctor congratulated me. He said I had the classical Strawberry Tongue of Scarlet Fever and bemoaned the fact there were no medical students to admire it. The nurses took my clothes away to be fumigated and I was admitted to a ward full of crying toddlers and babies.

Antibiotics weren’t yet available so I just had to wait for the disease to take its course. After a couple of days, I felt fine. Fortunately, there was one girl of my age, Ellie. There were separate one storey buildings for each infectious disease, set in quite extensive grounds. Ellie and I could wander at will. The wards were called by different letters and each had a tree planted nearby whose name began with that letter. Being in Q ward, I met quinces for the first time.

It was lovely having a friend of my own age and wonderful not having to sleep in a crowded shelter, nor having to use the smelly chemical toilets. But while I was in hospital, Hitler started to send over Doodlebugs, unmanned explosive planes which didn’t have to wait for the cover of darkness to avoid anti-aircraft fire and could be sent over day or night.

I think I was in hospital about 2 weeks. The good thing was that when I was discharged home, there was now no point in sleeping in the shelter that I hated. I could sleep in my own bed, curled up in my lovely feather ‘parana’ – bed bugs and all!!

Hither Green Scarlet Fever Hospital was opened 1897 and after being used for a number of different medical specialities, it was closed in 1997. It was designed by Edwin Thomas Hall, who also designed the Liberty Stores in Regent Street. The hospital has been demolished and the site is now a housing complex, Meridian South.

I thank all those lovely people who read and commented on stories like this in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.

Lots more stories 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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABE

The boys in dressing-up clothes

When your younger son is 57 today and his elder brother is 59 you realise you really are old!!

‘Babe and me thought it was a good idea’ is our family saying for when someone – not pointing at someone recently or presently in power today – does something unexpected and stupid.

When our elder son, Simon, was in nappies we had those terry towelling napkins you had to soak and wash daily. By the time Bernard was born, disposable applies were available and the make we used was called ‘Golden Babe.’ Unlike the rest of our family, Bernard had white-gold hair and his nickname was soon ‘Golden Babe’ or ‘Babe’ for short.

Simon was three and Bernard was 6 months old when we moved them out of the box room and into a junior bed and larger cot in the spare bedroom. To our horror, the first morning the boys were in their new bedroom, Simon scribbled all over one newly painted wall.

‘Why did you do that?’ We asked. He looked over at Babe, who had just learned to sit up alone, and certainly hadn’t yet learned to speak. ‘Well,’ he said. ‘Babe and me thought it was a good idea.’

We couldn’t be cross. It was such a great saying!!

The following year we opened our educational toy shop, John Dobbie , in Wimbledon Village and amongst our stock we sold fancy dress clothes. They both loved dressing up.

Read more of my memoir in ‘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

THE BLITZ WW2 AND RE-EVACUATION 1940-1942

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

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Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3 & 5 at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall

Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Thomas Dausgaard
Another visit to the BBC Proms 2018. A wonderful concert in a pleasantly cool Albert Hall. The three fabulous Bach Brandenburg Concertos were interspersed with three modern pieces.
Cellist Maya Beiser taking a bow after the piece ‘Maya’ written for her
The first modern piece was Maya by the British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage with the brilliant American cellist Maya Beiser – an interesting virtuoso piece, moving and exciting. After the Brandenburg Concerto No 3  the orchestra played Bach Materia by Swedish Anders Hillborg with the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuussisto . A fantastic piece – especially the duet between the violin and double bass. Last modern piece was Hamsa by the American composer Uri Caine playing the piano part himself – for me a sorry parody of the great 5th Brandenburg Concerto which preceded it. Much of the piano part was a cacophony sounding like a cat walking over the keys – banging out tight discords. I was nine years old when I started to learn to play the piano with the organist of the local church. At the time, 1940-1942,  I was evacuated to a hostel for Jewish Children in Dawlish, South Devon. Listen to my account of that experience from my memoir Woman in a White Coat. You can buy my book on Kindle at £2.99 or search on ISBN 9781979834391 for the paperback version on Amazon at £9.99 Memoir extract from Chapter 5 Pages 68-71 To Dawlish Matron put up a notice saying she had written to our parents asking if they wanted us to learn to play the piano. I didn’t think my parents would agree to pay for lessons though they were quite cheap, especially as I had just been in trouble for refusing to wash on the Sabbath. Continue reading Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3 & 5 at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall