Category Archives: Memoir

LATE FOR THE WEDDING

I was a lot slimmer then!!

My family was late for everything. That wasn’t surprising, since my mother always started out at the time we were meant to be there – for holyday services, for the cinema, for everything. I got used to pushing past unfriendly knees and apologising ‘Sorry. Sorry. So sorry’.

My parents had always gone to the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place, but the magnificent old building was bombed in 1942 and services were held in an unadorned single story temporary building. My brother-in-law, who was a ganser macher (big noise) in the West Ham shul (synagogue), persuaded me to get married there and leave from their house which was nearby.

The car to take us to the shul had arrived and my middle sister, Hannah, made last minute adjustments to my headdress. My elder sister, Rebecca, had recently adopted a sweet little baby girl and of course Susie needed changing urgently, just as we were about to leave. It took Rebecca ages as she fumbled with an unfamiliar terry towelling nappy and the huge safety pin. Finally, we were ready, but now we were 15 minutes late. To cap it all, there’d been a minor road accident around the corner which made us later still.

As I climbed up under the chuppah (wedding canopy) it was to see Josh looking absolutely ashen in his Moss Bros tuxedo and top hat. He’d been sure I’d stood him up!!

He and his parents were the opposite to mine and always on time. Once safely married, I caught being punctual from him and now I’m always on time and often early. So – lots of unwanted cups of indifferent coffee while I wait for my friends to arrive or the class or meeting to start.

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 

 

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 

ON BEING A KIND SCHOOL DENTIST

I love this 1977 New Zealand Stamp with both Dentist and Patient smiling

I know a lot of people have awful memories of the school dentist and the gas mask they used, but I like to think I was one of the kind ones and treated the children as if they were patients in a private practice.

I’d had an LCC (London County Council) grant to cover my dental degree so I couldn’t have a second grant to cover the Medical training I started in the autumn of 1953. I applied for and was awarded a Hilda Martindale Scholarship which covered my medical school fees and a small amount towards my living expenses. I was still living at home so they weren’t great, but medical textbooks were very expensive and I needed money to cover clothes. I approached the LCC Dental Service for a part-time job two evenings a week and was sent to a clinic in the city.

Both the nurse and I were expecting a miserable old bag, like the school dental nurses we’d met ourselves, so both of us were surprised and delighted. Maureen was a rosy-cheeked Somerset lass with a broad sense of humour and we hit it off at once. We spent the time between patients giggling and exchanging notes on the talent available to us and the latest fashions.

As it was an evening clinic, most of our patients were in senior schools. Once they’d got over their amazement at being greeted by two young women in their 20’s and reassured that I would use a local anaesthetic for any painful fillings and never use gas, they were excellent and very grateful patients. Many of those who’d been through the school dental system hated the gas mask and it left them with a permanent fear of dentists. Although at the time, it was still legal for a dentist to administer a general anaesthetic (usually nitrous oxide) on their own, I would never do so. I could carry out fillings and extractions perfectly well under local.

In our first two years at medical school, covering Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, we had long holidays so I took a two-week locum appointment at a school clinic in West Ham that Christmas. The kids were fine and I again had a very pleasant nurse, but I was appalled at the poverty around me. I was brought up in the East End and we were poor but, as my mother had been a dressmaker and scoured the markets stalls for fabric remnants, I was always reasonably well dressed. Some of these children were almost in rags. I tried to persuade a young teenage boy to take off his blazer – no overcoat. I was worried about getting blood or saliva on it. When he finally agreed, I saw that on this on a freezing December day he wore only a singlet underneath.

‘I only have one shirt, you see. Mum washes it every Friday night ready for school on Monday. I never wear it in the holidays.’

I carried on with my evening clinics after Josh and I got married in 1956, until we started out own dental practice where I worked on Wednesday afternoons – when the male medical students played rugger – and Saturday mornings.

And our lovely Maureen left the LCC service and came to work in our practice until she got married in turn and her husband took a job in the country.

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

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

 

THE TURKEY BONE LADY

TurTurkey bone

My first post after qualifying as a doctor was as a house surgeon in the Ear, Nose and Throat department. During the week I was on 24/7 but, as there were two ENT housemen, we had alternate weekends off.

It was the day after Boxing Day 1958 and we were all feeling rather fragile after the party the night before. My bleep went. It was Sister in Casualty.

‘I think you’re on call for ENT, Dr Waterman. Could you come down? We have a patient for you.’

I walked through the tunnel to Casualty and was greeted by Sister wearing a red paper hat.

‘It’s the large lady over there,’ she said.

I looked across. She was enormous. She dwarfed her tiny husband.

I grinned and pointed to Sister’s hat.

‘My God,’ she said, pulling it off. ‘I’ve been wearing this all morning. Haven’t been to bed yet. I’m off in an hour.’

‘It’s something I’ve swallowed,’ my patient said. ‘It’s because of my daughter-in -law, Doris. She’s a bit sloppy with her cooking.’

Her husband patted her fat little hand.

‘She tries her best, love.’

‘It was the turkey stew. My new teeth still hurt when I chew and as it was just stew I took them out to eat. Next thing there was something sticking in my throat. I tried gargling and eating dry bread but it’s still there this morning.’

‘Do you think you could walk over with me to the ENT department. I think you’re going to need an anaesthetic for us to see what it is. It’s good you haven’t eaten anything this morning.’

My registrar was sitting in the surgeon’s lounge looking pitiful.

‘Speak very quietly,’ he said. ‘I think my head is going to explode. I thought we’d have a quiet day. Can you book a theatre and bleep the anaesthetist on call. I hope he’s not feeling as bad as I am.’

The registrar got the turkey vertebra out easily and I took it round to recovery to show my patient.

I was off the next weekend and went shopping in the local market. I heard a voice calling ‘Miss, Miss. Doctor.’

It was the turkey bone lady. I thought I had recognised her in Casualty but I hadn’t been sure. She had quite the best fruit and vegetable stall in the market. I chose some apples and a bunch of bananas and held out a £1 note.

‘That’s all right, love. I owe you. You were so kind to me.’

I tried to insist but she wasn’t having any. It wasn’t very much so I said thank you and backed off fast when she looked as if she was going to kiss me.

The trouble was she tried not to charge me the next time I went shopping. I couldn’t have that, so I had to shop at one of the other stalls.

One day she stopped me.

‘I’ve seen you going to her opposite. Nothing like the quality on our barrow. OK. I’ll charge you then but I’ll see you right. You’ll have the best stuff you’ve ever seen.’

It wasn’t fair really. All I’d done was book her in. My registrar was nursing a sore head and he was so grumpy he upset her.

It shows we all want a bit of Tender Loving Care.

A Fruit and Vegetable stall in San Sebastian

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 paperback

ALL 6s AND 7s – ACCORDING TO WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Age 6 from Rachel Mulligan’s sequence ‘Seven Ages of Man’ stained glass roundels illustrating the life of her father Jim Mulligan, Stained Glass Museum, Ely Cathedral

On my way home from seeing the audiologist about my hearing aids, I thought about all the ‘falsies’ now available to us. I don’t have those we usually associate with the term – when I had surgery for breast cancer immediate reconstruction wasn’t on offer, but I have been fitted with some of the other prosthetic replacements hardly dreamt of when Jacques in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ spoke of the Seven Ages of Man.

In the UK by 2018 the expectation of life for men was 79.6 and for women 83.2. In Shakespeare’s time, in the 16th century, the expectation of life for both was just under 40, given the high mortality during infancy and childbirth. At 40, I’d have thought myself in the prime of life and was just about to start my specialist training as a consultant pathologist. My final career was just about to begin.

‘The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose’

‘Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’

I used to be lean and wish I were again. I’ve more ‘the fair round belly’ of the Justice and I only wear slippers at home – haven’t yet descended into going out in them, nor in curlers. I’ve most of my own teeth with only one false tooth – a bridge supported by a tooth on either side, and since having my cataracts removed and false lenses inserted, I no longer wear spectacles,. Also, I have a false hip after fracturing the neck of my right femur in Spain in 2000.
I’m not sure about the ‘second childishness’, though every now again, when I try to remember a word or a name, I experience the ‘mere oblivion’. But so at times so do my children and grandchildren. Immediately after my heart attack I virtually lost my sense of taste and some manual dexterity, but they’re mostly back now.
Lucky we didn’t live in Shakespeare’s time, when ‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’ meant literally that!!

Lots more 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 paperback

IT TAKES A NERVE TO CATCH YOURSELF A HUSBAND

As soon as I turned seventeen, the pressure was on. This was long before Computers or Internet Dating, and my mother started to worry that she’d have to find a Shadchen (a matchmaker) if, like a nice Jewish girl, I was to get married and have a big family. But despite my mother’s fears, all I needed was the nerve.

In my early teens, eager to meet handsome young men, I got myself booked into Guy’s Hospital Dental School to have my teeth seen to. I never actually got off with any of them, and I certainly never knew why I had the professor and a crowd of students around me when a new junior student took over my treatment.

I was now a senior dental student myself and treating my favourite patient. He was an elderly man who had a fund of brilliant stories of Times Gone By. He kept me in gales of laughter – in between me trying to get on with filling the many cavities in his teeth.

I’d had odd twinges of toothache in a lower premolar, but when I consulted our very misogynistic professor, he said he could find no cause for my pain and that I was just another hysterical young woman student. But now I had a throbbing pain in my tooth that seemed to be bursting out of my head. I’d never experienced anything like it. If you’ve ever had really bad toothache you will know what I mean. It was almost unbearable.

I apologised to my patient and said I’d have to put in a temporary filling. I just couldn’t go on.

He tried hard, but he couldn’t help grinning.

‘Don’t worry, my dear,’ he said. ‘You get yourself seen to. Good to have an excuse to come and see you again.’

The pain had subsided a little and I was able to bid him goodbye.

I didn’t know the on duty house surgeon very well, but I knew he had the reputation of being very skilful but with a sharp tongue. I expected him to be as scathing as my professor.

By now the pain had simmered down a bit. I went up to him and asked him to look at my tooth, explaining that the prof had been unable to find the source of my fleeting pain.

In very little time, he established that a right lower premolar, which had a small filling in it, was the source of my raging toothache. The very junior student at Guy’s Hospital, who’d treated me all those years ago, had drilled too deep and exposed the nerve in the centre of the tooth – hence the crowd around me, watching the exposed nerve being capped off. It had lain dormant for years and was now finally giving trouble.

The house surgeon gave me an injection, removed the inflamed nerve and arranged to complete the root filling when it had settled down.

Having made a further appointment, he asked me if I’d like to come to the cinema that weekend to see ‘Les Enfants du Paradis.’

The rest is history. Now, four children and four grandchildren later, Josh and I have been married the best part of 64 years.

Josh as a very handsome young dental student (not me – another student in his dental chair)

Josh as a very handsome young dental student (not me – another student in his dental chair)

I thank all you 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.

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

About ‘Woman in a 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

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

FROM SHMEAR TO ETERNITY – MY LOVELY NEW (2ND HAND) YIDDISCHE DICTIONARY

My new secondhand Yiddische dictionary

I saw Fred Kogos’s dictionary online some time ago but none of the UK online booksellers I tried had a new copy at the list price of £10.99. Not only a new copy but secondhand copies were all at silly prices starting at £54. Finally, I found some secondhand copies from three USA bookstores but none of them would ship to the UK. Then, just before Christmas, a secondhand copy was listed on Amazon US. Not cheap at £23.54 including nearly £4 postage, but so well worth it. It’s in very good condition, the paper slightly foxed but no underlines or highlighting.

It is all in Roman script not Hebrew – much easier for me. Yiddish-> English then English -> Yiddish and then pages of Yiddish proverbs.

It made me quite weepy, reading the proverbs my late mother used to encourage or berate me with. Never thought a dictionary would make tears come to my eyes.

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

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 paperback

 

ON BEING A GOURMET COOK – OR NOT

When Josh and I got married in 1956, I had two dishes in my repertoire – a simple omelette and minestrone soup. My mother was a plain cook, with a very limited range of dishes – cold fried fish on Friday night, cholent on Saturday and braised or roast beef or boiled chicken on other days. Our main meal was at lunchtime – our dinner –-always a rushed meal, because my father and older sisters had only half an hour for lunch and I had to get back to school. For supper we had egg on toast or sardines on toast so I should add those to my range of expertise and of course from my student days baked beans on toast. Josh on the other hand came from a family of good cooks – his paternal grandfather had been a baker in Poland – and so Josh was a much better cook than I.

I gradually extended my range with the help of recipes in newspapers and magazines but then, when I finished my second post as a house physician and was five months pregnant with Simon, I decided to take a 6 week full time Good Housekeeping Cookery Course held in basement kitchens in Mayfair. It was an excellent course ranging from the simplest dishes – how to boil an egg or mash a potato – to Black Forest Gateaux and a range. of various loaves of bread.

When you have four children, and two of them are ravenous boys, you go more for quantity than variety. I got used to serving a three course meal and then having the boys ask for a ‘sarnie’ – or two. They were still ‘starving’.

After I retired in 1991, I took a wide range of courses at Further Education Colleges including cooking. The very best was Joyce’s course (sadly she’s no longer with us) at Morley College. It was a ‘Cook and Eat’ course. You paid a modest sum for the ingredients that Joyce lugged in each week, and then you paired off to cook a three course meal. I think I took the course three times – Joyce had a huge variety of tried and tested recipes.

I only remember one absolute disaster.

We had one student who was always ahead of herself. Her task was to whip the cream for our Blackberry and Apple crumble and she’d got the cream prepared long before we were ready to sit down for our meal. I had to rush off for my Spanish lesson at the Mary Ward Centre in Queens Square and so was the first to be served with my desert.

I took a spoonful and spat it out. I was sure it was poisoned. The salt and sugar – both white granules – were kept in glass jars and she hadn’t bothered to check the labels. She’d used salt instead of sugar and in that concentration the salted cream tasted vile. Probably a very primitive response to ingredients that – certainly in that quantity – are bad tor us.

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

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

Woman in a White Coat paperback

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

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

 

 

Recipe for my favourite fruit cake

Note how the fruit has remained evenly distributed

Grease and line the bottom of a large loaf tin Continue reading ON BEING A GOURMET COOK – OR NOT

HURRAH! WE MADE IT TO 2020

Fireworks on the London Eye from our balcony

I was born in 1931. Had I been born 30 years earlier, would I have survived breast cancer, a fractured hip, wrist and ankle and, in 2016, a near-fatal heart attack, when my notes were labelled ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ if the second attempt to wean me off a ventilator failed?

I remember in 1999 thinking ‘Well I’m 69, very nearly three score and ten, will I make it to the Millennium – and all the predicted computer crashes that never happened?’

And now here we are in 2020 and I’m still hanging on age 88 thanks to the amazing advances in medicine. We take x-rays, radiotherapy and antibiotics for granted as well as the even more amazing robotics. My heart has two metal stents keeping my blocked coronary arteries open and powerful drugs are helping my heart to remodel itself. All unimaginable in my parents’ youth.

I’m afraid I’m very superstitious, although 13 is my lucky number. I never walk under ladders and there was no way I would even think about what I was going to post about the New Year before the very last stroke of midnight – just in case I didn’t make it!!

Lovely watching the fireworks on the London Eye with our daughter and son-in-law. Shame this year, the grandchildren couldn’t make it.

I thank all those lovely people who contacted me to say they enjoyed 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

Woman in a White Coat paperback

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat