Category Archives: Memoir

I shall wear purple ….

Pericallis Senetti in the courtyard to our flats

As I walked past the purple CinerariaPericallis Senetti – the gardeners had newly planted in our courtyard, I was reminded of Jenny Joseph’s poem Warning

‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me
. . . . ‘

Like everyone who voted it Britain’s favourite poem in 1996, I’ve always liked it, especially now I’ve grown old myself.

However, alhough purple is my favourite colour, the only purple garment I have is a Marks and Spencer purple button-to-the neck cardigan. Perhaps it’s time to go shopping for purple.

Delighted to get back another speedy and positive review of Chapter 1 of my memoir Woman in a White Coat. Thank you N.

Email me at abby(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)abbyjw.com to be sent the first chapter of Woman in a White Coat. If you comment, I will send you another. Look forward to hearing  from you.

Westminster Cardiac Support Group

I never felt after my various other medical catastrophes including breast cancer and a broken hip that I wanted to join a support group. As far as I was concerned, I knew how I needed to come to terms with my extra disability and I just got on with it.

However, St Thomas’s Hospital Critical Care consultants arranged first a follow up clinic for patients who had been in Intensive Care and then scheduled Evening Support (Discussion) groups for survivors and close relations.

I was surprised and delighted with how helpful and reassuring it was to talk to people who had been in a similar situation and with whom I could swap war stories.

I had a particular lurid crop of hallucinations after my heart attack last August – up to 80% of patients in critical care experience some delusions that seem very real to us. Mine will be going into the Final Chapter of my nearly finished memoir.

I loved hearing about those that other patients had. One man was convinced burglars came in the night and stole all the hospital’s bandages. The nurses’ denials didn’t convince him one bit. One of my delusions was that Damien Hurst and Jeff Koons had presented the High Dependence Unit with priceless artefacts. My response was that they made the ward look untidy!!

Pimlico Library on the corner of Lupus Street

The Library Manager of Pimlico Library has kindly offered us a meeting room for our proposed Westminster Cardiac Support Group for one evening a month , There is a pleasant -looking coffee bar upstairs for anyone who comes early and we would provide water and soft drinks during the meeting. It also has a toy library!!

A quiet corner showing the entrance to the meeting room

Buses #C10, 24 and 360 stop outside, for the good walkers both Victoria and Pimlico Undergrounds are in walking distance and there is a lift down to the library level.

It’s a very generous offer and I hope plenty local post-cardiac catastrophe patients and their near-ones will come.

Pimlico Library

This is a large library with a huge range of facilities serving the general public and Pimlico Academy.

Locations and contact details

Opening hours

Day Main library
Monday to Friday 9.30am to 8pm
Saturday 9.30am to 5pm
Sunday 1.30pm to 5pm

Facilities and services

David Hockney at Tate Britain, London

Open until May 29th 2017

We always book tickets for as early as possible, usually as soon as exhibitions open. In that way, they’re not still full of the viewers from previous slots. We were amazed at the long queues in both directions from Tate Britain’s side entrance. There is usually a gaggle of people waiting to get in but we’ve never seen crowds like these.

Some of the prints on sale

I booked rather as a duty than because I was thrilled at the thought of the exhibition. When I think of Hockney it’s of very pink nude male bottoms in a swimming pool but this exhibition was of much, much more, charting Hockney’s progress from his early student wok – more like graffiti than anything – up to his more recent exciting landscape videos – previously shown at the Royal Academy – and his iPad images.

My favourite painting – Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark

Hockney’s painting of Celia and Ossie Clark is definitely my favourite. It was interesting seeing Celia Birtwell – now in her mid-seventies – interviewed on television and by the Independent, though for me she will always be that fresh-faced blonde in Hockney’s painting.

Note: Now that my memoir Woman in a White Coat is well on its way to its a final edit, if you email me at abby(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you. 

April Fool’s Day and my New Resolution

Abby age 2

My memoir Woman in a White Coat starts 85 years ago in October 1931, two years before this studio portrait was taken.

Who would have thought this serious little girl would qualify in dentistry and medicine, become an entrepreneur and end up as a consultant pathologist in a major London teaching hospital.

I was born at a time when a girl’s only future was marriage and children  – though I managed those too – married to the same loving husband for 60 years with four wonderful children and four equally wonderful grandchildren.

There are 30 days in April and my memoir presently has 29 chapters so if I edit one chapter a day my memoir will be ready to be uploaded as an e-book by the end of the month. That is my April Fool’s Day resolution.

If you email me at abby(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you.

Spread the Word – Life Writing Prize

Closing date 05.02.2017

Great surprise to open an email from Spread the Word and find that they have established a Life Writing Prize with a generous donation from Joanna Munro and partnership support from Goldsmiths University, Arvon and the Royal Society of Literature.

It is open now to UK residents over 18, and you can submit as many pieces of not more than 5000 words. The closing date is February 5th 2017.

The judges are Blake Morrison, Dr Katy Massey and Margaret Stead, Publishing Director of Atlantic Books. The first prize is generous – £1,500, an Arvon course, two years’ membership of the Royal Society of Literature and a meeting with an agent or editor. Two highly commended writers will receive £500 each and a meeting with an agent or editor.

For me, it’s a great incentive to finish editing my memoir Woman in a White Coat.  I think that several of the episodes are worth working up as stand-alone pieces. This is just what I need to get me going – doesn’t matter if I don’t get long- or short-listed though having my memoir short-listed for the Tony Lothian and Wasafiri prizes was a great boost to my moral. Having a heart attack set me back and played havoc with my ability to motivate myself. Something like this certainly helps.

Thank you Spread the Word

Any Old Iron??

Sagging bedstead
Sagging bedstead

Our poor Basque grandson has been sleeping uncomplainingly on this sagging folding bed the three times a year his family comes to visit. Quite by chance, I decided to do some of my physio exercises in the spare room on that bed and felt I might sink through right onto the floor.

Had to go to the South London dump to dispose of it and the electric blanket that decided to give up the ghost as soon as the weather turned chilly.

I have fond memories of the Rag and Bone man with a cart pulled by a scraggy old horse coming regularly through Petticoat Lane. He would never give you money in return for your offerings – only give you a little useless gift in exchange.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 Woman in a White Coat

I loved it when the coal man came. We could hear him calling ‘Coal for sale’ from streets away and I would be sent down to ask for a bag of coal.

Continue reading Any Old Iron??

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.

My First Teddy Bear

A lovely gift from the Gothenburg Airport shop
A lovely gift from the Gothenburg Airport shop

I never had any soft toys as a child – we were too poor for such luxuries. We had a game of Ludo and that was that, but Josh and I showered our four children and grandchildren with soft toys. Josh especially finds them irresistible. Our John Dobbie toyshop always had loads.

When I saw this gorgeous soft cuddly teddy bear in the Gothenburg Airport shop I had to have it. He sits on my bedside table with the two or three books I am in the process of reading and sometimes creeps into bed with me.

As a child, I lived in a cramped cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane. We played outside whenever we could, though on rainy days we’d slip into the unused communal laundry room on the top floor of our block.

Memoir extract from Woman in a White Coat

Continue reading My First Teddy Bear

Agents Rule OK- in their eyes

The Latest Edition
The Latest Edition

There are 38 pages of Literary Agents in the Latest edition of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Fortunately most of them accept submission by email, though I haven’t yet sussed out a way of sending the same submission to several at a time without giving the game away.

So far of the 10 agents Stephanie Hale and I have approached four said plain ‘No’, four said ‘No’ but how much they liked my memoir Woman in a White Coat, two haven’t replied after many weeks and  I am waiting to hear from two more.
Mind you, Terence Blacker,  wrote in his The Seven Rules of Rejection in the recent issue of The Author that his First Rule is ‘Rejection is rejection’ and his Second Rule is that ‘Any compliment contained in a rejection letter or email is entirely worthless’.

It is discourteous of agents not to inform us when they don ‘t want to take us on. The excuse that they are too busy carries little weight. Even if agents have 50 emails a day, presumably they finally open them but they find it too much of an effort to hit reply with an automatic message. Some say ‘If you haven’t heard from us in 12 weeks we don’t want your stuff’ or the equivalent. Are we supposed to hang fire until the 12 weeks are up? After all, any of us that reaches above a certain level in our profession is likely to receive lots of emails, but we have to reply to them all.

PowerPoint – my new toy

Well - it was only the second week!!
Well – it was only the second week!!

When I gave presentations about my work on cancer diagnosis I used acetate slides. First I had to persuade a more-or-less unwilling secretary to type up my acetate slides, get audio-visual to make them up and then, as a junior trainee pathologist, rehearse in front of my irascible Head of Department. As a consultant pathologist, I no longer had to rehearse in front of my boss though I got my youngest child, Jane, to work my slide projector when I rehearsed the timing. She gave  a wonderful gobbled-gook impersonation of me – ‘Next slide please’ and all.

Now it’s so easy with PowerPoint with yet another very good tutor at the Mary Ward Centre.  taking the course was stimulated by being asked by my local library to give a presentation on writing my memoir Woman in a White Coat. I’ve been warned by my expert son, Simon, not to incorporate music or animation though they are next week’s topics.