Category Archives: Memoir

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO STOCK UP ON??

My favourite bay in Tesco’s

We shouldn’t go crazy and be selfish but it’s only sensible to check that we have enough of the essentials for when the dreaded Coronavirus rears its ugly head again. There are spikes all over the world, though we have to hope that the race between a deadly pandemic and the vaccine is won in our favour.

I have to admit that I was worried enough to pay a silly price on eBay for a giant pack of toilet paper when toilet paper completely vanished from the shops. We still have some left now, when the supermarket shelves are full.

The commodity I missed most was bread flour. We hate stodgy supermarket highly processed bread and, except for an occasional artisan loaf, I bake all my own. As an aged and vulnerable couple, we were able to book supermarket delivery slots, but week after week there would be bread flour on their product list, but my grocery would arrive with a ‘flour out of stock’ notice. Same for yeast and baking powder. I was able to buy bread flour from a baker in 2.5kg packages but being a 5 foot nothing lady I found it quite a thing shlepping 10 kg of flour. So, I’ll make sure I have a reasonable amount of flour in stock. I am only just finishing the 500gm pack of Fermipan dried yeast I found online and have a spare ready for the next few months.

I was delighted to read in Martynoga’ s excellent book ‘The Virus’ that soap is as good or better at killing the virus than sanitisers because it dissolves their essential outer membrane. I bought a packet of antiseptic wipes as well as a little bottle of sanitizer but prefer to use the antiseptic wipes to wipe down surfaces I must touch.

Our older son got us some pretty masks, but the elastic pulls out my hearing aids – apparently a common problem. I bought some extenders, but the elastic still caught.  I ordered a mask that goes over the back of your head, rather than over your ears. Silly me!! I then realised that I could alter mine by cutting the elastic that fits over your ears in half and re-joining it so that it slips over your head. Easy/ peasy!!

When we come home from our short outings, I wash my masks in hot soapy water and as an extra precaution use them in turn and I don’t have to stock up on disposable masks.

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now. It is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster  for free.

 

 

 

 

 

Or read her memoir

Woman in a White Coat

O

OUR UNSUNG HEROES

My oral hygienist’s chair

We all clapped and cheered for our NHS and other heroes who risked their lives to save ours – and quite right. But what about our Unsung Heroes, who now are coming into the line of fire – workers whose professions bring them into potentially dangerous close contact with us, like our dentists and oral hygienists.

My oral hygienist, who has been helping me keep my remaining teeth for the last 14 years, assures me that the fact that I collect lots of calculus around my teeth, so that they need scaling every 3 or 4 months, is not to do with Central London’s hard water, but the constituents of my saliva. Whatever the cause of my heavy accumulation, a visit to the Oral Hygienist was long overdue.

She has worn a mask and gloves since I first went to her, but she does not, of course, wear full PPE and so is at some risk from patients stupid and uncaring enough not to self-isolate when knowingly exposed to Coronavirus infection. I was interested to see that, when I rinsed my mouth, my washings were disposed of safely, not tipped into the bowl attached to the dental chair as in the past.

Especially now that the number of cases of Coronavirus in the UK is worryingly high, we should appreciate these less popular members of the caring professions even more.

I qualified in medicine after training as a dentist and was always amused by the fact that at the end of a course of treatment, when I had taken great care to cause my patient as little pain and discomfort as possible, my dental patient would shake my hand and say

‘I’m glad I won’t be seeing you again.’

In contrast, as a doctor, I might have had difficulty getting a needle into a vein, making several painful attempts, but my patient would still thank me profusely and say they looked forward to their next visit and discussing their diagnosis and treatment.

I was the same person but the patient’s view of my two professions was so different!!

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now. It is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

TOUCHY-FEELY -REFLECTIONS WHILST SHIELDING

Take care and keep safe

I’m not one of those people who are always touching you as you stand talking to them – poking you in the ribs, touching you on the arm – but I find I miss the human touch. I’m lucky, I have Josh to give me a quick kiss and a cuddle, but I miss the casual kisses and hugs that have come to be part of normal greeting.

We didn’t kiss or cuddle in our family and I remember being surprised and delighted when Josh’s rather reserved parents kissed me when I arrived for a meal and when I left. I soon got used to kissing our friends hullo and goodbye, though I think Josh always had some reservations about greeting our male friends that way. Soon, a kiss and a hug was how we greeted everyone.

However, I certainly wasn’t happy about being given a quick cuddle by my much taller male colleagues when I was working as a senior pathology consultant. That’s the trouble with being five foot nothing – they felt it was fine to give me a cuddle as they passed me in the corridor, even when I absolutely didn’t fancy them.

It was worse when I had my one and only perm. My dark hair frizzed up like the back of a curly haired sheep and my colleagues couldn’t resist patting me on the head. Once was enough. It was back to my nearly straight hair and a French pleat as soon as it grew out.

For years I’ve had my hair cut really short but after five months of shielding it’s long enough for a little bun and soon I shall have a French pleat again –white now, not the deep black it was when I last wore my hair up.

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book Abby’s Tales of then and Now. It is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster

BREAKOUT AFTER LOCKDOWN

Lovely to see a full supermarket and more being unpacked.
Just before lockdown, the fruit and veg racks were virtually empty!!

Yes, we were fortunate in that, being aged and vulnerable, after a couple of weeks we were able to get supermarkets slots. It was all very well, but inevitably, although they appeared on their websites, some items would be unavailable on the day. Flour, yeast and baking powder were particularly hard to come by. I was able to buy 10kg of bread flour in 2.5kg packets from eBay at a moderate price but was reduced to paying £7.99 for a £1.50 bag of self raising flour. There were plenty of profiteers out there.

The bliss of being allowed out to shop in person!! We went to a large Tesco’s very early on the first Monday vulnerable people were allowed out. There were hardly any other shoppers and the store was immaculate. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I approached the Baking aisle. Such a variety of different flours! And being able to choose just the size and kind of fruit and vegetables we like.

OK – I’ve been to the Uffizi, glided down the waterways in Venice, seen a giant hippo on the lawn in Malawi, but that Tesco store was right up there with them!! Absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder.

Read more of Abby’s previous posts in her book 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. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

https://amzn.to/3hX6z2D

A SEQUEL TO THE MEMOIR OF AN EAST END GIRL

 

After I published my memoir Woman in a White Coat, I started on a sequel to be called 25 Houses, dredging up those memories I had left out. But after writing some 28k words, I lost interest. I then tried my hand at sci-fi – parallel universe stuff – and joined a writing class at our local library for a couple of terms to develop it, but soon I ran out of steam.

Our writers’ circle has been meeting every fortnight for 10 years now. At first, we met over coffee and homemade muffins in my flat and then, since lockdown, on Zoom.

Our agreement is that we have to bring some writing, large or small, to each meeting and I hadn’t written anything for the following Tuesday. I’d started posting regularly again on my blog and on social media, so I brought those pieces to our circle, by now some 72 illustrated blogs and posts.

Our children had seen and commented on some of them, but some they had missed. I decided to publish them on Amazon as an eBook on Kindle and as a paperback, with the title Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a free taster.

At age 88, it was time to think about leaving something behind

The price is determined by Kindle Direct Publishing and is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

https://amzn.to/3hX6z2D

 

NEW PANASONIC BREADMAKER – YES! BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT

Anadama bread

 

 

 

 

 

The centre groove is where the machine paddle rests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, I didn’t really need a new breadmaker. There was nothing wrong with my old one, but I fancied a newer model. Because of the coronavirus buying frenzy, and so many of us deciding to bake our own bread, Panasonic breadmakers vanished from Amazon and Panasonic UK, only for a few to appear on eBay at profiteering prices.

Our daughter Louise, who lives in the Basque Country, found one on Panasonic (Spain). She’d had her old one for at least 15 years and it had begun to leak around the spindle. She tried putting in a washer but it didn’t help. As in the UK, the local electrical stores and Amazon es were empty of Panasonic breadmakers. However, before any re-appeared in the UK at list price, she found one on Spanish Panasonic.

Of course, I had to have the same model but none was available except at a silly price. Finally, my search for a breadmaker resulted in a pop-up note from Amazon offering one at a sensible price from Belgium. I ordered one at once, but when I looked at the site again, to check that my order had gone through, they were once again unavailable. Luckily, my motto is carpe diem and I had seized the moment!!

But it was some sort of con!! After 2 weeks, I contacted the seller who said it had been despatched and then that he had asked UPS to send me a tracking number. I heard nothing more and contacted him again only to be told it hadn’t been sent and did I want a refund!! Fortunately, I had ordered via Amazon who are excellent about refunds and I have already had the money refunded.

I put the code for the breadmaker into Google and was delighted to find that John Lewis had online stock. It arrived today. It bakes beautifully and has the advantage of a window that lets you see at what stage your bread is.

Anadama bread is a traditional New England bread whose yellow colour comes from the addition of molasses and cornmeal. I used polenta, which is a cornmeal made from otto file corn.

It is said to have got its name from a hungry fisherman saying ‘Anna, damn her’ after being served by his wife nothing but cornmeal and molasses for supper, day in day out. In desperation, he (or maybe she) threw in some flour and yeast and so made Anadama bread.

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

Recipe for Anadama Machine Made Loaf

Basic bread program

360gm white bread flour                                                                    

75gm wholemeal bread flour

65 gm polenta

Continue reading NEW PANASONIC BREADMAKER – YES! BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT

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

OLD DOGS AND NEW TRICKS

CityLit’s new entrance

Yes, we can learn new tricks!! I didn’t think that at age 88 Social Media were my thing but I’ve written nearly 70 posts on Facebook since last August and I regularly Zoom with the children and my Writing Circle.

Last week I started an online course at CityLit – ‘Extended History of Modern Art in 50 Works’ with an excellent young women tutor, Sarah Jaffray. There are 14 of us in the class – 10 women and 4 men. This is an unusual mix. Most Further Education classes I’ve been to have had 2 or 3 men to 25 or even 30 women. I think women generally are more likely to want to take up something new when we retire and we’re not too worried about showing our ignorance of a new subject or ‘losing face.’ Maybe that’s why we’re supposed to live longer than men after retirement.

I wonder when I will go through CityLit’s doors again. As an elderly, vulnerable, person I’ve been self-isolated for 10 weeks. Who know how many more?

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

THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM – A.K.A BEDLAM

In normal times the two huge 15 inch naval guns in front of the portico would have been swarming with children.

This week we changed our walk from the Victoria Embankment to the grounds around the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth Road. It was a lovely spring day, the roses, edging the lawn outside, in full bloom.

The actual building was constructed as the Bethlem Royal Hospital for the Insane in St George’s Fields, moving there from Bridewell and then Moorfields in 1828. Probably from as early as 1598, visitors were allowed to come and laugh and poke at the poor inmates. Known as ‘Bedlam’, it was a popular stop on the London tourist trail and a source of income for the hospital and staff. When the asylum moved to Beckenham in 1936, the Imperial War Museum transferred to Lambeth from the Imperial Institute in South Kensington..

I first saw the Imperial War Museum from my room in the clinic opposite, on a snowy evening in February 1990. Though still attached to various tubes after surgery for breast cancer, I was able to walk around and look out of the window. The snow was no longer falling, but it lay thick on the windowsill, glistening under the starlit sky. The elegant snow-covered Imperial War Museum across the road, with its tall cupola looked like a fairy castle in the moonlight.

I needed cheering up. As a consultant pathologist, who had worked in a cancer hospital for 4 years, I had carried out numerous autopsies on women with breast cancer. Virtually all the women I encountered with breast cancer had died of the disease. When I lectured on the subject, I pointed out how good the prognosis for breast cancer was, but I still thought it would prove fatal for me. It didn’t – and that was 30 years ago. Now the outlook for patients with breast cancer is better than ever.

I can’t decide whether it is better or worse to be in the ‘trade’ if you are a doctor and have a life-threatening disease. Of course, the surgeon, the anaesthetist and the radiotherapist were all friends as well as colleagues. I could stop the breast surgeon in the corridor and ask for a quick word about the hard lump I found while having a shower. But it also meant that I was well aware of the worst possible outcomes and because I was a doctor I felt I had to be extra brave, not make a fuss or ‘come it’.

Although I had long since retired, when I was admitted with a near-fatal heart attack in 2016, I was treated more like a colleague than a non-medical patient, who might not understand the medical terms and find being in a hospital frightening. For me, a hospital is almost home from home and the antiseptic smell is reassuring rather than threatening.

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

IS A ‘SQUARE’ CHALLAH OK?

My delicious ‘square’ Challah

 

Well it’s actually not square – it’s rectangular. I have in my time made a conventional challah plaited and tapering to both ends, as well as a round challah, but now there are only the two of us we prefer our bread to be loaf shaped.

It started when we first got married in 1956. I was a medical student, working a couple of evenings a week as a school dentist, and Josh was working as an assistant in a dental practice in North London. After a quick breakfast, we would each hurry off, not meeting until the evening. It wasn’t until dinner that we had time to sit down together. I had lunch with my fellow medical students in the medical school refectory while Josh would make do with a couple of sandwiches. Even when I had qualified as a doctor, had 4 children, and with Josh had set up an educational toy shop and become a consultant pathologist, dinner time was our time together. To begin with, I had lunch in the consultants’ dining room but the food was so good and the deserts so delicious that I started to put on too much weight. Finally, I gave up lunch altogether.

Even when we both retired, dinner was our main meal and Josh went on having a sandwich for lunch. A rectangular loaf is most convenient for that, and surely a plaited loaf is still a Challah – even if the shape is unconventional. You just have to say or think the word ‘Challah’ and you can imagine the delicious smell.

BTW – I love Poppy Seed cake but I don’t like poppy seeds on Challah or on beigels!!

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

RECIPE FOR ‘SQUARE’ CHALLAH

Bake 220°C 20 mins

500gm strong white flour

Continue reading IS A ‘SQUARE’ CHALLAH OK?