Category Archives: Petticoat Lane

25 HOUSES – A SEQUEL TO ‘WOMAN IN A WHITE COAT’

The Goulston Street entrance of Wentworth Dwellings, now shuttered. Our flat was on the third floor right

I started writing the sequel to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ several times, but Covid has been my excuse for setting it side. Our writing group has been meeting once a fortnight on Zoom. It’s a good substitute, but there’s nothing like talking and laughing over cafetière coffee and homemade muffins to get the juices flowing.

I’ve got no excuse now. Things have eased up a bit, and though at 90 I still have to be cautious, we are starting to meet up with friends, though our writing group will go on Zooming, now that one member has moved out of London and another now lives in Glasgow.

The title ’25 Houses’ relates to the number of houses, flats and hospital residents’ quarters I have lived in. When Josh and I got married in 1956, we first lived in a basement flat near the hospital where I was a medical student. Thereafter we moved every five or so years. We moved that often because I’m one of those people who loves change – even if it’s for the worse!!

However, we have been in our apartment in Westminster for the last 15 years, since 2006. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t live to see the new century. Who’d have thought I’d still be here in 2021?. I guess our next move will be the permanent one.

I was born in Mother Levy’s Maternity Hospital in Whitechapel in 1931 and then it was off to a cold water tenement in Wentworth Dwellings, in what was known at Petticoat Lane in London’s East End. With the outbreak of WW2 on September 1939, when I was not quite eight years old, my wanderings began.

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

BEIGELS AND CREAM CHEESE

Beigels on Lekue moulds waiting to rise

My widowed grandmother, together with my mother then aged 11, emigrated from Mogilev in Belarus to the UK in the late 19th century. With a grant from the Jewish Board of Guardians, she purchased a willow basket and found a pitch selling bagels on the corner of Wentworth and Goulston Street. She was there, rain and shine, until my parents got married in 1918 and they all moved from Petticoat Lane to Old Kent Road.

It’s quite appropriate then, that our elder daughter and grand-daughter should have become proficient bread makers during Lockdown. They can roll out lovely even rolls of dough, but mine end up lumpy, especially if my thumb joints are sore after playing a series of octaves on the piano.

When I make beigels therefore, I use my two sets of six Lekue beigel moulds. You roll the dough into a ball and push it down over the central spike. After letting them rise, you can leave the dough on their moulds and dunk them in malted boiling water. They float off ready to be glazed and baked.

One thing I’ve never ever tried is the combination of smoked salmon and cream cheese on beigels. As a child, growing up in a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane in the East End of London, it would have seemed profligate to have smoked salmon and cream cheese together. We only ever bought a few slices of expensive smoked salmon when people like the aged couple, Marie and Yankel, we called Aunt and Uncle out of respect – though they were no relation – came to tea.

We would certainly never have dreamt of mixing it with our homemade cream cheese. Milk and butter were kept in a cupboard on our tiny balcony and covered with a wet muslin cloth, its ends dipped in water. But there was always soured milk around. Much of the time there would be a cheese cloth hanging from the kitchen tap full of soured milk turning into cream cheese.

Since Lockdown, I not only make all our bread but have recently started to make cream cheese again. I splashed out on a temperature-controlled Lakeland yogurt maker but only used it once to make yogurt – the supermarket Greek yogurt tastes fine and costs only pennies more than a litre of full cream milk. However, I do use it to make what is, after a couple of experiments, delicious cream cheese. I clot the milk with lemon juice and add a pinch of salt and sometimes a few drops of wine vinegar at the end if it’s not sour enough. The best thing about the Lakeland yogurt maker is that is comes with a fine mesh cylindrical sieve for draining off the curds from the whey. No more washing slimy cheese cloths!

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

THE FABULOUS SMELL OF FRESHLY BAKED BREAD

We slice and toast these mini loaves lightly. Yummy!!

I love the smell of freshly baked bread. When in 1943 we moved to the flat in Wentworth Dwellings that overlooked the market, every weekday morning I woke to the gorgeous aroma of baking bread from Kossoff’s bakery opposite. I now bake my own bread and rolls so I can enjoy that lovely experience regularly.

One of the advantages of having four children and four grandchildren is that I can pass on any pieces of equipment I want to upgrade, like a bread maker. My British grandson, Luke, was a willing recipient of my Panasonic bread maker, so I could in all conscience buy the latest model.

For years I had used my bread maker to make the dough and then prove and bake it in a regular long loaf tin in my normal fan oven. I always thought that the loaves that are completely finished in bread makers are too tall for us. Our appetites are not what they used to be, now Josh is 90 and I am 88, and the slices are just too big. But then Luke sent me an image of the loaf he had baked using the delay feature, so he was woken by the fantastic smell of a freshly baked loaf. I realised that I could just cut the loaf in half – eat one half and freeze the other. Works a dream!!

I still use my bread maker to make dough for rolls, which we like to have with soup. Josh and I share the cooking to fit in with our classes and it’s become a tradition for me to make soup on Thursdays. I always have a variety of rolls in the freezer, including Jamie Oliver’s Crumpies. If you like crumpets – the old fashioned type with big bubbles – his easy recipe is great, but our favourites are beetroot rolls. I got the original recipe for a beetroot loaf from a supermarket magazine but it works just as well for the rolls I bake in little loaf tins. You can’t taste the beetroot but the colour is gorgeous.

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

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

BELIEVE IT OR NOT I MANAGED TO TURN 88 TODAY

I look pretty serious in this photo of me from 1934. Perhaps I was pondering the future of mankind or how to save endangered elephants and bears!!

The amazing part of it is that I have survived being in London in WW2 in the Blitz, and when Doodlebugs and V2 rockets were falling, a near-fatal heart attack, breast cancer, several broken bones, a slew of quite serious medical conditions. Perhaps it was having the same loving husband for the last 63 years and four fantastic children!!

I look back to a time when we could play cricket in Wentworth Street after the market closed. We’d scour the fruiterers’ refuse for a clean orange box that would provide both a wicket and the bat, hoping we wouldn’t miss a nasty smelling surprise of a rotten green orange in a corner that our rushed inspection had missed. Cars were few and far between even in Commercial Street, and none ventured down Petticoat Lane – except to deliver goods before the Sunday market opened. The everyday demountable food stalls arrived on barrows. The sound as they trundled along first thing in the morning accompanied the smell of bread baking from Kossoff’s bakery.

None of us had our own phones – an emergency sent someone running to the phone box outside Aldgate East station. You phoned your current boyfriend there too – getting an hour’s worth for a couple of pence. Now you can hardly walk along the pavement without bumping into someone too busy on their mobile.

Of course, they weren’t all good old days. My dad was out of work in the Great Depression. Not sure how we scraped by. And without our fantastic NHS and immunisation us children all got measles, or mumps, or chicken pox, or diphtheria or any combination of them (more later).

We’ve so much to be grateful for that just wasn’t available when I was a child.

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

MORE MEMORIES OF PETTICOAT LANE

 

My third floor window faced onto Wentworth Street. It was then above a hardware shop

Amongst my most powerful memories of living in Petticoat Lane are the smells. I make my own bread and when I smell baking I’m taken back to our cold water tenement in Wentworth Dwellings. From 1943 we lived on the third floor with my bedroom facing on to Wentworth Street and Kossoff’s bakery. The smell when I woke first thing in the morning was delicious – it made me ravenous. Then there were the aromas of pickled cucumbers and pickled herrings from the barrels outside Marks, the delicatessen. I don’t like pickled – or schmaltz or chopped herrings – but I love the pickled onions that came with them. In a sandwich of rye bread still warm from the baker they are heaven.

My bedroom was above the hardware shop with its odours of carbolic acid and paraffin. I was often sent down to buy a packet of flypapers – sticky yellow curls of stiff paper that you hang up and wait for flies to attach themselves. When it is completely covered with dead and dying flies you hang up another – but there were always more around in those pre-fridge days. Bed bugs were a constant problem. We tried Flit sprays and pouring white spirit over the bed springs, but neither did much good. The springs were attached to the headboards by tightly curled wires in which bed bugs made their home. My mother would regularly pour boiling water over them but there were always more. When the war ended in 1945, we were visited by council workers with DDT sprays that did the trick – at least for a time. We didn’t know then that DDT was dangerous – for humans as well as for bedbugs.

Earlier, my family had lived in a smaller Wentworth Dwellings flat, this time facing onto Goulston Street. On our side of the road were the chicken stalls with crates of live chickens clucking underneath. On the other side, by Brunswick Dwellings, were the fish stalls. The fish was always fresh that day – collected from Billingsgate Market as soon as it was light – but the fish heads and bits and pieces chucked away under the stalls made that side of the road really smelly. I can still conjure up that whiff of ammonia and hated walking on that side of the street. The discarded offal from the chicken stalls added their own aroma to the mix.

And then there were all the street cries. When my husband wants to tease me, he’ll call out ‘Ripe tomatoes, shilling a pound,’ reminding me of my East End past. I’d rather he’d have chosen ‘Sweet strawberries. Melt in your mouth.’

On Sundays, Petticoat Lane was quite different – much more crowded and spreading to all the surrounding streets. Now the hucksters were calling out their crockery and linen wares instead of fruit and vegetables. Completely different smells – now of leather and fabric.

If you were lucky, you might hear Prince Monolulu crying ‘I gotta horse!!’, the long ostrich feathers in his headdress and his chieftain’s fly whisk waving in the breeze. They said he’d won what was then the vast sum of £8000 in the Derby in 1920. It brought you luck to touch or even be near him.

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

Westminster Libraries – Book Readings from ‘Woman in a White Coat – 1. Petticoat Lane

The paperback version

Several people at the readings I have given from my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ in Westminster Libraries have suggested that I record excerpts. I am therefore appending  a reading from Chapter 1 and the corresponding text.

Please  contact me at abbyjw@outlook.com with any comments.

‘Woman in a White Coat’ is the story of a young Jewish girl brought up in a cold-water tenement in London’s East End. In spite of her disadvantages, she becomes in turn a Harley Street dentist, an entrepreneur, a Consultant Pathologist and Director of a Cancer Research laboratory, as well as a wife and mother of four children.

Woman in a White Coat’  is available on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

This excerpt starts in 1931 when Dr Abby J Waterman was born.

Excerpts from ‘Woman in a White Coat

116 Wentworth Dwellings  where I lived  on the 3rd floor 1931-1943 -. the entrance has been shuttered since gentrification

Chapter 1

My mother said she cried for days when I was born. I wasn’t the son she wanted, the son who would carry on the family name and say the prayer for the dead (the Kadesh) at her funeral. She didn’t need a third daughter.

Continue reading Westminster Libraries – Book Readings from ‘Woman in a White Coat – 1. Petticoat Lane

My Memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is on Kindle!! Hurrah

WWC Front Cover

My memoir Woman in a White Coat was on Amazon Kindle just in time for me still to be 85 like it says in the blurb. What a wonderful 86th birthday present!!

http://bit.ly/2y2ufguWWC

Meet 85-year old Dr Abby Waterman, the unwelcome third daughter of Orthodox Jews who desperately wanted a son. She survives rat-infested cold-water tenements in London’s East End, the Great Depression, WW2 and the Blitz. Despite poverty, sexual harassment and discrimination, she becomes in turn a Harley Street dentist, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a consultant pathologist and director of a cancer research laboratory, as well as the mother of four.

Behind the scenes in a busy NHS hospital, you witness the tears doctors shed that patients never see. Step into Abby’s shoes as an 18-year-old dissecting her first body and later, as a mother of young children, carrying out an autopsy on a four-year-old. Discover why Abby ventures into the business world and why she leaves it. She undergoes surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer, only to be told her cancer has recurred and spread to her spine. She describes her weird hallucinations while on a ventilator following a heart attack and learns that Do Not Resuscitate is written into her notes.

Dr Abby J Waterman is a pseudonym. The names of friends, family, colleagues and patients have been changed as have the names of places and hospitals, although all the events in this memoir are true to reality.

I hope you enjoy it.

Did you grow up in a disadvantaged situation and make good? I’d love to hear from you here or at abby@abbyjw.com

 

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

VOGUE100 & RUSSIA AND THE ARTS AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY LONDON

Glitzy laughing model
Glitzy laughing Naomi Campbell

Everyone has been raving about the huge Vogue100 exhibition – a pictorial history of Vogue magazine since its birth in 1916. Several of my friends have been twice.

Yes, there are loads of fantastic portraits. though I liked best the long tables of black and white photographs. I particularly liked the hand-drawn and painted covers of the early years.
But the National Portrait Gallery curators elected to do something I really hate – group the  captions to one side of the exhibits so that at times it was hard to tell which description went with which photo.  The detailed descriptions were in a small thin font, difficult to read especially in the rooms where the light had been dimmed. My view is that the title of any artefact is  important, especially if given by the author of the piece, and should be easy to find and read, even if the artist has elected to call the work Untitled .

A quotation from the Vogue of 1938 Primer of Art made my hackles rise:
A lady of quality should be able to walk into any drawing room, to look at the picture over the mantelpiece and to exclaim: “Oh what a charming  Picasso of the early Blue Period”, or “I like your new Follower of Masaccio (circa 1420) immensely.” If she guesses right she is a gentleman and a scholar.”
The cheek!!

Portraits of my favourite authors and other artists
Portraits of my favourite authors and other artists

I loved the Russia and the Arts exhibition – and not only because the titles were underneath each portrait!! Included were portraits of some of my best-loved Russian authors whose books I’d first pored over in my teenage years – Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky – as well as musicians like Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, painters (mainly unfamiliar to me) and patrons – from the years 1867-1914.

My mother and grandmother were Russian so there was probably a bond there.
Memoir extract from The Girl with a Threepenny Birth Certificate

My grandmother was a tall, commanding woman with dark hair piled on top of her head. As a deeply orthodox Jewish woman it would have been a sheitel, a wig. I always went to bed before she did and I never saw her without it. I loved her and looked forward to curling up against her warm back in the big double bed we shared. Continue reading VOGUE100 & RUSSIA AND THE ARTS AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY LONDON

IKEA RIDES AGAIN

At Edmonton
At Edmonton

Josh decided he no longer liked the soup bowls we’d had for years and having four children there’s always someone to pass things on to.
We scoured the Oxford Street stores, found possible white embossed bowls in House of Fraser but weren’t sure.

Love it or hate it – ‘it’s only something we picked up in IKEA’ we say – but we rarely come out of IKEA empty handed.

Can you go wrong for 65p?
Can you go wrong for 65p?

We found some possible plain white bowls for £1.30p and some little glass dishes we’d been looking for at 80p each.
Then on the long, long walk to the checkout we saw some very similar bowls at 65p.
At £5.20 for eight they’ll do fine. After all, it’s the look and the taste of the soup that counts and we have soup and a cheese platter once a week. Shame the small cooked breakfasts we ordered were cold. Couldn’t be bothered to waste the time complaining.

When I lived in Petticoat Lane 1931-1956, during the week the stalls mainly sold food – fruit, vegetables, fish and poultry, but on Sundays you could buy a variety of small household goods.

Memoir extract from Chapter 2 Woman in a White Coat Part 1

On Sundays the character of Petticoat Lane changed. The market expanded to Middlesex Street, Bell Lane and the cross streets. There were stalls selling leather, clothes, crockery and linen, and there were always mock auctions. Continue reading IKEA RIDES AGAIN