Today I reached the incredible age of 90 – incredible for lots of reasons, including the facts that I lived in London during the worst of the blitz and survived both breast cancer and a near fatal heart attack.
Born in the Jewish Maternity Hospital in Underwood Street, off Whitechapel, I was raised in a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane, in London’s East End. I am therefore a real Cockney – someone born within the sound of Bow Bells. Those are the bells of St Mary Le Bow in Cheapside, bells that, before the present roar of London’s traffic, could be heard as far away as Hackney Marshes. I don’t have a Cockney accent nor do I know many Cockney rhyming slang expressions. Instead, I have just the faintest hint of a Russian accent from listening to my mother – a Russian emigree.
1931 wasn’t a good time to be born, the third of three daughters in a family that desperately wanted a son. It was the height of the Great Depression and my father was out of work. When WW2 broke out I was evacuated to three different places, coming back to London in 1942, when Hitler was bombing London nightly, and my family slept in an underground shelter in Middlesex Street.
In spite of my background, I became a dentist, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a consultant pathologist in a major London Teaching Hospital, the Director of a Cancer Research Laboratory and, after I retired, a writer and memoirist. I am fortunate also to be a wife, the mother of four children and grandmother of four.
Although my research was at the sharp end, I could never have dreamt of the enormous power of the Internet, nor of my sports watch that not only tells me how far I’ve walked and how many calories I have used, but what was the quality of my sleep and where I have left my ever disappearing mobile. My biggest regrets are that I won’t live to travel to Mars, nor will I see where AI is going to take us.
But I mustn’t complain. No-one else in my family has ever lived beyond 75. I must be thankful for small mercies!!
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.
Visit my blog at https://abbyjw.com