SHUT AWAY FOR FOUR MONTHS??

As you see from the bookmarks I always have at least two books on the go

It’s not compulsory yet, but for us elderly folk it’s almost certainly coming. By chance, I passed our local library at the weekend so I collected some more books – now 13 in all. They’re a mixture – mainly my favourite whodunits, but also some poetry and a collection of Oscar Wilde’s witty remarks. I’ve still got half a dozen of my own books to read – some I bought and some left by Louise when she paid us a flying visit last month.

Daily exercise should help. When our physiotherapist granddaughter popped over from San Sebastian I was jealous of her fancy sports watch. Too mean to buy an expensive one like hers, I ordered a much less pricy Letscom fitness tracker. My hip replacement has been painful for years and I gave up on exercise classes for the over 50s so I started by doing 10 minutes of mixed exercises each day. Yesterday I was able to do that much twice. Luckily our flat has a long corridor so I start by walking up and down 10 or more times.

I’ll try to complete the sequel to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ which I finished in 2017 as I was recovering from the heart attack that nearly took me off. I’m aiming to get back to writing every day. It’s easy to get lazy but if I’m going to be a virtual prisoner for 4 months I’ll need to structure my time.

And I’ve even started sorting and clearing out the kitchen drawers. Amazing how much stuff we oldies accumulate that we’re never going to use again!!

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

 

TWO FOOTBALLERS IN THE FAMILY

 

                       Susan in her football gear

Neither Josh nor I are much good at sports. I was put into the Star Gym Class at school but that was more for effort than for ability. I couldn’t keep up with all the vaulting and jumping and had to give up after a few weeks. However, Josh and I used to play squash a couple of times a week when we were first married and lived just up the road from the medical school where I was a student. All that ended when I became pregnant and we moved to Wimbledon. The damp furnished basement flat, where we lived when we first got married, was convenient both for my lectures and our dental practice, but not suitable for a baby. Since then, we both tried exercise classes from time to time but we’ve not persisted. They are just not us.

Our Basque grandchildren, Susan and Adrian, on the other hand, are keen sportsmen. Both played football for their local Añorga youth team when they were at school. Adrian, who is at Uni, coaches that team a couple of evenings a week and Susan, who is now a qualified physiotherapist and works at a local clinic during the week, is physio-therapist both to the age 14 boys’ Real Sociedad football team and the girls 16-18 team at weekends.

Mark, their father, is retired and does Pilates with our daughter, Louise. She recently ran the local 5 km race for Women’s Day. Both are keen walkers.

Luckily Susan and Adrian managed to inherit sporty genes not our couch potato traits. Now I have got to 88 and Josh to 90 we think it’s probably a bit late to change.

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

MY GORGEOUS BASQUE GRAND-DAUGHTER

Two year old Susan saying Hullo to the toddler in the mirror

Until this last year, our elder daughter, Louise, our son-in-law, Mark, and our two Basque grandchildren spent New Year’s Eve with us, either here in London or in the small house in the South of Spain we owned for a time after I retired. As soon as our grandchildren were old enough not to choke on them, they joined us eating a grape on each toll of Big Ben in the UK, or on the peal of the Puerta del Sol bell in Madrid – a Basque custom.

But this year our grand-daughter Susan, who is now a qualified physio-therapist, had other commitments as did her younger brother, Adrian, who is at Uni. We missed them. It just wasn’t the same without them.

To our surprise, and delight, Susan popped over last week for a few days’ R & R (rest and recreation). The practice where she works was closed while some building works were carried out.

Having children is fabulous but having grandchildren is even better. Perhaps because discipline isn’t a grandparent’s responsibility and you can spoil them rotten.

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

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 

 

‘PICASSO ON PAPER’ AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY UNTIL APRIL 13th

‘Les Femmes d’Alger’ after Delacroix (Oil on canvas 1955)

I remember when after WW2 ended, we first saw Picasso’s Cubist portraits with noses and eyes going every which way.

‘My two-year old could do better than that,’ was a common response at the time.

We hadn’t released that his was an intentional interpretation of reality and not lack of ability.

I retired at 60, but Josh went on working until he was 65, so I took some short trips on my own to visit Louise and her family in San Sebastian. On one of them, she and Mark took me to the rebuilt town of Guernica, where there was an exhibition about Picasso’s painting ‘Guernica’, in memory of the bombing by Nazi warplanes at the beginning of the Spanish civil war. Not until after the death of the fascist dictator, Franco, did Picasso allow his original painting to come back to Spain. It is now housed permanently in the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.

There was a large reproduction of ‘Guernica’, and on either side copies of Picasso’s working drawings. That’s when I realised for the first time what an incredible draftsman he was. There were drawings of feet and heads – and of course his beloved bulls – all drawn in exquisite detail, before being converted into the distorted figures of his final work.

The present exhibition of Picasso’s work at the Royal Academy ‘Picasso on Paper’ is huge. There are works from all of his various periods. As well as his works on and with paper, there are a few oil paintings, sculptures and three dimensional collages. A veritable feast that needs more than one visit.

It was with great relief that we discovered the little bistro-type café set up at the back of the Royal Academy shop, complete with paper tablecloths and coloured pencils so you can imitate Picasso’s habit of drawing on anything and everything. And good strong coffee and crispy croissants.

It’s a must if you can visit London.

On Sunday February 9th on BBC4 you can watch at 9pm ‘The Many Faces of Picasso’ and at 10pm ‘Picasso’s Last Stand.’ Or on iPlayer

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

Blog by Dr Abby J Waterman and her new book, Woman in a White Coat

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