YOU KNOW YOU’RE OLD WHEN …

The boys at primary school around 1967

You know you’re really old when your eldest is about to turn 61, the next one is nearly 59 and the girls are 55 and 54. Until 2006, when we moved into our present flat, we had moved every 5 years or so. I like change – even if sometimes it’s not for the better – and I even started the second volume of my memoir to be entitled ’25 Houses’ – the number of houses, flats and hospitals I’ve lived in – including the three private dwellings and the children’s hostel I was evacuated to during WW2.

I won’t list all the various ills my body has been afflicted with, but they include breast cancer, a near fatal heart attack and several bone fractures. When I was 60 and Josh 62, we bought a mews house in Marylebone with a lease of 30 years. We weren’t worried about having to renew the lease – we were sure we’d be long gone when it expired. But after 15 years, we were still around, and had the unpleasant task of trying to negotiate a lease extension with a greedy estate. Fortunately, they were so grasping that we couldn’t afford to stay and moved to a flat in Westminster. It is so much better for us than the mews house, being on one level with lifts, an underground car park and 24-hour porters who keep an eye out for us.

I can remember as an adolescent talking to someone of 35 and thinking I’d never get to be that old but here we are and if I survive (PG) I shall be 90 in October.

Yes, having survived cancer and all that, I am worried about losing my marbles. Every time I can’t think of the word on the end of my tongue or what’s the name of someone or other, I fear that it’s the onset of Alzheimer’s, but perhaps that will be delayed until this new treatment comes on the market and the little grey cells will survive in more or less working order until the end.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUR OLD BANGER

Our 14-year-old Renault Scenic

Our very first car was a real old banger. We bought it for £150 in 1959 from a colleague and called it Phillida in her honour. It was a pre-WW2 Morris 8 and pretty well held together by rust. The first time I took it out on my own, I scraped it against a parked lorry and tore off the front near wing.

Already a qualified dentist, I qualified as a doctor in 1959 and I was just about to start a live-in post as a House Physician. There was little public transport near the hospital and having a car meant that Josh could come and visit me at weekends.

After a skid on its nearly bald tyres – no MOT in those days -we swapped Phillida for a Morris Minor and got back our original £150 in part exchange. We then changed cars every 2 or 3 years as you did then – tempted by the dealers’ offers of low repayments. They all arrived with one or more faults. An MG was delivered with 11 things to put right!

We have had our latest ‘old banger’ for 14 years – a Renault Scenic that arrived with everything fully functional and a joy ever since. Its annual MOT was due, so as part of the test our car had to have its emission checked. WHICH warned that if this proves a problem in older cars the repair may cost more than the car is worth. Fortunately, our car passed, so we should be OK for another year.

However, sooner or later petrol driven cars will be phased out. Our underground car park doesn’t yet have any charging points and there are presently no street charging stations in easy walking distance. Still, when you are 89 (me) and 91 (Josh) it may never become our problem!!

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

GOING ON A BIG RED LONDON BUS AGAIN

Aren’t they gorgeous??

It was great to board a red London double-decker bus for the first time in over a year!! The nursery rhyme, the wheels on the bus go round and round, ran though my head as we tapped our Freedom Passes and took our seats. The three other masked passengers already seated nodded and kept their social distance.

The wheels on the bus go round and round

All ‘round the town

The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish

The driver on the bus goes ‘Move on back’

The people on the bus go up and down

The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep

The baby on the bus goes ‘whaa whaa whaa’

The parents on the bus go ‘shh, shh, shh’

Before Covid, I used to drive to my various Further Education classes. I have a Blue Disabled Badge because of my bad hip and previous heart attack, and mostly I could find a parking space nearby. I had to give up in despair and go back home only a couple of times in all the years I’ve been attending these courses.

There’s a bus stop close by all three of the Westminster Libraries I patronise, so until Covid, I used to go to those by bus. Fortunately, there is also a Home Library in our district and, since Lockdown, a very polite young man brings me six books of his choice every third Friday. I specified Whodunits and usually I have only already read one or two of them at most.

It’s wonderful to be able to shop in person again instead of ordering everything online. You can see and feel the merchandise and find the odd thing you don’t need but must have!!

We thought about driving to Tottenham Court Road to go to two of my favourite shops – Muji and Flying Tiger – but fortunately we decided against it. It was a nightmare. It is now a two-way street, having been one way towards Hampstead Road for many years. Much of it was closed to all vehicles except buses and cycles. Cars, taxis and lorries all forbidden. The worst thing was that the bus stops are far apart and for a disabled person the walk to the next stop was a pain – literally!!

I bought the drawer insert in Muji that I needed, visited the new Lidl that replaced Sainsbury’s at the other end of Tottenham Court Road and had a look around Flying Tiger.

Not a lot of purchases to show for my trip but gorgeous to be free to go on a Big Red Bus again!!

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.

About ‘Woman in a White Coat’

A RABBI WITH A CAP – THE QUEEN’S GALLERY, BUCKINGHAM PALACE

 

Has also been entitled ‘Man in an Exotic Costume’

It’s almost worth going to see the latest exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, just to see Rembrandt’s A Rabbi with a Cap. Dated 1635, this fascinating painting was acquired by King George III in 1762, as part of the fabulous collection of Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice.

I don’t know who gave the portrait this title but, of course, it is a sort of tautology. All male Jews are required to wear a head covering and no rabbi would be seen without a cap. Elsewhere it is entitled Man in an Exotic Costume.

If you look closely, you can see that the rabbi is wearing a jewelled breast plate suspended by a chain around his neck. This is reminiscent of the breast plate (Hoshen) which, according to the book of Exodus, was worn by the High Priest in the Temple. Embedded in those breast plates would have been 12 different precious or semi-precious stones labelled with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the Talmud, the wearing of the Hoshen is said to atone for the sin of errors in judgment on the part of the Children of Israel.

The portrait is painted on the rare hardwood, Cordia, named in honour of the German botanist and pharmacist, Valerius Cordus (1515-1544). The wood was an early export, coming from Mexico and Central/South America.

There has been doubt at times about whether the portrait was painted by Rembrandt, who lived in or near the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, but presently it is attributed to him and the signature is considered to be original.

And thanks to all those generous people who put otherwise hard to find information on the Web, often in advertisement -free sites so they get no financial reward – only the glow from doing good!!

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

 

THE QUEEN’S GALLERY – BUCKINGHAM PALACE

The entrance to the Queen’s Gallery

How wonderful to be able to visit Art Galleries and Museums again! Living as we do in Central London, in pre-Covid times we would have visited a gallery or museum at least once a month. Since Covid, our visit to the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, for the exhibition Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace is our first gallery visit in person for a year.

Attending a range of Art History Classes online and seeing exhibitions on a PC has been invaluable, but of course it’s not the same. Yes, you can zoom in on specific features on your computer, but there’s nothing like seeing the actual masterpieces like those on display in this present exhibition.

I would have liked to have seen more of my favourites – Rembrandt and Vermeer – but there was plenty to enjoy in the mixture of Rembrandt, Canaletto, Vermeer, Rubens and Titian, with just a few duds.

One of the great things about all the exhibitions in the Queen’s Gallery, is that all the paintings and other artifacts are in immaculate condition – or as good condition as several centuries will allow. The exhibitions there are always well curated, with easy to read, clear information, next to each picture. I’ve given up using the audio guide as I like to take pictures – allowed without flash – and I don’t have enough hands to listen and focus my camera at the same time.

We had to check in either with the NHS app or our completed tickets. You can get your tickets stamped to give you access to all the exhibitions at the Queen’s Gallery for a calendar year, which is a very good deal for those of us who live in London or visit London or the other palaces regularly.

We were lucky. The wretched rainy weather we have had recently cleared during the time we queued to enter – keeping our social distancing – and until we got back to the car. The skies opened again as soon as we got home and so we didn’t go out again.

Notices about Covid, Social Distancing and Directions to walk were everywhere – and Masks, of course. And which of us finished first could no longer sit on the bench by the entrance. A twisted cord stretched from arm to arm.

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 FIREWORKS MUSIC SCHOOL

If you have a library card – certainly in Westminster – you can access Naxos and listen to a variety of interpretations by virtuosos.

I stopped having piano lessons at home a year ago, once Covid got into its stride. Online music tutoring didn’t appeal to me but now that Josh and I have had both our vaccines it seems safe enough to have a personal tutor again. The lively young Greek woman recommended by the Fireworks Music School is a Music Therapist and therefore fully vaccinated. I specified a tutor who was not only vaccinated but willing – like me – to wear a mask indoors.

I was eight years old and evacuated to a children’s hostel in Dawlish, South Devon, when I started to learn the piano with Mr Lawson, a brilliant teacher who was the organist at the local church. He instilled in me a love of music that has stayed with me for the 80-odd years since.

When I came back to London in 1942, I had lessons at Toynbee Hall and then with Miss Singer at my school, Central Foundation School for Girls in Spital Square. I gave up the piano while studying Dentistry and then Medicine, but started playing again when our four children were old enough to play a musical instrument. Our ensemble consisted of two guitarists, a clarinettist, a flautist and me playing the piano with one or two of them singing along.

Once they got involved in O and A levels and I went back to Medicine and became a Pathologist, I gave up playing again and we sold the piano.

On my retirement age 60, after a tussle with Breast Cancer, I started going to classes at CityLit College. I’d lost some of my manual dexterity but was delighted to find I was still able to sight read with ease. For various reasons I later changed to having private lessons at home and continued until Covid.

I was tempted to call this post ‘Tinkling on the Ivories’, but then thought about how many expressions, that were in common usage when I was a child in the 1930s, are now clearly racist, sexist and/or downright disgusting. To think that all those magnificent animals were slaughtered for tusks to be made into white piano keys so that all those Victorians could have pianos in their parlours!

My tutor suggested that I start with Mozart’s variations on the nursery rhyme Ah! Dirai-je vous maman – a lovely piece with enough different moods and techniques for me not to need Czerny’s exercises as well.

If you have a library card – certainly in Westminster – you can access Naxos and listen to a variety of interpretations by virtuosos.

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

Amazon Review

Woman in a White Coat is an enticing mix of the personal and professional. Social and cultural history merge in a lively, pre-war East End of London, populated by a constant stream of colourful characters. Following evacuation and the end of war, Abby embarked on her academic career, and a post war struggle to be recognised in a profession with a limited quota for women. And no quota at all when the woman becomes a mother of four children.
In its poignant story telling of success and failure, love and loss, ambition and defeat, this book holds the reader’s attention from the first page in a perceptive and heartfelt mix of anecdotes about the characters, patients, autopsies, family and colleagues who have populated a long and uncommon life.

AIN’T IT GREAT??


Edmonton IKEA in the Sunshine

So good to have even this still limited amount of freedom! Being able to go shopping and finally visit IKEA again.

IKEA was fairly orderly, though very busy. Having been married now for 65 years, we never need any more furniture or linen, so we skip the first floor and concentrate on the marketplace on the ground floor. You used to be able to walk through from the entrance, but now you have to take the lift upstairs and another one down again.

With my breathlessness on exertion, I found the long walk around the ground floor a bit much, but I had one of their metal trolleys to lean on and managed to stagger through to the end. We always find some odds and ends we don’t really need but must have!!

My angiogram a fortnight ago wasn’t the nightmare I was expecting. In fact, I found it fascinating. The sedation I was given probably calmed me, but I was wide awake and lay there watching the dye spurting through my coronary vessels on a ginormous screen to my left. The worst thing was having to self-isolate for two weeks beforehand, when lockdown had already started to be reduced. It meant having food delivered again instead of going in person to the supermarket. It’s not just being able to choose just the size and type of fruit and vegetables you like, but the display in a well-stocked supermarket gives me ideas. Not having eaten out for a year, I can do with some inspiration.

My day in hospital wasn’t all good, as there appears to be a problem with one of the arteries supplying blood to my heart. A toss-up what you can do for a little old lady who will be 90 in October (PG).

It would have been a long walk to the end of the entry queue but, without my asking, the IKEA attendant opened the barrier for us. So kind!!

Thanks to all the lovely people who have been reading and writing to me about my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.

Woman in a White Coat

A MOTHER’S PRAYER

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

With the prospect of an intrusive medical procedure in a week’s time, it’s hard not to ponder on what might go wrong and offer up a prayer whether you’re a believer or not. When I’m feeling happy, I write prose, but verse is more satisfying when I’m worried or sad.

A PRAYER

Your first born lies there pale and still

Bloody fluid in his ear

His skull is fractured

His life in the balance

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Six weeks later

He lies in a hospital bed

His kidneys failing

Bloody fluid in a bottle left for you to see

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Your last child, born six weeks early

Her lungs not properly finished

They say she will not last the night

But somehow she survives

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

And you’re not exempt

Breast cancer

Osteoporosis and

Multiple bone fractures

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Now comes the big one

The squeezing, gripping chest pain

You know this means that

Death has come a-knocking

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

You haven’t suffered enough

For then your youngest

Who fought death once

Has stomach cancer, chemo and major surgery

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

At the very end

When it’s nearly over

You pray – whatever your beliefs

For then you will finally know

If your prayers were heard?

Josh and the four kids 1970

 

Thanks to all the lovely people who have been reading and writing to me about all this in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’

Woman in a White Coat

 

ART HISTORY 101

The Art History tutor at our Further Education college is absolutely  brilliant. I reckon he could make a lecture on any subject fascinating, whether on the depiction of pigs’ tails or of pigtails. I even persuaded my son-in-law, who lives in the Basque Country, to sign up for my present course ‘The power and influence of German Art from Early Medieval to Early Modern and Beyond’ – one of the of the benefits of the Internet and Zoom.

The course begins in Medieval times. Being Jewish, I don’t recognise all of the symbols of the many Christian saints and I find the images of jeering Jews with long noses by the Cross offensive. After all, Jesus’s family was Jewish as were His first disciples. But I can appreciate the anguish portrayed and the beauty and brilliant colour of the images.

From the time of the Reformation and the destruction of art works in Protestant churches, non-religious, non-history paintings found a ready market. From then on, the art works become more to my taste, though I can appreciate the mythical works painted during the Renaissance.

Still, for me, classes are just not the same on Zoom – sitting in my living room in a carefully ironed shirt, but wearing slippers and pyjama bottoms. Our tutor’s in-person Art History classes were always full, and I miss the buzz of conversation as we students caught up with each other, the hush as he began and our occasional giggles. I even miss the indifferent coffee in the canteen at our coffee break, as well as the wicked pain au raisin I could never resist.

I’ve downloaded ‘Smartify’  and ‘ArtPassport’ and I’ve bookmarked several other sites. I have also saved a load of emails about current exhibitions. They’re great, but I so miss visiting art galleries in person.

Now that Josh and I have been vaccinated, it is safer for us to go to art galleries wearing our N95 masks and keeping our distance, but of course just now they are all closed. Maybe by the Spring??

And thanks to all you lovely people who wrote to say you enjoyed reading my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. There’s something very special about hearing that I’ve given pleasure with something I’ve written.

Woman in a White Coat

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 on Amazon and £9.99 in paperback.

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

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