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.
‘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‘
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.
I read ‘The Woman in White’ by Wilkie Collins as a teenager 70+ years ago, so when I came to think of a title for my memoir that would suggest that among my several professions were some in which I would wear a doctor’s white coat, his title never crossed my mind.
Now retired, I have been in turn a Harley Street dentist, an entrepreneur (co-owner of Conran-group designed educational toyshops), the director of a Cancer Research laboratory at a major London teaching hospital, as well as a wife and mother of four children.
I was first reminded of Wilkie Collins’ book when I saw my memoir for sale on Amazon and now I see that BBC 1 is about to air a serialized version starting tonight – the last was in 1997. Be interesting to see what the BBC makes of it.
It was lovely to be invited by the librarian of Askew Road library to give a talk and reading from my memoir Woman in a White Coat. The occasion was one of the Wednesday coffee mornings that have been running in the library for many years.
The library is on one floor and in a light friendly open space. To one side, towards the back, is a gaily coloured children’s area with carpeting so the children can read and play on the floor.
The chairs for the participants were arranged in a large semicircle. Louise was in the UK with her family for Easter and she came with Josh so I had an audience of at least two plus the librarians. But when I sat at the table at the front, the expanse of empty chairs looked enormous. Louise and Josh were lost at one end.
However, to my surprise and delight, by the time we started at 11am, not only were all the chairs filled but some latecomers had to fetch extra seating.
Most of the audience – mainly women with one man – were seniors who remembered life pre-WW2 and my story of life in a cold water tenement resonated with them, as did the medical episodes. They laughed and caught their breath in all the right places.
What a lovely responsive audience and welcoming library staff. I felt very lucky to have been given this invitation and have promised to return – perhaps with my sequel ’25 houses’
My daughter Louise bought ‘Letter to Ijeawele. A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’ for her 20-year old daughter and gave it to me to read before taking it back to the Basque Country where she lives. I read it twice and immediately ordered a copy of that book and Chimamanda’s ‘We should all be feminists.’
Chimamanda might well have entitled her book ‘Letter to Dr Abby J Waterman.’ I felt that she spoke to me directly and made me aware of something I had done without thinking. In my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ I wrote ‘I am an 85-year old retired pathologist …’ and went on to list my various achievements. I ended my bio with ‘as well as a wife and mother of four children,’ because I felt I had to establish that I was a ‘normal’ woman, to validate me.
But can you imagine my husband, Joshua (Bless him) ending his bio with ‘as well as a husband and father of four’? Unthinkable – but why? I’ll know better when I publish my sequel – its working title is ‘25 Houses’.
I can never resist Mary Berry’s new Cookbooks. There are always some new dishes I must try.
There are several recipes in her new Classic book and it’s great to have a cake for our gluten-sensitive grandson.
This Orange Polenta Cake is delicious though i’d have been pushed to fit it into a 20cm cake tin. My 23cm springform tin was just right.
Cookery was amongst the several Further Education classes I took after i retired as a consultant pathologist. Joyce was the best tutor by far. Not only were all her recipes tried and tested – foolproof – but I learnt how to follow and adapt recipes from all different sources.
On February 6th 1918 – one hundred years ago tomorrow – women in the UK were given the vote if they were over 30 and moderately wealthy. They had to be householders, or the wives of householders, or occupiers of property with an annual rent of at least £5 (just under £200 in today’s money but at a time when rents were much, much lower) or graduates of British universities. It wasn’t for another 10 years that the franchise was extended in 1928 to women over 21 – giving them the same rights as men.
More important for my own future was the fact that my parents got married in 1918 on October 6th just over a month before the Great War of 1914-18 ended.
As you can see from this sepia photograph, like me, my mother was five foot nothing next to my father’s six foot. If you look carefully, you can see the bump in the carpet where the photographer placed a small stool to make the disparity in their height a little less obvious.
My father was the sixth, and last but one, son of a wealthy Hebrew book printer. Samuel Waterman, my paternal grandfather, was a Freemason and an important member of his synagogue. He frequently travelled abroad, ostensibly on business, though in fact, it was said it was to visit his mistress in Paris.
Happy New Year – and many more to come for all of you wonderful people who have been following my blog and reading my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’
Always great having Louise and her family over from the Basque Country for the New Year and Simon and Bernard and his girlfriend coming to dinner tomorrow. Has to be vegetarian for Bernard and Josh is cooking vegetable cottage pie. I’m going to make the desert – Plum Traybake.
Louise made a great flyer to take to independent bookshops. A few have agreed to stock my book.