Category Archives: Memoir extract

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 Maternal Grandmother, Rachel

 

My grandmother

I adored my grandmother, Rachel, and was broken-hearted when she died. Whenever I read this excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat my throat thickens and tears come to my eyes.

Memoir Extract

In 1937, when I was six, my grandmother had a stroke while she was scrubbing the stairs. She was dead on arrival at The London Hospital. Continue reading My Maternal Grandmother, Rachel

1918 – Votes for Women and All That

Hurrah for Women!!

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.

My parents’ wedding October 6th 1918

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.

Extract from my memoir Woman in a White Coat

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.

Continue reading 1918 – Votes for Women and All That

Dali and Duchamp at the Royal Academy, London. Delirium and Delusions

An Art Lover’s Feast

Dali/Duchamp exhibition at the Royal Academy was an eye-opener. I had no idea Salvador Dali (1904-1989) and Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) were such great friends. I knew little about Duchamp’s work other than that he pioneered the display of ready made objects as works of art including his infamous Fountain – a urinal inscribed R. MUTT 1917  and had seen and admired The bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (The large glass). it was interesting to see that early on he was a conventional representational artist.  Having teenage children at the height of the Surrealist craze I got to know Dali’s work and visited a fascinating exhibition of his work in Richmond, Virginia which included a jewelled beating heart.

The Persistence of Memory 1931

The strange thing for me about seeing the exhibition is that I saw the bent watches in the famous Dali painting The Persistence of Memory 1931 (not shown in this exhibition) as well as some artefacts by Jeff Coons,  in one of my delusions while in Critical Care following my heart attack last year.

Balloon Monkey (Blue) 2006-2013

Up to 80% of patients in Intensive Care suffer periods of delirium and I had several. My very caring consultant was concerned that the memory of some of my delusions might be upsetting but they gave me just the material I needed for the last chapter of my memoir Woman in a White Coat.

Lots of lobster souvenirs including chocolate ones

The exhibition included some interesting short videos as well as lots of works I hadn’t seen before.

 

I always enjoy wandering around the Royal Academy shop though I was easily able to resist the chocolate lobsters that referenced Dali’s lobster telephone.

Wouldn’t fancy holding THAT receiver!!

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

 

Fabulous Rachmaninoff Duo at St John’s Smith Square, London

Brilliant Duo

Timothée Botbol (Cello) and Dinara Klinton (Piano) played Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise arranged for cello and piano and his Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor. Dinara played his Prelude in D Op 23 No 4  and his Prelude in G minor Op 23 No 5.

Both brilliant performers, I had never heard the cello played with such richness of tone. I was blown away. And Dinara Clinton’s brilliant musicality and technique were amazing.

St John’s have a membership just right for me as I don’t like going out alone to evening concerts. For £45 (£40 with Direct Debit) you can attend 10 of their Thursday lunchtime concerts – only £4 each!!

Timothée’s brilliant performance was a far cry from mine when I learned the cello as a 15-year old and played in a quartet at our school’s prize day.

Memoir Extract

An ex-student, who’d gone on to play second violin in the London Symphonia Orchestra, gave our school a cello. I put my name down to have free lessons, but I wasn’t very hopeful because I was already having piano lessons. I wasn’t altogether pleased when my form mistress stopped me at the end of the week and told me I had been chosen to learn the cello. We always had loads of homework and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit in practising the cello as well as the piano.

Continue reading Fabulous Rachmaninoff Duo at St John’s Smith Square, London

A Great Weekend in Oslo, Norway, and a Visit to The Astrup Fearnley Museum

The Asstrup Fearnley Modern Art Museum

Loved our trip to the Astrup Fearnley  Modern Art Museum on the bay. Couldn’t understand why the collector bothered with so many of Damien Hirst’s half animals in formalin. When there was a scandal about keeping children’s brains I turned out my mounted specimens of cancers but I thought of offering the museum the head of my fractured right femur. I still have it in a jar in my bathroom cabinet – much more interesting and educational that half a cow.

Oslo harbour

Lovely view of the harbour complete with two-masted sailing vessel. Just not enough time to go across to the Viking museum.

Cindy Sherman as demure lady

 

 

I very much liked their collection of Cindy Sherman’s photographs. Amazing what she can turn herself into.

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Untitiled #152

 

 

Hard to realise that this painting Untitled #152 of what apprears to be a bald man is also her.

Michael Jackson and Bubbles 1988

We both liked Jeff Koons’  porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles, his chimpanzee,  in white and gold. Seeing Koons’ name reminded me of the hallucinations i had in the High Dependency Unit (HDU; dependant on care not on drugs) following my heart attack last August after I came off the ventilator.

Memoir extract from Chapter 28 of Woman in a White Coat

Continue reading A Great Weekend in Oslo, Norway, and a Visit to The Astrup Fearnley Museum

Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

A selection of books recommended by the staff at Foyles

Now that I finished the final draft Woman in a White Coat I’ve been scouring Waterstone’s and Foyles for ideas for the cover. Also looked at covers by designers who entered for The Academy of British Cover Design awards.

I know I’d like to have a white shiny cover and I’ve seen quite a few that I like, but unfortunately mainstream publishers rarely include the name of the cover designer.

Herewith a taster – the beginning of Chapter 3 of Woman in a White Coat

A Country at War

We were tired and hungry, my sister Hannah and I, as we stood waiting in Littleport Village Hall, waiting to be chosen by someone, anyone.

‘Don’t snivel,’ Hannah said. ‘No-one will take us in if they see you crying.’

She pushed my hand away.

‘You’re too old to hold hands Abby, and anyhow your hands are always wet and sticky.’

Operation Pied Piper’, the plan for the evacuation of children from areas likely to be bombed, was in place long before World War 2 was declared. People in safe areas with spare bedrooms were urged to take in evacuees. They would be paid 10/6d a week for the first child and 8/6d for each subsequent child. Nearly a million children were evacuated on Friday September 1st, 1939. London railway stations were packed with children and whole trains were commandeered.

Parents had been given a list of clothing to pack. Girls needed 1 spare vest, 1 pair of knickers, 1 petticoat, 1 slip, 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, a coat or Mackintosh, nightwear, a comb, towel, soap, face-cloth, boots or shoes and plimsolls.

Continue reading Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

Any Old Iron??

Sagging bedstead
Sagging bedstead

Our poor Basque grandson has been sleeping uncomplainingly on this sagging folding bed the three times a year his family comes to visit. Quite by chance, I decided to do some of my physio exercises in the spare room on that bed and felt I might sink through right onto the floor.

Had to go to the South London dump to dispose of it and the electric blanket that decided to give up the ghost as soon as the weather turned chilly.

I have fond memories of the Rag and Bone man with a cart pulled by a scraggy old horse coming regularly through Petticoat Lane. He would never give you money in return for your offerings – only give you a little useless gift in exchange.

Excerpt from Chapter 3 Woman in a White Coat

I loved it when the coal man came. We could hear him calling ‘Coal for sale’ from streets away and I would be sent down to ask for a bag of coal.

Continue reading Any Old Iron??

Short-listed for the Wasafiri Prize

The Entry Details
The Entry Details

What wonderful news – being short-listed for the Wasafiri prize given in three categories – Poetry, Short Story and Life Writing. I submitted September 1939 about being evacuated to Littleport and then Ely.

Shows how valuable belonging to a Writers’ Circle is and having constructive criticism. Another member just had two Flash Fiction entries short-listed for the prestigious Bridport Prize and last year my memoir Woman in a White Coat was short-listed for the Tony Lothian prize for unpublished biographies.