How lovely to have a cat

Rupert hugging Josh's shoes
Rupert 2nd hugging Josh’s shoes

I’d love to have a cat again but we live in an apartment on the 9th floor and it would be too dangerous to allow our cat out on the balcony. I’d already had one cat fall from my balcony when I was 7 and living in Petticoat Lane, though that was only from the 3rd floor.

Extract from my memoir Woman in a White Coat
It was wonderful coming home to Rupert. He’d wind himself round and round my ankles, delighted to see me again. I was used to being greeted by a mother who seemed barely to tolerate me.

When I went to the toilet outside on our little balcony, Rupert would follow me and walk along the brick support at the bottom of the protective railings. As he grew bolder, he started climbing over the coal bunker and up to the bar at the top, weaving in and out of the upright spikes. I could hardly bear to watch him. Sometimes he walked along the railings to our neighbour’s balcony. She always had a few scraps for a cat who was always hungry, even when he had just been fed.

‘Be careful,’ I told Rupert. ‘I know you’ve got nine lives, but we’re on the third floor, and it’s a long way down.’

Rupert said nothing and stalked into the kitchen, but when I did my homework he came to sit on my lap, purring loudly.

One terrible day, when I was standing on the balcony watching as Rupert put one careful foot in front of the other on the top bar of the guard rail, my mother called me.

‘Abby, come in at once. What’s all this?’

As I turned back, Rupert lost his footing and fell. I was paralysed; couldn’t move,

‘Mummy, come quickly,’ I screamed. ‘Rupert’s fallen off.’

‘He’ll be dead, for sure, but you’d better go down and see.’

I raced down the six flights of stairs, out into Goulston Street, round into Wentworth Street and into the entrance of our courtyard. Rupert was sitting there, nonchalantly licking a paw, as if falling from the third floor was nothing.

‘You’re a naughty, naughty, kitten,’ I said as I picked him up and hugged him.

The old woman who was always on her first floor balcony, looking out and gossiping about everyone, said:

‘They’ve got nine lives and no mistake. You should look after it better, Abby. You tell your mother I said so.’

Rupert licked my hand with his rough little tongue.

‘You’re to stop walking along the railings,’ I told him, but an hour later he was winding in and out of the spikes, as if to show he wasn’t a scaredy cat, even if I was.

When Josh and i were first married we had a tabby cat we also called Rupert

 From my memoir Woman in a White coat

The New Spitalfields Market

Only this sculpture of a pear. All the fresh fruit and vegetables have gone
Only this sculpture of a pear and a fig remind us that Spitalfields was once a thriving fruit and vegetable market.

My grammar school, Central Foundation School for Girls, was in Spital Square on the edge of Spitalfields Market. On my way to school from our tenement in Petticoat Lane I walked through the market, skirting the squashed produce and horse droppings. While most farmers brought in their fruit and vegetables by lorry, some still used a horse and cart.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat

I didn’t practise enough to play the cello well, but I enjoyed playing in a quartet. We played with great enthusiasm though not much musicianship. We were rarely quite in tune. Our practice room was next to the sixth form common room. The seniors would come out with their hands over their ears complaining about the noise.

Sarah had a little pitch pipe to give us an A but Jo, the viola player, seemed to have no sense of pitch. Sometimes even we couldn’t stand the sound she made and had to tell her to shut up. When we practised, either we weren’t quite in tune or one or other of us would come in a couple of beats late and we’d all start giggling. Once we started, anything would set us off laughing again.

Good Fridays and our Writers’ Circle

More jesters' faces
More painted jesters

Always look forward to the Fridays when our writers’ circle meets, especially today when a member who hadn’t been able to make it for some time came with a fascinating piece of diary writing. I am preparing a couple of chapters of my memoir Woman in a White Coat for a competition and brought them to our meeting. Annoying to find things i wish I had changed before sending the MS to agents. But then, every time I open something I’ve written I can’t resist re-editing.

San Sebastian and my Fruit Cake

Looking out to sea
Looking out to sea

Off to see Louise in San Sebastian in a couple of weeks. Her parents-in-law have invited us to Sunday lunch so I am baking them a rich fruit cake, well-laced with Drambuie. I use a Tefal kugel-type silicone cake mould – I always found my cakes stuck to my Kugelhopf metal tin, even though it was non-stick and well-greased. I  bought the non-stick metal tin originally to make a yeast Kugelhopf cake. I love the slightly sour taste the yeast gives to it but a traditional English-type fruit cake is safer – especially if it is alcoholic enough.

How you feel Day by Day

Which face shall I wear today?
Which face will I be wearing today?

I’ve kept up my resolution to write a blog everyday since I started again on Saturday May 2nd 2015, but not the resolution to write something for 10 minutes every day, choosing a subject by sticking a pin into the list i made of interesting words. Perhaps that’s not the right way for me.

When you’re working, regardless of how you feel when you wake up, you have to get up, get dressed, have breakfast and go. Then when you get there you start. When you’re retired it’s different . Unless you have a class or a meeting of your writers’ circle there’s no compulsion – other than the need for a strong coffee.

Then how you feel when you wake matters. Are you feeling jolly and ready for the day, still too sleepy to pull yourself together or too down to get on with anything? I wish I could predict how I’m going to feel when I wake. or perhaps I mean, i wish I could feel great and full of beans everyday.

Jack the Ripper was here!!

116a
The entrance to our flats has been blocked off now
Excerpt modified from my memoir Woman in a White Coat

I recently discovered it was in the doorway of No 119 Wentworth Dwellings, two floors above the cold water tenement where we lived from 1931-1942, that at 2.55am on Sunday September 30th 1888, PC Long found a blood-soaked piece of Catherine Eddowes’ apron. The murderer, Jack the Ripper, left her mutilated body some distance away, in Mitre Street. His reign of terror in the East End of London, killing and disembowelling local prostitutes, ended three years later with the murder of Mary Jane Kelly.Wentworth Dwellings has now been gentrified and renamed Arcadia Court. The dirty grey bricks have been scrubbed clean to a pale honey colour and the sash windows, which constantly required new sashes, have been replaced by double glazed PVC casements. Instead of a broken down wrought iron gate into the courtyard, that entrance is bricked up too. Access is by a dark brown, highly polished, security door with key code entry in Old Castle Street.

Machine and hand knitting

Two of my knitted cushions
Two of my knitted cushion covers

One of the classes I went to after I retired was machine knitting. I only knitted one cardigan by shaping the various parts on the machine. For the rest, I knitted lengths of pure wool, felted them at 40°C in the washing machine and cut out the fabric I’d made using dress-making patterns. The fleeces were the most successful – being pure wool they were light as well as warm and could be washed again and again without shrinking or felting further. I also made a pair of trousers but they were a failure – too thick and too warm. I tried them on when I finished them but I have never worn them.

Although as a child in London in WW2 I did a lot of hand knitting – we could all read and knit at the same time – I knitted only a few things by hand once I had retired with enough time to spare – a couple of cardigans, some scarves and a set of cushion covers

The stripy cushion on the right is machine knitted and the one on the left is knitted by hand.

The Queen of Spades

Wikipedia's Queen of Spades card
Queen of Spades

Saw the English National Opera’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades at the Coliseum last night. Usual ENO’s minimalist very effective set with shutters that open to reveal the chorus or individual singers. Not one of my favourite operas with few memorable arias but based on a short story by Pushkin its intriguing story has an unexpected denouement.

Have now installed the control App for my Siemen’s hearing aids on my mobile. The woman sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder to complain that I was using my mobile, instead of switching it off as instructed in the surtitle board. Explained and pleased to see ‘collapse of stout party’!!

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

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