Tag Archives: Woman in a White Coat

Done and dusted!!

Liverpool Library. Will my book ever join them?
Liverpool Library. Will my book ever join them?

Finally checked all 17 chapters (95k words) of Woman in a White Coat for typos and clunky bits; double-spaced them, compiled them into one manuscript and emailed it all to Stephanie.

Do you think it would help if I crossed my eyes as well as my fingers and toes?

Woman in a White Coat

Painting on silk is great
Painting on silk is great

At my craft class we also painted on silk. It seem as if you can’t go wrong. Any squiggle looks great and the finished fabric makes exciting greetings cards. I bought a selection of triple-folded cards with cut-outs. To make these birthday cards, I cut out some circles and ovals of padding and stretched the silk over them.

Thanks to Stephanie, I now have 3 agents wanting to read Woman in a White Coat. Going to have one last editing session this Bank Holiday weekend before double-spacing the text and sending it off.

Fingers and toes crossed!!

.

They’re all stars

Watercolour classes at Open Age

Watercolour classes at Open Age

I have a marvellous bunch of readers who corrected my English when it was clunky, pointed out non sequiturs, found even more typos and kept up my spirits when I was flagging. Thank you all – family, friends, tutors and above all the Victoria Writing Circle who discussed every section week by week. Woman in a White Coat wouldn’t have existed without you.And as of now 3 agents want to see my manuscript!!

Among the many classes I attended after I retired was a very good watercolour class at Open Age – a valuable resource for the retired. I’m no artist but I had a great time. The image of a fruit bowl on my first blog The Beginning and further up Oh Dear show two more of my efforts.

Counting chickens

I'm not counting my chickens, but...
I’m not counting my chickens, but…

I’m not counting my chickens yet, but my fantastic mentor, Stephanie Hale, has already found two agents willing to read my memoir Woman in a White Coat. It covers my life as a Harley Street dentist, co-owner of John Dobbie toyshops, consultant pathologist and director of a cancer research lab as well as the mother of four, married to the same wonderful man for nearly 60 years!!

I know There’s many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip but, having been told there’s no chance of getting a memoir published unless you’re a celebrity, at the very least it’s encouraging.

Wish me luck

Why I set off Airport Alarms

My right hip replacement
My right hip replacement

It happens every time as I try to leave the country. As I go through security I set off the alarm. It’s that enormous piece of metal in my right femur that does it. Then I  have to be patted down by a grim-faced female security guard. I suppose they’re not allowed to smile at a suspected terrorist, though they are helpful and all smiles once I’ve been frisked. I’ve thought of taking a doctor’s letter or my X-ray but I suppose they’d be discounted, since I couldn’t prove they related to me.

My daughter Louise was expecting her second baby any day, so I had flown to Spain to help look after her family. Instead I spent 10 days in Hopital San Dios on the hillside above San Sebastian. I had to get special permission from the surgeon to slip out and see my new grandson.

It was vanity, sheer vanity. I’d missed out on Doc Marten’s when they were all the rage and when I saw the thick-soled boots in the Ecco shop I couldn’t resist them. I should have given them to Oxfam after I tripped hurrying to get to the Post Office before it closed. That time I’d only skinned the palms of my hands and torn a hole in my jeans. When I tripped crossing the road in San Sebastian, I broke my hip. I had a total replacement under an epidural anaesthetic.

There was no nonsense about being woken at six in the morning as I would have been in an English hospital. Food seemed to arrive every couple of hours. It started with coffee and croissants at 8am; then mid-morning coffee and biscuits, a delicious three course lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, an equally delicious three course dinner and, of course, a snack before bedtime. The nurses worried that I didn’t eat enough but I just couldn’t eat it all. I worried I’d never be able to lose the weight I must have put on.

I was worried that the bone had fractured though a site of secondary spread from my breast cancer of 10 years before but it was osteoporosis and Anno Domini.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat

Working at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda USA

Visiting expert
Visiting expert

Had a wonderful 3 months working at NIH – libraries open 7am – midnight weekdays and open on Sundays. Our London medical school library was open 9.30am – 6pm weekdays only. The facilities were incredible. There was a supermarket in the basement – not for food, but for chemicals and laboratory equipment –  test tubes, beakers, retort stands. You just needed your departmental card and a trolley. I was used to waiting 6 weeks just for a new measuring cylinder.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat
I’d got a bus out to the local shopping mall and on the way back I was the only passenger. The driver picked up on my English accent. ‘I’ve been to good old England,’ he said. ‘Did the whole country in a week. Where you staying while you’re here?’ I told him I was lodging in Julian Road. ‘No problem,’ he said, turning off the main road. He dropped me right at the door. ‘Glad to be of service, Ma’am,’ he said, waving goodbye.
After six weeks at NIH I flew to London for a long weekend. On my return to Washington, I was scared when the driver of my taxi coming from the airport turned off the freeway. ‘Shouldn’t we be going straight on?’ I asked. ‘Just have to get some gas.’ I was sure that this was it – the day I’d be robbed, raped or murdered, or all three. I was wrong. After paying for the petrol ‘Well, that turnoff is down to me. I’ll switch the meter off now’ he said. He even carried in my case for me.

Aren’t we lucky we still have public libraries?

The roof of Liverpool library
The roof of Liverpool library

We went to Liverpool for a long weekend to see the Chagall exhibition at Tate Liverpool and visited their wonderful new library – so different from the library I belonged to when I lived in Petticoat Lane.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat

I joined Whitechapel library as soon as I was five. Once a week I bundled up the books I had read and walked down Wentworth Street to the Commercial Street crossing.
‘Find a big man to take you across the road and make sure you hold his hand tight,’ my mother said. ‘No skipping or messing about as you go.’
I got used to the remarks about how little my hand was, and how the books were nearly as big as me. All I wanted, was to hurry up, get to the library as quickly as possible, and borrow some new books.
Whitechapel Children’s Library was huge, with bookshelves stretching from floor to ceiling. You needed one of those rolling steps to reach the top. We were allowed to take out six books. I always chose at least one book of fairy tales and one myths and legends book. The Andrew Lang fairy books were my favourites and I was fascinated by the Aubrey Beardsley illustrations. I’d choose a book or two from the Angela Brazil’s girls’ boarding school stories and over the years moved on to boys’ books. I learned the cricket and rugby rules and thrilled to the Biggles books. I found Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ books funny, but boring after the first couple.
I had to be brave if I wanted to look something up in the Children’s Encyclopaedia. I had to climb the steep stairs up to the Reference Library, hurrying past the glass cases filled with stuffed animals. The foxes, with their big teeth and staring eyes, were especially frightening, and I hated seeing the tiny stuffed birds stuck on twigs.

The Long Wait

Simon Lighter

Rupert patiently waiting for dinner 1957

Now the long wait – waiting for Stephanie’s approval and then waiting for agents to reply. Cats are very good at waiting – for us, for dinner, for the mouse to stick its head out of its hole just once more.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat .
When I was 14 we had a tabby I named Rupert after ‘Rupert the Bear.’ At first when I came home from school he wouldn’t talk to me after I’d left him for so long, but he soon forgave me and greeted me, winding in and out of my legs and rubbing his face against me. We had a second Rupert when Josh and I were married and living in a basement flat in Hampton Street. He loved the old-fashioned claw-footed iron bath in the passageway from our bedroom to the cellars. The cold water tap always dripped. He would sit on the rim, dipping a careful paw under the tap and having a quick drink. Hot water came from an enormous gas-fired Ascot at the end of the bath. He didn’t like the explosion when we lit it. He would scurry away only to return and walk around the narrow rim, looking at us quizzically as we soaked. He came perilously close to the edge but he never fell in.

Phantom Head

The Phantom Head
The Phantom Head

I am a retired consultant pathologist but I qualified in dentistry before I studied medicine.

In our third year we learned how to do fillings, carry out extractions and perform minor oral surgery. If they are not too broken down, extracted teeth are kept, cleaned and mounted in plaster blocks fixed to a metal head with opening and closing jaws – A Phantom Head. On these we learned how to drill out caries (decay), mix fillings and pack them into the cavities. Mostly we used amalgam – a mixture of mercury and metal powder – but we also learned how to cast gold fillings.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat