Tag Archives: Abby Waterman

April Fool’s Day and my New Resolution

Abby age 2

My memoir Woman in a White Coat starts 85 years ago in October 1931, two years before this studio portrait was taken.

Who would have thought this serious little girl would qualify in dentistry and medicine, become an entrepreneur and end up as a consultant pathologist in a major London teaching hospital.

I was born at a time when a girl’s only future was marriage and children  – though I managed those too – married to the same loving husband for 60 years with four wonderful children and four equally wonderful grandchildren.

There are 30 days in April and my memoir presently has 29 chapters so if I edit one chapter a day my memoir will be ready to be uploaded as an e-book by the end of the month. That is my April Fool’s Day resolution.

If you email me at abby(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you.

Heart Attacks and Hallucinations

Ventilation panels in ceiling
Ventilation panels in ceiling

My heart wasn’t doing too well after having a heart attack and two stents fitted so the cardiologist fitted an aortic balloon pump which was driven by a separate external pump.

I was doped to the eyeballs and I don’t remember telling Josh that the pump sounded like a washing machine but I was certainly convinced that the circular vent was the porthole of a washing-machine.

That was only one of the many queer delusions I experienced while heavily sedated, being ventilated and fighting for my life.

 

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Bridport Prize and last year my memoir Woman in a White Coat was short-listed for the Tony Lothian prize for unpublished biographies.

Further education

My favourite trouser pattern
My favourite trouser pattern

it’s that time of year – when the Further Education colleges publish their prospectuses for the coming year. Of course the fees have gone up again, while there are always threats to reduce government funding. The powers-that-be don’t seem to realise how much the NHS saves in anti-depressants and other medication by getting retired people out of the house.

I had an excellent dressmaking tutor – very strict and fussy. Everything had to be sewn carefully and finished well. I must have made at least half a dozen pairs of trousers from that pattern. The trouble with clothes you make yourself out of good quality fabric is that they won’t wear out and you’ve no excuse to visit GAP to buy new.

From my memoir Woman in a White Coat

After I retired  I signed up for lots of classes, some at one Further Education college and some at another – painting, drawing, cooking, history of art, Spanish, creative writing, pottery, dressmaking – everything I hadn’t had time for when I was working. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t had the time, I hadn’t had the desire. My mind was always so full of work. Even when I was at the theatre, I would find myself thinking about a difficult diagnosis or a hiccup in our research.

I enjoyed the freedom of doing things that weren’t important, things that weren’t a matter of life and death.

‘It’s wonderful,’ I said to my art teacher. ‘Nothing I do now is critical. If my drawing of the model looks like a human being, great. If not, at least I produced something. If my new cookery dishes taste good or if I can’t eat them and have to throw them out, if I manage to remember whether Rubens came first or Constable, it just doesn’t matter. You can’t imagine the relief and feeling of freedom. My life is no longer constantly punctuated by drama, by death, by irrevocable mistakes – where every word I put in a report is crucial. It would have been devastating if what I said in my report was misinterpreted by the surgeons and the wrong treatment given.

A is for Abby

Paper patchwork
Paper patchwork

My daughter Louise, her two children and I had a phase of covering all sorts of papier maché letters, boxes and animals with Decopatch paper. I used the covered letters as birthday cards. A and L were easy – all straight lines and sharp angles while S for Simon, B for Bernard, J for Jane were more tricky but the Decopatch paper is very forgiving.

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.

From the 9th Floor

Night Sky from the 9th Floor

Excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat

The view from the ninth floor is stunning. It stretches from the London Eye in the East to the MI6 building in the West. In front of me is a cityscape of grey rooftops. Most of the buildings are still dark but a few lighted windows show that some people are already at work. The flags on the Houses of Parliament flap in the breeze and the long sharp leaves on our dwarf palm tree rustle. At this time of day the pods on the London Eye are still empty of people. In the far distance red warning lights on the tallest buildings and cranes look like a constellation of red stars. A lone airplane roars overhead on its way to Heathrow Airport and there is already a steady hum of traffic along Horseferry Road. Big Ben’s face is lit up. I hear it toll the hour.

 

Getting Started

Anyone for Tea

Knitted this tribute to Vivienne Westwood so long ago, I don’t remember how I did it all. Machine knitting was one of the many classes I went to after I retired besides writing. Over the years I went to art history, drawing. painting, cooking, dressmaking, music theory. piano. Spanish, Basque, philosophy and more.

I made a couple of jumpers on my knitting machine but mainly knitted lengths of knitting using pure wool. I then felted it in the washing machine and used the fabric to make myself and my partner fleeces that were light but very warm. I sold my knitting machines some years ago and don’t miss them. The clothes you make yourself seem to last forever. You wish they would wear out so you could buy new ones. Now I mainly use my sewing machines for repairs but recently I did make a complete new set of cushion covers for out living room .