Tag Archives: Childhood

ALL 6s AND 7s – ACCORDING TO WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Age 6 from Rachel Mulligan’s sequence ‘Seven Ages of Man’ stained glass roundels illustrating the life of her father Jim Mulligan, Stained Glass Museum, Ely Cathedral

On my way home from seeing the audiologist about my hearing aids, I thought about all the ‘falsies’ now available to us. I don’t have those we usually associate with the term – when I had surgery for breast cancer immediate reconstruction wasn’t on offer, but I have been fitted with some of the other prosthetic replacements hardly dreamt of when Jacques in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ spoke of the Seven Ages of Man.

In the UK by 2018 the expectation of life for men was 79.6 and for women 83.2. In Shakespeare’s time, in the 16th century, the expectation of life for both was just under 40, given the high mortality during infancy and childbirth. At 40, I’d have thought myself in the prime of life and was just about to start my specialist training as a consultant pathologist. My final career was just about to begin.

‘The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose’

‘Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’

I used to be lean and wish I were again. I’ve more ‘the fair round belly’ of the Justice and I only wear slippers at home – haven’t yet descended into going out in them, nor in curlers. I’ve most of my own teeth with only one false tooth – a bridge supported by a tooth on either side, and since having my cataracts removed and false lenses inserted, I no longer wear spectacles,. Also, I have a false hip after fracturing the neck of my right femur in Spain in 2000.
I’m not sure about the ‘second childishness’, though every now again, when I try to remember a word or a name, I experience the ‘mere oblivion’. But so at times so do my children and grandchildren. Immediately after my heart attack I virtually lost my sense of taste and some manual dexterity, but they’re mostly back now.
Lucky we didn’t live in Shakespeare’s time, when ‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’ meant literally that!!

Lots more like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

Woman in a White Coat paperback

IT TAKES A NERVE TO CATCH YOURSELF A HUSBAND

As soon as I turned seventeen, the pressure was on. This was long before Computers or Internet Dating, and my mother started to worry that she’d have to find a Shadchen (a matchmaker) if, like a nice Jewish girl, I was to get married and have a big family. But despite my mother’s fears, all I needed was the nerve.

In my early teens, eager to meet handsome young men, I got myself booked into Guy’s Hospital Dental School to have my teeth seen to. I never actually got off with any of them, and I certainly never knew why I had the professor and a crowd of students around me when a new junior student took over my treatment.

I was now a senior dental student myself and treating my favourite patient. He was an elderly man who had a fund of brilliant stories of Times Gone By. He kept me in gales of laughter – in between me trying to get on with filling the many cavities in his teeth.

I’d had odd twinges of toothache in a lower premolar, but when I consulted our very misogynistic professor, he said he could find no cause for my pain and that I was just another hysterical young woman student. But now I had a throbbing pain in my tooth that seemed to be bursting out of my head. I’d never experienced anything like it. If you’ve ever had really bad toothache you will know what I mean. It was almost unbearable.

I apologised to my patient and said I’d have to put in a temporary filling. I just couldn’t go on.

He tried hard, but he couldn’t help grinning.

‘Don’t worry, my dear,’ he said. ‘You get yourself seen to. Good to have an excuse to come and see you again.’

The pain had subsided a little and I was able to bid him goodbye.

I didn’t know the on duty house surgeon very well, but I knew he had the reputation of being very skilful but with a sharp tongue. I expected him to be as scathing as my professor.

By now the pain had simmered down a bit. I went up to him and asked him to look at my tooth, explaining that the prof had been unable to find the source of my fleeting pain.

In very little time, he established that a right lower premolar, which had a small filling in it, was the source of my raging toothache. The very junior student at Guy’s Hospital, who’d treated me all those years ago, had drilled too deep and exposed the nerve in the centre of the tooth – hence the crowd around me, watching the exposed nerve being capped off. It had lain dormant for years and was now finally giving trouble.

The house surgeon gave me an injection, removed the inflamed nerve and arranged to complete the root filling when it had settled down.

Having made a further appointment, he asked me if I’d like to come to the cinema that weekend to see ‘Les Enfants du Paradis.’

The rest is history. Now, four children and four grandchildren later, Josh and I have been married the best part of 64 years.

Josh as a very handsome young dental student (not me – another student in his dental chair)

Josh as a very handsome young dental student (not me – another student in his dental chair)

I thank all you lovely people who wrote and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

I thank all you lovely people who wrote and commented on my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

About ‘Woman in a White Coat’

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

OUR FIRST JOHN DOBBIE TOYSHOP

Simon aged 3 and me looking in at our first bow-fronted toyshop.

It was 1962. Simon was 2½ and Bernard was 4 months old. Josh was working full time in our dental practice up in town and I was working part time in the dental practice I had set up in our small terrace house in Wimbledon.

Despite the fact that we were both working, we were overdrawn, having taken on too big a mortgage. We cast about for ways of making some extra money and finally decided to open an educational toyshop. It was such an ordeal getting two small boys ready to go up to town to find some toys that didn’t fall to pieces almost straightaway. The word you thought of then when someone said ‘toys’ was ‘broken’!! There was a very good toyshop owned by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt in Wimpole Street and Heal’s had some good toys, particularly at Christmas, but it wasn’t easy dragging the boys up to town.

We approached local agents in Wimbledon village only to be told none of the shops ever changed hands. All of them had been there for ages. Then, just before Christmas, one of the agents rang to say a small shop had come on the market.

It was ideal. A reasonable rent for a small bow-fronted shop – just one’s image of ‘Ye Olde Toy Shoppe.’ Winter 1962-3 was the coldest for years and we almost said ‘no’. I remember inspecting the premises, still with a post-pregnancy weak bladder, and finding the loo frozen solid.

Having managed to borrow £500 between the bank and a friend of my sister’s, we spent £250 on fitting it out and £250 on stock. If we visited any shop that stocked attractive sturdy toys, we turned them over to look at the labels to find the suppliers. We also managed to find some craftworkers making beautiful toys to order, as well as sturdy wooden toys imported from Scandinavia.

I wrote to all the Sunday glossies to tell them our shop would be opening at Easter and to our great good fortune the Woman’s Page editor, the wonderful late Moira Keenan, wrote about us on the Sunday before Easter. Fantastic!!

That Wimbledon shop later moved to a larger shop in the High Street and we opened a second shop in Putney. We never made much money out of them though it was a wonderful experience. Finally, having had enough of running John Dobbie, we sold the Putney shop in a property deal, and the Wimbledon shop to a couple who had opened a shop like ours elsewhere.

I decided to return to medicine, hoping to specialise in dental pathology. The professor who’d invited me to come and see him, if and when I was ready, had retired and when I approached his replacement for a job, he turned me down saying ‘A married woman with four children and no expertise – you’ve nothing to offer.’

Five years later I was a consultant pathologist with an international reputation. When we met later he swore he’d never said anything of the kind – but he had!!

‘Woman in a White Coat                      paperback

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’. Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

MY DAUGHTER THE PHYSICS PROFESSOR

Jane with one of the hand-embroidered balls we sold in our John Dobbie educational toyshop.

We’ve all heard the very un-PC Jewish Mother jokes, including those about her calling out to rescue her drowning children ‘Save my son, the doctor’ or ‘Save my grandson, the psychiatrist!!’ Well, my eldest son is a doctor, a Professor, and our youngest is a Professor of Physics.

She nearly didn’t make it though. I was 34 weeks pregnant and we had just been to visit our elder son after his ear operation. A trickle of liquid down my legs indicated that my membranes had broken six weeks early. At the maternity department, just across the road, the obstetrics registrar advised me to rest.

‘See if you can get this little one a bit more mature, Abby,’ he said. ‘Safer at home, though. Less chance of picking up a hospital infection.’

After about a week, mostly in bed, my contractions started. I was disappointed that the ambulance man wouldn’t put on the bell.

‘It’s only for emergencies,’ he said. ‘Looks as if it will be some time yet.’

Josh met me at the labour ward and almost as soon as I arrived my contractions started in earnest. As my baby was premature I couldn’t have a painkilling injection and had to push very carefully. Premature babies need to be delivered very gently to avoid damage to their brains.

Jane came out bright pink and crying loudly. She weighed 4½ pounds, which was a good weight for a premature baby. After letting us have a quick look at her, she was whisked off to the prem baby unit and I was deposited in a side room in the post-natal ward. I quickly fell asleep. When I awoke, I asked several times when I could see my baby, but was always told they were busy in the prem unit.

Finally, the Professor of Paediatrics came to see me.

‘I would get your husband to come back, Abby,’ he said. ‘I’m afraid your baby’s not doing well. She’s developed Respiratory Disease of the Newborn. She may not make the night.’

I begged to go down and see her, but he said there was a lot going on in the prem unit.

‘Better not,’ he replied.

They made me take a sleeping pill and I dozed off, waking several times in the night.

Finally, night sister came in, finishing her rounds. I was almost too scared to ask how my baby was doing, was she still alive, but she said she’d pop down to the prem unit and see. She was back in a few minutes that seemed like hours as I waited to hear the worst.

‘She’s holding her own,’ she said. ‘You can pop down for a few minutes.’

My little girl was in an incubator, panting away, trying to take in enough oxygen, tubes coming out of everywhere.

‘You’re so lucky you had her here, Dr Waterman,’ the prem unit sister said. ‘RDN is prof’s speciality and her distress was picked up really early.’

I knew Respiratory Disease of the Newborn was a condition in which the lungs didn’t expand properly at birth and at that time was often fatal.

When Josh brought our other three children in to see her, they looked like giants compared with her.

Jane pulled through, became a competent flautist, so her lungs were obviously not permanently damaged, was as bright as a button and is now an internationally known Professor of Physics.

Just shows that where there’s life there’s hope!!

 

I wish you all a Fantastic New Year. Many thanks to those who’ve contacted me to say they have enjoyed my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Woman in a White Coat paperback

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

HAPPY FORTHCOMING HANUKAH EVERYONE

Large Menorah at the Jewish Museum Camden

As we lit the Hanukah candles we sang

מָעוֹז צוּר יְשׁוּעָתִי

Maoz tzur y’shuati

But instead of

לְךָ נָאֶה לְשַׁבֵּחַ
תִּכּוֹן בֵּית תְּפִלָּתִי

l’cha naeh l’shabeach
Tikon beit t’filati

under our breaths Hannah and I sang

The cat’s in the cupboard

And it can’t catch me

What did you sing?  (No rude versions please)

Many thanks to all those lovely people who bought my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ as a Hanukah present

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End

Woman in a White Coat paperback

and making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

 

ME AND MY TONSILS

Hannah was the prettiest of the three of us

It was still dark when my mother shook me awake and whispered, ‘Get up and don’t wake your sister.’

Since my grandmother died, I had shared the big double bed with my middle sister, Hannah. I crept to the bottom of the bed past her feet and crawled out.

When I reached for the Cornflakes my mother smacked my hand away.

‘You know you mustn’t eat before an operation.’

I would have liked to ask what an operation was but I could tell that my mother was already cross, especially when I couldn’t find my shoes. Somehow they’d got right under the bed and I had to crawl in amongst the dust bunnies to get them.

She marched me up Wentworth Street to Commercial, Street where we caught a tram to Grays Inn Road and the old Royal Free Hospital.

I was quickly admitted, and my mother left. I had my tonsils out that day and I remember waking up with an awful sore throat, helped a bit by a scoop each of vanilla and strawberry ice cream.

Once my throat eased a bit, I had a great time playing with the other children. We had Ludo and Snakes and Ladders to play with, but the very best was chasing over and under the beds – at least, until the nurses told us off.

I was almost sorry when the nurse said we would be going home. My mother was always late for everything and I was left all alone in the waiting room as the others were collected one by one. She finally came, only to tell me off because I’d spilled something down my jumper.

In those days it was just a couple of bad sore throats and out came your tonsils. Now we realise that the tonsils are large lymphatic glands that have an important role to play in our immune system.

Fortunately, there were still a few indications for tonsillectomy when I was a young Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) house surgeon in 1959. Because I had already qualified as a dentist as well as a doctor, and I suppose seemed steady and sensible, my consultant allowed me to have my own operating list, removing tonsils and adenoids. We took out tonsils by grabbing them in a steel snare and nipping them off. Usually we removed the adenoids as well by scraping them out. I loved it all.

By that time, Josh and I were married and, though I would have loved to have trained as a surgeon, I felt that as a married woman I was unlikely to get very far. In my hospital, there was only one woman consultant surgeon (unmarried, of course) and that was the usual state of affairs.

Woman in a White Coat paperback

Lots more stories like this in my memoir ‘‘Woman in White Coat’.

Buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

A DREIDEL FOR HANUKAH

Wooden Dreidel

Until I was about eight years old, and my Aunt Jennie bought me a china doll with eyes that opened and closed, the only bought toy I had was a dreidel, a little four-sided wooden spinning top. It was kept in a glass-fronted cupboard with other precious things like the Kiddush cups and Menorah, and brought out for Hanukah, year after year.

Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (nun), ג (gimel), ה (hei), ש (shin) – shorthand for the rules of a gambling game: Nun stands for the Yiddish word nisht (“nothing”), Hei stands for halb (“half”), Gimel for gants (“all”), and Shin for shtel ayn (“put in”). Nowadays they are often regarded as representing nes gadol hayah sham (“a great miracle happened there”) Wikipedia

Anything else we played with was picked up from Petticoat Lane market refuse, begged or nicked. Before the dustmen cleared them all away, we rescued clean orange boxes from the fruiterer’s rubbish to make a wicket and bat for the cricket we played in Wentworth Street. We’d wash a tinned fruit can for ‘Tin Can Tommy’, while chalk for hopscotch, and for cryptic messages about who loved whom, was nicked from school. We wheedled cigarette cards from adults as soon as we saw them lighting up, while lengths of string dropped in the street were precious finds for playing ever more intricate cats’ cradle.

In our present more affluent time, it’s hard to imagine what it was like for the poor like us who had absolutely no discretionary income. There was no spare money for frivolities like toys – unless you counted the fragile little celluloid dolls the Rag and Bone man gave you in exchange for whatever secondhand goodies you could bring him.

But if you are poor, and all your friends and neighbours are as poor or poorer, you don’t know what you’re missing and even a well-used Dreidel is fun.

My memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ a special present for Hanukah

Woman in a White Coat paperback

or Christmas

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

 

MY TWOPENNY CLUB ROW FORTUNE

Simon before Babygros and Onesies

If I had been good and not been cheeky, on Sunday my dad would take me to Club Row to see the animals. That week I asked if I could buy a twopenny fortune. The fortune seller had a yellow budgerigar perched on his shoulder and a tray stuffed with rows of little envelopes suspended around his neck. When you handed over your two pennies, the budgie would fly down, pick out one of the envelopes with its beak and hand it to you. The bystanders watched in silence as I opened the envelope.

‘You will win the football pools, get married and have four children,’ I read out to a round of applause.

I managed two of the three, but winning the football pools wasn’t one of them!!

I had qualified in dentistry and was half way through my medical training when we got married in 1956. By the time I completed my second post as a house physician, and was now able to work outside a hospital, I was five months pregnant with Simon.

Unfortunately, I developed raised blood pressure and fluid retention towards the end of my pregnancy and was prescribed strict rest. I was bored out of my mind. Two weeks before Simon was due, I was delighted when Josh’s cousins invited us for dinner. Both of them were great cooks and bon viveurs.

In 1960 we weren’t generally aware of the dangers of alcohol in pregnancy so when we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of dry sherry, as was the custom. I had two glasses of a very good Hungarian red wine with the delicious meal and a snifter of brandy with my after-dinner coffee.

Then my waters broke and Josh drove to the hospital in our old Morris 8 banger as fast as it would go.

When I arrived at the hospital where I’d trained, the midwife settled me in and sent Josh back for the case I kept ready for such an emergency.

‘Nothing’s happening at the moment,’ she said. ‘Just take this Seconal. It will help you to sleep. As it’s your first baby it could be ages yet.’

‘I really don’t need it. I’m more like a dormouse than anything. I’ll be asleep in no time.’

‘Be good now, Dr Waterman,’ she said. So I swallowed the capsule.

But soon my contractions started.

‘I’ll just give you something for the pain,’ the midwife said.

‘It’s not really hurting,’ I said.

‘Be good,’ she said, and gave me an injection of Pethidine.

By now, I’d had a glass of sherry, two large glasses of wine, a brandy, a capsule of Seconal and an injection of Pethidine. I was as high as a kite!!

I knew a few dirty songs and sang them at the top of my voice, but I knew a lot more hymns and started to sing them while the midwife exhorted me to push.

Finally, her instructions got through to me and my gorgeous baby boy was born. Amazingly, the moment I held Simon in my arms, I was stone cold sober. What incredible beings we are!!

Many thanks to those who’ve contacted me to say they are going to give my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ as a Hanukah or

Woman in a White Coat paperback

Christmas present

‘Woman in White Coat – the memoir of girl growing up the East End and making good

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

WW2 – THE BLITZ. EVACUATED TO DAWLISH 1940-42

In Dawlish aged 8

I was the youngest and smallest of the 40 children evacuated to the hostel in Dawlish. The Blitz had started on September 7th 1940 and the Luftwaffe systematically bombed London for 56 of the following 57 days and nights. Many children, unhappy at being evacuated, had come back to London. Posters appeared everywhere urging parents to send their children back to the safety of the countryside.

After my awful experience evacuated to Ely, I said I wouldn’t go away again, but at not quite eight years old I had no choice. I was sent off to the hostel for Jewish children in Dawlish run by Habonim. A distant cousin, who worked in a similar hostel in Teignmouth, took me there.

For the first time ever, I was petted and made much of, though I found my chores tough, especially in the depths of winter. There were several dormitories and my job was to clean the basins in each of the bedrooms before leaving for school. It wasn’t too bad in the summer, but in the winter, when the water was icy and the patterns of Jack Frost covered the windows, I got chilblains on my fingers, as well as on my toes.

I had just been in trouble for refusing to comb my hair or wash on Saturdays. I had decided it was work and so forbidden on the Sabbath. The matron wrote to ask my parents whether this was their choice. They wrote back saying it was all nonsense and I had been thoroughly told off.

Then, to my surprise, my parents agreed to pay for me to have piano lessons. Mr Lawson was the organist at the local church and also taught the piano. A short tubby man, I would sit next to him entranced as he played for me. He smoked continuously, even while he was playing, the ash dropping unheeded onto his waistcoat. I expected a pianist to have long slender hands, but his nicotine-stained fingers were short and stubby, with coarse dark hair on the backs. But he made magic with them.

He invited me to come to the local church to hear him play the organ on Sunday, but I knew my Orthodox parents would be horrified so I never did, though the love of music was with me forever. I have had several piano teachers since, but none will ever compare with my first teacher, Mr Lawson.

Many thanks to all those who’ve contacted me to say they are going to buy my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ for Hanukah or Christmas presents

Woman in a White Coat paperback

‘Woman in White Coat’ – the memoir of a girl growing up the East End and making good.

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

FISH AND CHIPS AND A BOTTLE OF TIZER

 

This photograph of Littleport Village was probably from the 1900s. A resident commented that it has changed very little. Such happy memories!!
With kind permission of the Littleport Society

By the time WW2 was declared on September 3rd 1939, over a million children had been evacuated from places deemed to be under threat. My middle sister, Hannah, had won a Supplementary Scholarship, which gave her a free grammar school place and uniform allowance, but she had not yet joined Central Foundation School for Girls. So she was evacuated with me from Jews Free School to Littleport in Cambridgeshire. We were first taken in by a famer and his wife, but they decided having two children billeted on them was too much trouble. They forgot about us when they went to a wedding the next day and we were locked out until they came home late at night. The following day they offloaded us onto the farmer’s mother who lived in Littleport village.

Mrs Hartley was a tiny, wrinkled old lady, her face all smiles. She kissed and hugged us both.

‘Come in, come in, girls,’ she said. ‘So lovely to have children in the house again.’

Hers was a small two up/two down cottage with a pocket sized garden at the back and an outside toilet right at the end. The flowerbeds surrounding the absolutely weed-free lawn were ablaze with colour.

On the ground floor was a parlour that was hardly ever used and, at the back, a tiny kitchen with a small table, the three of us could just about fit around. Upstairs was Mrs Hartley’s bedroom and a large double bedroom Hannah and I were to share.

‘Now Mr Hartley has passed on I don’t need this large room,’ she said.

There was a double bed with brass rails at either end, and covered by a handmade patchwork quilt, a large mahogany wardrobe, a dressing table and stool, and a matching china basin and jug decorated with tiny pink roses. A flowered chamber pot peeped out from under the bed. We thought it was all gorgeous.

Mrs Hartley took us into the parlour and showed us a sepia photograph of a bearded Mr Hartley surrounded by three rows of children.

‘Had 22,’ she said. ‘Raised 19,’

The rhyme ‘The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe’ came into my head. I couldn’t imagine anyone having that many children, but I was sure she’d have loved them all.

Tea was fresh-from-the-oven fruit scones with as much butter as we liked and home-made strawberry jam.

‘Our old farm has a bathroom now, but it’s a zinc bath in front of the kitchen fire for us,’ she said.

I’d almost forgotten the rough feel of the ridges on a zinc bath, but the water was lovely and hot and the soap had a delicious flowery scent instead of the disinfectant-smelling Lifebuoy soap I was used to.

We went to bed early and cuddled up in the cosy, soft bed. Mrs Hartley had taken the chill off with a couple of stone hot water bottles.

We had a very special treat on Friday nights. Mrs Hartley would give us the money to buy three portions of fish and chips and a bottle of Tizer at the Fish and Chip shop up the road. At home we had only ever bought two penny worth of chips from Johnny Isaacs on our way home from the Troxy cinema. My mother cooked fried fish for Friday nights so we never bought any. The bright orange Tizer was new to us. As we ate, Hannah and I kept showing each other our tongues to see whose tongue was the brightest orange.

We loved staying with Mrs Hartley but Hannah’s grammar school was evacuated to Ely. She and two other girls were bussed in each day while I went to the village school. The powers that be decided it was wasteful bussing in three CFS girls each day and Hannah and I were moved to a miserable billet on the outskirts of Ely.

I refused to eat the traife (non-kosher) meat the billet lady cooked, although the Chief Rabbi had said it was OK in Wartime, and I ate little of anything else. We were unhappy and I looked like a waif. We stuck it there until December 1939 and then my father brought us back to London.

I thank all those lovely people who read and commented on stories like this in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

Buy it on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat