Tag Archives: Childhood

THE BLITZ WW2 AND RE-EVACUATION 1940-1942

Dawlish 1941

When my dad brought my middle sister and me back from an unhappy billet in Ely, Christmas 1939, I vowed I would never be evacuated again, but on September 7th 1940 the Blitz began. We tried taking shelter on the platform of Aldgate East Underground station, where we slept in rows tightly packed like sardines. I hated it there. I often walked in my sleep and, although I knew that the electric current was turned off at night, I was terrified that I might walk to the edge of the platform and fall onto the lines. Finally, we were allocated spaces in the basement of a factory in Middlesex Street and started to sleep there every night.

Soon, posters appeared saying that children still in London should be sent to the country. I told my parents I wouldn’t go. After the miserable time I’d had in Ely, I absolutely didn’t want to be evacuated again but a distant cousin was working at one of the hostels for Jewish children opened by Habonim in South Devon – one each in Dawlish, Teignmouth and Exmouth. There was room for me in the Dawlish hostel and I stayed there for two years, finally coming back to London in the summer of 1942.

I loved it there. I was the youngest and smallest and for the first time I was not just a third unwelcome daughter but was cossetted and made a big fuss of. And there were lots of children to play with. I don’t remember ever being homesick even though I only saw my parents a couple of times in the two years I was there – it was a long way from London and the fare was expensive. I wasn’t exactly alienated from my family but certainly there was now an emotional as well as a geographical distance.

I was entered for the Junior County Scholarship when I was 10 and awarded a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital. I’d read lots of books about boarding schools and couldn’t wait to go there, but my father wrote to the school asking if I would be able to take Jewish holydays off. Needless to say, the reply was that no special arrangements could be made for Jewish children and my Orthodox parents wouldn’t allow me to go there.

I was heartbroken and now I hated the hostel and begged my father to take me home. My scholarship didn’t guarantee me a free place at the local grammar school, Central Foundation School for Girls, but the headmistress allowed me to go there free of charge provided I won a Junior County Scholarship the following spring. It was a fee-paying school at the time, and my parents wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay fees. Fortunately, with a bit of taking in, my middle sister’s uniform fitted me, so my parents were spared that expense.

I won a Junior County scholarship in 1943 and spent seven happy years at CFS, including the last two as the only girl at our brother school – Cowper Street Boys School – but that’s another story!!

Read about this and other episodes in my memoir ‘Woman in a 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

WHITECHAPEL PUBLIC LIBRARY -1892-2005

 

The old Whitechapel Library

For me Whitechapel Library was a godsend. The only books our family owned were six Sidurim (Daily Prayer Books) and six Haggadahs (Prayer Books for the first two nights of Pesach – Passover). – one each for my grandmother, my parents, my two older sisters and me. No reading books. Those we borrowed from the library.

I could already read when I was enrolled at Jews Free Infant School aged 3, but I couldn’t join the children’s section of Whitechapel Library until I was five. From then on, I went to the library every Friday afternoon before Shabbat began. Hard to believe in our apparently more dangerous age, but I went there on my own as soon as I was old enough to join, walking from our tenement in Wentworth Dwellings, crossing the busy Commercial Street, walking up Old Montague Street and cutting through what I think is now Angel Alley to the Library.

My mother would tell me to find a big man to take me across Commercial Street and to hold his hand tight. These days parents would fear that the ‘big man’ was a paedophile or worse.

I could borrow six books a week from the Children’s section and later, when I was old enough, from the Adult Library, so for me most of the titles in ‘1000 Books You Must Read before You Die’ are familiar, even if I’ve only skimmed them – though most I’d have read cover to cover. As an Orthodox Jewish girl there was little else I could do on Saturdays after getting back from Shul and having lunch.

There was a plaque at the bottom of the staircase to J Passmore Edwards in recognition of the philanthropist’s substantial contribution to its construction under the aegis of Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta. It was only looking at the photograph that I saw the inscription on the building ‘The Passmore Edwards Library’ but I never heard anyone call it that.

The only thing I hated about the library was walking past the cases of stuffed animals and birds if I needed to look up something in the Reference Library upstairs. I can still picture the glaring eyes and sharp teeth of the foxes and visualise the poor little song birds tied to twigs.

I’m sure the new Ideas Store further up Whitechapel Road that replaced it after it was closed as a library in 2005 does a great job, but it’s nothing like the glorious old Whitechapel Library of my memories.

And I thank all those lovely people who read and commented on 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

 

On having a cat again

A lovely black kitten

I’d love to have a cat now we’re getting on for 90 and don’t go abroad anymore. We don’t enjoy long airplane flights and schlepping our all-too-heavy baggage around, but we live on the 9th floor with a balcony and I couldn’t face a repeat of my experience with Rupert when I was a child and lived on the third floor with a balcony in Wentworth Dwellings in Petticoat Lane.

Rupert was a gorgeous black kitten who was as curious as are all baby animals. I was in tears remembering as I wrote about it in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.

Excerpt from Chapter2

It was wonderful coming home from school to be greeted by Rupert who would wind himself round and round my ankles, delighted to see me again. Continue reading On having a cat again

Wentworth Dwellings in Petticoat Lane

 

The now blocked up entrance to our cold water tenement

Now blocked by a shutter and covered with graffiti, this was the Goulston Street entrance to 116 Wentworth Dwellings in what is known as Petticoat Lane, and where we lived until 1942. We children never knew the dark history of the landing above hours. It wasn’t until I started to research the history of Petticoat Lane for my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’, that I discovered that in the doorway of 119 Wentworth Dwellings, two floors above us, at 2.55 am on Sunday September 30th, 1888, PC Long found a blood-soaked piece of Catherine Eddowes’ apron. Her murderer, thought to be Jack the Ripper, had left her mutilated body in Mitre Street, some distance away. His reign of terror in the East End of London, killing and disembowelling local prostitutes, finally ended three years later, with the murder of Mary Jane Kelly.

Had we known it then, I’m sure we’d have played Jack the Ripper games instead of ‘Cops and Robbers’ or ‘Doctors and Nurses’.

And I thank all you lovely people who bought copies of ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

‘Do No Harm’ (Henry Marsh), ‘This is Going to Hurt’ (Adam Kay) and ‘Woman in a White Coat’ (Dr Abby Waterman)

If you  enjoy medical stories and you’ve read Henry Marsh’s ‘Do No Harm’ and Adam Kay’s ‘This is Going to Hurt‘  you’ll want to read ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and find out what it’s like being a doctor and finally a consultant pathologist from a Woman’s Point of View.

Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Woman in a White Coat paperback

Some of Dr Abby Waterman’s stories are funny and some sad. Listen to an episode from her childhood that made her want to be a doctor when she grew up

Chapter 2 Violet has Polio pp 29-30

Or read the text:

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

‘Woman in a White Coat Chapter 2 pp 29-30

We all caught measles, chicken pox and whooping cough. The only immunisation we had was against smallpox – it left an ugly scar on your upper arm.

There was an outbreak of Infantile Paralysis (Polio) every summer and in all the schools there were children with leg braces to support limbs damaged by the disease. It wasn’t until 1955 that Dr Salk’s anti-polio vaccine became available.

Continue reading ‘Do No Harm’ (Henry Marsh), ‘This is Going to Hurt’ (Adam Kay) and ‘Woman in a White Coat’ (Dr Abby Waterman)

New Season of Thursday Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square. The Fidelio Trio and Learning to Play the Cello

Fidelio Trio poster for September 6th 2018 1.05pm

Delighted that the Thursday lunchtime concerts at St John’s Smith Square London SW1P 3HA have started again after the August break.

And what a fabulous concert to open with: the Fidelio Trio playing Fauré‘s (1845-1924) Piano Trio in D Minor op 120 – which I feel rather lukewarm about – and Schoenberg’s (1874-1951) Verklärte Nachte Op 4 which was fantastic.

Something so exciting about the stage set for the trio and an expectant audience

Composed in 1899, the Schoenberg was written as a sextet and arranged beautifully as a trio by Eduard Steuermann in 1932.

This was the first time I’d heard Verklärte Nachte in full. I’d previously only heard excerpts in lectures on Schoenberg and the 2nd Viennese School. I hadn’t realised how many lyrical passages he had written as well as his signature discords.

All three musicians – Darragh Morgan (violin), Adi Tal (cello) and Mary Dulles (piano) were great but i especially liked the cello. Adi Tal’s playing made me almost wish i hadn’t given up playing the cello when i left school.

Listen to my account of learning to play the cello from my memoir Woman in a White Coat Chapter 7 Music Studies Pages 96-98

 

You can buy a copy of my memoir Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a Paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Memoir Extract – Learning to play the Cello

An ex-student, who’d gone on to play second violin in the London Symphony 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 New Season of Thursday Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square. The Fidelio Trio and Learning to Play the Cello

Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3 & 5 at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall

Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Thomas Dausgaard
Another visit to the BBC Proms 2018. A wonderful concert in a pleasantly cool Albert Hall. The three fabulous Bach Brandenburg Concertos were interspersed with three modern pieces.
Cellist Maya Beiser taking a bow after the piece ‘Maya’ written for her
The first modern piece was Maya by the British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage with the brilliant American cellist Maya Beiser – an interesting virtuoso piece, moving and exciting. After the Brandenburg Concerto No 3  the orchestra played Bach Materia by Swedish Anders Hillborg with the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuussisto . A fantastic piece – especially the duet between the violin and double bass. Last modern piece was Hamsa by the American composer Uri Caine playing the piano part himself – for me a sorry parody of the great 5th Brandenburg Concerto which preceded it. Much of the piano part was a cacophony sounding like a cat walking over the keys – banging out tight discords. I was nine years old when I started to learn to play the piano with the organist of the local church. At the time, 1940-1942,  I was evacuated to a hostel for Jewish Children in Dawlish, South Devon. Listen to my account of that experience from my memoir Woman in a White Coat. You can buy my book on Kindle at £2.99 or search on ISBN 9781979834391 for the paperback version on Amazon at £9.99 Memoir extract from Chapter 5 Pages 68-71 To Dawlish Matron put up a notice saying she had written to our parents asking if they wanted us to learn to play the piano. I didn’t think my parents would agree to pay for lessons though they were quite cheap, especially as I had just been in trouble for refusing to wash on the Sabbath. Continue reading Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3 & 5 at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall

Polio Epidemics pre-WW2

Woman in White Coat paperback, some reference books, my stethoscope, a couple of teeth and a doll box – souvenirs of my various careers

Before the advent of the anti-polio vaccine, in 1955, here in the UK there was an epidemic of poliomyelitis (Infantile Paralysis) every summer.

In 1938, the dreaded disease came to our tenements.

Memoir Extract from Woman in a White Coat Chapter 2 pp 29-30

Buy ‘Woman in a White Coat’  as an eBook from Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback from Amazon at £9.99

We all caught measles, chicken pox and whooping cough. The only immunization we had was against smallpox – it left an ugly scar on your upper arm. Continue reading Polio Epidemics pre-WW2

Do cats really have nine lives? ‘Woman in a White Coat’ Book Reading #2.

The paperback version

Thank you for your comments on the first reading from my memoir Woman in a White Coat.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter #2 about a little black kitten called Rupert

 

Woman in a White Coat’  is available on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Reading from Chapter 2 Pages 18-22

(Scroll down to read text)

A kitten for me

Book Excerpt

Chapter 2 pp 18-22

We always had a cat. Most people in The Buildings kept a cat, because we all had mice, even on the third floor. I never caught sight of a mouse in our flat, but often there would be a few mouse droppings. Now and again my father baited two or three mouse traps with cheese, but he rarely caught a mouse. They were too wary. They had learned how to steal the cheese without getting trapped.

Continue reading Do cats really have nine lives? ‘Woman in a White Coat’ Book Reading #2.

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