Tag Archives: Childhood

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

Simon and Bernard 1962. Hard to believe they are now 61 and about to be 59

My two pairs of children – two boys and after three years, two girls – adored each other as toddlers and babies. Our sons live in London and are therefore still close, but our daughters live abroad so rarely meet except for major family events like our 80th and 90th birthdays.

I’m sure that as a toddler Louise thought Jane was her special possession. At the first peep of a demand for a feed, Louise would pull at my skirt, wailing ‘Ninny crying! Ninny crying!’ Fortunately that nickname didn’t stick. This year when Jane, having had chemotherapy and a total gastrectomy for stomach cancer, was left alone when her husband needed surgery, Louise flew to Switzerland from Spain to be with her at that worrying time – braving the huge queues at the airports because of Covid.

Not that there was always peace between the sibs, but let no-one from outside dare attack any one of them!! Their motto was definitely ‘All for One and One for All’. 

It’s very sad to read of brothers and sisters who have lost contact, haven’t seen or heard from each other for years. One wrote to say she only discovered her brother had got married when she read about it on Facebook.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Visit my blog at https://abbyjw.com

Woman in a White Coat

ALUMNI OF CFS (CENTRAL FOUNDATION SCHOOL FOR GIRLS)

My sister and I in Ely 1939

I was not quite 8 years old when I was evacuated to Ely near Cambridge in September 1939, together with my middle sister, who had just joined Central Foundation School for Girls – then in Spital Square, East London. We were first evacuated to Littleport and then moved to a billet on the outskirts of Ely, where CFS was set up.

Before the Education Act of 1944, Grammar Schools were fee paying, unless you won a Junior County Scholarship, which all children sat for aged 11. You had another chance of a free place aged 13, and my middle sister had won one of these Supplementary Scholarships that year.

She had her sights set on becoming a doctor, but it was not to be. We were very unhappy in our billet and when my father came to visit just before Christmas, he took us home. Unfortunately, there were no grammar schools left in London in 1940, and as my sister was now 14 (the leaving age, she officially left school, while I went to a temporary primary school in Toynbee Hall. She trained at Pitman’s to become a shorthand/ typist, which she hated, and left home at 17 to work on a farm. She later emigrated to live on a Kibbutz, where she died aged only 60.

I joined CFS in 1942, having returned from evacuation in Dawlish in South Devon. I know that some of my contemporaries are still alive and wonder how many alumni who went to Ely with the school in 1939 are still around. I am 89, going on 90, they would be at least 92/ 93.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

MOTHERS-IN-LAWn

Maybe my teenage mother-in-law caught the bride’s bouquet

Until not so long ago, every comic had a fund of nasty mother-in-law jokes and, if the comedian was Jewish, he’d have some equally unflattering Jewish-mother jokes too. Now I am both, and a committed feminist, I resent all those unpleasant references, especially as my mother-in-law was loving and caring.

Like so many children, I was evacuated for long periods during WW2 with little if any contact with my parents. I returned from Dawlish in 1942 after two years in which my mother visited a couple of times and my father not at all. Our pre-war closeness was gone. When my father died, I was surprised and saddened to discover a letter kept with his will in which he said how much he loved me. I wish he could have told me that while he was alive, instead of being quite distant. My mother seemed to care much more for my elder sister, her firstborn, and I accepted that.

My husband, Josh, was an only child, with a gregarious outgoing father. His mother, Eva, was quite shy, but we got much closer after my father-in-law died and she moved to a flat that was only a short bus ride away.

Eva adored our four children, coming on holiday with us when we went away in the UK and babysitting during the periods between au pairs. She was still shy and undemonstrative but managed to make me feel loved and cared for.

When we started our toyshop, John Dobbie, we sold party favours in packets long before you could buy packets of balloons and little toys ready to hand out at the end of your child’s birthday party. My mother-in-law discovered a real knack for packing them into cellophane bags and attaching the labels designed by the late Colin Fulcher.

She was the youngest of four – three girls and a boy – and was tiny. In my prime I was 5’1½ and she was even smaller than me. It was good to be taller than someone!! She was born in the UK and married a very distant German relation, living in Berlin until 1939, when my father-in-law’s profession as a dental technician allowed him to escape the Nazis and come to the UK.

She died in 1969 and I still miss her and think about her. She was a model mother-in-law and Jewish mother, and fie on all those telling those nasty jokes about them.

While my first memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is mainly about growing up in the East End of London and achieving my various professions, my forthcoming book ’25 Houses’ will have more about the people in my life like my late mother-in-law, who were major influences.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free. ‘Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

 

THE FIREWORKS MUSIC SCHOOL

If you have a library card – certainly in Westminster – you can access Naxos and listen to a variety of interpretations by virtuosos.

I stopped having piano lessons at home a year ago, once Covid got into its stride. Online music tutoring didn’t appeal to me but now that Josh and I have had both our vaccines it seems safe enough to have a personal tutor again. The lively young Greek woman recommended by the Fireworks Music School is a Music Therapist and therefore fully vaccinated. I specified a tutor who was not only vaccinated but willing – like me – to wear a mask indoors.

I was eight years old and evacuated to a children’s hostel in Dawlish, South Devon, when I started to learn the piano with Mr Lawson, a brilliant teacher who was the organist at the local church. He instilled in me a love of music that has stayed with me for the 80-odd years since.

When I came back to London in 1942, I had lessons at Toynbee Hall and then with Miss Singer at my school, Central Foundation School for Girls in Spital Square. I gave up the piano while studying Dentistry and then Medicine, but started playing again when our four children were old enough to play a musical instrument. Our ensemble consisted of two guitarists, a clarinettist, a flautist and me playing the piano with one or two of them singing along.

Once they got involved in O and A levels and I went back to Medicine and became a Pathologist, I gave up playing again and we sold the piano.

On my retirement age 60, after a tussle with Breast Cancer, I started going to classes at CityLit College. I’d lost some of my manual dexterity but was delighted to find I was still able to sight read with ease. For various reasons I later changed to having private lessons at home and continued until Covid.

I was tempted to call this post ‘Tinkling on the Ivories’, but then thought about how many expressions, that were in common usage when I was a child in the 1930s, are now clearly racist, sexist and/or downright disgusting. To think that all those magnificent animals were slaughtered for tusks to be made into white piano keys so that all those Victorians could have pianos in their parlours!

My tutor suggested that I start with Mozart’s variations on the nursery rhyme Ah! Dirai-je vous maman – a lovely piece with enough different moods and techniques for me not to need Czerny’s exercises as well.

If you have a library card – certainly in Westminster – you can access Naxos and listen to a variety of interpretations by virtuosos.

Read more of Abby’s stories in her memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ and her previous posts Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site and get a taster for free.

Woman in a White Coat’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £9.99 in paperback. ‘Abby’s Tales of Then and Now’ is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour.

Woman in a White Coat

Amazon Review

Woman in a White Coat is an enticing mix of the personal and professional. Social and cultural history merge in a lively, pre-war East End of London, populated by a constant stream of colourful characters. Following evacuation and the end of war, Abby embarked on her academic career, and a post war struggle to be recognised in a profession with a limited quota for women. And no quota at all when the woman becomes a mother of four children.
In its poignant story telling of success and failure, love and loss, ambition and defeat, this book holds the reader’s attention from the first page in a perceptive and heartfelt mix of anecdotes about the characters, patients, autopsies, family and colleagues who have populated a long and uncommon life.

WOMAN IN A WHITE COAT – a memoir

‘Woman in a White Coat’ is the memoir of Dr Abby J Waterman, a poor Jewish girl who makes good. Born and brought up in London’s East End, she is now an 89-year old retired consultant pathologist who has been a Harley Street dentist, a doctor, an entrepreneur and finally director of a cancer research laboratory, as well as a wife and mother of four.

Can you imagine what it’s like to carry out an autopsy on a 4-year-old when you yourself have a young child at home? Or what it’s like to look into the eyes of a young mother nursing a babe in her arms, knowing she’ll be dead by the end of the year? Can you imagine what it’s like to be a pathologist who examines breast cancer cells under the microscope as her profession and then finds that she has breast cancer herself?

‘Woman in a White Coat’ is a poignant account of Abby’s journey from a cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane, to being faced with life and death decisions in a London hospital. As a medical student, she brings babies into the world and helps to relieve the suffering of patients who are about to leave it.

Filled with insights and gentle humour, this book gives you a very real account of what it’s like to be a doctor at the sharp end. You’ll eavesdrop on the conversations from behind the scenes in hospitals, the stories of patients with strange “unexplained” injuries in embarrassing places, and the tears shed by the medical staff that patients never see. It will give you insights into what it is like, helping the sick to get better and the critically ill to die gracefully.

It also shows you that there can be a fulfilling life after retirement, even when it is threatened by near fatal disease.

Buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99, as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99 or get a free taster on Amazon using Look Inside.

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

Woman in a White Coat

A SEQUEL TO THE MEMOIR OF AN EAST END GIRL

 

After I published my memoir Woman in a White Coat, I started on a sequel to be called 25 Houses, dredging up those memories I had left out. But after writing some 28k words, I lost interest. I then tried my hand at sci-fi – parallel universe stuff – and joined a writing class at our local library for a couple of terms to develop it, but soon I ran out of steam.

Our writers’ circle has been meeting every fortnight for 10 years now. At first, we met over coffee and homemade muffins in my flat and then, since lockdown, on Zoom.

Our agreement is that we have to bring some writing, large or small, to each meeting and I hadn’t written anything for the following Tuesday. I’d started posting regularly again on my blog and on social media, so I brought those pieces to our circle, by now some 72 illustrated blogs and posts.

Our children had seen and commented on some of them, but some they had missed. I decided to publish them on Amazon as an eBook on Kindle and as a paperback, with the title Abby’s Tales of Then and Now. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a free taster.

At age 88, it was time to think about leaving something behind

The price is determined by Kindle Direct Publishing and is £2.99 for the Kindle version and £12.99 for the 7” x 9” paperback. Both are illustrated in colour. You can Look Inside on the Amazon site to get a taster for free.

https://amzn.to/3hX6z2D

 

RYE BREAD AND BEIGELS/ BAGELS (TOMATOES/ TOMATOES)

A traditional tasting rye and caraway loaf but not the traditional shape

Living in Petticoat Lane opposite the Kossoff and Grodzinski bakeries, a slice or two of rye bread and butter accompanied every meal – without butter if it was a meat meal. My grandmother, who lived with us until she died in 1937, had long since given up her pitch on the corner of Wentworth Street. She sold beigels there until my parents got married in 1918 and she moved with them to Old Kent Road.

It’s always lovely having my daughter Louise and her Basque husband Mark come to stay and one of their special treats is to buy us a couple of sliced rye loaves and some beigels from the Beigel Bake shop at the end of Brick Lane. My hip is still too sore for me to walk far and parking is difficult around Brick Lane, so we’ve given up going ourselves.

They were due to come for Easter, but who knows when air traffic will resume?

So, it’s down to making my own. The rye and caraway loaf I make in the breadmaker tastes fine and authentic, but it isn’t an oval glazed loaf like the traditional one. I haven’t made any beigels for some time – it’s a bit of a faff having to boil as well as prove the dough – but just writing about them makes me long for some. Maybe tomorrow.

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

Woman in a White Coat

RECIPE FOR RYE/ CARAWAY LOAF

Bake 220°C 30 mins

BASIC RAISIN DOUGH setting Continue reading RYE BREAD AND BEIGELS/ BAGELS (TOMATOES/ TOMATOES)

4 MONTHS IN DUALITUDE

The set of Dickens left me by my lovely Aunt Jenny

As we are 88 and 90, we’ll be confined for at least 4 months in our 9th floor flat. Luckily, we have a balcony that gets the sun in the afternoon. With the weather turning fine, we’ll be able to sit outside and read while getting a South of France tan. Luckily we went to the library just before this plague blew up and I still have six more books left to read. My lovely Aunt Jenny gave me her complete set of Dickens – the Hazell, Watson and Viney Ltd edition with illustrations by Phiz. If push comes to shove, I’ll re-read all 16 volumes. I was recovering from one of my several broken bones when I last ploughed my way through them all.

I planned on using this time to would get on with the sequel to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’, learn another Bach Two Part Invention for the piano, and keep up with my Ancient Greek, but like my New Year resolutions, they fell at the first hurdle!!

We have a very pleasant newish Waitrose nearby in Nine Elms and the last two occasions we went before being confined to our home we had been sent a page of £4-off vouchers if we spent £40. We have always done most of our big grocery shopping in the Tesco’s and Sainsburys in Cromwell Road, only topping up with a few odds and ends in the more expensive Waitrose. On the first occasion, we made up the £40 with toilet paper and on the second with bread flour and yeast – I bake all our bread. Must have earned some good points with a Higher Power to make just those choices.

So, instead of being virtuous, and writing and practising and learning, I’ve been baking and cooking double quantities of dishes – eating half and freezing the other half. It’s so satisfying, starting off with some uninteresting looking powders, making the most heavenly smell, and then producing a great looking crusty load of bread.

The manager of our flats has set up a Whatsapp group so there are offers of help and friendship. And we all come to our balconies and windows to clap for the NHS on Thursdays at 8pm.

I hope those of you reading my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ will take some comfort from the stories of hard times past we all came through.

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

Woman in a White Coat

SELF-ISOLATED AND BORED??

Woman in a White Coat

May I suggest you read my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’? A young girl grows up in Petticoat Lane in the 1930s. Born when the Great Depression was at its height, in spite of being poor, she grows up to become a dentist, a doctor, an entrepreneur, a consultant pathologist and cancer researcher, as well as a wife and mother of four. The highs and lows of an 88-year long life.

If libraries stay open you can borrow a copy or get a taster on Amazon free by clicking on ‘Look inside.’

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

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

SONS AND DAUGHTERS

We have two of each but for a time all four lived abroad – our elder son in Africa, the younger in Finland, our elder daughter in the Basque Country in Spain and the baby in Switzerland. Now the boys live in the UK, though the elder often goes abroad for conferences, but the girls work permanently abroad. I hated it then and hate it now, though they come and stay with us during the year.

The girls are not often in the UK together. We have only one spare room so if they bring their partners we have to put up one pair in a hotel, like when they came over for Josh’s 90th birthday.

But they are coming together this week – our elder daughter with her partner for a concert and the younger for a conference. The girls will share the spare room and Mark will have to sleep on the sofa.

School photo of Jane and Louise

They are great friends now but they weren’t always. It was fine when they were little. When Jane cried for a feed Louise would pull at me – ‘Ninny crying’, she’d wail. ‘Ninny crying.’ It didn’t last. When they were teenagers they were barely on speaking terms. There was only 17 months between them – Jane had been 6 weeks premature – and they seemed to have nothing in common. If we planned a trip or a holiday it was ‘If she’s going, I’m not.’

It got better when they both went off to Uni and now they’re best friends, though they don’t often meet except for events like Josh’s 90th birthday last year and my heart attack in 2016.

But I do miss them. I love my sons dearly, but mothers get a completely different kind of sympathy and support from our daughters. Lucky us!!

I thank all the 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.

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

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat