Tag Archives: Children

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

SISTERS AT ODDS

Typical primary school photo. You can see that the Tooth Fairy recently came calling!!

Our two daughters look friendly enough in this school photo, taken when Louise was 7 and Jane aged 6 There was only 17 months between them. Jane was 6 weeks premature and not expected to live through the night. However, she managed to struggle through her Respiratory Disease of the Newborn and even learned to play the flute.

When they were little, they were inseparable, adored each other. The cracks began to appear when they became teenagers.

‘If she’s going, I’m not going!’, was the response to anything more than an expedition to go shopping for school uniform. It was even their answer when we discussed our summer holidays, though for that they had no choice. For us, summer holidays were family holidays. At first our trips abroad included the boys, who both girls got on with, though the two middle children were closest.

Our daughters’ teenage years were a nightmare. Louise got the teenage sulks first, recovered and became sweet and loving, only to be followed immediately by Jane’s teenage angst.

At UNI, Louise, our elder daughter, read Psychology, took the TEFL Course and became a Foreign Language teacher in the Basque Country, while Jane read Physics and is a Professor of Physics in Switzerland. They met rarely as adults – we could put up one family, not two – so they usually came to London to see us separately. As adults, all four children only met for important birthdays. For my 80th birthday the six of us met up in a hotel in Malaga.

Jane is about to turn 54 and is recovering from a total gastrectomy for stomach cancer while Louise is 55. They are close once more – at least in spirit. Louise, who writes course books on teaching English as a foreign language, has retired as Director of Education after 32 years, to go freelance. Jane’s husband needed to have surgery, so Louise has flown to Switzerland to be with her at this worrying time.

I was one of three daughters, no sons, and we were each 6 years apart, so I was never very close to my elder sister, and my middle sister left to live on a Kibbutz when I was a teenager. I wish I’d had a sister closer in age, but I suppose I could have been at odds with her in my teenage years as were my daughters, and I might never have made it up.

Interestingly, as far as I could see, the boys always got on and now at 61 and nearly 59, they are very close, working in the same district, in similar fields, and meeting for coffee or lunch now and again.

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

 

 

AREN’T GRANDCHILDREN WONDERFUL?

Our Basque grandchildren – now aged 21 and 24

Those of us who want children, and have them, are fortunate indeed, but having grandchildren is even better.

It’s not just that you can give them back when you and they have had enough. Much of the time you are tired and uptight when your own children are young, but most of us are more relaxed and laid back by the time we are old enough to have grandchildren. They bring you enormous joy – especially when they are little. My mother would say it’s Nachus and Yichus – joy especially from children and family.

Our elder son and elder daughter have each got a daughter and a son. Simon and his wife are doctors who worked in Zimbabwe, and then Malawi, while their children were young. Not wanting to be separated by thousands of miles, they came back to the UK when our grand-daughter was about to go to UNI. Until then, we saw the children only when they came to stay with us for a couple of weeks each summer, so we missed much of their growing up.

Louise, our elder daughter, took the TEFL language teaching test after graduating. Her first job was in the Basque Country where she met my son-in-law and she has lived there ever since. Fortunately, she and her husband are both teachers and until COVID the family was able to come and visit each school holiday.

Of course, it was lovely seeing them all, but I would much have preferred to have them living next door or at least in the same city.

The story behind the attached photo goes back to the late 1960s and our John Dobbie toyshop. We stocked as many handmade toys and country crafts as we could find. The doll’s pram with our grandson in it came from our shop. It was one of the items we took home for our children to play with.

We lived near Wimbledon tennis at the time and I decided to buy something in Southfields, taking Louise and Jane, then aged 4 and 2 with me. Louise decided she wanted to take her doll in the wicker pram and I pushed Jane in a pushchair. When it was time to go home. Louise refused to walk and sat crying on the pavement in the embarrassing way children do, making me feel an idiot. Putting Jane into the doll’s pram, I strapped Louise into the pushchair and struggled home pushing the pushchair and pulling the pram behind me.

The pram was one of the items Louise took with her when she moved to Spain. The photo is a souvenir of that walk from our home to Southfields.

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

 

 

 

 

YOU KNOW YOU’RE OLD WHEN …

The boys at primary school around 1967

You know you’re really old when your eldest is about to turn 61, the next one is nearly 59 and the girls are 55 and 54. Until 2006, when we moved into our present flat, we had moved every 5 years or so. I like change – even if sometimes it’s not for the better – and I even started the second volume of my memoir to be entitled ’25 Houses’ – the number of houses, flats and hospitals I’ve lived in – including the three private dwellings and the children’s hostel I was evacuated to during WW2.

I won’t list all the various ills my body has been afflicted with, but they include breast cancer, a near fatal heart attack and several bone fractures. When I was 60 and Josh 62, we bought a mews house in Marylebone with a lease of 30 years. We weren’t worried about having to renew the lease – we were sure we’d be long gone when it expired. But after 15 years, we were still around, and had the unpleasant task of trying to negotiate a lease extension with a greedy estate. Fortunately, they were so grasping that we couldn’t afford to stay and moved to a flat in Westminster. It is so much better for us than the mews house, being on one level with lifts, an underground car park and 24-hour porters who keep an eye out for us.

I can remember as an adolescent talking to someone of 35 and thinking I’d never get to be that old but here we are and if I survive (PG) I shall be 90 in October.

Yes, having survived cancer and all that, I am worried about losing my marbles. Every time I can’t think of the word on the end of my tongue or what’s the name of someone or other, I fear that it’s the onset of Alzheimer’s, but perhaps that will be delayed until this new treatment comes on the market and the little grey cells will survive in more or less working order until the end.

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.

A MOTHER’S PRAYER

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

With the prospect of an intrusive medical procedure in a week’s time, it’s hard not to ponder on what might go wrong and offer up a prayer whether you’re a believer or not. When I’m feeling happy, I write prose, but verse is more satisfying when I’m worried or sad.

A PRAYER

Your first born lies there pale and still

Bloody fluid in his ear

His skull is fractured

His life in the balance

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Six weeks later

He lies in a hospital bed

His kidneys failing

Bloody fluid in a bottle left for you to see

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Your last child, born six weeks early

Her lungs not properly finished

They say she will not last the night

But somehow she survives

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

And you’re not exempt

Breast cancer

Osteoporosis and

Multiple bone fractures

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

Now comes the big one

The squeezing, gripping chest pain

You know this means that

Death has come a-knocking

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

You haven’t suffered enough

For then your youngest

Who fought death once

Has stomach cancer, chemo and major surgery

You pray – whatever your beliefs

 

At the very end

When it’s nearly over

You pray – whatever your beliefs

For then you will finally know

If your prayers were heard?

Josh and the four kids 1970

 

Thanks to all the lovely people who have been reading and writing to me about all this in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’

Woman in a White Coat

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN – LOCKDOWN AND COVID-19

The new entrance to Morley College South London

Locked in again – I fear that for Josh and me it is for the foreseeable future – or until we get an anti-Covid 19 vaccine that is safe and effective.

It all started this February. I was sitting in a college classroom listening to the most popular Art History tutor. As usual, his class was full, the chairs pushed tight against each other.

News of the new Coronavirus was everywhere, and it was already clear that oldies like us – Josh going on 91 and me approaching 89, both with long standing medical conditions – would be unlikely to survive an attack of the virus.

When I came home and told Josh I had decided it just wasn’t safe to carry on with my class, it was to find that he had made the same decision about his jewellery classes. We withdrew from our respective colleges and were early enough to get partial refunds.

That was it for Josh, for whom online classes are not really on. He contributes to a jewellery making forum and exchanges ideas there. On the other hand, I have been taking Art History online classes since the summer – the present one a repeat of the class I had to leave at the beginning of the year.

It’s pros and cons. It’s good to see the images more clearly and zoom in on them. And none of those classes have had the breakout groups I have always hated. I think dividing the class into small groups, while the tutor corrects essays or reads their love letters, is a cop-out. The speaker for the first group covers most things and the rest of us say – ‘Well as the last speaker just said…’ I know that breakout groups are a godsend for language classes, enabling the shyer students to make their voices heard, but for everything else I’m likely to attend – no thank you!!

I thank all you wonderful people who sent our younger daughter, Jane, their kind wishes. Like so many cancer sufferers she is finding her chemotherapy very tough going. When her course is completed, she will have a total gastrectomy (stomach removal). It is wonderful that we have Zoom and WhatsApp so we can see and speak with her in Switzerland but awful that we can’t be with her at this time.

SURVIVORS OF GASTRIC CANCER

Jane aged 6

Our younger daughter, 53-year old Jane, is about to start treatment for Stage 4 Stomach Cancer – chemo then surgery.  She lives in Switzerland and would very much like to hear from someone of around her age who has come through similar treatment for the disease.

Please leave a message on abby@abbyjw.com or in the comments if you are such a person. Jane would contact you by WhatsApp or by phone.

Thank you for your kind wishes.

Her elder brother Simon, who took and printed this photo, is five years older than her. He and his brother Bernard were the guitar players. Jane later learned to play the flute while her older sister, Louise, played the clarinet.

VERA LYNN PROMISED THAT WE’D MEET AGAIN -– AND WE DID

March 17th 2020 was the last time we were out and about and the last person we saw up close was an AA mechanic. We had gone to the local Waitrose and, when we came back to our car, it wouldn’t start. We called the AA and the mechanic told us that, after several good years, the battery had given up and we needed a new one. Fortunately, he carried a replacement in his vehicle.

Since then, the only other people Josh and I have seen in person are the concierges of our flats and the supermarket delivery people– one very jolly woman driver and the rest rather dour men.

Now that there has been some relaxation of lockdown, the Sunday before last we met with our younger son, Bernie, outside Tate Britain and last Thursday we met with our older son, Simon, in the courtyard of our flats – both at the required 2 metres.

We’re not a great family for kissing and cuddling but I really missed not being able to give them a hug and getting a hug back.

Louise, who lives in the Basque Country is hoping to come to the UK in the summer, even if she has to stay in a YMCA hostel and meet us in our courtyard, and we hope that Jane, who lives in Switzerland, will be able to pop over too.

Happy Days!!

The boys had a lot more hair then!! Simon is now almost 60 and Bernard is getting on for 58. Neither of them became an architect or a builder.

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

MY GORGEOUS BASQUE GRAND-DAUGHTER

Two year old Susan saying Hullo to the toddler in the mirror

Until this last year, our elder daughter, Louise, our son-in-law, Mark, and our two Basque grandchildren spent New Year’s Eve with us, either here in London or in the small house in the South of Spain we owned for a time after I retired. As soon as our grandchildren were old enough not to choke on them, they joined us eating a grape on each toll of Big Ben in the UK, or on the peal of the Puerta del Sol bell in Madrid – a Basque custom.

But this year our grand-daughter Susan, who is now a qualified physio-therapist, had other commitments as did her younger brother, Adrian, who is at Uni. We missed them. It just wasn’t the same without them.

To our surprise, and delight, Susan popped over last week for a few days’ R & R (rest and recreation). The practice where she works was closed while some building works were carried out.

Having children is fabulous but having grandchildren is even better. Perhaps because discipline isn’t a grandparent’s responsibility and you can spoil them rotten.

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