Tag Archives: memoir

Fabulous Rachmaninoff Duo at St John’s Smith Square, London

Brilliant Duo

Timothée Botbol (Cello) and Dinara Klinton (Piano) played Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise arranged for cello and piano and his Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor. Dinara played his Prelude in D Op 23 No 4  and his Prelude in G minor Op 23 No 5.

Both brilliant performers, I had never heard the cello played with such richness of tone. I was blown away. And Dinara Clinton’s brilliant musicality and technique were amazing.

St John’s have a membership just right for me as I don’t like going out alone to evening concerts. For £45 (£40 with Direct Debit) you can attend 10 of their Thursday lunchtime concerts – only £4 each!!

Timothée’s brilliant performance was a far cry from mine when I learned the cello as a 15-year old and played in a quartet at our school’s prize day.

Memoir Extract

An ex-student, who’d gone on to play second violin in the London Symphonia 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 Fabulous Rachmaninoff Duo at St John’s Smith Square, London

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Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

A selection of books recommended by the staff at Foyles

Now that I finished the final draft Woman in a White Coat I’ve been scouring Waterstone’s and Foyles for ideas for the cover. Also looked at covers by designers who entered for The Academy of British Cover Design awards.

I know I’d like to have a white shiny cover and I’ve seen quite a few that I like, but unfortunately mainstream publishers rarely include the name of the cover designer.

Herewith a taster – the beginning of Chapter 3 of Woman in a White Coat

A Country at War

We were tired and hungry, my sister Hannah and I, as we stood waiting in Littleport Village Hall, waiting to be chosen by someone, anyone.

‘Don’t snivel,’ Hannah said. ‘No-one will take us in if they see you crying.’

She pushed my hand away.

‘You’re too old to hold hands Abby, and anyhow your hands are always wet and sticky.’

Operation Pied Piper’, the plan for the evacuation of children from areas likely to be bombed, was in place long before World War 2 was declared. People in safe areas with spare bedrooms were urged to take in evacuees. They would be paid 10/6d a week for the first child and 8/6d for each subsequent child. Nearly a million children were evacuated on Friday September 1st, 1939. London railway stations were packed with children and whole trains were commandeered.

Parents had been given a list of clothing to pack. Girls needed 1 spare vest, 1 pair of knickers, 1 petticoat, 1 slip, 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, a coat or Mackintosh, nightwear, a comb, towel, soap, face-cloth, boots or shoes and plimsolls.

Continue reading Woman in a White Coat – Final Draft!! Now to ePublish it

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Westminster Cardiac Support Group

I never felt after my various other medical catastrophes including breast cancer and a broken hip that I wanted to join a support group. As far as I was concerned, I knew how I needed to come to terms with my extra disability and I just got on with it.

However, St Thomas’s Hospital Critical Care consultants arranged first a follow up clinic for patients who had been in Intensive Care and then scheduled Evening Support (Discussion) groups for survivors and close relations.

I was surprised and delighted with how helpful and reassuring it was to talk to people who had been in a similar situation and with whom I could swap war stories.

I had a particular lurid crop of hallucinations after my heart attack last August – up to 80% of patients in critical care experience some delusions that seem very real to us. Mine will be going into the Final Chapter of my nearly finished memoir.

I loved hearing about those that other patients had. One man was convinced burglars came in the night and stole all the hospital’s bandages. The nurses’ denials didn’t convince him one bit. One of my delusions was that Damien Hurst and Jeff Koons had presented the High Dependence Unit with priceless artefacts. My response was that they made the ward look untidy!!

Pimlico Library on the corner of Lupus Street

The Library Manager of Pimlico Library has kindly offered us a meeting room for our proposed Westminster Cardiac Support Group for one evening a month , There is a pleasant -looking coffee bar upstairs for anyone who comes early and we would provide water and soft drinks during the meeting. It also has a toy library!!

A quiet corner showing the entrance to the meeting room

Buses #C10, 24 and 360 stop outside, for the good walkers both Victoria and Pimlico Undergrounds are in walking distance and there is a lift down to the library level.

It’s a very generous offer and I hope plenty local post-cardiac catastrophe patients and their near-ones will come.

Pimlico Library

This is a large library with a huge range of facilities serving the general public and Pimlico Academy.

Locations and contact details

Opening hours

Day Main library
Monday to Friday 9.30am to 8pm
Saturday 9.30am to 5pm
Sunday 1.30pm to 5pm

Facilities and services

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David Hockney at Tate Britain, London

Open until May 29th 2017

We always book tickets for as early as possible, usually as soon as exhibitions open. In that way, they’re not still full of the viewers from previous slots. We were amazed at the long queues in both directions from Tate Britain’s side entrance. There is usually a gaggle of people waiting to get in but we’ve never seen crowds like these.

Some of the prints on sale

I booked rather as a duty than because I was thrilled at the thought of the exhibition. When I think of Hockney it’s of very pink nude male bottoms in a swimming pool but this exhibition was of much, much more, charting Hockney’s progress from his early student wok – more like graffiti than anything – up to his more recent exciting landscape videos – previously shown at the Royal Academy – and his iPad images.

My favourite painting – Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark

Hockney’s painting of Celia and Ossie Clark is definitely my favourite. It was interesting seeing Celia Birtwell – now in her mid-seventies – interviewed on television and by the Independent, though for me she will always be that fresh-faced blonde in Hockney’s painting.

Note: Now that my memoir Woman in a White Coat is well on its way to its a final edit, if you email me at mailto:abby@abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you. 

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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@abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you.

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Spread the Word – Life Writing Prize

Closing date 05.02.2017

Great surprise to open an email from Spread the Word and find that they have established a Life Writing Prize with a generous donation from Joanna Munro and partnership support from Goldsmiths University, Arvon and the Royal Society of Literature.

It is open now to UK residents over 18, and you can submit as many pieces of not more than 5000 words. The closing date is February 5th 2017.

The judges are Blake Morrison, Dr Katy Massey and Margaret Stead, Publishing Director of Atlantic Books. The first prize is generous – £1,500, an Arvon course, two years’ membership of the Royal Society of Literature and a meeting with an agent or editor. Two highly commended writers will receive £500 each and a meeting with an agent or editor.

For me, it’s a great incentive to finish editing my memoir Woman in a White Coat.  I think that several of the episodes are worth working up as stand-alone pieces. This is just what I need to get me going – doesn’t matter if I don’t get long- or short-listed though having my memoir short-listed for the Tony Lothian and Wasafiri prizes was a great boost to my moral. Having a heart attack set me back and played havoc with my ability to motivate myself. Something like this certainly helps.

Thank you Spread the Word

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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.

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My First Teddy Bear

A lovely gift from the Gothenburg Airport shop
A lovely gift from the Gothenburg Airport shop

I never had any soft toys as a child – we were too poor for such luxuries. We had a game of Ludo and that was that, but Josh and I showered our four children and grandchildren with soft toys. Josh especially finds them irresistible. Our John Dobbie toyshop always had loads.

When I saw this gorgeous soft cuddly teddy bear in the Gothenburg Airport shop I had to have it. He sits on my bedside table with the two or three books I am in the process of reading and sometimes creeps into bed with me.

As a child, I lived in a cramped cold-water tenement in Petticoat Lane. We played outside whenever we could, though on rainy days we’d slip into the unused communal laundry room on the top floor of our block.

Memoir extract from Woman in a White Coat

Continue reading My First Teddy Bear

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At last a Coffee and Walnut cake that tastes of coffee

Coffee and walnut cake
Coffee and walnut cake

At last a recipe by Jane Hicks from the May edition of the Waitrose magazine for a cake that tastes of coffee. My last attempt looked good but didn’t have much flavour.

It’s always good when friends come to coffee because then I can try out one of the cake and muffin recipes I’ve torn out of magazines or newspapers, or got on cards from Sainsbury’s or Waitrose. Josh and I are both off sugar so we wait for guests to come before we indulge.

The recipe was for a square tin but I don’t have one so I used my 20cm round tin instead.

Memoir extract from Woman in a White Coat
Learning to cook
When I finished my second house job I was five months pregnant. I was unlikely to find a part-time temporary job in medicine and I couldn’t face the thought of standing all day in a dental practice, though it would have been much easier to find a locum dental appointment. Continue reading At last a Coffee and Walnut cake that tastes of coffee

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VOGUE100 & RUSSIA AND THE ARTS AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY LONDON

Glitzy laughing model
Glitzy laughing Naomi Campbell

Everyone has been raving about the huge Vogue100 exhibition – a pictorial history of Vogue magazine since its birth in 1916. Several of my friends have been twice.

Yes, there are loads of fantastic portraits. though I liked best the long tables of black and white photographs. I particularly liked the hand-drawn and painted covers of the early years.
But the National Portrait Gallery curators elected to do something I really hate – group the  captions to one side of the exhibits so that at times it was hard to tell which description went with which photo.  The detailed descriptions were in a small thin font, difficult to read especially in the rooms where the light had been dimmed. My view is that the title of any artefact is  important, especially if given by the author of the piece, and should be easy to find and read, even if the artist has elected to call the work Untitled .

A quotation from the Vogue of 1938 Primer of Art made my hackles rise:
A lady of quality should be able to walk into any drawing room, to look at the picture over the mantelpiece and to exclaim: “Oh what a charming  Picasso of the early Blue Period”, or “I like your new Follower of Masaccio (circa 1420) immensely.” If she guesses right she is a gentleman and a scholar.”
The cheek!!

Portraits of my favourite authors and other artists
Portraits of my favourite authors and other artists

I loved the Russia and the Arts exhibition – and not only because the titles were underneath each portrait!! Included were portraits of some of my best-loved Russian authors whose books I’d first pored over in my teenage years – Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky – as well as musicians like Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, painters (mainly unfamiliar to me) and patrons – from the years 1867-1914.

My mother and grandmother were Russian so there was probably a bond there.
Memoir extract from The Girl with a Threepenny Birth Certificate

My grandmother was a tall, commanding woman with dark hair piled on top of her head. As a deeply orthodox Jewish woman it would have been a sheitel, a wig. I always went to bed before she did and I never saw her without it. I loved her and looked forward to curling up against her warm back in the big double bed we shared. Continue reading VOGUE100 & RUSSIA AND THE ARTS AT THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY LONDON

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