Tag Archives: memoir

THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM – A.K.A BEDLAM

In normal times the two huge 15 inch naval guns in front of the portico would have been swarming with children.

This week we changed our walk from the Victoria Embankment to the grounds around the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth Road. It was a lovely spring day, the roses, edging the lawn outside, in full bloom.

The actual building was constructed as the Bethlem Royal Hospital for the Insane in St George’s Fields, moving there from Bridewell and then Moorfields in 1828. Probably from as early as 1598, visitors were allowed to come and laugh and poke at the poor inmates. Known as ‘Bedlam’, it was a popular stop on the London tourist trail and a source of income for the hospital and staff. When the asylum moved to Beckenham in 1936, the Imperial War Museum transferred to Lambeth from the Imperial Institute in South Kensington..

I first saw the Imperial War Museum from my room in the clinic opposite, on a snowy evening in February 1990. Though still attached to various tubes after surgery for breast cancer, I was able to walk around and look out of the window. The snow was no longer falling, but it lay thick on the windowsill, glistening under the starlit sky. The elegant snow-covered Imperial War Museum across the road, with its tall cupola looked like a fairy castle in the moonlight.

I needed cheering up. As a consultant pathologist, who had worked in a cancer hospital for 4 years, I had carried out numerous autopsies on women with breast cancer. Virtually all the women I encountered with breast cancer had died of the disease. When I lectured on the subject, I pointed out how good the prognosis for breast cancer was, but I still thought it would prove fatal for me. It didn’t – and that was 30 years ago. Now the outlook for patients with breast cancer is better than ever.

I can’t decide whether it is better or worse to be in the ‘trade’ if you are a doctor and have a life-threatening disease. Of course, the surgeon, the anaesthetist and the radiotherapist were all friends as well as colleagues. I could stop the breast surgeon in the corridor and ask for a quick word about the hard lump I found while having a shower. But it also meant that I was well aware of the worst possible outcomes and because I was a doctor I felt I had to be extra brave, not make a fuss or ‘come it’.

Although I had long since retired, when I was admitted with a near-fatal heart attack in 2016, I was treated more like a colleague than a non-medical patient, who might not understand the medical terms and find being in a hospital frightening. For me, a hospital is almost home from home and the antiseptic smell is reassuring rather than threatening.

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

IS A ‘SQUARE’ CHALLAH OK?

My delicious ‘square’ Challah

 

Well it’s actually not square – it’s rectangular. I have in my time made a conventional challah plaited and tapering to both ends, as well as a round challah, but now there are only the two of us we prefer our bread to be loaf shaped.

It started when we first got married in 1956. I was a medical student, working a couple of evenings a week as a school dentist, and Josh was working as an assistant in a dental practice in North London. After a quick breakfast, we would each hurry off, not meeting until the evening. It wasn’t until dinner that we had time to sit down together. I had lunch with my fellow medical students in the medical school refectory while Josh would make do with a couple of sandwiches. Even when I had qualified as a doctor, had 4 children, and with Josh had set up an educational toy shop and become a consultant pathologist, dinner time was our time together. To begin with, I had lunch in the consultants’ dining room but the food was so good and the deserts so delicious that I started to put on too much weight. Finally, I gave up lunch altogether.

Even when we both retired, dinner was our main meal and Josh went on having a sandwich for lunch. A rectangular loaf is most convenient for that, and surely a plaited loaf is still a Challah – even if the shape is unconventional. You just have to say or think the word ‘Challah’ and you can imagine the delicious smell.

BTW – I love Poppy Seed cake but I don’t like poppy seeds on Challah or on beigels!!

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 ‘SQUARE’ CHALLAH

Bake 220°C 20 mins

500gm strong white flour

Continue reading IS A ‘SQUARE’ CHALLAH OK?

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

OUR 4 MONTHS IN ISOLATION – MORE BOOKS WAITING TO BE READ

The books on our desk waiting to be read.

The books I borrowed from the library are mainly fun books, light and maybe a little silly. The books that sit on the little desk in our bedroom are books we bought or were given as birthday presents. You can see which are Josh’s. He’s the one who likes biographies. The only biography that is mine is my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’. It’s there so I can refer to it while writing the sequel and check I’m not repeating myself.

As you see from the titles of the books, I’ve developed an interest in the brain. When I was training as a pathologist, I worked for a month at the Hospital for Neurological Disorders. For me, the brain was an organ I removed at post-mortem, fixed in formalin for six months and then examined thin slices under the microscope. At that time, in the early 1970s, MRIs were just an experimental procedure. We didn’t dream that we would ever be able to look at patient’s brains in an f MRI and see which part of them were functional and lit up. Then, our knowledge was mainly based on what happened when parts of the brain were removed by surgery or by accident – which functions were lost when that part was damaged or lost.

Maybe when I grow up I’ll have one more career as a neurophysiologist – if I survive the latest plague!!

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

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

LATE FOR THE WEDDING

I was a lot slimmer then!!

My family was late for everything. That wasn’t surprising, since my mother always started out at the time we were meant to be there – for holyday services, for the cinema, for everything. I got used to pushing past unfriendly knees and apologising ‘Sorry. Sorry. So sorry’.

My parents had always gone to the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place, but the magnificent old building was bombed in 1942 and services were held in an unadorned single story temporary building. My brother-in-law, who was a ganser macher (big noise) in the West Ham shul (synagogue), persuaded me to get married there and leave from their house which was nearby.

The car to take us to the shul had arrived and my middle sister, Hannah, made last minute adjustments to my headdress. My elder sister, Rebecca, had recently adopted a sweet little baby girl and of course Susie needed changing urgently, just as we were about to leave. It took Rebecca ages as she fumbled with an unfamiliar terry towelling nappy and the huge safety pin. Finally, we were ready, but now we were 15 minutes late. To cap it all, there’d been a minor road accident around the corner which made us later still.

As I climbed up under the chuppah (wedding canopy) it was to see Josh looking absolutely ashen in his Moss Bros tuxedo and top hat. He’d been sure I’d stood him up!!

He and his parents were the opposite to mine and always on time. Once safely married, I caught being punctual from him and now I’m always on time and often early. So – lots of unwanted cups of indifferent coffee while I wait for my friends to arrive or the class or meeting to start.

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 

 

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 

ON BEING A KIND SCHOOL DENTIST

I love this 1977 New Zealand Stamp with both Dentist and Patient smiling

I know a lot of people have awful memories of the school dentist and the gas mask they used, but I like to think I was one of the kind ones and treated the children as if they were patients in a private practice.

I’d had an LCC (London County Council) grant to cover my dental degree so I couldn’t have a second grant to cover the Medical training I started in the autumn of 1953. I applied for and was awarded a Hilda Martindale Scholarship which covered my medical school fees and a small amount towards my living expenses. I was still living at home so they weren’t great, but medical textbooks were very expensive and I needed money to cover clothes. I approached the LCC Dental Service for a part-time job two evenings a week and was sent to a clinic in the city.

Both the nurse and I were expecting a miserable old bag, like the school dental nurses we’d met ourselves, so both of us were surprised and delighted. Maureen was a rosy-cheeked Somerset lass with a broad sense of humour and we hit it off at once. We spent the time between patients giggling and exchanging notes on the talent available to us and the latest fashions.

As it was an evening clinic, most of our patients were in senior schools. Once they’d got over their amazement at being greeted by two young women in their 20’s and reassured that I would use a local anaesthetic for any painful fillings and never use gas, they were excellent and very grateful patients. Many of those who’d been through the school dental system hated the gas mask and it left them with a permanent fear of dentists. Although at the time, it was still legal for a dentist to administer a general anaesthetic (usually nitrous oxide) on their own, I would never do so. I could carry out fillings and extractions perfectly well under local.

In our first two years at medical school, covering Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry, we had long holidays so I took a two-week locum appointment at a school clinic in West Ham that Christmas. The kids were fine and I again had a very pleasant nurse, but I was appalled at the poverty around me. I was brought up in the East End and we were poor but, as my mother had been a dressmaker and scoured the markets stalls for fabric remnants, I was always reasonably well dressed. Some of these children were almost in rags. I tried to persuade a young teenage boy to take off his blazer – no overcoat. I was worried about getting blood or saliva on it. When he finally agreed, I saw that on this on a freezing December day he wore only a singlet underneath.

‘I only have one shirt, you see. Mum washes it every Friday night ready for school on Monday. I never wear it in the holidays.’

I carried on with my evening clinics after Josh and I got married in 1956, until we started out own dental practice where I worked on Wednesday afternoons – when the male medical students played rugger – and Saturday mornings.

And our lovely Maureen left the LCC service and came to work in our practice until she got married in turn and her husband took a job in the country.

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

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