Tag Archives: Petticoat lane

TOURS IN THE TIME OF COVID (With a nod to Gabriel García Márquez)

The cut-out policeman looks so real I nearly wished it Good Morning!!

Before Covid, we’d been on bus tours in Spain and to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, and on River Tours on the Rhine and the Danube, but now our tours seem to be confined to Tours of London Supermarkets.

I was born and brought up in the East End of London, then a poor, mainly Jewish district. We lived in a cold-water tenement on the third floor of Wentworth Dwellings in what was known as Petticoat Lane, though Petticoat Lane hasn’t existed as such for nearly 300 years. After a boundary rearrangement it was renamed Middlesex Street. We first lived in a third floor flat opening onto Goulston Street and then in one overlooking Wentworth Street, both streets crowded with food stalls on weekdays.

My mother went shopping every day – there were no fridges in the 1930s. We tried to stop milk going sour, and butter melting, by storing them in a mesh-fronted cupboard on our tiny balcony. We were rarely successful. There always seemed to be a cheesecloth bag hanging from the kitchen tap with soured milk turning into cream cheese.

One of my chores was to buy our bread, usually from Kossoff’s bakery opposite. If the total added up to a few pennies and one farthing (¼ penny), the assistants would tell me to forget the odd farthing, rather than bother to give me three farthings in change. My mother wouldn’t accept charity from anyone, so, having climbed the six sets of steep stone stairs to our flat on the third floor, I would have to go down again and take the farthing to the shop.

Now, of course, we have fridges and freezers and in a district like ours, where individual food shops have virtually disappeared, we shop once a week in supermarkets, not daily – usually Tesco or Sainsburys and occasionally Waitrose.

My favourite white bread flour is Allison’s Very Strong White Bread Flour. I first found it in Tesco but the last time I was about to run out they no longer had any in stock. I ordered some online from Amazon Fresh (Morrisons) but the road works in Victoria blocked the lorry entrance to our flats. To my chagrin, the delivery driver gave up and took my shopping back to the warehouse.

I saw online that both ASDA and Morrisons stock that flour and decided to visit each of them for the first time. Both are designed to make everything look as if it is at a cheaper price – some definitely cheaper than in our usual supermarkets but sometimes just less in the packet, so not really any cheaper.

After our Tour in the Time of Covid, we’ll stick to Tesco and Sainsburys alternately – we like some versions of our favourite products in one and some in the other. We’ll make an occasional trip to Waitrose – the most spacious feeling of them, for things not available at our usual stores.

However, when I next run out, if Tesco and Sainsburys don’t have my favourite flour in stock, I’ll make up a delivery order from ASDA or Morrisons, rather negotiating the nightmare junction that is at Elephant and Castle, and traipsing up the Old Kent Road or Walworth Road.

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

 

DELICIOUS HOME MADE BEIGELS/ BAGELS

 

Not as perfect as those from Beigel Bake but they taste fine

Having written about my grandmother selling beigels on the corner of Wentworth Street and Goulston Street, I just had to have some. As an 88 year old self-isolating, I can’t go and buy themfrom Beigel Bake in Brick Lane, so I got out the Lekue Silicone Beigel moulds I bought ages ago. They are brown perforated moulds rather like Witch’s Hats with a very narrow point you push the balls of dough over to give a neat central hole. You prove them and then boil them on the moulds.

My English granddaughter, Becca, not to be outdone, rolled her dough into sausages, curled them into a ring, moistened the ends and stuck the ends together. I just glazed mine with milk and left it at that, but Becca who, like her brother Luke, is Vegan, glazed hers with Oat Milk and decorated some with poppy seeds and some with sesame seeds. They look fabulous on her Whatsapp message.

She and her partner got the corona virus early on, fortunately quite mildly, so Becca has been able to go back to working for the charity that distributes unwanted food from supermarkets and restaurants to the needy. Would love to be able to see the family again in the flesh. Zoom is great but there’s nothing like a hug from the family.

Can’t say my beigels taste exactly like the professional ones but they’re pretty good– and they freeze well. It’s an important consideration when you are just two very old people desperately trying not to put on too must weight!!

BAGELS 

Bake 220°C 15-20 mins

For 12 bagels

Continue reading DELICIOUS HOME MADE BEIGELS/ BAGELS

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)

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

 

A DREIDEL FOR HANUKAH

Wooden Dreidel

Until I was about eight years old, and my Aunt Jennie bought me a china doll with eyes that opened and closed, the only bought toy I had was a dreidel, a little four-sided wooden spinning top. It was kept in a glass-fronted cupboard with other precious things like the Kiddush cups and Menorah, and brought out for Hanukah, year after year.

Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (nun), ג (gimel), ה (hei), ש (shin) – shorthand for the rules of a gambling game: Nun stands for the Yiddish word nisht (“nothing”), Hei stands for halb (“half”), Gimel for gants (“all”), and Shin for shtel ayn (“put in”). Nowadays they are often regarded as representing nes gadol hayah sham (“a great miracle happened there”) Wikipedia

Anything else we played with was picked up from Petticoat Lane market refuse, begged or nicked. Before the dustmen cleared them all away, we rescued clean orange boxes from the fruiterer’s rubbish to make a wicket and bat for the cricket we played in Wentworth Street. We’d wash a tinned fruit can for ‘Tin Can Tommy’, while chalk for hopscotch, and for cryptic messages about who loved whom, was nicked from school. We wheedled cigarette cards from adults as soon as we saw them lighting up, while lengths of string dropped in the street were precious finds for playing ever more intricate cats’ cradle.

In our present more affluent time, it’s hard to imagine what it was like for the poor like us who had absolutely no discretionary income. There was no spare money for frivolities like toys – unless you counted the fragile little celluloid dolls the Rag and Bone man gave you in exchange for whatever secondhand goodies you could bring him.

But if you are poor, and all your friends and neighbours are as poor or poorer, you don’t know what you’re missing and even a well-used Dreidel is fun.

My memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ a special present for Hanukah

Woman in a White Coat paperback

or Christmas

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

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

 

THE FABULOUS SMELL OF FRESHLY BAKED BREAD

We slice and toast these mini loaves lightly. Yummy!!

I love the smell of freshly baked bread. When in 1943 we moved to the flat in Wentworth Dwellings that overlooked the market, every weekday morning I woke to the gorgeous aroma of baking bread from Kossoff’s bakery opposite. I now bake my own bread and rolls so I can enjoy that lovely experience regularly.

One of the advantages of having four children and four grandchildren is that I can pass on any pieces of equipment I want to upgrade, like a bread maker. My British grandson, Luke, was a willing recipient of my Panasonic bread maker, so I could in all conscience buy the latest model.

For years I had used my bread maker to make the dough and then prove and bake it in a regular long loaf tin in my normal fan oven. I always thought that the loaves that are completely finished in bread makers are too tall for us. Our appetites are not what they used to be, now Josh is 90 and I am 88, and the slices are just too big. But then Luke sent me an image of the loaf he had baked using the delay feature, so he was woken by the fantastic smell of a freshly baked loaf. I realised that I could just cut the loaf in half – eat one half and freeze the other. Works a dream!!

I still use my bread maker to make dough for rolls, which we like to have with soup. Josh and I share the cooking to fit in with our classes and it’s become a tradition for me to make soup on Thursdays. I always have a variety of rolls in the freezer, including Jamie Oliver’s Crumpies. If you like crumpets – the old fashioned type with big bubbles – his easy recipe is great, but our favourites are beetroot rolls. I got the original recipe for a beetroot loaf from a supermarket magazine but it works just as well for the rolls I bake in little loaf tins. You can’t taste the beetroot but the colour is gorgeous.

Many thanks to those who’ve contacted me to say they are going to buy my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ as a Hanukah or Christmas present

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