Delighted that the Thursday lunchtime concerts at St John’s Smith Square London SW1P 3HA have started again after the August break.
And what a fabulous concert to open with: the Fidelio Trio playing Fauré‘s (1845-1924) Piano Trio in D Minor op 120 – which I feel rather lukewarm about – and Schoenberg’s (1874-1951) Verklärte Nachte Op 4 which was fantastic.
Composed in 1899, the Schoenberg was written as a sextet and arranged beautifully as a trio by Eduard Steuermann in 1932.
This was the first time I’d heard Verklärte Nachte in full. I’d previously only heard excerpts in lectures on Schoenberg and the 2nd Viennese School. I hadn’t realised how many lyrical passages he had written as well as his signature discords.
All three musicians – Darragh Morgan (violin), Adi Tal (cello) and Mary Dulles (piano) were great but i especially liked the cello. Adi Tal’s playing made me almost wish i hadn’t given up playing the cello when i left school.
Listen to my account of learning to play the cello from my memoir Woman in a White Coat Chapter 7 Music Studies Pages 96-98
You can buy a copy of my memoir Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a Paperback on Amazon at £9.99
There are so many reasons – other than that I love them very much – why it’s so great when Louise and her family come and stay with us.
I’m always on and off slimming – all too soon I put back most of the weight I lost whilst on a ventilator two years ago after a major heart attack, so I don’t make desserts for just Joshua and me. Having visitors is a good excuse. The latest Waitrose Magazine came out with this recipe for Plum and Almond Cake just in time. Josh doesn’t like almond essence so I use vanilla essence instead.
When Josh and I got married in 1956 I could just about cook omelettes and minestrone. Over the next few years, whilst I was a Medical Student and then a House Officer, I gradually increased my repertoire but really learned to cook a wide variety of dishes at the excellent Good Housekeeping six-week full time course in 1960.
Listen to my account of that experience from my memoir Woman in a White Coat Chapter 14 Starting a Family Pages 247-249 and try the recipe given at the end of this post
Woman in a White Coat Chapter 14 Starting a Family Pages 247-249
By the time 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.
I decided to take a cookery course instead. Only the girls in the lower streams at school did cookery and my mother had always shooed me away, especially during wartime. When we got married I could cook omelettes and minestrone and not much else, though I’d extended my range a bit since then.
‘Food is rationed,’ she’d say. ‘Don’t want you wasting good food. Time enough to learn to cook when you get married.’
My mother was a very plain cook. Her repertoire was limited to chicken soup, boiled chicken, braised beef, fried fish and sardines on toast. On Saturdays, we’d have cholent, potatoes and meat or chicken that had been cooking all night on a gas ring turned on very low before the Sabbath came in.
I saw an advertisement for a six-week full-time course at the Good Housekeeping Cookery School. The courses were originally designed for debutantes who needed to learn how to run a kitchen, though they might only set a foot inside one to give orders to the cook.
Most of the other students were upper crust young women who had hardly ever gone into a kitchen. One 17-year-old had never even peeled a potato. Some of the others had moved to London and got a flat of their own so they had done a bit of cooking but we were all pretty inexperienced. One student was a woman in her early thirties who had been in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) – someone more my age. We paired up and shared chores.
Before the war, the students would have cooked in the morning and learned about housework in the afternoon, though they might never have to do any housework once they were married. They were taught to use the starch-enriched water from soaking the potatoes they cooked in the morning to starch a frilly cap or a shirt; how to use gophering tongs – the tubular bladed instruments that made little tunnels in starched caps – and how to iron men’s shirts. By the time I took the course, it only covered cookery.
The kitchens were in a large basement in Mayfair. There were eight Formica-topped tables for the sixteen of us. The shelves around the walls were stacked with bowls and saucepans of every shape and size and there were drawers and drawers of cooking implements. as well as several gas cookers and hobs. On Mondays, the room smelled of cleaning fluid but the rest of the week we were greeted by the gorgeous smell of the cakes we’d cooked for our tea the day before.
We were taught from scratch – how to boil an egg, how to boil potatoes, how to skin and bone a fish. It was a mixture of traditional English cookery – roast beef, roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding – and some more exotic dishes like dolmas (stuffed vine leaves), curries and the classic sole dishes Sole Veronique, sole with green grapes and Sole Meniere, sole panfried in butter.
In the mornings, we cooked a main meal for lunch and ate it – meat, fish or a vegetarian dish and two vegetables. In the afternoons we baked cakes, bread, brioches, and pastries. I adored it all, especially the chocolate éclairs. In 1960, no-one seemed to bother about pregnant women putting on too much weight and I ate for two with gusto.
I couldn’t find a suitable sized alphabetised book so I bought a linen covered book and made my own index. I still have it, a few food stains on the cover and the leaves a bit faded, but the recipes as good as ever.
The teachers were all highly experienced cooks and managed their often unruly pupils with ease. At dental and medical school, there had been few women – there was still a 10% quota for us. I thoroughly enjoyed the fun of bonding and giggling and having a great time in an all-female group.
I thrived on being pregnant, though I got a bit more tired than the others. It was a lovely six weeks. I cried when they gave me an embroidered layette at the end of the course.
I was already a qualified Dental Surgeon when i started on the wards as a first year clinical medical student.
My medical school fees were paid by a generous award from the Hilda Martindale Trust (an award given to women who are training or studying for a career in a profession where women are under-represented). I was still living at home and made up my income for books, travel and clothes by working two evenings a week in a school dental clinic.
My first patient was a woman in heart failure called Mrs Roberts.
Listen to my account of that experience from my memoir Woman in a White Coat Chapter 14 At Medical School Pages 191-195
Another visit to the BBC Proms 2018. A wonderful concert in a pleasantly cool Albert Hall. The three fabulous Bach Brandenburg Concertos were interspersed with three modern pieces.
The first modern piece was Maya by the British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage with the brilliant American cellist Maya Beiser – an interesting virtuoso piece, moving and exciting.
After the Brandenburg Concerto No 3 the orchestra played Bach Materia – by Swedish Anders Hillborg with the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuussisto . A fantastic piece – especially the duet between the violin and double bass.
Last modern piece was Hamsa by the American composer Uri Caine playing the piano part himself – for me a sorry parody of the great 5th Brandenburg Concerto which preceded it. Much of the piano part was a cacophony sounding like a cat walking over the keys – banging out tight discords.
I was nine years old when I started to learn to play the piano with the organist of the local church. At the time, 1940-1942, I was evacuated to a hostel for Jewish Children in Dawlish, South Devon.
Listen to my account of that experience from my memoir Woman in a White Coat. You can buy my book on Kindle at £2.99 or search on ISBN 9781979834391 for the paperback version on Amazon at £9.99
Memoir extract from Chapter 5 Pages 68-71 To Dawlish
Matron put up a notice saying she had written to our parents asking if they wanted us to learn to play the piano. I didn’t think my parents would agree to pay for lessons though they were quite cheap, especially as I had just been in trouble for refusing to wash on the Sabbath. Continue reading Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3 & 5 at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall→
Often I’ve felt overwhelmed at the Summer Exhibitions by the crowds and the works massed together higgledy-piggledy, but this year the exhibition is themed and great. It’s absolutely a ‘MUST GO’.
This fabulous exhibition made me feel I ought to get out my paints and pastels and start painting and drawing again. After I retired in 1991 I went to a wide variety of classes including drawing and painting.
Hear about the Art Class at the Mary Ward Centre in Queen Square I attended after I retired in 1991 in this excerpt from my memoir Woman in a White Coat’ – Chapter 26 pp 355-356 and pp 361-363
‘Woman in a White Coat’ is available on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99
Chapter 26 Woman in a White Coat
I enrolled for lots of classes, some at one Further Education college and some at another – painting, drawing, cooking, history of art, Spanish, creative writing, pottery, dressmaking, machine knitting, felt making – everything I hadn’t had time for when I was working. It wasn’t just that I hadn’t had the time, I hadn’t had the inclination. My mind was always so full of work. Even when I was at the theatre, I would find myself thinking about a difficult diagnosis or a hiccup in our research.
Thank you for your comments on the first reading from my memoir Woman in a White Coat.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter #2 about a little black kitten called Rupert
‘Woman in a White Coat’ is available on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99
Reading from Chapter 2 Pages 18-22
(Scroll down to read text)
Chapter 2 pp 18-22
We always had a cat. Most people in The Buildings kept a cat, because we all had mice, even on the third floor. I never caught sight of a mouse in our flat, but often there would be a few mouse droppings. Now and again my father baited two or three mouse traps with cheese, but he rarely caught a mouse. They were too wary. They had learned how to steal the cheese without getting trapped.
‘Fashioned from Nature’ is another large and fascinating exhibition at the V&A Museum in the Fashion Section.
On the ground floor there are numerous examples of the many creatures that we have made almost, if not entirely, extinct in order to obtain their skin, feathers, skeletons or whalebones for hats, dresses, muffs, shoes and cloaks.
On the upper floor examples of clothes made from man-made materials often using toxic materials resulting in the loss of human life.
Thank you for all those who have been coming to my talks about my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ at libraries in and around Westminster and those who have written such kind reviews on Amazon.
My unique memoir is the story of a woman pathologist brought up in a cold-water tenement in London’s East End and who has also been a Harley Street dentist, an entrepreneur (co-owner of Conran-group designed educational toyshops), the director of a Cancer Research laboratory at a major London teaching hospital, as well as a wife and mother of four children.
I read ‘The Woman in White’ by Wilkie Collins as a teenager 70+ years ago, so when I came to think of a title for my memoir that would suggest that among my several professions were some in which I would wear a doctor’s white coat, his title never crossed my mind.
Now retired, I have been in turn a Harley Street dentist, an entrepreneur (co-owner of Conran-group designed educational toyshops), the director of a Cancer Research laboratory at a major London teaching hospital, as well as a wife and mother of four children.
I was first reminded of Wilkie Collins’ book when I saw my memoir for sale on Amazon and now I see that BBC 1 is about to air a serialized version starting tonight – the last was in 1997. Be interesting to see what the BBC makes of it.
It was lovely to be invited by the librarian of Askew Road library to give a talk and reading from my memoir Woman in a White Coat. The occasion was one of the Wednesday coffee mornings that have been running in the library for many years.
The library is on one floor and in a light friendly open space. To one side, towards the back, is a gaily coloured children’s area with carpeting so the children can read and play on the floor.
The chairs for the participants were arranged in a large semicircle. Louise was in the UK with her family for Easter and she came with Josh so I had an audience of at least two plus the librarians. But when I sat at the table at the front, the expanse of empty chairs looked enormous. Louise and Josh were lost at one end.
However, to my surprise and delight, by the time we started at 11am, not only were all the chairs filled but some latecomers had to fetch extra seating.
Most of the audience – mainly women with one man – were seniors who remembered life pre-WW2 and my story of life in a cold water tenement resonated with them, as did the medical episodes. They laughed and caught their breath in all the right places.
What a lovely responsive audience and welcoming library staff. I felt very lucky to have been given this invitation and have promised to return – perhaps with my sequel ’25 houses’