Tag Archives: Woman in a White Coat

On having a cat again

A lovely black kitten

I’d love to have a cat now we’re getting on for 90 and don’t go abroad anymore. We don’t enjoy long airplane flights and schlepping our all-too-heavy baggage around, but we live on the 9th floor with a balcony and I couldn’t face a repeat of my experience with Rupert when I was a child and lived on the third floor with a balcony in Wentworth Dwellings in Petticoat Lane.

Rupert was a gorgeous black kitten who was as curious as are all baby animals. I was in tears remembering as I wrote about it in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’.

Excerpt from Chapter2

It was wonderful coming home from school to be greeted by Rupert who would wind himself round and round my ankles, delighted to see me again. Continue reading On having a cat again

Wentworth Dwellings in Petticoat Lane

 

The now blocked up entrance to our cold water tenement

Now blocked by a shutter and covered with graffiti, this was the Goulston Street entrance to 116 Wentworth Dwellings in what is known as Petticoat Lane, and where we lived until 1942. We children never knew the dark history of the landing above hours. It wasn’t until I started to research the history of Petticoat Lane for my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’, that I discovered that in the doorway of 119 Wentworth Dwellings, two floors above us, at 2.55 am on Sunday September 30th, 1888, PC Long found a blood-soaked piece of Catherine Eddowes’ apron. Her murderer, thought to be Jack the Ripper, had left her mutilated body in Mitre Street, some distance away. His reign of terror in the East End of London, killing and disembowelling local prostitutes, finally ended three years later, with the murder of Mary Jane Kelly.

Had we known it then, I’m sure we’d have played Jack the Ripper games instead of ‘Cops and Robbers’ or ‘Doctors and Nurses’.

And I thank all you lovely people who bought copies of ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

http://bit.ly/Woman_in_a_White_Coat

Fantastic Frank Bowling at Tate Britain, London

Traingone (Mahaicony Abary, Guyana)
1996

I hadn’t heard of Frank Bowling  until I saw the program ‘What do artists do all day‘ on BBC which featured him and his work.

The big queues at Tate Britain at the moment  are for Van Gogh in Britain  but upstairs you can find Frank Bowling’s exciting exhibition.

I quite liked his earlier more representational art, but it is his  heavily textured abstract paintings that are so amazing. As you gaze at them you are drawn into some faraway place.

Art exhibitions always tempt me to take up drawing and painting again but what with Classical Greek, the Piano  and Writing the sequel ’25 Houses’ to my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’   I just haven’t found the time.

Perhaps next week!!

Mary Berry’s Fruit Scones

Delicious fruit scones

There’s nothing like a fruit scone with butter/ jam/ clotted cream for a mid morning snack or to fill a gap between dinner and bed.

I usually use only raisins but found I had nearly run out so I made up the quantity with currants. The scones still taste great!

These fruit scones freeze well so I can whip one out when I’m feeling peckish.

I always pick up the free Waitrose and Tesco magazines when I go supermarket shopping. Some recipes work well and others are a bit of a flop, but I’ve never tried one of Mary Berry’s recipes and have it fail.

Three cheers for Mary Berry.

Read my memoir for how I learned to cook ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

Fruit Scone recipe – (modified from Mary Berry)

Makes about 20

Bake 220°C 12 mins

Continue reading Mary Berry’s Fruit Scones

Dorothy Tanning Tate Modern London

One of Tanning’s Surrealist paintings

Dorothy Tanning ‘s Surrealist paintings (1910-2012) are very reminiscent of those of one of my favourite painters, Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), her contemporary and also a lover of Max Ernst (1891- 1976), a Dadaist and Surrealist who had left his wife for Dorothy Tanning.

Although I liked several of her surrealist paintings, I much preferred her later paintings, many from her stay at Sedonia, Arizona with Max Ernst – her abstracted ‘prismatic’ style. She wanted her pictures discovered slowly – ‘pictures that would shimmer and that you would discover something new every time you looked at them.’

Avalon (1987). begun in 1984

One of my favourites is ‘Avalon’ – painted over 3 years from 1984-1987 . It  is typical of her abstracted paintings, with parts of bodies and objects emerging from flower-like bursts of white and green.

I found her soft sculptures interesting though not particularly moving. The video at the end of the exhibition is excellent. Highly recommended.

Every time I go to an exhibition I think about taking up painting again – one of the many classes I took at Morley College and CityLit after I retired.

Read about my adventures at Further Education colleges in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat.’

Buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

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‘Good morning, Doctor’ – my first day on the wards – from my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’

Woman in a White Coat paperback

It’s often difficult for patients to tell who’s who in hospital or to tell the difference between a young -looking house physician and a mature medical student.

When I started on the wards as a clinical medical student, I had already qualified as a dental surgeon and had a bit more gravitas than my friends. I always introduced myself quickly as being a student.

This excerpt from my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ describes my first day on the wards.

Listen to me reading this chapter or read it for yourself

You can buy Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Chapter 14 Mrs Roberts pp 191-195

We stood outside the Bristow female medical ward, stethoscopes hanging nonchalantly out of our pockets, about to start our clinical attachments to the medical, surgical and obstetric firms.

Through the leaded windows in the double doors, we could see Sister’s desk, and the nurses in their blue and white striped dresses busying themselves about the patients. We hesitated, uncertain whether to go in or wait for our senior registrar.

Dr Evans, a tall red-haired man, strode up.

‘Well, what are you all standing about for, like a load of twits? You’ve been taught how to take a medical history and carry out a full physical examination. Get inside and collect your notes. We’ll meet in Sister’s office in three quarters of an hour.’

He handed each of us a buff-coloured folder. My patient was Mrs Mary Roberts.

Sister looked up.

‘One of my nurses will take you to your patients. I don’t want you students making a nuisance of yourselves. No coming in before eight in the morning, lunchtimes or during patients’ visiting hours.’

A nurse led me to a side room and deposited me by the bedside of the most enormous woman I had ever seen.

‘Our Mary’s quite a character. You may need some help when you come to examine her,’ she told me.

‘Good morning, Mrs Roberts,’ I said. ‘I’m your new student, Abby Waterman.’

‘Don’t be nervous, girl. I won’t bite you,’ Mrs Roberts wheezed. ‘Call me Mary. No-one calls me Mrs Roberts here.’

I pulled up a chair, sat down by her bed, and looked through the thick sheaf of notes. She’d been in and out of hospital many times.

The first two fingers of Mary’s podgy right hand were stained brown.

‘You may well look, dearie. They say it’s because of the ciggies that I’m like this.’

She coughed wetly, and spat into the sputum cup by her bed.

‘I’ve given them up loads of times, but they settle my nerves, they do.’

I wrote out a summary of Mary’s long medical history, and drew the curtains ready to examine her. The male students had to get a nurse to chaperone them if their patient was in a side room. Being a woman, that didn’t apply to me.

With a lot of struggling on my part, and heavy breathing on hers, I managed to wrestle her nightdress off. I stared with horror at her enormous breasts. The apex of the heart is under the left breast, but each breast looked as if it weighed several pounds. How on earth would I get a stethoscope underneath? When we were shown how to listen to the heart, we’d had a slim, elderly man to practise on.

Mary smiled at me.

‘They usually get a nurse to help, dear.’

I hurried out, but all the nurses looked busy. Finally, I saw a nurse with a red belt, a staff nurse.

‘Of course,’ she said. ‘Just give me five minutes to finish up, and I’ll send someone over.’

I told Mary to cover herself, and meanwhile looked at her swollen hands and feet. When I pressed the flesh of her ankles, my fingers left a dent which didn’t fill again for some time. She was having trouble catching her breath and her neck veins were engorged.

‘Superficial examination suggests the diagnosis of right-sided heart failure,’ I wrote.

A junior nurse bustled in, her starched apron crackling against her dress.

‘I’ve been sent over to give you a hand.’

She tried not to grin as she lifted a huge left breast with both hands, while I struggled to get the bell of my stethoscope underneath. The skin was red and sore from being constantly warm and damp. There was a strong smell of caked talcum powder.

By the time I’d completed my examination of Mary’s cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems, I was exhausted. The notes said she weighed seventeen stone, but it felt as if she weighed a ton.

‘I don’t really get on with the stuff they’re giving me,’ she said. ‘The heart pills make me feel sick, and I have to have a wee every few minutes because of the water tablets. But you should have seen me when I came in. More like a barrage balloon, I was.’

A deep rumbling laugh turned into a coughing fit. When she’d got her breath back, she said:

‘What wouldn’t I give for a tub of jellied eels? The hospital food is all mush.’

Tubby Isaacs Jellied Eel stall stood at the corner of Goulston Street and Aldgate. The red-faced, cheerful stallholder in his signature straw boater, white coat and black bow tie, used to call after me on my way home from St Margaret’s.

‘Lovely jellied eels, miss. Cockles and mussels, Alive Oh,’ he’d shout, knowing I would make a face. Eels and shellfish are forbidden to Jews.

I felt sick at the thought of those grey slices of eel on his stall. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to eat the disgusting things, even if they weren’t Jewish.

Over the next few weeks, I watched Mary’s vast bulk shrink, as the digoxin and diuretic pills began to work. One day, as I was checking her over, she started to cry.

‘They’re going to put me in the geriatric ward at St Mildred’s,’ she sobbed. ‘They say I can’t manage on my own. I live on the fourth floor, and there’s no lift. I can’t get my breath, even to go as far as the lavatory.’

‘Couldn’t you stay with one of your children?’

‘I haven’t heard from any of my kids in years. None of them’s ever been to see me in hospital. Two of the boys are inside, and I wouldn’t want to live with any of the others, even if they offered, which they wouldn’t.’

On my way home from Aldgate East station that night, I went up to Tubby Isaacs stall. I cringed at the sight of those mounds of cockles and whelks and other seafood I didn’t want to identify. To one side there was an enamel bowl full of clear jelly containing slices of jellied eel.

‘I’ll have a tub of jellied eels,’ I said, breathing through my mouth.

I hid the tub behind my books, away from my mother’s prying eyes, and thought about Mary in a geriatric ward. If she was lucky, it would be clean and cheerful, like the one at St Margaret’s, but that was only for short-term admissions. I’d visited a miserable urine-smelling long-stay ward, when my great aunt had her stroke. It was ghastly.

When I arrived next morning, Mary was dressed and waiting for the ambulance to take her to St Mildred’s. Her eyes were red and swollen. She clutched my hand.

‘I never thought it would come to this.’

‘This should cheer you up a bit,’ I said, and handed her the tub from Tubby Isaacs. Jellied Eels, Established 1919.

A smile lit up her face.

‘You’re a lovely girl, you know,’ she said. ‘You’ll go far, mark my words. You’ve got a heart of gold, you have, and there’s not many of them around.’

 

 

 

Fantastic!! Grove Vale Library – a ‘new’ London library

 

Brand new premises

 

Well not a completely new library – a previous library moved across the road to sparkling new premises adjoining a super-convenient, very tempting, M & S Food Hall. Great to see at a time when libraries are closing down or losing staff.

Jolly mural in entrance

A jolly mural in the entrance could keep a child busy for ages finding all the different animals and buildings. So different from the somber Victorian facades  we’re so used to.

Shelves stuffed with books but bookcases not much taller than me!

I miss the towering shelves in the old Whitechapel library stretching up to the 10 foot high ceilings.  I used to have to stand on one of those rolling stools to reach.

 

Health and safety would have something to say about that now!

‘STREAMLINED GREEK’ – USERS AGE 11-87

Bob Bass’s excellent Workbook and Answer Book

I was introduced by the Hellenic bookshop in London to ‘Streamlined Greek‘  by Bob Bass – an excellent workbook for beginners at Classical Greek from age 11 (children at school) to 87 – a retired pathologist like me.  Unfortunately the shop didn’t have the essential Answer Book but I found both online and I am enjoying  revision while on the Christmas break from my classical Greek class at CityLit.

I’d found our set books – the Oxford ‘Reading Greek’ series  – very comprehensive but quite hard going, so Bob Bass’s book is a pleasant relief.

What I wrote in my memoir ‘Woman in a White Coat’ :

The flap of our letter box rattles. The post has arrived and with it the latest prospectus for Adult Education. I will definitely take Art History and Literature. Perhaps I will enrol for Classical Greek as well, and read the classics in the original.

I already have a small Greek vocabulary from when I was a dental student at St Margaret’s. I learned to say kallimera (good morning) and anoíxte to stóma sas (open your mouth) to patients from the local Greek Cypriot community. I have a larger Greek vocabulary derived from the many medical terms we had to learn. Maybe learning Greek will exercise my mind and grow some new brain cells to replace those I’ve lost over the years.

New Season of Thursday Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square. The Fidelio Trio and Learning to Play the Cello

Fidelio Trio poster for September 6th 2018 1.05pm

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.

Something so exciting about the stage set for the trio and an expectant audience

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

Memoir Extract – Learning to play the Cello

An ex-student, who’d gone on to play second violin in the London Symphony 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 New Season of Thursday Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square. The Fidelio Trio and Learning to Play the Cello

Plum and Almond Cake (Waitrose) and Where I learned to Cook

Lovely mixture of sweet and sour

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

You can purchase Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or search on ISBN 9781979834391 for the paperback version on Amazon at £9.99

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.

Here is my slightly modified recipe: Continue reading Plum and Almond Cake (Waitrose) and Where I learned to Cook