Part 58: Tuesday, 7th June 1960, 7.00 p.m.

Have got through my first half-term at Barnsbury. Some lessons are just as nerve-wracking to take as was 3D at Hargrave, but much virtue in that “some.” I have 5hrs. 25 minutes official free periods, and one “sitting-in” lesson. This will make all the difference. Even if I have to take over for an absent master I shall usually be able to tell them to get on with their HW, while I can get on with mine. I think I shall be able to “cope” better than I could at Hargrave; and if this proves to be the case, it will be enough. Nevertheless, the large staff at Barnsbury – must be well over 40 – tend to show up the buses I have missed. However, one must just accept, and hope that Philip will do better than I have done.

A very pleasant day to-day; sunny, one or two slight showers. Sunday was unbearably hot. Went to Landau’s stone-setting. Depressing – O.K., I know these affairs are not festive, in the nature of things – the officiant was a “permanent cemetery” official it seemed, who had not known the late Mr. Landau, or if he had, had nothing to say about him. He had no-one to say Kaddish for him. Did he have any children? His widow and two step-sons and step-daughters were there.

Lily baby-sat for us this afternoon, and we took the opportunity to see the Trials of Oscar Wilde film. Fine. Most annoying, I had an omnibus volume of all his works with illustrations by Donia Nachsen. Cost 5/-. I suppose I would have to pay 30/- to 50/- to get all his writings between boards now.

Mum, Sam & Lily round yesterday. Philip in fine form. He stumbled against a tubular chair and gave himself a real shiner. E. wanted to take him to the doctor yesterday morning, but there was no surgery (it was Whit Monday) and we are letting vis medicatrix naturae do its stuff.

E. is waiting still. The embryo, which was at one time strangely placed, has now righted itself, which means that E. will not have to go into hospital a fortnight “before term” for a second Caesarean. I hope she has a better confinement than last time. Things are bound to be leybedik anyway; I shall be up to the hospital every evening, phoning the boobas.

For the record. The Senior History Master at Barnsbury was one Sam Freedman, a homely Leeds Jewish type. He told me he had applied for a job teaching cadets at Hendon Police College – “I didn’t think a Yiddishe boy would have a chance, but so I’d lose another sixpence.” He got the job. He has a glass eye, in the room of one of his own he lost treading on a mine in the war, I gather. I suspect the glass eye got him the job. He’s to teach English, I gather, with some history. His degree, I gather, was in commercial subjects, but he struck me as being quite articulate. This is not meant to be patronising.

Part 57: Thursday, 19th May 1960, 5.40.p.m.

Started at Barnsbury. on the whole, the move has justified itself. I have classes to take which are as difficult as the one I left at Hargrave, but, and I think this will prove decisive, I never have any one class for more than an hour at a stretch, and no class for more than four periods a week. There are difficulties, of course; although I will probably be able to average five free periods a week, I will probably have to spend a couple of hours a week in marking. (I am time-tabled to have seven 35/40 minute free periods and one 1hr. F.P. I also get another 35 minutes sitting in with a class). Today we had off; a bye-election [sic] at the Camden Road school buildings – “glass box” – housing the Upper School (3rd, 4th & 5th years). I am in the Lower School in Eden Grove, a dingy street opposite the Northern Polytechnic. I do a morning and afternoon at Camden Road taking history with three 3rd-yr forms. I found myself reading Trevelyan on Charles II to-day. One of the classes is very dim, but fortunately there are only twenty of them.

To the Trocadero last Sunday for Jennifer Gasson wedding. “Goldener krenk off portzellanen tellern” as my mum says, but, once the initial jam waiting to be greeted by the protagonists was over, one had one’s cup of tea and glass of champagne, and danced to a good band, in comfort. Mum enjoyed herself, tipsy in the car on the way back. She had “a sweet revenge” – Lily spilt a glass of champagne over her (Mum’s) dress.

International situation serious. Khruscheff [sic] has bawled the Summit off; apparently the Yanks sent a U.2 plane spying over Soviet air-space. Rainy to-day, have just given E. a belated hand bathing P. He screams blue murder when you talc and dress him. However, he is now quietly in his cot.


Part 56: Wednesday, 20th April 1960, 10.a.m.

Rushed E. off to her 9.30 dentist’s appointment. P. playing quietly in pen (J. gave him his feed, changed him at 5a.m., after which he was quiet till 8.30 or so). Yes, The Caine Mutiny terrific. I was led to the reading of it somewhat deviously. The book, I knew, was a best-seller, the film too. Recently a book, This is My God, by Herman Wouk appeared, from which it seems that H.W. is an Orthodox Jew. H.W. had also written Marjorie Morningstar, also famous, and, I gathered, on the pornographic side. The conjunction of Orthodox Judaism and the ability to write about a mutiny struck me as so remarkable that I got out The Caine Mutiny and, as I say, found myself gripped by it. The closely knit story, the mounting tension leading inevitably to the “mutiny”, the drama of the court-martial scene, superb. I am, obviously, not competent to assess the accuracy of the nautical detail, but the chicanery on board, the young officer “types” were superb. There is absolutely no “Jewish” interest in the book, until the court-martial at the end. I stress this, because it is very rare to find a Jewish author with a deeply Jewish consciousness writing a first-class book of universal appeal. The Jewish touches, when they do come, are brilliant. Greenwald, the Jewish lawyer, defending the mutineer, says (I quote from memory) “He [the President of the Court-Martial] doesn’t like Jews. I noticed the intonation he gave to the name ‘Greenwald’. I have an absolute ear for pitch in these cases. But it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to love Jews, you just have to give them a fair shake. And we’ll get that.” And Greenwald delivers a convincing apologia for Queeg, the tyrannical ship’s captain, by saying that it was the “regulars” like him, who, notwithstanding the sneers of the intellectuals, ensured that Greenwald’s mum hadn’t been turned into soap with which to wash Goering’s fat behind.

Part 55: Tuesday, 19th April 1960, 9.30p.m.

Another Pesach through, Gott soll mir nisht shtroofen far dee reyd, [something like, God shouldn’t punish me for saying this] but they seem to become more difficult year by year – traipsing to one Boobbe the first Seder night, to another the next, the business of changing crockery, etc. It’s true we enjoyed it as kids,  as I said to Sam over the phone to-night (he in bed with slight cold), but then there were just the three of us – no, on reflection my memories of enjoyment must date from the time when there were four of us – the Gottseliger [holy person – used for Joseph Witriol’s father], my mother, Sam and myself. But I can’t remember my father, ע״ה during Pesach. The picture that remains is of my mother showing us how to play “nuts” – rolling nuts (walnuts and Spanish nuts – I’ve seen neither this Pesach) down a hackbrettl [dulcimer shaped chopping board?] and across the floor. I also recall the hard-boiled egg, potato and matzo in salt water. But I remember no tunes from the Gottseliger‘s zeit. Our only “tune” – “dayenu” – I seem to remember from Sam, when there were just the three of us celebrating the Seder.

Writing this with my swish Parker Duofold desk-pen, bought mainly out of proceeds of collection for me from staff and pupils at Hargrave Park. (The collection came to £3-10-0; the pen, a glass paper-weight desk-stand job, cost £4-4-0.)

Saw the Deputy Head of Barnsbury Secondary Boys’ School, a man named Shar. (Divisional Office allocated me to this school, one of the better “Modern” Secondary schools. I think it is pretty certain that I shall get some French (though I can’t feel too optimistic about teaching French in the Lower School, anyway, and almost certainly – no, because if they’re taking French they can’t be the dimmest classes).

Must break off here, as want to get in early. E. has to be up at 8.00 to-morrow, latest, as she has an appt. at the dentist’s at 9.30 a.m. Philip,  imbeshneer, flourishing. Walks and walks, rides in triumph in his pram, graciously acknowledging tributes from passers-by, intensely interested in everything that’s going on. He’s full of joie de vivre, I must try not to infect him with my pessimism. Stuffs the wet, soapy face flannel in his mouth, E. tries to get it out, Philip laughs and laughs and laughs.

Read The Caine Mutiny. The last time I remember being so gripped by a novel was when I read Drei Kameraden, also over a Bank Holiday. Must comment in another entry. Also half, three-quarter read Brian Glanvilles’s Along The Arno. Only so-so; there seemed to be no “story,” or if there was, it never got under way properly. Plenty of idiomatic Italian in italics to give colour. But this was not enough. The genius of the city of Florence not brought out – Renaissance Florence, art Florence – superficial reportage of Florentine cafes and of American Bohemians.


Part 54: Thursday, 24th March 1960, 9.30p.m.

Have been officially transferred to Divisional Staff. There has been correspondence between MacGowan, the D.I., and the D.O. and myself, they “noting my willingness to teach general subjects,” I insisting that I want to teach French and English among the “general subjects.” I don’t know whether  my new state (teaching “general subjects” in a secondary school) will be better than my present condition, but I feel I can’t carry on another term with my present class. A humiliating experience the other day. Trying to line the class up quietly in the corridor, before going up to Assembly, I “saw red” when young Kenny Storey – one of my nicer kids – carried on talking after I had yelled at them to keep quiet. I smacked him hard on the bare thigh, with an unexpected reaction. He howled and writhed (he’s a tough footballer, from whom I hadn’t expected it). I took the kids up, and then came down to find the bird had flown. Late in the afternoon Mrs S. came up, not abusive, foul-mouthed, as I had feared, but obviously tensed (I was trying to line up my 30+ 3A & 3B boys ready to go down to P.E., perhaps this was of some psychological advantage, as it perhaps showed that conditions were trying). Anyway, I referred her to Burden. He called me up at 4.30 p.m. & very loyally supported me, “leading” me with Q.C.’s skill (” so you were defying Mr Witriol, weren’t you, Kenny?”). Kenny, to his credit, admitted his guilt (though Heaven knows I have passed over more heinous offences innumerable times) and so the incident was closed. Kenny, I omitted to say, had a bruise on his thigh.

The sort of thing one ought to be able to write up; the aggrieved Mum, the assaulted youth, the young Headmaster, the teacher trembling for his job. However, one hasn’t the ability, c’est tout, but what one ought to have learnt from the incident – and what I think I must try to learn, after over ten years’ teaching, is on no account to strike a pupil, unless “regularly,” i.e., entering punishment, by cane or hand in approved manner, in punishment book. Fortunately, with secondary school kids it will be more difficult to slap them (long trousers), one can push their heads if provoked, but one must just try to platz and platz and platz – and then go home and forget about it. One of the women in the staff room mentioned that there was a Civil Service competition for mature (40-50) entrants – would I not find it more congenial? Salary starts at £700. Out, of course (but if allowances are made for approved experience and one could start at £1000, say – with non-contributory pension – one would certainly think about it). Read The Unspeakable Skipton by – forgotten her name – C.P.Snow’s wife – Monica Chapman? – good; the author manqué scrounging in Bruges ( an unusual milieu, which she does well, with touches of authentic-sounding Flemish).