Part 104: Sunday evening, 4th November 1962, 9.30 p.m.

End of week’s mid-term respite, if respite is the word. Les gosses now go to a garderie every morning. They are collected by the enterprising proprietress just after nine every morning and returned – by car – just after 12.30p.m.

Cost 35/- weekly, which is very reasonable. We wanted to get Philip and Max or even Philip only into the local synagogue nursery, but they insisted on a term’s notice of removal. Mrs White-Howells will operate on a weekly basis, I gather;…the expense is an additional headache, but what can you mach. Ken en hora, I don’t blame the most devoted mother – and E. of course is the m.d.m. – not being able to take 12-13 hours of them without a break. They’re up at 7 these days…and it’s 7 or later before they’re asleep again. The nursery doesn’t seem to have eased E’s burdens, I still come home at 9.45 or 10.15 and find her ironing away.

Treated myself to a break on Thursday evening. Saw Curtmantle by Christopher Fry. As Punch says, not quite up to Fry’s best, but good. Had an exhausting day with the two – E. had gone to hospital for her monthly check-up, and then on shopping – and felt half-inclined, particularly as it was raining, just to slump in the arm-chair – and save nearly a quid (10/6 back stalls seat, 1/- ice, 1/- programme, 4/- plus, fares). But don’t regret decision.

Financial situation continues to be worrying…Got 33½ guineas from Janson-Smith for the 10,000 word translation I did for them from B.R.’s Biblical Archaeology and 10 guineas from Vallentine Mitchell for my report on Pinchas Wellmer’s The Narrow Street and £25 (made out to E.) for book-keeping for S.W.H.L. 

Took Philip to Moresby Road to-day. Returned to find E. had called in plumber to stopped up lavatory. Very commendable in her to have got a plumber on a Sunday – advertised in local paper. Tribute to local paper. Plumber an Israeli. Charged £1-12-6.

Jethro Bithell died in February. His widow so informed me in reply to a letter I had addressed to him with a cutting of my Old Vienna book review. As I wrote to her: “The cliche: He was kinder to me than I deserved was absolutely true in my case.’ It is hard for me to realise that nearly thirty years have passed since I last saw and heard him. I still vividly recall every intonation, every gesture.”

Part 103: Thursday 25th October 1962, 8.30 p.m.

Still 90.5kg, though I eat very, very little bread – only this evening, exceptionally, some cheesy toast not eaten up by M and P. The world was nearly annihilated yesterday – I kid you not, H.L. [ Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur] – but it is still here to-day. U.S. is blockading Cuba…Futile for me to report on the international situation – except perhaps the bare bones, as a sort of D.I.Y (Do it Yourself, vogue phrase, H.L.) Keesing’s (it is Keesing’s archives, I think, yes – Keating’s bug powder.

Situation at school depressing. Have no really tough class, as I have had in previous years, but see no prospect of getting any kind of promotion, everybody else moving up and up…

E. [Edith Witriol] went to a “housebound wives” lecture this evening. Max cried in his cot for about 20 minutes while I was washing up, then I brought him down & eventually got him back. All is now quiet. Wish I could capture in words his wails for Mummy, then his satisfaction when Daddy blew up a paper bag, then his quite all-passion-spent agreement to go up to bed taking his animals. ..the Theists can chalk up a mark to themselves for being able to say sincerely: Please, God, let no harm come to them. But it’s only a debating point, to which they’re welcome. The fate of the atheists’ children will not differ from that of the theists’. I can only say, hyper-banal though it is, that life could be good and everybody ought to be able to have a chance to live it.

Have almost re-read Louis Jacobs We Have Reason to Believe. A fine work of apologetics, but, well – if only one could believe. Saw Dock Brief the other night – excellent study of unsuccessful lawyer day – dreaming with client who had murdered wife – not crime passionnel , she just got on his nerves with her incessant jollity, her cheer-up-it-may-never-happening-him – of the brilliant defence he would conduct…

Part 102: Monday 8th October 1962, 9.30 p.m.

Motzei Yom Kippur. A penance, these days. Fasted, but went home for about three hours. Overflow service in marquee adjoining synagogue. Frankie Vaughan ( a top pop singer is the description, I believe) was apparently present in the marquee last night – there was an espalier of people outside the marquee exit looking in, evidently in the hope of catching sight of the T.V. idol.

I sent off my report on the Yiddish novel. It is a saga with the Jewish quarter of Lodz before the first world war as its milieu. I wrote that I thought it would have a succès d’estime but that I could not say how far it would be viable in terms of publishing economics.

Am looking for a job teaching French exclusively, or almost exclusively, with allowance or providing a point d’appui for allowance in another couple of years. Davies gave me a fair (in the sense of just – in both senses, it was not more than “fair”, not “good”) testimonial, but I am afraid my age – 50 – is now against me.

Lily did not go to Mum’s for Rosh Hashono, and as Mum insisted that she did not want Sam on his own, he stayed at Ambrose Avenue. I asked Lily if she would possibly go round to Mum for Yom Kippur, but she said Sam could, she wouldn’t. Apparently, Sam had once said she went round to Mum’s on R/H and Y.K. when it suited her, and this was to demonstrate that it did not suit her to go to Mum’s then. She rang up on Sunday morning (Sunday evening was Kol Nidrei) to say she was going to Mum’s, and Sam was not to “make any business” – he was here at the time. So they did go to Mum for Y/K, at any rate, and I’m hoping that the situation will clear up on this particular front. Halvai.

Had a sensible post-fast meal: Rykings, not the whole buttered loaf I have previously gone in for. Hope this will be reflected on the school scales to-morrow: 90.5 kg. last Tuesday; if I’m not under 90.0kg. to-morrow I shall do my nut.

Part 101: Tuesday 11th September 1962, 10.10 p.m.

Rentreé yesterday. Am now not merely No. 3 in the French hierarchy of Barnsbury Boys’ School, which I was last half, but No. 2 in the hierarchy of the Eden Grove French Dept. (whereas last half I was No. 1 at Eden Grove, vice Davis who had left for a post with an allowance elsewhere). Depressing — C—b —l says his allowance has come through, W—ch got his post with allowance last term at the school, Ch—n takes over at the Assembly this morning – he’s the chap who got the English post for which I put in. I keep on saying I must accept that I shall remain an ungraded teacher, and so what, I had been prepared for this when I started teaching, but it is depressing to have the same status as a girl or boy in their twenties – a lower status, often – too tired to write any more. Am burdened with Sam’s business accounts, trying to get E. to do them. Not fair on her, but I don’t want to “start” with Sam…. Must record the bare bones. Did a translation for Peter Janson-Smith of Rothenberg’s Biblical Archaeology… Valentine Mitchell sent me a Yiddish novel which has been translated into Danish(!) for me to report on. 500 large typescript pages! We took the kids out over the holiday to Derry & Toms (roof garden), more or less Lucullan meal, to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, grim al fresco catering (wooden spatulas for tea, salt in large beakers, rickety tables, litter strewn thick around, to Hampstead Heath, salt-beef fress. We survived – but it was a pretty exhausting business. We painted the kitchen – I ought to be able to make a novel out of that. New lino has been laid. Again, behind the simple statement of fact, the incredible travail: the journeys up West, the placing of an order with X, the countermanding of the order with X and the placing of the order with Y, the precursory ( if the word doesn’t exist, it should) shifting of the gas cooker… On diet again, weighed 14st. 6lb., I think yesterday, on the machine at Manor House station.

Part 100: Wednesday 22nd August 1962, 10.35 p.m.

Wally [Walter, colleague from Young Zionist days], and Beverly Gasson collected us and drove us to Watford where we had a very pleasant tea. I got the kids their hair cut this morning –  a feat. Kept waiting while an odious Jewess with blood-red, protruding fingernails, knuckleduster, had her two fat podges given beauty treatment. Anyway, I suppose it’s just as well one does encounter hundred-per-cent vulgar ostentatious Jewry affluence, as opposed to the discreet opulence of Wally & Bev. W. & B. married 28 years; B. to W. apropos of something or other: “you nit.” This is quite characteristic, I think it is fair to say. In justice to E., she sometimes describes a statement or action of mine as “stupid”, but she doesn’t “nit” me in the presence of third parties.

To Sam’s [brother] last night to help him with his books. I took them home with me in an attaché case provided by Sam. The book-keeping required is of the non-urgent kind, but I suppose any accountant would insist on its being done.

Relations strained between Sam and Lily, but Lily herself, invited us round to tea/supper next Saturday…Perhaps this may bring about a reconciliation, though Lily said that Sam had threatened to leave her if she did not go with him to Mum’s over Rosh Hashono [Jewish New Year].  Must impress on Sam that refusal to visit a husband’s mother, however legitimately distressing to the husband, does not justify a husband leaving his wife.

How futile all this weak, anaemic, stilted sentences are. Why the bloody, f — g hell couldn’t Sam be living happily, in a decent job, with a loving wife and two or three or four loving kids. The short answer is he was too good (the past tense is deliberate). He was good and weak, too, unfortunately (too good to leave Mum to my tender mercies, or to fend for herself; but perhaps also too weak to fend for himself). Perhaps now he is less good and is just in no position to be strong.

 

Part 99: Tuesday August 14th 1962, 3.40 p.m.

A propos the last sentence of the previous entry, [The truth is, Edith is jealous of the quiet, competent manner in which I handle the children.], Max was grizzling at 1.45p.m. while Doreen, who had called to take E. out for a break, was having a coffee in the kitchen with us. I more or less drove E. out of the house, went up to M., found him standing up in his cot with his nappy off (he now has nappies only when sleeping) and a neat turd on his sheet. It was the work of a moment for J. to take the turd in his fingers and dispose of it in the lavatory pan, take M. to the bathroom, pacify him with boats in the wash basin, clean him up (a globule of excrement needed removing from his podex, no more) and have both children fast asleep within minutes.

If it had been E. there would have been commotion, semi-tearful “oh-dear, – Maxie!”-s, “I-can’t-sit-down-for-a-minute”s, a new sheet on the cot…

We all went to Richard [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] on Sunday, by coach to Dorking (just over two hours in the coach, the children took it very well), whence Richard picked us up with Daphne, his eight year old stepdaughter. Going back Richard took us all the way from Burpham, an hour-and-a-half’s drive. A very enjoyable day. Richard has a nice, (yes, nice, H.L. [Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]) £4,200 house.

Esther laid on a very good spread and the kids enjoyed themselves on the swing in the garden and riding Daphne’s tricycle. We enjoyed ourselves speculating on the Richard-Esther-Daphne relationship (Esther was divorced from her Israeli husband). Richard said to us that he and Esther were “not ideally suited” – they have been married just over a year. The trouble is that Esther does not come up to Joyce Ollet’s standards. (Joyce was the committed R.C. from whom Richard eventually broke off – she rang this morning to tell us she was expecting. She is now married to a very high up atom man in Reading. She is coming up for 40; Esther is in her early thirties.

Rose Wagreich, wife of Harry Wagreich, brother of Sam Wagreich, top N.Y. G.P., was over with her 16-year-old daughter. The daughter makes barely intelligible noises – I can only get one word in ten – and understands what is said through lip-reading, I gather. Rose fears she is going blind. Harry teaches physics at City College, Rose teaches elementary school. Rose was wonderful; her loving patience with her daughter is beyond all praise. She was the unwitting cause of another bust-up at Ambrose Avenue, apparently the bust-up to end all bust-ups, Mum was present, but was specifically exculpated by Sam [brother]. I’m hopeful things will right themselves again. It is, alas, obvious that Sam and Lily are not ideally suited, but then how many married couples are?

Part 98: Sunday August 5th 1962, 3.15 p.m.

Well, the course is over. A first-rate affair. 105 teacher-students, divided into 7 groups, each under an H.M.I. To my surprise, most of the students were very well up in their French…(one woman, a Mrs Whitfield, non-Jewish, taught at Carmel College)…It was a joy to hear good cultured French.

I allowed myself to be our group’s rapporteur of the discussions pédagogiques, i.e., discussions on French teaching method…Our lectures were held in the Rue Henri Heine, and I cogitated throughout the fortnight on a Heine lead-in – “Heinrich Heine, now better known to us as Henri Heine, wrote a series of articles (an article?) for the Revue des Deux Mondes entitled “Confessions of a Poet…” and the idea was to link this with “Confessions of a Rapporteur”. In the event…when my turn came I abandoned the Heine lead-in, gave a perfunctory account of our very pedestrian discussions, but finished up with the vous-me-pardonnerez-c’est-votre-metier gag – I just couldn’t avoid parading Heine.

Anyway, it was done, the reaction of the group when Miss Dancer [the “weak, prim, lady-headmistressy H.M.I taking their group] detailed me for the job was sooner-you-than-me and a number of people congratulated me: I had taken less time than any of the others, and at least I hadn’t read out a carefully written string of platitudes.

E. [wife Edith] has just been in: “That’s right, tell them all about me…” — ? —  “Whatever you right (?! Freudian explanation, E. is right?) about me is detrimental.” All because I took an hour off this morning to clear up my bookcases. Poor E., nebbich, she wants the next one to be a girl and a blue stocking so that she (the girl) can show me up. But blue stockings have to have books, and a girl stands a better chance of becoming a blue-stocking if at least one of her parents is bookish.

Mea maxima culpa once more: I suppose I should manage my personal affairs between 5 and 7 a.m. and be at E’s disposal for the rest of the time she is awake. Better still, I suppose I ought to be earning £2,000 a year; anybody earning less, I suppose, can afford neither the money to buy books, nor the space to keep them, nor the time to read them and keep them in order – especially after Philip and Max have put them in disorder.

Oh well, it’s 4 p.m., all is quiet and peaceful, will break off now till the next outbreak. (P. would not eat his dinner to-day; eventually Daddy put the egg-timer he had brought from Paris on the table, challenged P. to eat his dinner before the sand disappeared from the top half of the hour-glass. P. accepted the challenge and ate his dinner. The truth is, E. is jealous of the quiet, competent manner in which I handle the children.

Part 97: Thursday July 10th 1962, 9.45 p.m.

A fine, cool evening. Returned from last class at Friern Barnet. There’s still another class to go, officially, but I decided to close down the class as I leave for Paris on the morning of the 18th, and I shall need the Tuesday evening, 17th, for packing.

The Ministry of Education placed me on its reserve list for the Paris course..and that which I hoped/feared came to pass – they offered me a place. I want to go because, primarily, I must have something to put down on an application form for a better job – especially in French. It may be that at 50 I stand no chance anyway, but I do not want to feel I have failed to do what I could have done towards a better job. I can’t deny that after fifteen months intense domesticity — pram and push-chair pushing, baby-minding, never stirring outside the Mayfield Avenue – Eden Grove/Camden Road – Southgate – Dinmore House – Moresby Road orbit — I welcome the break. On the other hand it will set me back £20 -£30 which may well have proved (the Hebrew phrase al keren ha’tsvi occurs to me – have I got it right? [yes – הניח כספו על קרן הצבי]) flung down the drain.

The shoulder still a nuisance; to-day feeling stiff generally, à la every-picture-tells-a-story (what has happened, by the way, to Kruschen salts, which used to show the story-picture of the crippled rheumatic leaping through the air “after”?) Maxie bashed his nose – Philip, apparently, pushed him off the bathroom stool when E. [wife, Edith Witriol, née Katz] rushed down to answer the door. His face is gradually assuming its normal colouring; a couple of days ago it was glorious technicolour. E. took him to the doctor and the hospital (she had to take Philip with).

Maxie’s birthday party went off well, except that I went off the very deep end – poor Mum again. If only she could keep Mum like Boobbe Esther [Edith’s mother]. Anyway, mea maxima culpa. The rift in the Sam and Lily [brother and his wife] lute seems to have blown over (awful mixed metaphors – who cares? I want to get back to my soma – La Cavalerie Lourde as of now; any French book with plenty of good colloquial French – not necessarily extreme argot.

 

Part 96: Whit Sunday 10th June 1962, 9 p.m.

Heat wave yesterday, to-day cool but fine.  Geoffrey & Hélène Stalbow picked us up and took us down to the old man – 84 – at Harpenden. We all stowed in  – Hélène & Geoffrey’s two girls, Ruth,12 and Judith, 9, and Philip & Max – in a four-seater car, but Geoffrey kept up a continuous patter which made the journeys there and back pass quickly. Max behaved unexpectedly well. They are a fine couple, Geoffrey squat, sturdy, bull-necked, like his old man; Hélène slim, trim, quiet, still pretty at – 36? She drove, Geoffrey apparently doesn’t drive. Strange, since he’s very much an aggressively – almost -virile type & was a captain in the R.A. The old man lives alone in his house with garden – he lives for Zionism and his garden…he’s an extraordinary character. He spends half the year in Rehovot & the summer at Harpenden…

Domestic trouble at Ambrose Avenue. Tension between Sam & Lily because Sam said some weeks ago, in front of Mum, that Lily hated/disliked/did not like us & the kids (the exact words are not certain…). Lily denies – what have the children done to me? Sam talks of leaving her, but I don’t see how he can….he’s nowhere to go to except Mum, and I told him he must try to imagine Mum’s in a single room & he can’t use Moresby Road as a bolt-hole. He says he’ll find somewhere else, but he can’t afford to keep up the house at Ambrose Avenue & pay £3-10-0 a week for a room. Basically the trouble is due to the fact that Lily, au fond, sticks to her conception of you-bring-in-the-money-and-I’ll-keep-a-nice home and is unwilling to recognise that to keep up her nice home…she needs a husband earning at least £1500 a year…I’m hoping…things will take a turn for the better. It seems all wrong, a more harmless, inoffensive chap than Sam it would be hard to find – a sod like me one can understand these things happening to – but he has to suffer because of his mother and brother…

Mum says she can no longer cope. Her geyser has conked out, it will cost £38 to replace. She will come round here for a bath to-morrow. Lily says Sam throws in her face that Mum lives alone…thousands of people live alone, thousands don’t so – more or less – what, Edith says I didn’t worry about Mum living alone before I married her. One can only hope, and this is of course my mother’s prayer, that she will be able to look after herself to the last. In any case, the spare bedroom at Ambrose Avenue is now used as an office/stock room… And — wait for it  — E. is pregnant once more. The safe period has not been so safe. Extraordinary thing about E. – one has only to breathe on her and she becomes pregnant. Extraordinary thing about J. – always feared he was impotent, and told the girls after he had more-or-less proposed to them that he was afraid he might be impotent. Ah well, sweet mystery of life. I hope Edith has an easier confinement than the previous two, and that No. 3 is as bonny as Max. “Bonny” is not an adjective one can apply to Philip, he’s too thin, but touch wood he is a healthy, if perhaps somewhat nervous and highly strung child.

Part 95: Monday 28th May 1962, 9.15 p.m.

Injected last Monday, but no change in shoulder condition…the pain is not severe, but continuous and tends, I am afraid,  to make me even less easy to live with than I am normally (poor E. wants to natter about the fireplace she has painted, the kitchen walls she wants to paint in the summer holidays; I, after keeping the kids – bless ’em – company till 8.30 p.m., just want to read).

Went to a conference on language teaching, at Woodberry Down, last Tuesday. Opened my mouth -in folly – strange to think that nearly thirty years ago I talked on equal terms with [Abba] Eban and [Victor] Mishcon. I seem to be unable to string half a dozen mediocre sentences together off the cuff. A propos of a concluding remark by Mrs Cox, the formidably efficient (but carefully avoiding any “mannishness” – pearls, soignée) Head of Woodberry Down’s Language Dept., that in translating, elegance (or correctness? – it doesn’t affect the issue) of English should be sacrificed to accuracy, I referred – clumsily – to my professional experience as a translator and said that to an English publisher readability of English was the first consideration; I myself – and others – simply omitted any difficult or uncertain passages. MacGowan [school Inspector] said he thought this was damnable, on a level with the “Daily Express”.

Another of the lecturers took the micky out of the je-coupe-la-banane – type of lesson; one learnt a foreign language to  acquire its literary treasures, not to be able to buy shoelaces in the market. He quoted Ruskin on housemaids and queens. His lecture was brilliant entertainment, but I thought that if there were a hiatus in the discussion I would make some crack about the housewife of to-day preferring to converse with a housemaid, if she could get one, to a queen. However, the opportunity did not occur. The last lecture was by a chap who provided an effective contrast to the Ruskin-quoter; he (the last lecturer) had sec. mod. kids to teach and gave them, with plenty of his own duplicated material, stuff of the “Avez-vous dansé le twist” kind. He was a youngish chap, full of enthusiasm,imagination; obviously he just doesn’t potter around when he comes home. Reading The Small Room by one May Sarton, on womens’ college in States.