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).

Part 53: Sunday, 13th March 1960, 8.35p.m.

Mr Balin died, after much suffering and hospitalisation. The internment at Marlow Rd. cemetery. Mick and Sam comported themselves very well; Mick tall, thin, Roman-ascetic, in regulation bowler; Sam more rounded. Newman, the G/G synagogue minister said it was not permitted to deliver a hesped [eulogy] on Purim, but gave a short hesped (a zchiss [honour] which the deceased earned by virtue of Mick’s wardenship of the G/G synagogue.

Dined with E. yesterday at Gennaro’s [?] & saw Irma La Douce; our wedding anniversary celebration. E. enjoyed the lights and the general living it up; Leicester Square on a Saturday night is a fine place to be away from.

Am teaching French Monday evening’s at Church St, English for foreigners (mostly middle-aged Hungarian Jewesses) at Woodberry Down on Tuesday evenings, and E. for F. (mostly German/Austrian domestics) at Southgate on Wednesdays. Will carry on this term, but must drop at least one class for the summer term, when I am due to teach at a secondary school.

Received a letter asking me to do a light article on “Mechutanship” [mechutan =Yiddish term for your child’s parent-in-law] or something similar for a J.C. “Brides and Homes” supplement. Concocted a “Letter to a Baal Simcha” which duly appeared; “rotten she-b’rotten” said my mother. I agree, but I have a family to feed, and cannot afford any never-publish-anything-beneath-his-own-highest-level nonsense.

Part 52: Tuesday, 9th February 1960, 10.00p.m.

Philip’s birthday, marred unfortunately by a spat just now with E. I had gone down to the dining-room, where E. was ironing, intending to give the little woman a little company while making this entry. It would have been better, in the event, had I not gone down, as E. construed my presence, reasonably, I suppose, as an invitation to talk; I was curt, and said if I couldn’t have quiet I might as well go upstairs – “Go upstairs” – and here I am. All very sad, but I’m afraid after the nerve-wracking days I have at school, in which E. seems completely uninterested, while expecting me to manifest an interest in her trivial round, I just find myself unable to maintain control.

The Divisional H.M.I. is due to visit the school on Thursday. Burden has told him I want to teach secondary. Whether the H.M.I. will be able to get me into a secondary school, and whether I shall be better off if I get into one, is a very moot point. Burden has said it was not his policy to saddle teachers with “B” classes over a prolonged period, and, had I not Farbe bekannt, it seems likely he would have given me an “A” class next year. Even so, there would almost certainly be P.E. for all third/fourth year boys, ditto craft, and in spite of the fact that I somehow manage to get 40 boys doing something remotely resembling P.E. and even get some – very little admittedly – passable craft – I feel I might be better off in what would be a purely blackboard jungle in a secondary school.

Feeling a heel. Must go down to try to make peace with E, perhaps by reading her this entry & entry of a year ago.

Part 51: Tuesday, 26th January 1960, 10p.m.

JOURNAL  VOLUME 2

26 JAN 1960 TO 31 DEC 1963

 

Journal Vol 2 coverA sad opening to the new volume of this diary. My uncle by marriage, Menachem Kessler (husband of my mother’s sister Doar/Devorah) died in Petah-Tikva. He had been ill for some time, but the death came as a surprise. He was a fine man; simple, sincere, one of the early Chalutsim [pioneers] embarrassingly proud of me when I visited him during the war. I am afraid his widow will not long survive him, she is unable to write. Sarah, the deceased’s only child, says she hopes her mother will shortly be able to write to mine. Halvai [would that it were so].

Mrs Sugarman, a lantzfro of my mother’s (or perhaps the wife of a lantzman of my mother’s) also died. Again, a sad loss. On reflection, I think she was English —, or almost-English — born. She was forthright, and according to my mother, wanted to die. She had been a diabetic for some time, and her eyesight was poor. In the end, in spite of her four children (I make no moral pronouncements) she was living on her own in furnished rooms. Ceste unique fable et tragique comedie de la vie as I remember Rabelais having said.

In Germany there has been swastika daubing which has proved contagious, but I can’t get worked up. Incidentally, another tragic death not so long ago: Lionel Rose, whose leadership of the immediate post-war Ajex [The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women] defamation campaign I vividly remember.

Joseph Witriol: one of the speaker's in AJEX's campaign against antisemitism and Fascism AFTER WW2

At Speakers’ Corner

He gave every ounce of himself to the campaign. I remember his saying once at an open-air meeting that he had a vested interest in the fight against Fascism, his two children. I too now have a vested interest, in the shape of Philipil, in the fight against Fascism and Anti-Semitism, but there’s not much I can do about it. (In fairness to myself, L.R. was a paid official – not that the intensity or quality of his speeches should be measured in financial terms – while I: yesterday home at 10.30 p.m. after evening institute session, this morning on P.G. duty, craft, P.E., no free periods, etc.) Anyway, I just can’t visualise myself on a platform in Hyde Park, as I used to be in 1947/48. Or can’t I? I think not. Then I was with Sam. Now, I think I might not want the notoriety that would attach to me at school.

In Algeria, the colons are behind barricades, against De Gaulle’s proposal for (eventual) Algerian independence. Have started on La Peste (Camus) – Camus another recent death.

Es ist ein Schnitter, heisst der Tod – and he seems to have been putting in overtime lately.