Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 36: Philip my son, my son Philip

Tuesday, 10th February, 11.15 p.m.

E. [Edith Witriol] presenting a rather East Lynne-ish picture to-night. Poor girl – she has been going through it. She is being kept on a low diet, is having the wind taken out of her and, as she says, her body is not her own.

Next time – if there is a n.t. – perhaps I would keep my mother to her word and E. could go in as a private patient. The medical attention would not be better, perhaps, but she wouldn’t be mucked about and observed by so many people and perhaps one wouldn’t find sisters of the bitchy type whom I encountered to-night. She made an unnecessary crack about the food that was being brought to Edith and which E. couldn’t eat. She has also created some alarm and despondency. When I asked her about the Briss [short for brit milahcovenant of circumcision’], she said I was to tell the Mohel  [circumciser] that “it was a Caesarean and not very satisfactory” and that the ward sister was to examine the baby before the mila could be performed. She probably meant that it was not very satisfactory for a Caesarian baby to be c-cised on the 8th day after birth, but her remark was upsetting all the same. As far as a layman can judge, Philip seems healthy enough – no special measures are being taken in connection with him as far as one can see – and the number of “Caesars” is legion.

I find it very hard to experience any paternal feelings. No time. School, chores (minimum, admitted – Mrs H. will clean out the flat on Friday, and most meals I have at the Mums, and my mum will give me provisions for the w/e), to E. at hospital, then phone calls to both Mums & Alf [Katz, Edith’s brother], to Sam (he in bed to-day with cold; a worry, he can’t afford to take a day off; fortunately Lily was able to go in to-day), to Bikkur Cholim [lit. ‘visiting the sick’ society] woman, to Mohel, to Franny, [?] etc. Before writing this, dashed off another application for deputy headship pro-forma. But must try to think less of myself. All that matters is that Edith and Philip should be well. And myself too. If I have to be confined to bed, let it be in the holidays. But better not at all. Angst, angst, angst all the time. Philip – there’s no point in reproaching me with having brought you into the world, son. Admittedly my reasons were, au fond, au fond, right au fond, selfish, but in spite of the times when I have said I wished I had never been born or that I had died, I am, as of now, life-affirming. Anyway, for all I know you may turn out to be a cheerful extrovert. It is too much to expect you to be spared all sorrows, but may you be healthy above all. The rest will follow. Perhaps I have got paternal feelings after all. Philip my son, my son Philip. When you’re giving me heart-aches later on, low position in class, shikse-kreechin [going after non-Jewish girls] (by which I don’t mean forming a genuine attachment to a decent non-Jewish girl to love, I shan’t do any shiva  [week long period of mourning following a relative’s death], mirror-covering act, let her “come over”, or – if you’re both agnostics (and how can I blame you for being what I am) at least Phil — al tifrosh min ha-tzibbur [do not separate yourself from the community] – when, etc. — I must try to think of you as you were in your cot to-night; your shrivelled mug, your black hair, your bawling and yawning.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 35: A child is born. Stop.

Monday, 9th February, 11.27 p.m.

She became an e.s., hallelujah, [ i.e., em semeycha, Hebrew אֵם שְׂמֵחָה, joyful mother, Psalm 113:9] at 1.5 p.m. to-day at the Middlesex hospital. She had a difficult labour and eventually a Caesarean. These are women’s finest hours, in which they make men seem pretty sheepish. The clinical observation – almost, anyway – at the beginning of this entry conceals a pretty harrowing 40-odd hours. I found myself quite callous watching Edith having her contractions on the Sunday evening, thinking it was the last lap – but this morning the sister phoned me at school to tell me that it had been decided to do a Caesarean, and suggested I ring back at 4 p.m. I suppose, H.L.[Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur], you have been or will go through this yourself, so I will not enlarge. My mother said, movingly, soll er osvachsen a koovid ts’n aich ‘n a koovid tsem yeedentoom. Omeyn. [roughly: “May he grow up to be a credit to himself and to the Jewish people. Amen.”  I remember my grandmother blessing me thus.] And may I be a worthy husband to Edith and a good father to Philip.

 

These are telegrams, cards and notes received from relatives and others after my birth. I do not know the names of some of the senders.

Telegram from Leib Potash and family, Southport and the Rosens [?], North (i.e. Barnsbury)

Telegram from Leib Potash and family, Southport and the Rosens [?], North (i.e. Barnsbury)

From Alf Katz and Esther Katz

From Alf Katz and Esther Katz

From Yetta Witriol

From Yetta Witriol

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

The Log - Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log – Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log - Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log – Furness Withy staff magazine.

Birthday card from Senior Ramblers Group

Birthday card from Senior Ramblers Group

Birthday card from Deborah Coltonoff (my mum's Aunt)

Birthday card from Deborah Coltonoff (my mum’s Aunt)

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from 1959

Letter from Rita Learer (husband Harold, daughter Susan)

Letter from Rita Learer (husband Harold, daughter Susan)

Birthday card from John Miles [?]

Birthday card from John Miles

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from John Miles #2

Birthday card from John Miles #2

Birthday card from Henry [?]

Birthday card from Henry [?]

Letter from Audrey Fowler-Dixon

Letter from Audrey Fowler-Dixon, landlady at 406 Camden Road

Letter from Edna & John Julius

Letter from Edna & John Julius

Letter from Joyce 2

Letter from Joyce 2

Letter from Joyce [?] 1

Letter from Joyce [?] 1

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)2

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)2

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)1

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)1

Telegrams from Rose Lament [?], Stamford Hill and Frances, Louis and Susan [?], Golders Green

Telegrams from Rose Lament [?], Stamford Hill and Frances, Louis and Susan [?], Golders Green

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 34: Who was/is/will be a Jew?

Tuesday, 2nd February 1959, 11.10 p.m.

Thames & Hudson were evidently unable to find a competent translator for Beno Rothenberg’s Sinai book, and now want me to “report” on it for them. It seems almost certain that I shall get the commission, on my own terms of £3-3-0 a thou. The outlandish Arabic names (in Hebrew letters) present a difficulty. Moreover, on top of my Monday evening French class and Sunday morning NLJC class and – we  hope – a lusty infant, I shall be up to my eyebrows. Still, one must seize the opportunity.

MacGawan, the L.C.C. Divisional Inspector, passed me (observing me do a history lesson) for interview by an Inspector’s Panel at County Hall – in connection with my application for the Promotion List. I have had the interview; I don’t think I did badly in it, but am not entertaining any hopes. I missed my chance 5-6 years ago; at 46 I am a bit long in the tooth for a headship. Though surprisingly enough my age was not mentioned in the County Hall interview.

Have written out my “Who is a Jew” essay. It lacks the firm grip on the subject, the closely-reasoned argumentation, but frankly – I think it’s worth 10 guineas. The 1200-word limit was a great difficulty.

Edith now shoin neynter vee veiter, [see comment below] but we shall all be glad when she’s an em semeycha, hallelujah [Psalm 113:9].

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 33: Taxing times

Friday, 2nd January 1959. 11.20 a.m.

Writing this in Holloway Central Library, to be out of the way of Mrs Holland – who “obliges” for E [Edith Witriol] – and her little daughter.

Have kept my diet so far! Have also risen virtuously early. Outburst of tears from E. last night. She depressed after mauling at hospital and I out all day and failing to be “communicative” on my return. Very difficult. Had spat with Mum previously re income-tax demand. She wants to pay schedule A tax at standard rate, though her income is bona fide low enough for her to have to pay far less than the standard rate. But she doesn’t want to reveal her income (rent from tenants), etc. Very difficult, but still – abee gezinnt.

I see the J.C. [The Jewish Chronicle] is offering prizes for the best essay on “What is a Jew?” [sic – Who is a Jew? was the title]. Also very difficult – one must be careful to stick to the terms, I imagine, which are that one must put oneself in the place of a recipient of Ben Gurion’s letter to various Jewish scholars asking them to reply to the question: “What is a Jew?” [sic!] However the prizes: £50, £25 and £10 for each essay printed, are worth competing for. A pity this breaks just at the end of my holiday – perhaps will try to get to J.C. library on the last day.