Part 90: Thursday 15th March 1962, 9.45p.m.

Nat Teff has died. He was about 50 and had been very ill. Leaves a wife, schoolboy and schoolgirl. He was a (half?) brother of the late Mrs Sugarman, I think. The usual assortment of death-tags occur to one, but they offer no solace.

One can only pray – I mean hope – that one doesn’t become a burden to anyone before one goes. I suppose that’s all, for oneself – the fact that one was self-supporting would of itself ensure that one did not suffer excessive pain; if one did, one wouldn’t be able to work, hence one would become a burden, Q.E.D. And, for one’s loved ones younger than oneself one hopes for a good span of life on the same terms – for those older than oneself the same.

Incoherence partly due to Edith nattering on phone to Lily [sister-in-law], je constate tout simplement. (Purely for the record, I rang up – to speak to Sam [brother] – and was answered by Lily. E. had told me she wanted to speak to her. I called E. to the phone and then started this entry. It is now 9.55 by kitchen clock. E. finished about 10.10 – by the dining-room clock, which is ahead of the kitchen clock — oh…)

Part 89: Saturday 3rd March 1961, 8.45p.m.

Sam [brother] is giving up his business. He has been pouring money down the drain into it for the last three years. He will be 56 in April, Lily is 53. What will they do? I went round there this afternoon. Lily says she realises she has got to earn her living. I said Mum ought to live with them, thereby releasing her flat at Moresby Road [Hackney], from which £5 a week net before tax could be got, but she says no – they will manage. “Your mother is difficult to get on with.” As my mother says, one prays to God for old age…

[Sam] is eligible for employment as a clerical officer by the L.C.C; starting at £575 p.a; but I am not sanguine about his chances of getting in. He is also entering a Civil Service over-40 competition, but here again I am pessimistic.

It’s galling; he’s done everything for me – coached me for my Junior County Scholarship, kept the family going, let me live like a lord when I was demobbed…All I can do is to hope they keep in good health, or healthy enough to go out to work each of them.

S.B. has walked out on his wife M. after twenty-five years of what Mum always described as a model marriage. They were her tenants – men hat nischt geherrt kenokker vertt fin zey. They had adopted a girl, now 14. S apparently is impotent, or at any rate sterile – perhaps they’re not the same thing – his seed is like water, says Mum. Mum had a fenster hartz off zey because they adopted V. and brought her into the house without telling Mum…Sam says it is possible M. may go to live with her Mum…If she went, I suppose I ought to give serious consideration to the possibility of our moving in…

Meanwhile, my own situation is such that I have borrowed £50 from the bank…I suspect that in about three months’ time I shall again be insolvent, or rather unable to maintain this house. In that case should I try to force the issue by moving into Moresby Road – perhaps M & V could free one of the two rooms they now occupy?

My article appeared – cut – in the Jewish Chronicle but has aroused no comment in the correspondence columns as yet. One Dr Ruth Cohen wrote to me from the German Hospital to say that an Irish ward sister had assured her that “neebeech” was Gaelic for frail, puny person. Coincidence, pure coincidence, as I wrote to Dr. Cohen.

An unexpected commission from D.F.Long – an article on man-made fibres in Israel to translate. Will net me about £6. O.K., so I had about £5 pinched from me the other morning at Camden Road. Zoll zahn de kupoora. Half my report books missing on Friday, doing my nut (thinks: everybody must think this chap Witriol is just impossible, he can’t hold a thing — I could have sworn I’d left ’em all in the staff-room, with the work-sheet inside the top book – Anderson’s – at 5p.m. on Thursday, 1st March — I could have sworn, but would I have sworn? No, I wouldn’t, honest Joe). About 3.15 p.m. Mrs Read presents me with the missing books – Martin, the woodwork man, had taken them home and just returned them to her. I am reduced to !**!

Part 88: Sunday 31st December 1961, 9.45p.m.

The old year expiring in snow-drifts. Sam [brother] marooned. Unexpectedly received a new 4-vol English-Hebrew dictionary from Beno Rothenberg, together with a letter asking me if I would be interested in going to Israel if a “job”, house, etc; were waiting for me. Wrote saying could not consider settlement in Israel, even a two-year spell difficult. It is strange, considering how ardent – and, I like to think, sincere – a Young Zionist I was, that Israel per se has such little attraction for me. I suppose it’s the vis inertiae.

But there is the point that I have to consider E’s mum – as regards depriving her of the kids, Boobbe Yetta [mother] says she would go to Israel with me (living with whom?) – and Sam, who is now coming up for 56 and in whose not particularly happy life the kids are the only ray of sunshine. And although I have no illusions about the difficulties of Jewish living in England, I hanker after the idea that P. or M. or both of them will make the mark in the specifically English world that I failed to make.

All absurd, all confused, but in any case, the practical question remains: What job, what house has B.R. in mind? Though even here, there seems little point in asking. Presumably the house would contain E; the kids, myself and the books; we should be as warm as – warmer than – we are here, and I don’t see how E. could work harder. The kids’ clothes would have to be washed more often, but there would be fewer of them. I’m applying the same sort of criteria that I would to the possibility of settling in Italy or Argentina. Very strange, but there you are.

Part 87: Wednesday 27th December 1961, 10.30p.m.

Very cold, Mum poorly. She stayed a couple of day’s at Sam’s. We went round there yesterday for  couple of hours, home by hired car – 20/- plus 2/- tip. The kids more of a handful than ever, bless ’em. Aunt Debbie round to-day. The kids screaming blue (why blue?) murder. I was typing an article – Polish-Russian elements in Yiddish – in the study. Eventually I was able to pacify P., who was furiously demanding “little R” – he can now recognise most of the letters of the alphabet. There’s no question of my forcing him; he asks me to “do letters.”

Financial situation still dodgy…without translating commissions it will be a struggle to keep heads above water. Am glad got the Polish-Russian Yiddish article out of my system, even if the J.C. don’t accept it. [it was published by the Jewish Chronicle]

Break for ice-cream and raspberries and coffee.  Azoi geht ess – even in my holiday to get two hours a day to do my schoolwork (have to get February half-yearly exams done; difficult, have to test 3M on “commerce”, spend most of the lesson threatening them with lines, detention), see to accounts, corres; and any “literary” work or study – is kreass yam soof. Well, well – abee gezinnt, abee gezinnt.

The 23 Enigma by Max Witriol

Many years ago I seem to remember Ben Elton doing a comedy skit in which he lampooned young people who voted Conservative – he could forgive older people for voting Tory, but to do it when you’re young was to his mind unthinkably pathetic. Leaving aside the assumption that young people can’t think for themselves and choose to vote Conservative, I must admit I went along with this thinking and, to my shame, was a bit of a lefty – mainly due to the musical influence of Paul Weller, Billy Bragg and the other “anti-Fatcherites” of that era.  

However, I would flip Elton’s diatribe (especially now I’m all grown up) and say that while it’s one thing for a young person to vote Labour, for anyone over the age of 23 to do so is unforgivable – especially given the current state of the Labour Party and its appalling leader. We still see “older people” and, even worse, Jews among them, clinging to the view that the Labour Party is not infested with antisemitism. At best they say that Corbyn hasn’t done enough to address the problem  – they apparently still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that Corbyn is himself a vile antisemite.  And they are working to get him elected.

But unfortunately we live in a world where Conservatives  have also been totally influenced by left-wing thinking, especially in the realm of what might loosely be termed political correctness. Take Theresa May – as much as she is infinitely preferable to Corbyn, what is there to say about someone who allows hundreds of terrorists who have been fighting for Isis in Syria back into this country?  Or who oversees 23 thousand people on the MI5 terror suspect watchlist, but takes no action against any of them. Then when an attack happens we inevitably get told that one of the attackers was on the list  – like it’s an accolade, coz, hey, it’s been proven even more accurate than the weather forecast. A classic case of bolting the gate and then blowing it apart with dynamite.

But of course when anyone suggests that these 23,000 traitors should be locked up, let alone deported, they are instantly branded as a raving racist lunatic. Not only are they not locked up,  let alone deported, they are allowed to roam freely and, in many cases, claim housing and all other benefits so that they can carry on their treacherous plots against their host country. Future terrorists not only walking freely but being financed by the government – so effectively the nation is paying for its own destruction.

23 again. That was the number of Russian diplomats that Mrs. May expelled recently in the wake of the Russian nerve gas attack.  Yes, she overnight grew a spine and acted with decisiveness, strength and alacrity when it came to the aftermath of a single incident. I’m not criticising her for that action per se, but contrast that with her behaviour vis-a-vis the Islamist crisis in our midst and you see someone who is only prepared to take action when she feels the media and world leaders will go along with it (and yes, they largely climbed aboard).  A truly decisive and effective leader would tackle the would-be jihadists with absolute disregard for the politically correct lunatics who have taken over the asylum.

Small wonder then that she aligned herself with critics of Israel’s actions in protecting themselves from being invaded and massacred. “Show more restraint” she chastised the IDF for doing what they had to do to stop the bloodbath that the Palestinians were craving. I have to say, the excellent Michael Freeman showed far more restraint than I thought was humanly possible when interviewed on various TV programmes and asked why Israel acted like it did in the Gaza crisis.  I would have been tempted to say: “because we’re not mad, suicidal lunatics like you lot”. Then again, that’s why he’s the diplomat and I’m not.

Part 86: Monday 23rd October 1961, 2.30p.m.

First day mid-term. Slight ear-ache, slight sore throat, slight spottiness on legs with irritation, but – abee gezinnt. P. sleeping in cot, M. running around with bottle in study. Hope to slip off with E. to flicks to night, Doreen and Alf baby-sitting. Nothing much to report; K (Kruscheff) talks about exploding 500 megaton bomb, which presumably could annihilate 50, 500 ? million people (500 million people is probably an exaggeration; why don’t you know your facts, Witriol – though, of course, I imagine one has to allow a “margin” of an odd million or so). A.J.P. Taylor, in a review yesterday, says his guess is that at the end of the century a few thousand people will be eking out an existence in caves, though the guess of the historian whose book he was reviewing was that millions of people (how many millions?) will be living in unparalleled happiness. Hinchcliffe, who I believe I have mentioned here before, certainly takes a gloomy view and told me he was seriously considering migrating to somewhere “safer” – India or Nigeria, say. He says, as far as I can judge, rightly – that one ought to have serious Civil Defence plans, as Sweden has. Apparently the latter country can get all its population deep underground and keep them there for weeks (months)?).

Part 85: Sunday 1st October 1961, 4.35p.m.

Leo Youngerwood’s mother passed away. Mot [?] took Sam [brother] and myself to the funeral at Bushey. Normally, I would have gone to Dinmore House with E. [wife, Edith] and the children; this Sunday Doreen – Alf’s [Edith’s brother]  young lady, more of her anon – would have taken us there in the car. However, Mot took me back home and I had a little shloof (why do we tell Philip to have a little shloof, davvke? – there’s nothing particularly emotive about the word, yet somehow one talks to him, and he repeats “goin’ have a shloof.”) Yes, Doreen – a charming girl…and runs a smart car. A schoolteacher, now teaching infants, but she did have the scholarship class, with which she got fed up. I never reached the heights of taking the scholarship class; well, well. Watch these pages for future developments.

Yesterday I received a piddling little job. A proof slip with the printed characters on it (Hebrew characters): Lama Ha-miklat ha-zeh shonneh mikol ha-acherim? (It’s quicker for me to write be’atiyot latinot than Hebrew proper, in either print or cursive, and this even though I have to think about the transliteration). The printer evidently knew no Hebrew and had got several of the Hebrew characters wrong…Stupidly, I translated Miklat as gramophone record (for which the Hebrew, of course, is Taklit). Incidentally, it’s Maklet, not Miklat. My one-volume all-Hebrew dictionary doesn’t give Maklet, but the five-volume one, an extraordinarily generous and useful gift from my late uncle Menachem, does; it means radio set (as well as telephone receiver). Anyway, I rectified the error. I charged ’em 10/6 –  a purely nominal fee – for what really ought not to have taken more than fifteen minutes from the time of opening [the] envelope and putting mine in our nearby pillar box. The rectifying post-card took another five-ten minutes.

Part 84: Wednesday 13th September 1961, 8.50p.m.

Rosh Hashanah has come and gone, on Mon. & Tue, 11th & 12th. Every year now I get the feeling that I am going through some charade; for the last ten years the world apparently, has been on the brink of self-extermination, and we go on blowing our shofars and going through the rest of the rigmarole. School started –  for me – to-day. Pouring rain but morale initially on the whole good. I have a form, at last; a lower 1st year form, but with only one or two exceptions they all wore school uniform which, at least, was heartening. Present mood rather black. Rushed to Friern Barnet Evening Institute for enrolment duties only to find Newman – the principal – had forgotten that he had asked me to do enrolment this evening and tomorrow evening. I suspected there might be a shlemozzle as I had not heard from him in writing…Anyway, he ran me home and I introduced him to the family. Philip announced that he had cut off boobbe. Newman was familiar with the word, I asked him how he came to know it. He said the children of his neighbour were always talking about their boobbe. His neighbour turned out to be Norman Eckert, who was at Forest [Teacher Training College] with me. He did history, I remember, and was very keen – now has an S.R. post, of course. I remember his telling me he was assistant stage manager at the Yiddish theatre in Stoke Newington.

Went to Deepdene yesterday – a home for Jewish infirm blind. Koschland [Rev Bernard Koschland, Woodside Park Rabbi] had appealed in the morning at the overflow service for people to make up a minyan [quorum of ten men for prayers]I turned out to be the only one to have responded. Plaskow, our young – and excellent – chazan [cantor] did a sort of mincha [afternoon prayer service]. The other “visitors” present were apparently members of one Lenga(?)’s committee. He asked if I would care to join the committee. When I said I had to give a hand at home he didn’t press the invitation. Presumably committee membership involves 3-figure donations. The house cost £12,000; equipment £40,000. There were seven or eight women residents at the service, one man. Some of the committee lifted up a lady – I use the word deliberately – with an amputated leg in her wheelchair.

While I was starting on this entry E. hacked me oon a tcheinik about the nappy man. I was unable to register rapt interest. Tension. My fault I suppose. “Nothing more important than your dairy”. I suppose it is a waste of time. It’s not a complete, or even properly selective record, of my trivial (but wearing) round and common task. I suppose all my troubles arise from lack of moral fibre. I ought to go and sit down (Hinchcliffe is going to, also has wife and two children) and invite 3 months inside (and lose job? Hinchcliffe not all that worried, perhaps, about this, because he’s giving up the job anyway to see if he can make a go playwrighting, and he once confided to me that he’d been left some property by his grandfather). Earl Russell, 89, sentenced to week’s imprisonment; Wesker, Bolt and others to one month’s. Got to hand it to them. Russell, one imagines, will get V.I.P. treatment; after all, he’s a Lord, and old (in that order). Wesker? He’s a Yid.

Part 83: Thursday 7th September 1961, approx 11am

Overslept this morning, we awoke around 9.15 am. Dreamt a) Had received a bill for transport of books to Ireland, evidently – it seemed in the dream – the books I had sold to Sulzbacher. Clipped to the bills were miniature bottles of liquor. Dream. problem: How to get the bill to Sulzbacher (he had obviously sold the books to a customer in Ireland)? I could not send it through the post unless I packed it elaborately, to avoid the bottles getting smashed. I decided to give the bill to Sam [brother] when he next called, so that he could take it to Sulzbacher (whose house-and-business premises are near him) who, I took it, would stand Sam a drink from one of the bottles, b) I was worried about Philip and Max, I rushed into the shop (sic, at Newington Butts)…to find Philip tumbling down followed by Max. I grabbed hold of them and rushed with them to E. who was talking calmly to Minnie Blatt. E did not seem at all put out or in any way ashamed, her air was one of cool contempt. I remember thinking I must tick her off, but “correctly”, and saying: “Perhaps Mrs Blatt will excuse you now”, and waking to find Philip grizzling.

…It was not until yesterday that I manged to get down to a book on commerce; I am supposed to be teaching the subject to third-year kids next year…In the third year, I gather, it’s just waffle about various ways of retail distribution. Max now definitely walking. He’s a sturdy, happy boy. I can’t honestly say the same about Philip, who seems cantankerous. Philip, it seems to me, will be more emotional, more complex. Anyway, may they both make more of their lives than their old man has done. (And you pipe down, H.L. [ Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur])

Went to shool for yoortseit  [for his father] this morning. The new minister, Rabbi (?) Koschland, came up to me afterwards. Was I related to the Witriol who wrote for the J.C? It’s refreshing to find someone for whom the name rings the write-for-the-Jewish-Chronicle bell, and not the aren’t-you-related-to-Mrs-Witriol-of-the-Shabbos-bureau bell.