Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 6: Katz eyes

Today is the yahrzeit of Joseph Witriol’s wife, Edith, who appears for the first time in two of the entries here.

Friday, August 9th 1957 – 5.30 p.m.

Completed the 3rd of my 6 driving lessons. Although apparently pointless – in view of my push-bike accident circa 1940, which left me with a scar and an unfortunate milk roundsman cycling in front of me with death (after a week or so’s pain in hospital) I should not feel justified in driving, even if I were to gain enough proficiency to pass the driving test, which seems ninety-nine point nine recurring per-cent unlikely – I feel that being able to start the car, keep it going in a more or less straight line, turn it (haven’t done reversing so far), stop it – I wouldn’t like to do any of these things, admittedly, unless the road were completely deserted – will have justified the expense – less than £6 including  the provisional driving licence (so many hundreds and hundreds down the drain – another six!).

The usual frittered holiday week. Wrote to Aubrey [Eban] in an elegiac strain. To Wal & Bev. [Walter and Beverly Gasson] yesterday, where a pleasant meal with W. & B., Jeremy, [their son], Sidney & Ethel Hughes [?] & one lady whose name I didn’t get – have met her before at Wal’s – a very rich knit-wear manufacturers, I believe, widow (divorced?), children (child?), I gather; well-preserved. Wal moaning because Jeremy shows unwillingness to emulate his dad’s literary feats in the optical press; pleasant raillery all round.

Janáček 4 hrs W/E Fri 9/8/57 [red text at the end of entries indicates time spent on writing/translating work]

Wednesday 14th August 1957, 2.40 p.m.

Yom sagrir – curious the phrases, words that tend to stick in the memory. The first word I think of in connection with this dark, drizzly, coldish weather is Hebrew sagrir. [Proverbs 27:15] From the dictionary, it would seem that the word means no more than “rainy” – come to think of it, the two nouns for rain, geshem and matar do not form adjectives – I can’t be bothered to look up and check this, but 99% certain it’s so.

Last Saturday went with Edith Katz, a very pleasant girl I had met – quite a year or two years back –  at the Senior Ramblers, to the G.G. Hipp. to see The Browning Version and Fumed Oak. The former very moving; Crocker-Harris brilliantly acted by John Dearth – not a “star” apparently, which says much, I consider, for the high standard of acting to-day). Rattigan is certainly a craftsman.

Last night saw Tea-House of the August Moon – idealised picture of Japs – simple graces, courtesy, craftsmanship, etc. But the Jap. dialogue and the settings conveyed an impression of authenticity, and there was genuine humour in the film’s demichaelization of the propagation of democracy.

Janáček, 10-14 August inclusive – say 4hrs. Cumulative: April-August: say 127 hrs; of which Janáček 83

Wednesday 4th September 1957, 8 p.m.

The fortnight’s annual holiday: 1st week at Fabian’s Summer School, Headington, nr. Oxford (in hostel of Ruskin Working Men’s College), 2nd week at Penzance (Erna Low). The summer school so-so. Malcolm Muggeridge disappointed – he read his paper (on the monarchy). The lecture I enjoyed most was by Sir William Williams, President (? Chairman?) of the Arts Council. Of substantial build, gently convex, he spoke dead-pan for half-an-hour with his hands in his pockets. I liked his story of the Repertory Co. Manager at Derby who was urged to cultivate Rolls Royce with a view to getting financial assistance from them. The young rep. manager bided his time till he was able to put on a play which called for a car as a “prop.” He succeeded in interesting R.R. to the extent that they loaned him a “silver phantom” or “phantom silhouette” (thus Sir W.W.) for his production. On the opening night the R.R. top brass arrived (“Evening Charles, Evening Ernest” – Sir W.W. – very good) and the curtain went up revealing the R.R. super model on the stage with the hob-nailed boots of a mechanic protruding from beneath the body-work. Enter squire: “That bloody car broken down again!” But, said Sir W.W., R.R. had a sense of humour and gave the young man £250 towards his theatre.

Lyrics for the show – the usual high Fabian standard – were written by a youngster, David Simson; a polio (?) case, in wheel-chair. The two Maude brothers (sons of the Tolstoy translators) were there, and a daughter, Stella, with her husband Tom Meldrum and three children. Tom a delightful Scots “working-class educated” type. An extraordinary ménage – Tom rocking the pram with his infant in it, at 11pm, to the rhythm of “My God, how the money rolls in.” Blenheim was superb – as I said in the discussion on Muggeridge’s address, I had no desire to seem blasé about it. (My contribution to the discussion was, I think, described as irrelevant by another speaker. M.M. had queried the desirability of using the monarchy to support a caste-nobility. The point I tried to make was that if the caste nobility earned its keep by throwing open its stately homes to the public –  fair enough, comparatively. It seemed to me to be the typical spirit of British compromise between à la lanterne on the one hand and feudalistic forelock-tugging on the other. I don’t know to what extent I lapped up the beauty of Oxford; probably it was my reverse intellectual snobbery at work. Still, I should like to spend a fortnight each “doing” Ox. and Cam. thoroughly, with a guide-book or better a really first-rate cicerone –  a really knowledgeable classical don, who could construe the Latin plaques (it’s the abbreviations that get you).

Penzance – the numerous couples with young children brought home to one the boats one had missed. Dick Grills, a first assistant in a primary school, a first-rate host, with his wife Molly, and two children. Ex Fleet Air Arm. Apparently I managed to get myself considerably disliked. But the week ended charmingly enough. After enduring, on first arriving, over an hour’s “wireless background” in a room labelled “Quiet Lounge,” I had expostulated – and was told afterwards that I was considered to be “throwing my weight around.” On the Friday, I composed the following doggerel, which I recited at the farewell concert as a sketch, with someone miming the fuddy-duddy ( I had said, in the course of my expostulation: “Now I suppose you’ll condemn me as a fuddy-duddy”), Barney & Elizabeth “snoggin,” and Harry Martin (Barney’s father) knocking back the noggins:

Beware, my son, the fuddy-duddy,

The chap who disapproves of words like – buddy,

The dismal blight who’s never tight –

In fact, he’s absolutely bloody.

He wouldn’t know what “snoggin” is,

He never knocks back nogginses;

He throws his weight around like no one’s biz,

And always has a scowl upon his phiz.

On “What’s My Line” he lacks a clue,

He’ll never tell a joke that’s blue,

Lord save us all from such as he

And grant that like him we’ll never be.

The fuddy-dud’s opposed to noise

Even though it came from Helen of Troys,

Yet, girls, remember this:

He too was young like you,

And knew, like you, that bliss

Was meant to rhyme with – kiss.

I have no illusions – obviously – about the quality of the lines, but at any rate, one of the prettiest of the young things in the “enemy” camp came up to me in the lounge after the concert and said: “I think you owe us all a dance after that.” Oh to be twenty-five! (but with no job worries, by which I mean fear of the sack, such as I had when I was twenty-five).

Penzance itself so-so, but the cliff walk Lands End – Porthcurno superb. And now here I am again, back at school. Depressed – seeing the seemingly unalterable pattern of the future: youngsters on the staff forging ahead (it seems evident that S. will share an A class with Mrs W. He came after me; is studying for an ? (Preceptors) diploma). Good to have Sam [brother] to speak to and to have him agree to my “so what?” attitude. I must carry on, avoid bitterness, chip-on-the-shoulderness at all costs [I am a square peg, I have not the aptitudes for primary-school teaching, am not prepared, at my time of life, to swot education on the extremely remote chance that it would help me get promotion) and do a reasonable year’s work for a reasonable year’s salary. No “spare-time” work done this week, either – but sent off, finally my translation of Oury Kessary’s article – And these are the Names of the Children of Israel – to the J.C. I suppose they’ll reject it – all I need.

Friday 8.30am (!) 13th September 1957

A brief note for the record. To Margate on Sunday by coach with the Senior Ramblers. A good day, although – O.K. I’m an anti-Semitic snob – I found the Anglo-Yiddish attitudes of many of the people rather trying. However, E. [Edith Katz] kept a place for me on the coach. I’m rather glad I hadn’t asked her to do so, which I feel would have been improper, but was certainly glad of her initiative, into which, however, I read nothing. Otherwise a not particularly fruitful week – somewhat depressed yesterday, probably because of a poor (“troubled”?) night’s sleep the night before, but a fair night’s sleep last night, and to-day may be better. typed out and sent to J.C my Maftir [a person called to read from the Torah]  article – I think it will be too [unclear – letters look like Ebari/Ehavi] for the J.C., but I’m glad I got it off my chest. (Anglo-Jewish Attitudes – good title for J.C. article – could I work it out?)

Tuesday 10/9/57 – 3hrs, “own work” [i.e. not translation].


Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 5: Wiseman’s Sacrifice

12th July 1957 – 7.45 p.m.

With Richard [Stern] on Wednesday evening (10th) to see Kind Hearts & Coronets at the Everyman. Exquisite. Remembered: the artist-hangman’s (I mean: the professional hangman who regards his profession as a high art – as always I labour to be brief and become obscure – I’m not certain of the Latin, soddit): “I shall never be able to go back to hemp after silk.” Sholem Ash’s death reported. The only work I remember having read of his – in English – was Three Cities, which made a profound impression at the time, though I can’t recall anything of it now. I wrote to him twice trying to get something by him to translate, but he did not reply. Perhaps had I been able to send him my Heine translation at the time he would have played. Even so, I suspect he wouldn’t have given me much scope to get any fancy translating fee – and I’m not in translating for my health or for the sake of a graceful intellectual exercise.

13/7/57 Janáček 2½ hrs; 15/7/57 Janáček 3 hrs 17/7/57; 3¼hrs Janáček [red text at the end of entries indicates time spent on writing/translating work]

2nd August 1957 – 3.30 p.m. (1)

The infrequency of the entries make it increasingly doubtful whether it was worth while to embark on this diary (journal? what is the difference – “diary” can be used in a literary context too, I think). We broke up on Friday 26th July – schluss mit jubel, as my old boss Sperling used to say. Sam [brother] “sprang” on me at last moment that Blatts [tenants living with their mother] were away, hence would I stay the week at Mum’s, which I am grudgingly doing. I am a sod, wish I weren’t – poor Mum, at 75, asks little except to smother me with food, dilate on her apple troubles (owing to the non-occupation of the house next door the scrunching – I mean scrumping – plague is worse than ever – Mum rigged up the hose in wonderful Heath Robinson fashion to drench raiders, but ‘shelft nisht  –  nor did the barbed wire defences erected by the yok for a ridiculously low sum — zey delenggern ins dooss goolless, [they lengthen our exile] as mum observed) and retire early to bed with the Evening Standard, to read the social gossip and longevity items therein. But – I can’t come back late, because she can’t stay up worrying – I invariably have to re-make the bed, and in the heat yesterday in picking up the apples I lost my temper. However, an apology seems to have restored tolerable relations, Mum merely remarking it was extraordinary how one named after her saintly father could have such a vile temper. I: But he didn’t translate Max Brod. Mum: Pfu! (literally spitting, or going through the motions at any rate) Allevai vosst de geveyn a shnahder vee er (Blatt, the upstairs tenant). What can you do?

28th July Janáček 2 hrs; Cumulative April – July: say 105 hrs, of which say Janáček, 65.

2nd August 1957 – 3.30 p.m. (2)

Chores and commuting between Avenue and Moresby Road decreased amount of work done. Finished reading The Sacrifice by Adele Wiseman. Written by a girl of 27 it shows extraordinary  maturity and ability to make the words behave. I find it extraordinary too, that a young Jewish woman can use words like balls, arse with complete verisimilitude. Merton [Sandler] knows Adele. Would like to meet her myself, although I don’t know whether there would be any point. If I think of unmarried Jewish women, I think of them as potential wives for J.W. – being perfectly aware, of course, that nine out of every ten I so think of would not think of themselves as potential wives for J.W. even if they did not know my whole story, and that it is extremely doubtful whether anyone who did know my whole story would consider marrying me –  and I wouldn’t ask anyone to marry me unless I’d shown them all my divorce dope. In any case, even if and even if and even if, etc. – I still can’t see myself as brilliant novelist’s husband – I know, brilliant novelist wouldn’t want me as her husband.

Saw Titus Andronicus with Richard in brilliant Peter Brook production. Managed to read first two acts, no bell-ringing lines, but “easier” than much of Shakespeare and on a consistently high level of mediocrity. Also a film – The Bachelor Partyby the “Marty” man. Good – humanity in the shadow of the skyscrapers. The final message:

…By love subsists

All lasting grandeur, by pervading love;

That gone, we are as dust.

Shit hot, Witriol, shit hot. (But I must check the quotation – it should be capable of rendering yeoman service)

Aug 2nd 1957 and preceding days: say 10 Janáček

Monday August 5th 1957 – 4.30 p.m.

Plaintiff in a Pretty Hat at Golders Green Hippodrome on Saturday evening. Excellent innocuous comedy on the theme of the landed aristocracy are pretty decent chaps really and taking their reversal of fortune on the chin. Yesterday led ten Senior Ramblers. Although I had thought that this, the third bite of the cherry, would go without a hitch (ugh! but it’s hot) I managed to lose the track. However, we got from our starting point – Great Missenden – back, managed to have a midday rest at a pub and tea at another; all things considered, a successful day. To-day didn’t get up till midday,. over to Mum to pick up my things, relaxing.