Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 7: Soccer succour; bally ballet

This description, from Nikolaus Pevsner: The Life by Susie Harries, of Pevsner’s  Heftchen – notebooks – seems rather apt for Joseph Witriol’s Journal.

Astonishingly detailed and yet incomplete, both authoritative and inconsistent, pedantic and passionate, analytical and unreasonable…

Wednesday 18th September 1957 – 6.15pm

The period of desultory inactivity continues. Took kids for football practice on excellent grass pitch on Parliament Hill Fields on Saturday morning and Monday evening. Exhausting, but vaguely satisfying – a feeling that one is atoning to some extent for one’s classroom deficiencies. And the zest and excitement of the kids infectious – I think I have made a discovery in Bobby Walker – he was everywhere flying around with his shirt flapping outside his shorts. It was gratifying to find Mr Hull confirming my choice of team, with one exception which was in any case “marginal” I think. (Mr H the parent of a boy in 3rd year & of another boy in school team year before last. Mr H lost an eye at football – I remember his coming along to a school football match saying he was really supposed to have gone to hospital for a new glass eye that morning, but football was more important. Yok gannef! Note for hypocrite lecteuryok = goy = gentile. The word yok not in Harkavy’s Yiddish-English dictionary. I think the word is exclusively Anglo-Yiddish, presumably an apocope of “yokel” = but I can’t understand Jewish immigrants to London coming into contact with the word “yokel”. H.L. should be able to find out gannef  for himself; the collocation yok gannef = “what extraordinary people these yoks are!” [An Anatomy of Yiddish gives a different etymology]

Last night with E. [Edith Katz] to ballet at G.G. [Golders Green Hippodrome]. I went more or less to confirm, finally, my anti-balletic prejudice, but I found the entertainment pleasant enough, and Blood Wedding really stirring. (The others Les Patineurs; La Fête Etrange.) Still, I feel now I have seen enough ballet to justify stating my personal reaction to it, and do not think I would make any effort to see another ballet for many years, unless, indeed for the music. This is a purely personal reaction: I am not saying ballet is inferior to literature or drama or music (jolly decent of you Witriol!) but simply there is little I can get out of the pure balletic, or perhaps I should say choreographic element in ballet. After all, I can quote a sentence that has impressed me in a book or play, I can always read the books – including the books of the plays – conveniently, but I can’t quote a pas de deux I have seen (I can quote an aria or the melody of a symphony). Pursuing the analogy, I suppose a balletomane can demonstrate the steps which impressed him/her, and will have a collection of “films of the ballet” which he will always be able to consult.

Sunday 29th September 1957 – 6.20pm

E. chez moi yesterday. I told her – she did not know – I was divorced; I also spilled the detailed beans, more or less, of the divorce [ … ] E. seems a good girl in the old fashioned sense of the word, and I’m sure she could make some man happy. If I were sure I could make her happy I’d ask her to make me happy – though here we get involved in call-no-man-happy taradiddle. And I still can’t make up my mind whether I ought to marry. If I could be certain I could not have children the sensible thing would seem to be to stay put; I could then be certain, at least, of ruining no one else’s life, and there is a certain element of smugness in my present existence. These meanderings are getting me nowhere. back to realities –

We, i.e. Hargrave Park J.M. School football team, drew their first two matches. Yesterday’s was really, I think, a win for us. The opposing team scored their equaliser possibly a second or two after I should have blown the whistle. Comes of leaning over backwards to be fair. Had I blown up before the ball went through I’m pretty sure Phillips – “their” master – would have said: There were another ten seconds/quarter of a minute to go when you blew, just as we were obviously going to score. With E. to The Story of Esther Costello. Moving, the restoration of the heroine’s sight, hearing and speech following on the shock of her rape by the villain, raises, if plausible, an interesting ethical point.

Took kids’ services on both days Rosh Hashanah [the Jewish New Year]. The services scrappy, painfully so. I told the kids, on the second day, that the “I remember the lovingkindness of thy youth” passage came in the Haftara [reading from The Prophets], for which untruth may I be forgiven. I maftired, [recited the Haftara] not too badly. Anyway, another practice of the notes with Sam, [brother] and I shall be prepared to do any maftir on ten minutes’ notice.