Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 8: Proverbs 11:16 and 31:10

Sunday 6th October 1957 – 11.30pm

Accelerato – if that’s the term I want. On Thursday night I yelled up to S.K.L. – the tenant above me – to turn down his wireless. He promptly yelled back “Don’t shout!” and raved away, bringing out Mr and Mrs E – my landlord and landlady – from the “quiet room” – I hadn’t realised they were there. Somme toute – they have given me notice to leave on the pretext of this disturbance. I have no doubt it is a pretext, and that Emms calculates he will be able to get £4-10-0 for the flat from a couple of girls, as against the £3-15-0 I pay him. I opened Emms’s letter on my return from shool [synagogue] on Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] – yesterday. Then to Jan Owen’s party at Muswell Hill. Very pleasant, but I left about 0045 (winter time) as I wanted to have no hangover for my “recce” ramble with E. [Edith Katz] to-day. We didn’t do much recce-ing, but it did become clear – it would be affectation to pretend otherwise – that E., being in full possession of her faculties, and knowing my murky past, was yet – I do not wish to overstate the case – powerfully drawn to me. To-night I popped the question – no time to avoid these awful clichés – and the – whatever the corresponding cliché for “said yes” is. I told her then, and I record it now, well-knowing that she will in all probability read this, that I want to be worthy of her. Sorry if this is Victorian, but there it is. She is a girl – alright coming on for 35, so what? – who deserves to be loved if ever a girl did. I don’t know whether I’m capable of love – I told her I loved her, after having resolved I would never again tell a woman I loved her, but the declaration was spontaneous – but may she never have cause to regret her decision. She is an extraordinary girl – Jewish, but doesn’t believe in formal engagements (sic! – doesn’t want a ring, doesn’t want to have the bloke lined up for a nice breach action – says I’m free to change my mind, wouldn’t want me to do anything unless I wanted to do it freely), isn’t keen on receptions, white weddings, etc., says – very truly : “What can be more important than people?” wants to go out to work so as not to feel dependent on husband (the latter absolutely O.K. by me – it’s got to be, but even if it didn’t, I want E. to be with me because she wants to be with me, not because I’m an easy bread ticket). She has no money, neither have I. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to borrow a thou from Sam [brother] or Mum; even if I can, we shall still have to struggle on my thousand a year (but there’s the drain of the £72 a year till the end of 59 to Harry Baker, Solicitor) and her £560 a year (plus luncheon vouchers). But – how hard life is for the agnostic, unable to say “God willing” – well, in that spirit, anyway – we’ll pull through:

A ragamuffin husband and a rantipoling wife,
We’ll fiddle it and scrape it through the ups and downs of life. [anon]

By love subsists
All lasting grandeur, by pervading love;
That gone, we are as dust. [William Wordsworth]

Wednesday 16th October 1957 – 8pm

Let me hide somewhere. I got cold feet. Increasing reflection induced increasing doubt as to the wisdom of embarking on marriage without adequate secure accommodation; i.e. unfurnished flat or maisonette on short or long lease or freehold. Whichever way would need as a bare minimum £350. I have £50, Sam says he has nothing and it is not advisable for me to borrow money from Mum because of possible income-tax repercussions. I think myself the possibility of such repercussions remote, but perhaps it is inadvisable to borrow from Mum even if she were prepared to lend – there would inevitably be emotional strings attached. I had to ring E. and tell her that I was going to be a cad. She heaped coals of fire on my head by saying I ought to be careful what I said to girls but she wouldn’t want me to do anything unwillingly. I still don’t know whether it might not have been better to go through with it after all. We could have got furnished accommodation of a good standard at a rent of 6 guineas a week and perhaps even saved  – between us – £50 a year and if baby came perhaps we could then have got a municipal dwelling or Mum would then have been forced to lend me the money to set up in a cheap house or flat (£500, again – has Mum got that in liquid assets, I wonder?) Perhaps this is what we should have done – or rather I should have done. I suppose, simply, I lack the dynamic. My experience of furnished accommodation, comparatively good though I have had it here for two years and nine months, has made me feel nervous about setting up in marriage in furnished rooms, though I see couples who do it – teachers not much younger than me.

Well, there it is. I only hope now I can rely on my next landlord/lady not kicking me out for at least 2½ years. I propose dispensing with a holiday next summer. With luck this may enable me to have £150 saved by 30th October next, and may “shame” Mum into offering to lend me £200. Sam is trying to get his bank manager to advance a loan on the security of the unencumbered title deeds of the house (belonging to Sam and Mum) in Moresby Road [E5, Upper Clapton] but I am far from sanguine.

Bloody hungry. Biscuits, coffees, Granose rolls, salmon pats, herring, cheese, tomatoes, crisps, apples – inadequate. Will have to go out and get bar of chocolate from Automat later. Hamlet  at Old Vic on Oct 12th, with E. Ophelia’s ranting, phoney duel, tiresome.