Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 10: Mrs Fowler-Dixon and her dodgy geyser

Tuesday 29th October 1957 – 3pm

The 64,000 dollar question remains: Ought I to marry E? [Edith Katz] Can I make her happy? In a 2-roomed dingy flat? If I could reconcile myself to living under such conditions I’m pretty sure E. would not worry. All very difficult. […] The flat is still not buttoned up. However – carpe horam: Miss — has finished nattering over the phone, there is relative quiet ( a plane zooming overhead – I suppose there is no armour against that particular fate even in the lushest Belgravia dwellings), all the packing material from Sam [his brother, who had a handbag business] has finally arrived – I’m going to be a devil and, after polishing my shoes, have another cigarette (my second to-day), with a coffee. I think of those working away – c’est la revanche (the long holidays) de l’instituteur, as a French instituteur in the Haute Savoie once said to me.

Wednesday 6th November 1957, 7.45pm

Moved on Saturday to 406 Camden Rd.,N.7. Behind the short, simple sentence lies what an expenditure of nervous energy, what discomforts, what humiliations. Mrs F.D. [landlady] is perhaps not such a dea ex after all. The snags now reveal themselves – stone floors, strips of which (in the larger room) completely uncovered. Coal fired only means of heating at present. Mrs F.D. said she would instal two power points at her expense (£10) – one of the quick decisions she later told me she could make. Meanwhile – no power points, no warmth of any kind in flat. But, the room in which I am writing this not unpleasant: linoleumed, quite tolerably carpeted, a good oak table, a small refectory table, a cheapish but reasonably large and solid chest of drawers, a fitted cupboard, an oak sideboard, large mahogany ditto. As a bachelor flat it will prove slightly dearer and considerably less comfortable than the place I left, but I may be able to cut down by sharing with A.I.S. – the young music specialist on our Hargrave staff. The flat is large enough for two, even by my standards and A.I.S. and I should be able to get on well enough together.

Sam a tower of strength – removed unsightly stain from bath with life-and-limb-endangering, apparently, spirits of salt. I fused lights on Sunday evening in taking out lamp in this room and replacing with another. Fortunately Mrs F.D. to the rescue, she mending fuse with feminine, masculine-ego-bruising efficiency.

On Thursday 31st October to Home office Dramatic Society Halloween dance at Horseferry House with E. Joyce receiving, en grande tenue, at local pub beforehand. The hop jolly enough, the crowd a mixture of egg-head and midinette types.

On Tuesday 29th October to Grand Palais with Mum, Sam and Lily [Sam’s wife] to see usual American-Yiddish “play with music”. Bored. Mum’s treat.

Tuesday 26th November 1957 – 9.40pm

In future shall waste no time lamenting long gap between entries. Busy-ness, admittedly achieving nothing, must explain all. Am more or less comfortably installed here now. This statement stands though the bath geyser has been condemned and I now take my weekly bath at Mum’s. Poor Mrs F.-D. writes that she is alarmed at the prospect of having to pay possibly £50 for a new geyser. She has installed power points, changed a couple of wonky light switches. I am writing this in the living room by the light of two 150-watt lamps and the heat of the electric space-heater. No noise at all save the murmur – it is no more than a murmur – of the traffic, which doesn’t worry me. How long can it last?

My relations with E. are blissful. I have found myself, do find myself and have no doubt I shall continue to find myself completely at ease in her company. (yokels bawling outside, but cela passera.) I think she is absolutely genuine. I love her, bless her.           ? למה להרבות במילים [why churn out words?] Put that in your pipe and smoke it H.L. (E. – in case you find yourself reading this – I may ask you to continue writing it! – I will explain.)

Have been writing to various publishers hawking my services as a translator. The Jewish publishers have written most cordial replies. As I expected, they have nothing for me at the moment, but I feel the bread thus cast on the waters will return eventually. It may take years before it does, but after all, literary translating will, I hope, keep me occupied spare-time for the rest of my schoolteaching life, and thereafter – I see no reason why a vigorous old age should be the prerogative of men like Z.S. [Zalkind Stalbow] – of whom no doubt I shall write here or elsewhere later – more or less full-time. My arrow-in-the-air that landed in Elek Books territory (I shudder at this Lower IVA stuff, but I do have a tiring day and I have not had Matthew Arnold’s or Cyril Connolly’s advantages of birth and upbringing) hit – surprisingly – one Lionel Kochan, their Executive Editor, who wrote, inter alia,that he had enjoyed my Heine translation. I remember reading something by him, or about him, in the old Jewish Monthly [scan of an article in that magazine by Joseph Witriol]. He wrote, too, that he was asking Janson-Smith for a copy of Poor Cicero. I am not building my hopes on this, but they may feel that if they drive a hard enough bargain the book may just pay for itself and keep their list full. (L.K. says they only pay 1½ guineas a thou – I had hoped for 2 guineas a thou at least, but of course will accept 1½. By cutting down similarly on Brod they may be prepared to publish.

The Translators’ Guild sent me a duplicated list of their members – only about 80 in all. I am the only member listed as translating from Hebrew, and the only one listed as translating from Yiddish.

Saw The One That Got Away with E. Apparently film of true story of a Jerry P.O.W.’s escape from P.O.W. camp in England and from train in Canada. The endurance, guts, shown by one man beyond all belief. Yes, H.L., no work done since Sep. 10th.


2 thoughts on “Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 10: Mrs Fowler-Dixon and her dodgy geyser

  1. Pingback: Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 40: Inacceptable specimen | Joseph Witriol's writings

  2. Pingback: Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 15: Whining about whining | Joseph Witriol's writings

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