Joseph Witriol’s Journal Part 11: The writer’s ego

Sunday, 8th December 1957, 1.15 a.m. (sic)

Revelry next door – I went there to complain, but confronted by a conciliatory youngster had perforce to let my wrath be turned away. The “next door’s” are apparently University College Thespians, celebrating their performance of Thornton Wilder’s Skin of our Teeth. I suppose the question of neighbouring noise not yet acute as I have no “work” that has to be done in the evenings. If and when I do get such work, it looks as if a modus vivendi will be establishable. Writing in my living (front) room, not very much noise penetrates from their living (back) room. Liberty – the right to make the noise I want to make when I want to make it and to shroud myself in perfect quiet when I want to shroud myself in p.q. The price of liberty in this sense is I suppose a minimum gross income of £2000 p.a. for a single man, which will enable him to select a detached domicile in a quiet neighbourhood. Even then I doubt whether it’s attainable. It seems to be quiet now (1.25 a.m.) Fortunately, I have no N.L.J.C. [New Liberal Jewish Congregation] classes tomorrow morning; so, having prepared my laundry, completed this entry and polished my shoes, I shall be able to lie in to-morrow morning with a fairly clear conscience. Saw Private’s Progress with E. [Edith Katz] this evening. Disappointing – Private’s Progress, I mean. The fun was never riotous, the dialogue undistinguished (“You’re a shower/rotters” – Terry Thomas as the Company Officer). E. as happy-making as ever.

Thursday, 26th December 1957, 2.30 p.m.

Nothing attempted, nothing done – almost, anyway. Many plans in the air – learn, or perhaps get up Spanish, so as to be able to apply to Erna Low to take a party to Spain (Molly Grills [?] said E.L. was hard up for Spanish leaders last year) – start my magnum opus, Mumme Looshn, Aspects of Spoken Yiddish – apply for a youth leader’s job with a Jewish Club, the advt. said three nights a week at £250 a year – mug up Matthew Arnold and enter for I.T.V.’s 64,000 feature – all will remain in the air. Mum, Sam & Lily [ brother and sister-in-law] with me chez E’s Mum and brother Alf – about a fortnight ago. Afterwards E. and I went to Uncle Morry and Aunt Rosie (Aunt Rosie E’s Mum’s sister). Uncle Morry good solid English-born Cockney Jewish working class, served in first world war, infantry; Auntie Rosie cheerful piano-thumping extrovert. Married 35 years, he sends bouquet, takes her to show every anniversary. Went with E. to Benn Levy’s Rape of the Belt. Disappointing. Dialogue laboured, e.g.: “After all, there are men and men.” – “Which kind are you?”  And the thesis that the world would be a better place if run by women didn’t come off. The women’s treatment of criminals (in the Amazon’s “queendom”, sic, this too was presumably supposed to make us sit up) was not very original – surround them with love. Woman officer drilling the Amazons: “Pick up your dressing there; no, not in the literal sense, you fool.” Well, well.

With E. and Howard to Harringey Circus. Howard, aetat. 12, son of Leo and Clara Youngerwood. [in 1996, a senior CPS lawyer and pantomime villain of the Stephen Lawrence circus] The circus very sparsely attended (it was an “Erev Christmas” matinee) but left me impressed with the daring and skill involved.

Merton [Sandler] came round the other night. Fortunately I had just finished my bath and was in my dressing gown. He had no special news, was moving in his usual high class circles, meeting Barnie Janner’s [Barnett Janner, Labour MP] daughter, etc.

Monday, 6th January 1958, 11.20 p.m.

New Year’s resolution: the usual – daily reading of Bible. As usual, kept for 3 days. Will try to catch up, though, to-morrow and see if I really can’t get through the whole of the Book. But if I can’t do any book-reading on holiday, what chance shall I stand when school starts? With Mum and Lily to The Ten Commandments at the Plaza this afternoon. Cecil B. de Mille spectacle with no gaffes is all I feel inclined to say about it. Still, it may send me to the book again. Apparently there is a church which has a notice: “You’ve seen the film, now read the book.” On 28th December saw Bambi and Johnny Tremain with E. at the local flicks.  

Last Thursday went to West End to do – what? Oh yes – bought myself pair of silk pyjamas (£4-4-0) in Berkeley Street, booked the Plaza seats, dashed into Foyles to see if I could find material for an article, “Desiderata,” I have in mind, but the crowd, the gramophone from the adjacent records dept., the natter, the confined space, made me glad to get out. Met E. The idea was to have a cheap meal somewhere, but everywhere cheap was crowded, so stumbled into the Charing X hotel. Meal there cost 38/- the two of us, including 4/- tip. Coffee, but no wine. Solid bourgeois comfort, J.B. Priestley hard-headed North Country types; evidently some kind of Convention. Insurance managers, agents? Vacuum-cleaner salesmen? But they seemed used to dining and wining at this level, which is more than any teachers are ( unless a childless teacher couple on top salaries, perhaps, and then I shouldn’t think they could do it more than a few times a year even at the reduced rates granted to the Convention men.

My translation of Ouri Kessary’s (And) These are the Names of the Children of Israel (the J.C. rightly left out the “And” in my title) appeared in the J.C. of 27/12/57. A kind correspondent, unknown to me, kindly referred to it as being “brilliantly translated by Joseph Witriol” – no more than true. Wish I could get 30 such articles a year to translate. Not so wonderful, financially. I expect the fee for this article will only be eight guineas, of which I shall give four to O.K. Take off typing expenses (if I did 30 a year I don’t think I’d be able to type them myself as well) remittance – and correspondence-to-Israel expenses, tax – and what have you left? 25/- a week. Still, even to have one’s name in microscopic print as translator 30 times a year in the J.C. would be worth something, purely in terms of ego-stoking.

Richard [Stern] round the other night. Brought a classy box of chocolates for E. – toujours il galantuomo. He plays chess, apparently. Beat me! The ego can do with all the stroking it can get.