Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 25: Gynecomastia in Crikvenica

September 3rd 1958, 8.40pm

Returned a few days ago from a holiday at Crikvenica, Yugoslavia organised by the British-Yugoslav Friendship Society. The holiday cannot be described as having been a success. I didn’t get sleepers, as an economy measure, with the result we spent bad nights going and coming. E.[Edith Witriol], although strongly left-wing, surprisingly intolerant of poor sanitary conditions in our hotel and elsewhere. I must confess I found it a bit off-putting myself to arrive, about 9 p.m., after a 36-hr. journey (the last leg of which by coach at break-neck speed along winding roads E. found more upsetting than all the rest of the journey) at a hotel without being able to wash, even. To crown all, our room overlooked the hotel terrace, on which a noisy orchestra blared and crooned away till 1-2 a.m. every night.

The composition of the party, too, did not help. There were a number of uninhibited sons-of-the-people whose loud laughter and shouting drove one round the bend. The most congenial spirit of the lot was one Wilcox who revealed himself, en passant, as Organiser of Adult Education for Kent, but I didn’t have much contact with him until the homeward journey.

The Society did provide some little contact for us with Yugoslavs, but not enough, of course, to provide a basis for judging conditions in Yugoslavia. We visited a health centre and the equivalent of the Town Hall, at which the Vice-President (of the Workers’ Committee? Citizens’ Committee? Combined Committee? – I am afraid I didn’t absorb it all properly; the interpreter, a spivvy local was pretty ghastly), & the Secretary (full-time official?) welcomed us with slivovitz, on a blazing morning!, biscuits and cigarettes. Both these men seemed to exude integrity, an honest-man’s-the-noblest-work-of-God (or the evolutionary principle, I suppose) but – irrationally – I found myself turning against them when Wilcox mentioned on the journey back that the Ustaši (did Wilcox say “Croats,” and did this stimm me against “Croats”?) had massacred Serbs, Jews and gypsies. It’s all very difficult. I deliberately avoid Germany and Austria because, as a Jew, I do not want to be on German/Austrian soil or speak to Germans/Austrians if I can avoid it, but Wilcox’s chance remark made me wonder if Croats were just as bad. (Do Serbs hate Croats? I don’t think there were many Serbs in Crikvenica – but here again I’m merely going by the fact that one man I managed to communicate with said he came from Zagreb.) I suppose the only thing to do, really, is to go to Israel, become an Israeli and then go anywhere in the world and say “But we’re not Jews!” (as the late Simon Rawidowicz records a couple of Israeli girls saying to an English landlady who “didn’t take in Jews”).

The mood is of mild depression, but – so it is – one merely hopes there will be nothing worse. the fault is in oneself, anyway. Probably if I had spent as much time on studying the pools as I have on this diary I would have cleaned up enough to get out of the seedy atmosphere here. But I seem to be incapable of making any serious effort – drift with the tide – drudge – futile. I lack the will to persevere in the diet I had started. I feel the fat accumulating, I waddle, I dislike running, I am altogether unprepossessing (in fact even E., whose love for me, fortunately, renders her blind to my defects, suggests I ought not to show one snap she took of me in my bathing trunks. Talk about gynecomastia! The long word has made me feel better! I wish I could trace the bit in Nordau‘s book on degeneration in which he says the love of long words is a form of sexual perversion (I have the book, perhaps I’ll give myself ten minutes to skim through it now).