Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 28: Heads and tales

Tuesday November 11th, 10.05 p.m.

The only comment I have to make on the significance of the date is, characteristically enough, I suppose, is* that I can’t get used to the idea of the two-minute silence being observed on the Sunday before the 11th and the poppies being on sale the Saturday before or earlier.

* E. [Edith Witriol] pointed out the tautology (23/11/56) – such a clever girl!

Changes at Hargrave [primary school]. Miss Hood retired at the end of last half-term. Replaced by Miss Price, a youngish efficient-looking woman with aggressive horn-rimmed specs and an elocutionary voice. Heppell sprang a surprise on us – he had put in for and got another headship, presumably of a larger school. Miss P. is applying for the headship here. Must get used to the idea of a woman head younger than myself. Excellent fodder for the masochism. Hale, too – who has a graded post with us – has got a deputy headship right on his doorstep in Finchley, after being beaten by Miss P. for the Hargrave deputy headship (Heppell played the dirty on him by leading him to believe he stood a fair chance, or rather-better-than-fair-chance. The advert in the L.C.C. Bulletin was for man or woman, with the man’s qualifications custom-built for Hale, but it seems obvious that with no woman holding a graded post on Hargrave’s staff – after Miss Hood’s retirement – the woman candidate would be preferred to a man of equal or even slightly higher ability).

What else. At the end of the Neila service, taking a cup of tea in the hall – took me four/five years to find out about this, quite by chance – I asked Zalkind Stalbow’s grandson (Sammy’s son) where his grandfather was. He had been knocked down by a lorry Erev [the day before]Yom Kippur. He 80+. He was unconscious for several days, I gather. Frankly, I looked in the J.C. [The Jewish Chronicle] obituary columns. However, he made what must have been a remarkable recovery and I visited him at Hornsey Hospital. He said it would be safer for me to write down what I had to say, as the accident had affected his hearing. What did I think of Ben Gurion’s saying to the Jews of the Diaspora we want your money but you mustn’t tell us how to run our State?

A Bar-Mitsva at Selby’s the other Sunday. Benny Miranda’s younger boy. Slightly nauseating. Champagne, liqueurs, cigars, cabaret – vulgar Jewish comedian (though I expect I shall not be above trying to retail [sic?] some of his jokes) and shrill songsters. I saw three photographers “shooting” the boy in his tallis [prayer shawl].

The occasion was memorable for a reconciliation with our long “lost” Balin cousins. I don’t know what our relationship is, or rather what the correct name for it is – second cousins, 1st cousins once removed? I append what I believe to be the tree, so that I may have it handy for reference purposes. Perhaps I may be able to get someone to state authoritatively how the relationship is described. The “rift” started long pre-1939. I don’t know the origin. My mother became broighess with Mrs B. – so Sam [Joseph Witriol’s brother] and I had to follow suit. We met at Simchas,Shivas, but never exchanged a word.

Who's related to who: Witriol and Balin

Who’s related to who: Witriol and Balin

What is the term to express a) the relationship between my mother and “Mr Balin” (Zalman) and b) Mick Balin and myself?

Sam Balin had been a grammar school master in the provinces for many years, had recently come to Hasmonean (I think that’s it – in Edgware [sic!]) school. He came up to mum and — communications were restored. More about all this if I have time later. It’s been a “good” evening – a leisurely meal, Edith quiet as a mouse writing letters — but, it’s 11pm and one doesn’t want to slog away at this.

Read H.E. Bates’ Darling Buds of May. Excellent short picaresque comedy. Practically read Waugh’s Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Good short fantasy (I don’t blame these lads for preferring to write a 40,000 to a 80,000 book). Slight anti-Semitic touches one should note for the Jew-in-English-literature (Pinfold, echt-Englisch, has delusions in which his persecutors refer to him as a Jew, Peinfeld, who bought out an English farmer whose ancestors had worked the land for centuries).

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Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 27: On a treadmill to Muswell Hill

Thursday, Oct. 23rd 1958, 9.10pm

Feeling mildly depressed. Probably end-of-half-term feeling. The class is a bit down-getting. One E.S.N. kid – a fat, harmless lump; the others very dim. There’s only 28 of them, and I seem to get my three free periods a week reglar [as spelt], but it’s increasingly becoming a treadmill. Seems difficult to realise I’ve done 9 years of it. I suppose I must set my teeth to another 18½ years. The trouble is, for this type of class one needs to be younger, rather than older. And – this is the last time I shall twist this particular dagger – one needs aptitude (for art or handiwork or music) and training (not “or training” – non-existent aptitudes can’t be trained into being) which I haven’t got.

I don’t know how I managed when Edith was still at work. I now lead a pampered existence – meals waiting for me, no shopping, cleaning to do. But the “leisure” hasn’t enabled me to get any kind of “work” done at all. I suppose if I’d had a commission to do I would have done it.

E. mending my trousers. Absolute silence – electric heater off to eliminate hum it makes when on, sod it – I feel a bit of a swine. The poor girl obviously needs – particularly in her condition – cheering, entertaining.

She’s a good girl. Bought a 14½ gn. nylon “simulation fur” coat – couldn’t have been more thrilled if it had been a 1,000 guinea mink. Incidentally, she clicked for close on £200 from her firm, in addition to about £125 returned superannuation contributions – jolly D of them. E. now has about £500, including £100 which I think should keep, in principle, as a “Dinmore House” [Hackney council flat, where her ?mother lived] reserve. If I had the £800 or so I had in 1951 – I can’t remember whether this included or excluded £500 which Mum gave me, being refund of my allowances to her from about 1945 – we could get a house of sorts. If I had £2,000 I could, with Edith’s £400, get a modest 3 bedroom house in Golders green decorated and furnished to the comfortable, but certainly not opulent standards of Sam & Lily’s [brother and sister-in-law] place.

Probably I shall be able to get £750 from Mum & borrow £250 – 500 from the bank and get a dingy sort of place in Muswell Hill or the drabber part of Highgate.

If one can go by size, and Edith’s family’s tendencies, I shall be a father of twins. Would have been alright 20 years ago, but at 47 I feel a bit too old for this sort of caper. (Forgive me, twins, if ever you read this; your dad does love you and wants you to be happy). (And if he may re-open the bracket, he wants you to have the will-to-work he lacks; if you have it, it should enable you to get somewhere, even with a Muswell-Hill-his-father-was-an-unsuccessful-primary-schoolteacher background.)