Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 33: Taxing times

Friday, 2nd January 1959. 11.20 a.m.

Writing this in Holloway Central Library, to be out of the way of Mrs Holland – who “obliges” for E [Edith Witriol] – and her little daughter.

Have kept my diet so far! Have also risen virtuously early. Outburst of tears from E. last night. She depressed after mauling at hospital and I out all day and failing to be “communicative” on my return. Very difficult. Had spat with Mum previously re income-tax demand. She wants to pay schedule A tax at standard rate, though her income is bona fide low enough for her to have to pay far less than the standard rate. But she doesn’t want to reveal her income (rent from tenants), etc. Very difficult, but still – abee gezinnt.

I see the J.C. [The Jewish Chronicle] is offering prizes for the best essay on “What is a Jew?” [sic – Who is a Jew? was the title]. Also very difficult – one must be careful to stick to the terms, I imagine, which are that one must put oneself in the place of a recipient of Ben Gurion’s letter to various Jewish scholars asking them to reply to the question: “What is a Jew?” [sic!] However the prizes: £50, £25 and £10 for each essay printed, are worth competing for. A pity this breaks just at the end of my holiday – perhaps will try to get to J.C. library on the last day.


Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 32: Otium cum dignitate – halevei!

Monday, 29th December 1958, 1.20p.m.

Christmas has gone and I am far too fat. 14st. 10 clothed (tweedy sports jacket, black slacks, pullover, woollen vest, long pants, old black Church shoes). Once more, I must try to diet. [illegible]1/1/59 – I find it impossible to “turn over a new leaf” in mid-stream, so to speak (we don’t half mix our metaphors, and pretty rusty metaphors, at that, don’t we Witriol? – why don’t you drop dead, H.L.? [Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]).

Edith at the laundrette. I think we must get washing machine, but this, like so much else, involves problems – mundane problems, problems which should be no concern of mine. It seems a pretty verfehltes Leben, if, at my time of life, I haven’t got things so organised that the household mechanics don’t function smoothly, unnoticeably. The ideal of, if not otium at least one’s daily occupational stint with some dignitate to come home to, seems as far away from conversion to reality as ever. Not that it matters, really. The good, fighting life is more important than otium or dignitates (e.g. Rev. Michael Scott flying from Africa to picket the nuclear power station at Swoffham, letting himself be lifted bodily by police, refusing to undertake to cease his activity and so accepting imprisonment. I expect he could have had a comfortable living).

All this gallimatchkin [Yiddish?] is pointless – I would do better to save my space, using it only “for the record.” But what is there to record? We saw Me and the Colonel. Excellent. Danny Kaye as the humble, frightened Jew stranded in Paris just before the German occupation, forcing the dim, 12 mentality Polish aristocrat-colonel to do a deal with him in escaping. The two of them in an ancient Rothschild’s car; he singing anu olim artsa, the colonel trying to drown him in some Polish patriotic song. The colonel to his girls: In the cathedral of my heart there will always be a candle burning for you. Danny: In the synagogue of my heart here will always be a candle burning for you.

Christmas day at Sam’s with Mum, over-eating, listening to Queen’s speech on T.V. (she an excellent advert. for the monarchy, speaking clearly, unaffectedly, with dignity). Home by car-hire – £1. Yesterday Doreen, an ex-colleague of Edith’s, and husband Aubrey round “for tea” – and they stayed to supper. Painful; he silently smoking cigarette after cigarette, she nattering interminably about Furness Withy staff and her trip to N.Y. which she’d had on the firm.