Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 39: Facts and figures

Thursday, 19th March 1959, 9.35 pm

I have been unable to keep up the spate of entries, but can’t think what precisely has kept me so busy. I see this is the first entry since Edith and Philip have been home. For me, the much-advertised trials of fatherhood – up with baby all night – have hardly materialised. Edith does all the feeding; I am wakened once in the night when E. takes him out of the bedroom to feed, and once when she brings him back after the feed. Philip, imbeshneer, thrives. I feel I ought to write a set piece about him, but well ( I visualise him reading this in about twenty-five years time wondering whether he can get an article out of it and perhaps saying, “jolly interesting, Dad” in an insufferably patronising tone). To the facts: E. breast-feeds him with a large complement of macheraikki [ I only knew dad’s use of this word to describe food such as my mum’s ratatouille type dishes!]. Things have proved more or less manageable as we have been using a nappy service and a Mrs Frankel has been doing cooking, etc. (She supplied by North London Chevrat Bikurim [lit. Society for first fruits] @ 4/- per hour). Also E. has had her once-weekly woman in, though not this morning and she will not have her for the next three weeks as she, the w.w. (Mrs Holleran) has her baby ill with whooping cough. At the moment, Philip has set up an all-time record by going 5-6 hours without a murmur.

I have come home from Mum (to whom I went from a school football match, we won 3-1, the first round of our cup competition – the first time in Hargrave history we have got through the first round). Mum can’t remember when the war ended – neither can I, I can’t remember which month of 1945 VE day came in, and am not sure whether VJ was in 45 or 46! – or when she first came to Moresby Road. I suppose it is things like this for which a diary is useful.

I was not recommended for a second interview at County Hall (see p.157). I also went for an interview at County Hall on Wednesday evening but for an instructorship-in-charge (55/- for three hours) on one evening a week at Stoke Newington Evening Institute. Chairman of the interviewing trio was Dr. Plummer, former Director of Forest Emergency Training College, of which I am an alumnus. I don’t really know whether I wanted the job; I suppose it would be prudent to take it if it were offered me, as the net remuneration (before tax) would be at least as much as that from the NLJC Sunday mornings (though I suppose I needn’t declare the NLJC – however, we won’t start discoursing on that now) and I could do more with a free Sunday evening, probably, than with a free Monday evening. However, it’s quite likely I won’t be offered even this one-evening-a-week instructorship. There were other candidates and I don’t suppose Dr. Plummer will do an “old boy” act for me. If he remembers me at all – the name, at least, had stuck – he probably thinks of me as a slightly shady character – can’t go into that now, either. Have applied for job of Hebrew Programme Organiser at BBC, £1255 – £1735 p.a. I doubt whether I have the necessary drive for it. But still, applying for it is not as saugrenu as it might seem prima facie for a primary school teacher to be doing (shocking English, so what).

Ian Clark of Thames & Hudson & he agreed orally to my suggested fee of £3-3-0 per thou words English text. I had a letter a fortnight or so ago from him telling me he would be dealing with points in my letter (in which I told him I was going ahead with the translation without waiting for his formal confirmation of the commission), but so far I have not heard from him again. I suspect dirty work at the crossroads (Sonntag of the Jewish Quarterly, said on the phone that Neurat [Neurath], Director of T & H was a “difficult” man), but what I’ve done, at any rate, T & H will jolly well have to pay for.

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Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 38: The first cut is the deepest

Monday 16th February 1959, 9.35 pm

After a lot of telephoning, the Briss [circumcision] took place this morning. Circumcision – practised by savages, we know, but it is ennobled by Jewish religion, the link with Abraham, the practice has been invested with holiness. Mr Winegarten performed the duties of Sandek very ably (must = Syndic I feel sure), Alf [Katz, my mother’s brother] handed the baby to the Mohel with admirable aplomb. I found myself near-blubbing when saying Hinneni muchan – I am here ready to perform the affirmative precept to circumcise my son. It had taken me forty-six years to get here…No more…”Let the father rejoice in him that  came forth from his loins and the mother be glad with the fruit of her womb.” Amen, amen. “And even as he entered the covenant, so may he enter into the Law, the nuptial canopy and good deeds.” Amen, amen. Hard to be an agnostic.

The ceremony could hardly be impressive, with only the four of us present, and the circumcision taking place in a small room at the hospital. But the service has the usual dramatic flair. Upon the arrival of the child who is to be initiated into the Covenant of Abraham, those present at the Ceremony rise and say:-

ברוך הבא [lit: blessed (is he) who comes, i.e; welcome]

A fine opening to life’s drama – but I have an awful suspicion I forgot to say it. Anyway, Chaim Feivish Yisroel Ben Yosef – Blessed be thy coming.

Sam [his brother] seemed a bit better to-day; I hope he’s on the mend. The recurrence of the fainting fits, from which he’d been spared for over three years, is worrying, but he’s going to see his doctor about it. I’m hopeful that with Lily to look after him and his nephew to give him a new interest in life, his health will improve. But he was never robust, and has had more than his share of trouble in his life.

Up early, fortunately, this morning and got two hours Sinai done [translating God’s Wilderness – Discoveries in Sinai] before the telephoning got under way.