Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 47: Woodberry Down up; Mount Pleasant difficult

Sunday, 1st November, 1959; 7.40 p.m.

Back to school to-morrow after one week’s mid-term holiday. The rest has done me good. E. [Edith] never gets any rest. Since P [Philip] was born she has had [sic] enjoyed a clear nights’ sleep only once, when P.I.W. went right through to 7.30 a.m. Incidentally, apparently E. is in the family way again. Strordinry! It wasn’t really an accident – E. says people usually say the second one was an accident – but I felt that a considerable amount of limbering up would be necessary before one could clear the bar, but apparently we have already cleared it in the limbering-up process.

To Sam yesterday, just back from Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived] to-day with the Babba. Very irksome, trying, un-gay and un-contemporary — this shlepping Phil on buses. One ought to be able to fling him in his cot in the car and purr along to his Boobbes and uncles. (Masochism dept: I wrote in my translation of Rothenberg’s book that their car – a Land-Rover or something similar – “purred”; Clark wrote in margin: “it wasn’t a Rolls.”)

I think I shall send 5/- to the B.B.C. for a Russian pamphlet & try to listen to their Russian lessons every Monday at 7.10 p.m. Talk about the triumph of optimism over experience! It’s well over ten years since I paid some ten guineas for a Russian Linguaphone course; I think I’ve heard the first record of it perhaps two or three times. Talking of Russian, I saw Vladimir Nabokov on T.V. this afternoon. He has written novels in Russian & English and is a lepidopterist. He spoke brilliantly, fluently & without a trace of accent. He spoke of “what I call Emigravia” (I remember racking my brains – all right, H.L. [my father regularly used this acronym for Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]- at O.C.T.U. to think of fictitious names for countries – the best I could do was Octovia), of his choosing reason when faced with the choice between “rhyme and reason” in his massive annotated translation of Eugene Onegin.

Mrs Tresiman has had to go to make way for a Miss Myers (not Jewish, I’m told), incoming Deputy Head.

For the record. I take a French class on Wednesdays at Woodberry Down, on Thursdays at Mount Pleasant School, Clapton. The Clapton class down to one student Thursday before last, up to two students last Thursday. the Woodberry class with, I think, 9 students, should last the session, or the best part of it. Difficult, the students – most of them – have no academic background and expect me to chatter in French to them.


Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 46: Sun glasses, son guiltless

Sunday, 11th October 1959, 3 p.m.

Erev Yom Kippur. I face the fast, as usual, with distaste. As I always maintain, the fast defeats its own end. Instead of forgetting about the body, one thinks of nothing else all the time. But I am being superficial, and exaggerating.

We have had an extraordinary, brilliant summer. Alles kann der Mensch ertragen/nur nicht eine Reihe von sonnenvollen Tagen. We have had the R von s.T. The only reason I haven’t been able to endure it is that I have had no clip-on glasses this year. Every year I buy a pair, which I either break during the summer or fail to find at the beginning of the next summer. This year I jibbed at the 7/6 or 10/6 or guinea needed for a good pair and persuaded myself the summer would soon be over anyway. I suppose next year I’ll get Wally to make me a special pair of sun-glasses – and we shall have a wet sunless summer. Mentioning Wally, apparently he’s heading for a nervous breakdown (so Beverley to Mum). Wal can’t understand it; he has everything, but everything: son able to take over from him, daughter well-engaged, two cars, etc. Apparently, too much at a time – his silver wedding, Jennifer’s majority and engagement. But this doesn’t sound convincing.

The settling-in process continues. Am writing this in my “den” (as E. [Edith Witriol] reminded me – I had called it a study) on desk cost about £18, chair to match just under  £3. Am borrowing £250 from Bank; E’s Aunt Debbie [Coltonoff] is lending us £100 without interest.

Richard [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] round the other day in newly acquired car. He has passed his driving test. Brought us contemporary vase. I gather he finds J. increasingly an incubus. Has taken out a Jewish girl for whom he schwärmed “in my romantic fashion”, but is now cooling towards her.

The General Election took place on October 8th. Conservatives in with clear majority. Can’t work up any feeling. Both parties committed to Welfare State.

One Grunwald accused of fraudulent conversion of £3¼m. He rigidly orthodox, solicitor. Says he has complete answer. Philip yelling. E. amusing him. He has great sense of fun – may he preserve it through life, unmarred by the guilt feelings his father experiences.