Part 63: Monday, August 1st 1960, 10.15 a.m.

It has been a pretty grim week. At the moment the scene is peaceful. Max sleeping in his pram in the garden, Philip having a more or less tranquil breakfast with, or rather, at the hands of his mother and her mother. I have washed, shaved, dressed, breakfasted and feel, as of now, fairly rested. Max demanded food at 11.15 last night, as we went to bed. We got to sleep just after midnight, using an electric feed-warmer, installed by Alf (mum’s brother); saves someone going down to the kitchen at nights to warm up the feed. Max up again about 4 (I can’t remember whether I got up too – I think I did, but it wasn’t to do much more than lend moral support), then  – an unexpected complication – though nothing is unexpected in this lark – Philip up howling at 6a.m. He slung away the proffered bottle, but after a few minutes did take it and went off to sleep. By great good fortune he stayed asleep till 9.30. meanwhile Max created at about 7.30. I capitulated and lay dozing, E. giving Max water, which I believe sent him off by about 8. I must have then got in half-an-hour’s sleep, which has benefitted me enormously. P. is now seated on the divan (b night the visitors’ bed) in the study, guzzling his milk from his polythene bottle.

We are having mother trouble; inevitably, I suppose, my-mother trouble. Boobbe (my father had his own transcription system for Yiddish words) Esther, (my mother’s mother) afflicted with hard hearing and a gammy leg, gives no trouble. Boobbe Yetta, though, has the defects of her virtues; highly strung, ambitious, a “live wire”, she tends to lay down the law, “kommandire“. [? writing unclear] Nevertheless, in fairness to her, I must say that as far as I have been able to observe, she has behaved as correctly towards E. as any “foreigner” in her eighties (ken en hora) can be expected to. There was a painful “incident” last Tuesday, when she came round, from Clapton to here, a wearisome journey even for me. She gets no credit for this from E. In the past, we have on a number of occasions been able to miss out on visiting Boobbe Y. and visit Boobbe E. instead. It is only human nature, I suppose, for E. to resent* my mother’s being able to come to us whereas her mother is confined to her flat (she has come to us by car for a week, and will return by car – Alf got someone to do the job cheap). Must break off – P. is breaking up the study. I think he knows “book” — he says “boo-er.” The only other words he knows are “fleh” (flower) and “bubber” (rhyming with rubber) = baby. The incident arose out of the name question. E. and I. had agreed on Menachem as the Hebrew name, and Max for the English name. A few weeks before the confinement my mother had said (or was this after the birth? I think the latter because when E. became pregnant Boobbe Y. had started talking about names, and E. had said why not wait till she was safely delivered –  a rebuke which, again in fairness to my mother, I must say she accepted and I think didn’t revive the name question till after the birth) why not give the child a name Menahem Mendel, which, she persists in saying, was her late brother-in-law’s name. As far as I know, it was Mendel tout court, which at some stage he changed, in Israel, to Menahem. Although I don’t like Mendel particularly myself (though I don’t feel violently about it) and Menahem Mendel even less (because of Sholem Aleichem’s Menahem Mendel) I said all right, Menahem Mendel, my mother was tearful, it’ll be a blessing for the child. I dropped a clanger in not telling E. – “I’m only the mother.” Hence when my mother called Max Mendel the fat was in the fire, E. had a touch of hysteria, she’d, obviously, been under great strain, and my mother, correctly, left the house. Somme toute, she says she won’t come to us any more. This isn’t the whole story, which cannot be told here, but perhaps I’ve already given it too much space. The fault, if anyone’s, was mine, in not telling “E” about the “Mendel” in time; but it never occurred to me she would worry about the “Hebrew” name.

*incorrect. Do not resent. –  Booba Y. comes if she can to see the children & that way can see them more often. Booba E. must wait till we can come with them which is more infrequent — E.W. [my mum’s footnote to this entry]


Part 62: Monday, 25th July 1960 – midday

The first day of my holidays. Max up about 2p.m. [sic] A good hour or more before we could get him off. Philip up about 6.30. E. up with him, filling me with guilt feelings, I up about 8.00. Unless I attempt to “do” anything over the next six weeks’ holiday, I shall probably go down to the grave with my “Jewish Literature and Jewish Dogma” article unwritten (chance for you, Philip or Max, me lads). It is comforting, at least, to think that I have had a score of articles, paid for, in print; however much I may natter about what I could do or would like to do or wish I could do or regret I shan’t be able to do or make excuses for not doing – at least, I have done something. Fuit Troja, but at least fuit – better fuit and non est and nunquam erit than nunquam fuit.

Mr Watson, our next door neighbour, died of cancer in the night. Both fine, typical middle-class English people. He tall, slim, a civil engineering contractor, I believe, worked a lot overseas. She good-neighbourly to us (“can I do some ironing for you, the iron’s on” to me while Edith was in hospital). How many of “our people” would make the offer – that I didn’t need to take advantage of it is besides the point – would it occur to E. to make an offer in similar circumstances, I wonder.) She knew, apparently, of his condition; only yesterday morning, while mowing her lawn, she called out “little and often” cheerfully to me.

Sam [brother] has subsidised me with £50 and another £50 to come. My net income, before deduction of tax, is over £1300, but we can’t keep on an even keel. Thames and Hudson owe me £24 odd, but I have no further translating commissions. If I had another “God’s Wilderness” job – a “G.W.” job per year – I could, with my one evening a week’s teaching English for Foreigners at Southgate, get by.

One Grunwald, 34, got five years. A cause célèbre. He a refugee, deeply orthodox, lavish supporter of the Jewish clergy, sentenced for fraudulent conversion. Al tismach binpol oyvicha, but I do rejoice, to my shame. Why, what had he done to me? I suppose it’s simple envy of “righteous people” coining it and living in luxury, while I am condemned to a life of genteel poverty. Not, I hasten to write, and as I can never say too often, that I complain – abee gezind. [Yiddish – As long as you’re healthy]. As I told Sam, I feel mean about him. The £100 he’s given us would have given him and Lily a week’s rest at a top Jewish hotel in Bournemouth.