About Philip Israel Witriol

I hope to preserve online as much of my father’s written output as possible, in particular his unpublished book Mumme Loohshen, An Anatomy of Yiddish.

Part 75: Thursday 13th April 1961, 12.15 pm

Sam’s [brother] birthday today – 55. Eheu. A tragic story. An intelligent, studious boy, many sided – violin, chess, art, debating – has been donkey-ving tieing up parcels of bags since he left school. The family breadwinner when he was seventeen. Loves children; childless. I only hope he is spared to see joy from P. and M. who, as far as I am concerned, are as much his as mine ( to obviate misunderstanding I should perhaps explain that all I mean is that S. has as much right, if not more, to the joys of fatherhood as I have).

We took the kids – 38 of them – to Blois and Paris and brought them back alive. A feeling of satisfaction that in spite of all obstacles the operation was successfully accomplished. Blois is a pleasant city. The château country overrated. The picture I had formed was of châteaux nestling by the river bank. In point of fact the castle of Blois is set in the heart of the city traffic, though admittedly once inside the grounds you can then get out and have a view of the river. Accommodation in Blois was excellent, in the girls’ lycée; plentiful showers, wash basins, toilets, cupboards. I volunteered – bona fide altruistically – for the bed in the dormitory at Blois, a curtained-off affair from which I had the feeling I ought to emerge in a Pickwickian night-cap. My altruism paid off – it is pleasant to find virtue is sometimes rewarded here below – when we got to Charenton- Écoles, the dingy suburb of Paris in which we were accommodated, my moral claim to the only separate masters’ room available could not be contested. The Institution Jeanne d’Arc at which we stayed is a private girls’ boarding school, a decrepit place. We ate in the basement. Food was inadequate. It is possible that in term time conditions are better; obviously every inch of space is utilised to cash in on the holiday trade.

Our journey was, in point of fact, organised by the Comité d’Accueil de L’Education Nationale –  as M. Chevalier, our guide, and M. Scaeffer, the Charenton directeur, pointed out, General Tours had merely acted as a channel for correspondence. I did have all the C. d’Acc. prices, and it is clear that the travel agencies make £1 to £2 on each boy or girl. If I could act as my own travel agency, I could easily make enough, with a party of 30-40 boys, to take E. and the kids (our kids) with me buckshee, but I can hardly see any head wearing this.

I received half-a-dozen copies of God’s Wilderness, £3-3-0 net. I can’t summon up any enthusiasm over it – Beno Rothenberg found the remains of a Canaanite “high place” (so what?), Yohanan Aharoni writes about the route of the Exodus and the site of Mount Sinai (conjectural), many of the photographs appear to be of no special significance. The Times printed one of a Beduin girl, but what is there so special about a Beduin girl?) The letterpress is printed on a not particularly pleasing brownish paper. However, I did my translating faithfully and Clark did a very skilful editorial job (though only printing one map of Sinai; the second Sinai map in the original, showing most of the places mentioned in the text, was not reproduced in the English version).

Thames & Hudson say they will need me for translating further texts by Beno Rothenberg – I suppose I must hope they will produce at least 50,000 words in English so that I can get the money.

Eichmann is being tried in Jerusalem with, inter alia, the murder of millions of Jews. I’m afraid all I can think of is possible translating work I might have been, be able to get out of it. Richard [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] was duly married yesterday. A Russian orbited round the world yesterday. Writing this at my study desk, with pleasant view of pine trees, trees in blossom. E out shopping with P, an occasional plaintive cry from Max. Acute lumbago on Tuesday, still aches and pains, but birds twittering – Cohen, on the staff at school, is not perturbed at the idea of the world’s destruction, but I must say it seems a pity.

Advertisements

Part 74: Sunday 19th March 1961, 9.45 pm

Many, many years ago I read Freud’s Traumdeutung. I don’t remember much of it, except that he said that if you dreamt about water you would wake up to find you had been wetting the bed. I believe I checked the truth of this empirically —  or, at any rate, the water-dream went with an urge to empty one’s bladder —  but I couldn’t see in this sort of thing the signs of one of the master-minds of modern times. Anyway, I have frequently wanted to set down my dreams, I have an average of three a night, but have never been able to remember them.  One of the things I was impressed by was Freud’s setting down, at night, his dreams as he had them.

Anyway, here is the blurred memory of one of last night’s dreams: I inserted an advertisement for a schoolmaster to occupy some such post as I might conceivably occupy myself: say, French with an allowance of £90. The idea was to see what sort of “field” the advertisement would attract, the potential competition. Afterwards, I realised – I couldn’t advertise, I wasn’t the employer. Repercussions were not long in following. I was had up on the carpet, and I remember saying I had two children. Later on I dreamt kids were reading out their marks in a test I had given them, and they all seemed to have marks of 11 or 14 or so. The “Interpretation”? — and I don’t remember Freud’s being more profound — I dream about my job.

Took the kids to Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived]  to-day. A tough operation, six buses mounted. Kids now sleeping soundly, one relaxing in dining-room (in which we have placed one of the three-piece suite easy chairs and the tubular easy chair – the convector heater is more warming (note the incipient Spoonerism [i.e. letter m in more written like a w]) than the “Magi-glow” in the living-room). A good deal on the old plate. Richard’s [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] chassena [wedding] next Sunday, at which I am to act as best man/M.C, the school journey, Edith had a phone call from Thames & Hudson, and they were supposed to be publishing the Sinai book Marchwards anyway. [God’s Wilderness: Discoveries in Sinai by Beno Rothenberg]

But will now try to get half-hour’s quiet before turning in.

Part 73: Thursday 16th March 1961, approx 9.10 pm

Nearly two months since my last entry. Now that I am sitting down determined to get another entry off, wonder what to put down. Raises whole question of point of diary at all. Let me try to think what has happened.

We celebrated Philip’s second birthday. Even now he goes to a drawer in which some of the birthday cards he received are kept and says: Two. Whenever he sees a road name-plate he points to the letters and says Ay, Dee; like his dad, he is no pedant, and ay-dee’s any letter. Occasionally, I think, he can sort out a genuine A and a genuine O. The weather has been exceptionally fine the past few weeks and I have taken him sometimes, on coming home from school, for “walky” or “wun”, at the beginning of, or during, which he demands “keller” = “carry”. Two examples of metathesis noted: efelant and villa (liver). Maxy has had cold, doctor in twice. E. also had gold (?Freudian explanation), sticking gallantly to her post. Lily [brother Sam’s wife] has had very bad pains, at long last has had x-rays taken, hope everything will be alright. Sam a few weeks ago in flat spin because of absence of Pinakhe, Mrs Piena, his septuagenarian book-keeper.

More meo I had succeeded in losing the payments register of the school journey to France I am organising. My fellow macher, Lloyd, chose as epigraph for our booklet: “Fair stood the wind for France.” So far it has stood anything but fair. The original three comprised Lloyd, myself and a youngster called Welch, but McGowan (the District Inspector) ruled that we must have a permanent member of staff with the boys. Leece, the P.E. man, who has been giving me lifts for the last term or so, volunteered to come in. Fahn, voil, [?] –  a few days ago he develops some chest trouble and it is extremely problematical whether he will be able to come after all. I shall be away for Pesach [Passover]; I had miscalculated the dates. But I think I had no option but to go. I am supposed to be a teacher of French. It is nearly nine years since I was in France. I hope to get a free trip out of it, and to register with Davies (the head) as a live wire. Fantastic that at my time of life I have to think in terms of “getting into the boss’s good books” – not that I count on anything. And anyway, it’s given me some scope for machmanship.

Read “The something-or-other Saga” by Auberon Waugh (what a memory!), he the son of Evelyn or Alec Waugh. Devastating satire on R.C. public school, astonishing sophistication and range (hospital scenes technically convincing, conveying impression that author must have been houseman).

Someone wrote recently in The Observer that he had no sympathy with married teacher colleagues who complained of poverty. They always overlooked one thing, he said: they chose to marry, and he didn’t see why he should subsidise their marital bliss any more than he already did through taxation. I wrote a weak reply, which however was published on 12/3/61 – the Observer had plugged occupational family allowances for teachers and my letter was short. I said many young teachers wanted to marry but could not because they could not afford to bring up a family on their schoolmasters’ salary. But the whole point of the first letter was that nobody was asking them to start a family.

Part 72: Monday 23rd January 1961, approx 9.30 pm

E. has gone round to some woman locally who got in touch with her through a “house-bound women” scheme started by The Observer, I think, and which I egged E. into joining. [National Women’s Register?] Children asleep, all quiet, but I am tired, in spite of easy day (Mondays – 4 short periods in morning; free before play in aftnn, 1A – easy – after play) and anxious to get a short read and coffee in before bed. Have just had to jettison fountain pen the nib of which disappeared – into ink-bottle? If so – retrieve ? – when I was trying to fill it. Ink-stained hands. Paul Jennings can write about, 50 guineas, 100 guineas (or perhaps 30 guineas?); all I can do is record inadequately here.

Have read another Anglo-Jewish novel, The Limits of Love, by Frederic Raphael. Written with terrific vitality. The ragging of the Jewish hero at his public school a tour de force.

Philip now names all articles he has experience of. His latest acquisition a “beiggel” (bicycle) actually tricycle – from his Boobbe Esther. He says naughty, dirty, dark, “mind!”, hold tight. Max now turns over, sits up. Cohen, at school, lost in admiration of atom bomb, deplores spinelessness of physicians in refusing to blow up Universe. A good line, he himself quite a card. A brilliant pianist, a good talker. His wife was smitten with polio, a few years ago. Has two children, I think.

 

 

Part 71: Sunday 1st January1961, 5pm

We had been looking forward to going to the Kopkins to-day, Lew was going to collect and return us, but Philip was very much off colour yesterday morning. The doctor came and said flu. Philip was much better this morning, bright and cheerful, but we thought it best not to risk taking him out. However, Lew called for Max & Edith, and I am now writing this in a blissful quiet in the study. Philip was on the go from 9 till 3, when, after two unsuccessful attempts, we hardened our hearts and left him, still protesting, in the cot. Talking of hardening our hearts, it’s amazing how we bawl at him –  NO, you must NOT throw things (the culprit stands stock still, plunged, apparently, in profound thought) – but when he’s not well – ah, where does it hurt you darling? Have some eggy darling? Mookky (milk) darling? Very pathos-ic.