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I hope to preserve online as much of my father’s written output as possible, in particular his unpublished book Mumme Loohshen, An Anatomy of Yiddish.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 142: Friday June 5th 1964, 6.20 p.m.

Writng at this unusual time as everyone out, shopping presumably. Good, enabled me to unload my own shopping (not much; challes, pickles, Nescaf, family brick) before the storm bursts. But they have been out over an hour now, which means that it will be a strom and a half when it does burst.

At the interview [for Friern Barnet] the H.M. told me that the post carried an allowance! In fact, Marsh (the Deputy Director of Education for Hornsey) shook me before that by asking if my decision to accept the post would be affected if the allowance were deferred.

Snags: there may be disciplinary problems, but I cannot imagine discipline generally being a bigger problem than at Cassland [South Hackney School] fifteen years ago, and I feel I could now – after all, with fifteen years’ experience, and no worries about my health - tackle even Cassland. But, on reflection, there can be no retreat – the M.C.C. are under no obligation to offer me a post if I can’t stick F.B. (whereas when I was on Divisional Staff I could always go to another school if I couldn’t make out at the one I was at; if you like, I could always move away before things got too hot for me. But if things get too hot for me here, there can be no moving out! However, at the worst, I think, conditions will be about the same as at Barnsbury now, which means I do my nut, but in a routine sort of way.


Part 141: Saturday May 30th 1964, 10.50 p.m.

Offered and accepted post at Friern Barnet County School (where I teach in the evenings). The advertisement for an English master to take the upper forms (the dud upper forms as was made clear to me in the interview) appeared in the T.E.S. dated 22 May 1964 and stated applications were to be in by 5 June. I sent in my application, posting it after last collection on Tuesday 27 May, fuming at the idea of another wasted hour coming at the end of day already long and hard enough.

Yesterday, at 1.25p.m. when I was in the P/G, Davies said he wanted to see me. For a few wild moments I thought he wanted to offer me a graded post that would become available next term. He told me that the HM of FBCS had rung up to say my application had been received “only just in time” and that he, the HM of FBCS, wanted to see me at 3.30 that day and that he, Davies, had agreed to make it possible for me to do this.

When I got to the school Miss Kind, the Deputy Head, showed me over – in short it was obvious — this time — that the job was in the bag, unless I opened my mouth and put both feet in it (which I promptly proceeded to do, by saying how I’d had a contretemps at my Training College, had spent too much time in primary schools, had had a traumatic — I didn’t use that word — experience at the first school I had been sent to). While I was sent to wait in the D/H’s room, I felt so sure that I’d succeeded in dashing the cup from my lips that I called out “damn”. However, somme toute, I was offered the job, I was told I’d have to submit my resignation to reach the LCC by the end of the month, and I received the letter of confirmation this morning (taking care not to open it, chalila [“heaven forbid”] , until Shabbes was out, but thoughtlessly smoking a cigarette offered me by Mrs Howe, whose husband I saw in hospital this evening.

Before I forget — Howe is a student at the FBEI, he supplied us with carpet for the stairs and landing. He fell down a lift-shaft! His wife phoned to say he was worried that I would wonder why he didn’t turn up. It’ll be nine months before he’s fit again.


Part 140: Whit Monday May 18th 1964, 9.45 p.m.

Ostend. With fifteen boys and F.E.W. the Camden Road art master. I suppose the whole concept of the school journey is, or rather the school journey in its usual practice is, of very questionable value. Even in places not advertising fish and chips and where coach-loads of On-Ilkla-Moor Ba ‘ tat -singing OAP’s are not offloaded, the kids get very little out of it. Scenic and architectural beauty leaves them unaffected, and it’s always the fair, the buying-of-souvenirs, that is in the foreground.

Why did I do it? Honestly, in the hundred-to-one hope that it might help me to “fill in” an application form, and because I felt I had to break up the routine if only with a week away. And now I’m home-sick. Am writing this at a wretchedly low table. Must find some excuse for this appallingly jejune stuff. Incidentally, although this is the Brighton of the Continent, it is quite quiet here now. On reflection, this must be because the Whitsund week-end trippers have gone back.

Campbell took a party of boys youth-hostelling along the Rhine. Cheap, sound. But quite apart from not wanting to set foot on German soil if I can help it, I don’t fancy a 10.30p.m. curvew for myself.


Part 139: Sunday April 26th 1964, 9.30 p.m.

The J.C. sent me Blood from the Sky by Piotr Rawicz for review. I had got the French original in Paris, (Le Sang du Ciel) – I translated it The Blood of Heaven – I think Blood from the Sky is possibly better) and translated a chapter, which I submitted to Secker & Warburg, but they wreote that they had already commissioned a translation: this was evidently it.

I got out the review, but at what cost – offloading my child-minding duties to E. with resultant tension. The J.C. sent me another two books also to do a combined review of, have promised to get them all into the J.C. before I leave for the school journey on May 15th.

Maxie doesn’t love Mummie because she’s not interested in him.

A dream. All I can now remember of it is that I was facing a class with Davies (?) seated by me, and my saying “you’re accusing me of misappropriating the money”. And Davies saying: “Well, here is your fiancé”. She turned out to be dark-brown. I remember thinking I would have to kiss her, which I did, to show I had no racial prejudices. I record it here chiefly to illustrate the difficulty of remembering my dreams. The coloured fiancé part is partly accounted for by the fact that we have a coloured chap on the staff – apparently Sharr said he has difficulty in seeing him in the dark, a remark which some people thought in bad taste, though i though it pretty harmless.


Part 138: Monday April 20th 1964, 10.5p.m.

Mrs Davison ob. on Saturday morning. A lantsfro [a fellow Jew usually from the same village or town originally] of Mum’s, the two were like sisters in the old days. She was in her eighties, but sad all the same:yer goddergo, yergoddergo, we know, but who wants to go, ever? Mum in splendid form, shovelling clods into grave, giving instructions for her tombstone inscription: chob geleyht, geleebt, gelacht. Insists that her age must not be recorded – azoi oz eekh hob nisht gevalt az me zoll mekh bedokren bam leybn, uzoi vill ekh nisht oz me zoll mekh mekanne zaan bam toit.

Fifty-two tomorrow, I must try to do some book-keeping [for his brother’s business] after evening classes then, so will commit to paper my po-hem on the occasion now:-

Fifty – two — 


No — I’m a Polack and proud of it, so:





Fifty-two to-day.

Oi vay!

Two and Fifty.


(Zifty Mod. Heb. slang: lousy)

Thirty years ago: swotting at Birkbeck, knowing poor degree or failure ahead ( a marvel to me how I got even a third in the event. Intensely unhappy, knowing that as member of academic lumpenproleteriat would have to face unemployment. I did – but why didn’t I register at the Labour Exchange. Mum: geh verdeen! Can’t blame her.

Twenty years ago: the best time. Newly commissioned.

Ten years ago: the worst time. Aggie had me where she wanted me. [the divorce that predated the years of the Journal – mentioned in the last chapter of his autobiography].

To-day. See above. Of course I realise how lucky I am to have E. and three happy, healthy, normal kids. But my lack of success professionally, my “rank” corresponding to that of L/AUL (Local Acting Unpaid lance) Bombardier, and the shades of evening falling fast are the flies in the ointment. As Lehrman [?] said: Why be afraid, it’s where we all have to end up? I’m not afraid, just sorry it’s got to happen. As of now I prefer being, with all its inconveniences and worries, to non-being.


Part 137: Tuesday April 14th 1964, 8.45p.m.

Back to school yesterday. Looking forward to first day of summer holidays. Slightly headachey to-day, caught a ball awkwardly on glasses while taking football in P.G. this morning. The general mood not too good – yes, everyone well, must be thankful – but, very conscious of having acheived the nullus part of aut Caesar aut nullus. Constantly meeting people who, e.g., are heads of science department at (local) Woodhouse grammar school. He a macher [“key figure”] at the shool [synagogue] Parents’ Association, to whose AGM I dragged myself last night. Abashed by tremendous work, honorary, put in by these people.

The Yiddish article driving me scatty. There’s no doubting the fact that one needs to be a Germanist to do the job. Fohren, shloggen, troggen etc. – in the Lithuanian dialect – would this be a German (Upper German) dialectical pronunciation?

Ah – I’m going to settle for an hour with Lindmann, by Frederick Raphael. Next Monday evening classes at F.B. start, and the treadmill will afford not even this respite (of an hour with a book on a Monday or Tuesday evening, and being able to get into bed by 11 to 11.30, if one has enough sense to do so).


Part 136: Saturday 11th April 1964, 10.35p.m.

Went to B.M.Friday morning, returning in time to enable E. to take S. to doctor for innoculation. I glanced at the latest stuff on Yiddish – read an erudite mongraph on The Contribution of the Romance Languages to Yiddish in the hope of getting the low-down on “davnen” but all I found was a footnaote to the effect that it is not found before the 16th century. About two pages on “oiren”, which I have never heard, but which means “to pray”. Am not really nearer getting out an article;basically the trouble is I never did my OHG and MHG.


Part 135: Monday April 6th 1964, 10.45p.m.

Spoke yesterday to a local group, on invitation of one Dr Jeffrey Lesser [fellow congregant of Woodside Park Synagogue], on Whither (or, as I suggested “wither”) Yiddish. He had chaired the London Jewish Grads[?] when I spoke to them on Yiddish seven years ago.

Rather ridiculous, I was keyed up practically the whole week for the meeting – I don’t think I’ve spoken to a group since E. & J. have been married. The meeting was held at the house of one Dr. Philip Maurice ( a physicist, I gather) and his wife Hilary. A charming couple. Their house tastefully – no, not opulent – but comfortable ( a bathroom in which one could pace up and down). Although I lost my thread once or twice and was not as lucid or as elegant as should like to have been, I think I satisfied the customers – about twenty of them, including the minister, Koschland. Anyway, I think it may have been the catalyst for my long meditated article on The German Basis of Yiddish – I must try to go to the B.M. on Thursday.

The children quite à la Women’s magazines, shreiking with laughter, all hugging and kissing in Philip’s bed, all quite diddums-iddums. A great pity I couldn’t have had it all twenty years earlier, but still – s’zoll zey keyn eyver nisht weyteen.

Part 136: Saturday April 11th 1964, 10.35p.m.

Went to B.M.Friday morning, returning in time to enable E. to take S. to doctor for innoculation. I glanced at the latest stuff on Yiddish – read an erudite mongraph on The Contribution of the Romance Languages to Yiddish in the hope of getting the low-down on “davnen” but all I found was a footnote to the effect that it is not found before the 16th century. About two pages on “oiren”, which I have never heard, but which means “to pray”. Am not really nearer getting out an article; basically the trouble is I never did my OHG and MHG. [See Chapter Vll of Mumme Loohshen]


Part 134: Easter Monday March 30th 1964, 8 p.m.

Humiliation last Wednesday. Called up for interview at Walthamstow Town Hall for post of teacher of French at a secondary mod. school in Walthamstow. Disgraceful that at my time of life I should have to go through this hoping-against-hope business. Of course, nothing came of it. I could feel the interview was perfunctory, though in my case I gave a lamentable performance. Quoth the Walthamstow Director of Education: Barnsbury, you have many immigrant pupils, I believe, are they a problem? J.W. No, not a problem, some of our best boys are immigrants (and so they are). D of E. to H.M of school: Have you many immigrants? H.M. Only one. Smug bastards.

It’s galling. I must finish out my time as, almost, the lowest form of teaching humanity (the lower forms are supply, divisional staff, non-graduate; supply, divisional staff, graduate). One can only hope that Philip, Max and Susannah are moderately successful. I would be satisfied with a University lectureship for them (indeed, for Susannah perhaps an assistant lectureship would be enough. Certainly one would prefer her happily married to a University lecturer, herself an asst. lecturer, than an unmarried University lecturer. And I imagine she could combine an assisatnat lecturer’s job fairly easily with small-scale motherhood).

What will they make of their old man if ever they read this? I still feel it’s right that they should be able to see something written down by their dad – if they are in a sufficiently strong intellectual position to be embarassed by these potins et cancans, so much the better. But don’t let me give you any complexes, kinderlekh, “vivez, si m’en croyez” (too lazy to look up the rest), fay bien, crains rien, be fruitful and multiply. [three obscure French references that no doubt my dad knew without recourse to his library and thus making his point!]


Part 133: Sunday 9th March 1964, 7.35 p.m.

Robert Dunn, in his late fifties, I imagine, died. What can one say about death if one has no religion, no belief in an after-life? One feels the need to say something – Pax, ת.נ.צ.ב.ה [usually on a Jewish headstone, an acronym for the Hebrew words תהא נפשו/ה צרורה בצרור החיים “May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life.”], what have you. I gather he was of Argentinian (?) Jewish origin, he came into our ken when he married Gertie Kleinman. He had ended up running a laundrette shop, and apparently had to get up at the crack of dawn to stoke the boilers. Even in this day of leisure and automation, there are still loads of people who purchase their livelihood at the cost of ill-health and reduced expectation of life.

Last Sunday to wedding of Alan Secker. Swish affair but less Turkish bath-ish than Selby’s. Alan a nice lad, chartered accountant, only child of Minnie née Sugarman and Alf Secker.Amusing speeches, read out, but no matter. Chap at our table was Sir (!) Alec Samuels, neighbour of bride’s parents. Fortunately no-one of us said who’s this”Sir” geezer – shows you how careful you have to be.

Orgy yesterday for tea, when Auntie Doreen round with Helen, Boobe Esther and Alf. Suppose put on two pounds. Past caring. Chips now, treat, Sunday papers. This is all I live for and the ghastly part about it all is that I want to go on living for it. I don’t know whether this sort of thing makes the right sort of reading for my children when they grow up.

Perhaps the best thing would be for them to read these journals, either when I have snuffed it, or before they are thirty (but not before they are twenty-five) and then to seal them up to hand down to their children when they (the children) are between 25-30. They may be of some purely family value in a century’s time, my great-great-grandchildren may come across names of people with whom at one time or another I’ve been directly associated and with whose descendants they are acquainted, but they will be useless as a commentary on Jewish or Englsih affairs. Pepys is invaluable ninety-per-cent at least, surely, because there were no newspapers or novels in his day.