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I hope to preserve online as much of my father’s written output as possible, in particular his unpublished book Mumme Loohshen, An Anatomy of Yiddish.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 146: Thursday September 3rd 1964, 1.40 p.m.

Boobbe Esther was taken to Hackney Hospital last Friday with a heart attack. Her condition is critical. She seemed very bright and cheerful last Sunday evening. One can only hope.

Edith has taken Philip and Max to the hospital, Susannah is asleep. I have been trying to think about what English I shall teach in my new school, but I suppose I shall just have to go through the text books. I should like to be able to talk to them lucidly, fluently about Shakespeare, Milton, Auden, and be able to spout effortlessly great chunks at them, but all the thousands of books, articles, all the trillions of words I have read in my life have just left a detritus in my mind, only a small portion of which would be relevant to these kids anyway.

Hugh Harris [?] sent me a book, Belmarch about the massacre at Mainz, for review. Was able to introduce Tchernichovsy‘s Baruch of Mayence and a quotation from Dr Cecil Roth’s Short History of the Jewish People. In this instance, the detritus could be made use of.

Also sent off my German Basis of Yiddish [see also Mumme Loohshen, his book on Yiddish] article to the Jewish Chronicle. Am afraid it may be over-long, though hoping they will have sense enough not to reject it on that score, but cut it. I was afraid a book The History of the Yiddish Language which was catalogued at the B.M [British Museum, i.e the British Library] would have made my article completely redundant, but apparently the book was merely commissioned (by the American Philiosophical Society, I think) but has not been published. I looked at The Field of Yiddish 1954, which contains some very scholarly, and some very esoteric, work. However, I have still read nothing, anywhere, in English, that renders my Hebrew Elements or Polish and Russian Elements or my present German Basis articles superfluous. I know of no other source to which an educated reader (non-specialist) could be referred for the information they give.


Part 145: Thursday August 25th 1964, 9.15 p.m.

Fuit Cliftonville. The long months of discussion finally culminated in our schlepping along to the Windsor Hall of that place. Nerve-wracking journey thither, Susannah screaming in the coach most of the time. In fact, Susannah, bless her, proved a handful all the week. Would not stay put on the beach, continually ingesting sand, would not stay put in her high chair at the meals. However, in spite of a bust-up between E. and myself, the operation proved a success.

It was a feat to have got it off the ground at all. The Windsor Hall was a bit off, the public rooms, bathrooms quite good, but chambermaid service poor. Also the treyffe [non-kosher] atmosphere in an exclusively Jewish hotel was a little depressing. We had only ourselves to blame, as the hotel proclaims itself non-orthodox.

The clientèle was mixed, with a preponderence of betting and street-trader types. I suppose we were the only family without a car.

The situation was largely retreived by our meeting up with Ralph Kent ( Kurzbart/ Kissberg) and his wife Sylvia and their four children: Mary, about 9; John, about 7; Antony 4 and Lucille 2. The latter a beautiful, intelligent doll, and good as gold, unlike another little girl we know. Ralph is a bright, aggressive, successful type, but I can’t say I take completely to him. I didn’t like the way he interrogated me: You teacher – headmaster, I suppose, head of department and his pirouetting description of his own job: I don’t teach, I couldn’t teach – lecture? Who’d listen to me, no I organise other teachers. Apparently he’s a principal (senior?) lecturer at a College of Technology and specialises in computers. However, he is undeniably intelligent, and talks well, with lots of Yiddish, though he professes to have no time for word-merchants.


Part 144: Thursday July 30th 1964, 9.10 p.m.

They [the Wagreich cousins] have come over, but polished the whole family off in one day, last Sunday. Sam & Lily had them round for lunch with Mum, and they came to us for tea and they acted as hosts to supper at a joint called the Beachcomber – dark, fake paraffin-burning candles on tables, the gimmick being the spécialité de maison – crustaceés. Sam told us the bill for the seven of us came to £14, and he gave £2-10-0 tip. The evening set me back £2-10-0 for the car taking Mum, E. and myself back, plus £12/6 for Mrs Hardy. Two sports shorts for each of the boys and myself (“sets” à l’Américaine), dresses for E. and Susannah…

Feeling rather cheesed. Fourth day of “holiday”. Took P. to Boobbe [grandmother in Yiddish] to-day. Boobbe said her nerves couldn’t stand P. running about as he did – “Bugger your nerves” – “I’m going home.” Journey there and back involved five buses, one train, walking to and from Tally Ho. Schlepped large case with disjecta membra of three deck-chairs. I suppose I’m not so smart, I ought to be able to bung the kids and various clobber in the car and take them places.

After prolonged intermittent labour managed to deliver my “German Basis of Yiddish” [see also Chapter IV of mumme loohshen . Whether the J.C. take it or not, ‘khonn ne alleyn tsegibben, as Boobbe Y. says, it has some meat in it. I suppose someone else has hit upon the epenthetic n in hu’nt, and the pronthetic u‘s in uheen, uher, etc., but I have hit upon them quite independently.

Susannah has just come down and is having fun with the drapes in the dining room. Ah-ah a gedille


Part 143: Thursday July 2nd 1964, 9.35 p.m.

Must record that last Sunday we held a children’s party for Max’s fourth birthday. We had been in some trepidation about it for weeks beforehand, but it went off well. Weather was good, fortunately, most of the time could be spent in the garden. Improvised sports – three-legged races, egg-and-spoon (pine cones doing duty as eggs) races – games (pine cone in bucket) went down well.

Sam Wagreich and Rosalind will be over in a few weeks’ time. Reactions: bind organising, attending receptions for them, expensive too. But they will bring munificent gifts. Yes, I know, I’ve sunk pretty low, so low that I do not feel inhibited from saying I’d rather have a straight $50 note than a gimmicky wrist-watch, such as they gave me last time, which gave me contact trouble and which must have cost me about £3 in repairs and alterations.


Women’s Greatest Own Goal

Football Apathetic by Max Witriol

There are a number of reasons why I do not watch football any more.  Primarily, I suppose, because I’m getting on in years, and despite playing the game “after a (very obsolete) fashion” till I was 50 and watching it on tele a good few years beyond that, there comes a time in a person’s life when he feels he has to jettison the frivolities of youth, albeit very belatedly.

 Of course the pandemic did not help.  The idea of playing behind closed doors with superimposed crowd sound effects, along with the usual banal commentating, felt like a weak joke.  And the pandemic refocused priorities – people applauded frontline NHS health staff and other key workers, not the pampered, overpaid Premier League icons normally held in such high esteem. They and actors and pop stars, as well as those famous for being famous, were dethroned – a welcome byproduct of the pandemic. 

Those who turned out to clap on Thursday evenings, children who drew their thank you NHS pictures, even the mainstream media, focused their adoration on decent hard-working people for a change. Alas, it would appear that all this was just a flash in the bedpan, so to speak, as burnt-out nurses have been left to soldier on while, even as I type, the great moral compass that is the BBC is calling England players heroes for winning a match.

And we had the disgraceful and bizarre politicisation of football like never before, as football chiefs jumped on the BLM bandwagon. They still refuse to get off, despite the knowledge that they are sanctioning, nay demanding, footballers align themselves with an overtly Marxist organisation. When I first heard that footballers were ‘taking the knee’ before a match in the week of the BLM eruption, I was disgusted.  Months later, in conversation with a friend, I was incredulous to learn that this political gesture had been happening before every single game. And it has carried on ever since. 

Consider that we have only one day a year in which society in general, and football in particular, honours the memory of all those who died protecting our freedoms in World Wars l and ll.  I cannot bring myself to watch the game that I used to love when it is in thrall to a movement whose aggressive left-wing agenda is anathema to the vast majority of decent people and football fans.  But worst of all is the painfully predictable tactic of the self-righteous ‘liberals’: affording pariah status to anyone who doesn’t go along with this utter scandal. Hence those who boo the knee jerk nonsense are deemed racist. Talk about inversion of the moral order.

There is another reason why I have been turned off football and that is the equally leftist driven agenda of pushing women’s football and trying to elevate it to a status it simply cannot uphold.  And more to the point, why should it?  If you think I am being a misogynistic anti-feminist dinosaur you are only partly right.  Because here I think women have scored their greatest own goal since burning their bras – yes, as I am sure you realise by now, I am that old.

Of course, they have been massively encouraged by those who try and equate men and women in every which way – back to the BBC and the ‘liberals’ again. But here we have a case where women have ironically regressed by aping their male counterparts.

 My original point was that I had become apathetic to football by dint of being older and focusing on things in life which are more important.  All the years I was growing up as a football crazy boy/youth/grown man/middle-aged man, the women around me would consider it a nonsense and a complete waste of time – as the cliche of cliches went “it’s just 22 men kicking a piece of leather around”.   The women I knew were appalled at the obscene amounts of money these prima donnas were paid, most of whom were well-known for their infidelity to their hairdresser wives. Now I am not saying I retroactively agree with all and everything that women prioritise in life – nail polish, handbags, Phil Collins, etc – but football widows who saw their husbands spend hours away from the family and who felt entitled to more attention and help with the kids probably had a valid point – yes their views on football weren’t so ridiculous after all!    But now, in the name of “equality”, “diversity” and cultural Marxism,  they have to show that they are every bit as immature as men!

And it is not just women watching and playing football, but they are increasingly commentating on football.  And I do not mean commentating on women’s football but on men’s football!  Like there are not enough male ex-professional footballers who are far more qualified in terms of decades of top-level playing and/or managing experience to talk about the game.

And so now, after years of disappointment watching England fail miserably in tournament after tournament, when it saddened and disappointed me; now that I don’t really care I am probably gonna miss out on England finally being successful. 

But hey – I don’t care anymore.

Editor’s Note: this post was written before England’s quarter-final game


Online racial abuse

All day every day, social media – Facebook, Instagram, tik-tok etc are cesspits of abuse and disgusting behaviour from hugely unintelligent elements of society.  It came as no surprise therefore that there was racial abuse directed at the three black players who failed in the Euro-20 final penalty shoot-out.   

The reaction to that reaction, however, has been over the top and completely disproportionate. As stated, abuse and hatred and vile language and death threats go on all the time. So why has the media and all the usual woke suspects blown this out of all proportion? The best way to deal with this abuse is to ignore it. But the only discussion I’ve heard since the final is not about the great performances of the players/manager etc but about a handful of morons who’ve got nothing better to do than what they normally do. 

Let’s be clear – we’re not talking about institutional racism in football or society.  Just a few nut-jobs who spend their time being gratuitously offensive. 

Sir Alex Ferguson tells about the time when he first came to Man United and was not at all successful. He was getting slated mercilessly  in the press and it was actually getting to him quite badly (who knew such a hard-nosed acerbic Scotsmen was so sensitive, eh?).  When he confided this to the late great Sir Matt Busby RIP, Sir Matt turned to him and said “there’s a simple solution Alex – just don’t read the papers”.  

Why give so much oxygen to the haters?

We can’t let these social media giants just get away with it you might say – which is absolutely true. But why the wall-to-wall outrage over this instance of trolling and nothing about the daily avalanche of hate from, e.g. Muslim extremists, terror organisations and general trolling?

You could argue that, ok at least this has brought the issue to much wider and urgent attention. But the question remains – what took the media so long, and why are they so selective with their criticism?

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.