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I hope to preserve online as much of my father’s written output as possible, in particular his unpublished book Mumme Loohshen, An Anatomy of Yiddish.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 159: Sunday, 18th April 1965 10.20 p.m.

Sam [brother] in bed with “congestion”. Worried. I feel he is shortening his life by doing two jobs, but don’t know the answer…[redacted discussion of financial position]

We had M. and Mme Marceau round on Wednesday evening for a meal – bottle of wine, “apéritifs”, the full treatment. They brought us a Camembert. I felt I ought to show them some hospitality on the do-as-you-would-be-done-by principle. It was only afterwards that I thought that it might be useful to us to have a French contact- so that perhaps in two or three years’ time we could exchange Philip for a boy his own age for three weeks in summer. Edith [wife] said she thought I didn’t seek contacts for “ulterior motives” – no harm in having “ulterior motives” so long as you don’t pretend the motives don’t exist. In any case, as I said, the “ulterior motives” only occured to me later. For myself, I’m quite prepared to spend a quid or two on hospitality without any thought of reciprocity.

Bad lumbago (fibrositis? arthritis?) yesterday. Easier to-day, though had to do backward-roll act in bed to put socks on. Sheyne gelekhter [Yiddish – what a laugh!]. Now feeling slightly sick. Herring for supper. Susannah fit, bless her, she is really, well, cute; as I’ve told E. all along, these are the golden years. E. toils all the time, sticking wall paper in kitchen now. Worried about her “lake” (leg) – varicose veins. She should have operation, but would have to lose a stone at least before an operation could be considered. Don’t know how she manages to keep standing on them all the time.

Part 158: Tuesday, 13th April 1965 8.40 p.m.

Have survived the Easter term. Am hoping worst is now over. Only twenty or so left in each of 4A & 4B, and although will still have to be on the ball with them all the time, things should be easier.

Worn out. Lots to do – Zangwill review to write, lesson notes to prepare, must go into question of school journey, etc.

A party of twenty-four boys, with one moniteur and their leader – M. Marceau – and his wife arrrived yesterday from Chaville. They were billeted in FBCS music room, on stretchers. Their reception seemed distinctly makeshift to me, but perhaps I’m being unjust. The boys pay nothing, so perhaps they can’t grumble….

I suggested to Hasler (the caretaker) that perhaps M. and Mme Marceau have some carpert from the staff room. I chivied Miss Reid to get them a racket each and four new tennis balls, and chivied her again to get the tennis net put up (“You may think it’s very simple, Mr Witriol” – esprit d’escalier again – I should have said “Before you made your appearance in the world, Miss Reid, I had been putting up nets, I realise that putting them up is not simple.”

Saw Exodus. This is the drama I should have been acting in.

P&M have been confined to their room (apart from forays into the kitchen) with a virus infection. They have now been cleared, but Susannah has gone down. Doctor says hse should be clear in five days – hope so, want to go round to Sam & Lily en famille on Easter Monday.

Part 157: Saturday, 3rd April 1965 10.05 p.m.

Kylie is substantially right, I suppose. However, while it is true the “kids drive me mad”, it is also true that they are not to blame for this. They are normal, high-spirited kids and I get a lot of pleasure thinking about them – when I get a chance to think about them. We took them to the park this afternoon. I dragged myself along. Having taken P & M to shool in the morning I felt tired, as usual, in the afternoon, and dozed till about 4pm.

Terrible to think that I am too tired to play with my kids, when so many people would give (what? their right arms?…) to have kids of their own to play with.

Preached yesterday on the negative and positive version of the Rule of Love. Grieves thanked me curtly. So what. He offered me the platform. Does he think I was going to talk about the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit? But one girl said I was “always going on about Jews” – perhaps she has something. I will try to keep my next sermon free from Jewish colouring.

Financial situation again difficult. Must have spent at least £20, I suppose, in having “our man” (Mr Cowley, who rents the garage from us) do up kitchen, nursery, etc. Long time since I had a substantail translating job. Teachers have been offered 12%, have refused, claim has gone to arbitration….If the increase comes through by July 31st, could manage to find £80-£100 for week’s holiday without dipping into £40 left us by Boobe Esther. [Edith’s mother]…

Part 156: Monday, 22nd March,8.0 a.m. – sic!

Unusual for me to be up,washed & dressed on a workday morning – more unusually, all the children are asleep. I always have a nagging feeling that I must record the fleeting moment, but when eventually I do get the chance to write something her, can think of nothing to say.

While I remember, Sam [brother] got a “recognition award” of £50 from the L.C.C. for good service. Fantastic – from the way he tells me he speaks to his superiors-in-office it’s a wonder to me he hasn’t been slung out on his neck. According to Sam,too, most of the work done is “created” – which I can well believe. Sam had about a fortnight off sick a few weeks ago. He says he’s fit now, but it gives me a khlip in harts when I see him crawling to the bus [redacted].

While I was taking 4A for English on Friday (“Model Girl” in their Positive English books) one Kylie pushed over to me (or perhaps Tribble did on his behalf) a note he had written: “Look at him, peeping at us through his shiny glasses, little eyes always on the move, he reminds me of a robot. He gets up in the morning, dresses, cleans his teeth, or gets them out of a glass if they are false, has his breakfast, kisses his wife goodbye, says goodbye to the kids and walks to school. He may get a lift by one of the other teachers. He struggles through the morning and almost kills himself in the afternoon, he goes home, has his tea, gets driven mad by the kids and goes to bed, God, what a life. I feel sorry for the poor bugger (crossed out – MAN substituted) in a way.” Ad Kun Kiely [Hebrew, lit. meaning “to the establishment of the community”?]

Part 155 #2: Saturday, 10.30p.m., 6th March 1965

Read Ilya Ehrenburg‘s book – The Stormy Life of Laz Roitscvantz – and concocted the review over the week-end . It was reviewed by Philip Toynbee in last Sunday’s Observer, rather unfavourably, but I allowed this to influence my own review only very slightly. Toynbee had the edge on me in being able to refer to one of Ehrenburg’s novels; I knew nothing whatsoever of Ehrenburg except what I had read in the brief note on him in Cecil Roth’s Jewish Encyclopedia.

But, of course, it’s no use blinking the truth; I haven’t retained enough of what I’ve read…And, twisting the screw again, I haven’t the necessary command of language. I am unable to make the general assertions. All I seem able to be able to dois to quote from the books.

Sonntag sent me a book on Zangwill to review for The Jewish Quarterly. One gets no fees, but I see the book is priced at 56/-. The Linguist asks for their books-for-review back. I spent a lot of time on Israel Hebrew for The Incorporated Linguist, and it looks very much as if they won’t even publish it – and, as I say, I had to return the book. It was a solid, useful work, and it would have been some consolation to retain it.

Regarding Zangwill. I know quite well the review I should like to write. Lambast the epigones and our lady-writers (Gerda Charles, Renee Winegarten) who, on his centenary, wrote about him de haut en bas. But I shan’t be able to do it. Apart from the fact that I can’t write in the necessarily devastating fashion (icily correct, but making the ladies squirm), I’d have to go to Jew’s College and spend a lot of time finding out what the ladies mentioned did actually say.

Part 155 #1: Saturday, 10.30p.m., 6th March 1965

Seems incredible that seven weeks have elapsed since last entry [sic – he had misdated the previous entry]. Sam unwell, took off a week and two days from County Hall. Manny Saphier, his wife Hetty and their young daughter Leonie at Sam’s last Wednesday; E & I went round. I’m not sure whether his parents were luntslaht of mine, but we – the Davisons, the Hirschorns, the Sugarmans, the Kleinmans, the Saphiers all contstituted our group – not all were friendly with each other, the Davisons & the Saphiers were at daggers drawn – but all friendly with us, and all barbers.

Manny became a sanitory inspector, due to proteksia from Lansbury, who knew the Saphiers well, then chucked up this safe job to take up medicine. It was a case of tightening his belt; he lived, I gather, very austerely with his mother, who later died in tragic circumstances, but he made it. He evnetually became a GP in Sutton.

He was always rather aggressively atheist, anti-Zionist and α-Jewish, but is now very Jewishly conscious and likes to relax with Yiddish talk. His young daughter Leonie has been smitten with Zionism. An engaging girl, a little scruffy, but vivacious and unaffected. I liked the way she said she didn’t like the Kibbutz type of wedding, the bride just wearing a white shirt-waister. She wanted a bit more “shmaltz” (her expression – delightful, I thought), though she didn’t want to go to the other extreme. Incidentally, Manny & Hetty weren’t married in a synagogue, so the question arises whether Leonie could be married in a shool without her parents having to go through a shool ceremony.

Part 154: Sunday, 8.50p.m., 14th January [sic February] 1965

NB: Out of respect to Sam and Lily, a relative has asked that I remove more personal matters from this instalment. I am happy to do so.

Not a cheerful day. Sam [brother], Lily [sister-in-law] & Mum arrived for a birthday party we were giving for Philip. On entering the hall, Mum discovered she had left her bag with “about £50” in it in the car – the car had gone [redacted]. After an hour the driver came back – following on various telephone calls – with the bag, containing £41 in cash in it.

A policeman entered Mum’s bedroom on Thursday night, switching on all the lights – apparently a neighbour across the road had shouted out that someone was making an entry. Mum takes it all magnificently, she was probably saving the story to relate with full effect; as it was I heard it from Sam.

Poor Sam. He passed out the other day [redacted]. One can only hope that they [Sam and Lily] will both be spared [redacted].

It’s difficult to know what Sam can do. The Gordian knot could be cut by his giving up either the L.C.C. job or the business; I rather think the former [redacted]. Meanwhile Sam will soon be 59 and has had a — awful life.

Too fed up to write any more. Forty-five more school days before the Easter holidays start. I’m hoping that from this summer term on I shall more or less be able to take school in my stride, by which I mean do no more than bawl out not more than a hundred times a day “Stop talking!” “The next person that…will…”

Hugh Harris of the J.C. has sent me a book by Ilya Ehrenburg for review. A ticklish problem, as one must refer somehow — as H.H. said over the phone — to the fact that Ilya Ehrenburg managed to keep alive in the Stalinist purges.

Part 153: Monday 18th January 1965, 9.15p.m.

Mr Maison is taking my Monday evening class at Friern Barnet [Evening Institute] for me. I had asked Newman if he could arrange for someone to hold the fort for me this, spring, term. I went in, not knowing whether Newman had been able to get a replacement for me. Maison turned up and so I said “au revoir” to the class. There’s a risk that the class may disintegrate, but it’ll have to be taken.

With exams on, and only two days mid-term holiday, [at Friern Barnet County School] I feel I must concentrate on surviving this term. The summer term should be easier, with only about 20-25 on roll in each of 4A & 4B. Unfortunately some of the worst yobs are staying on, but the summer term is a short one, there will be a full week’s mid-term holiday, and I’m hoping I shall have turned the corner.

Last week I did four nights, standing in for Mrs Syke’s again. Alf [Katz, brother-in-law] got my exam papers run off for me: 3 English papers for 4A &B, 3 English papers for 3A and an Eng.Lit. paper for my 5th yr. group. It cost me £4-10-0, but I just haven’t got the patience to muck about with the school whatever-it-is-machine.

Part 152: Tuesday 5th January 1965

Back to school this morning. Letter in my register telling me Grade l allowance (£110 p.a.) had been granted. So there’s some incentive for gritting one’s teeth, but it’ll still be very tough. However, at the moment I haven’t got the feeling of angst that I have had at times – perhaps because Mitchener, for example, who is not so much a yob himself as a source of yobbery in others – was not in my 4A lesson (this must have been providential as I saw hinm outside Grieve’s study at break, before my lesson was due to start).

In the whirl, right enough. Dinner duty, library duty to-day. This evening took some of Mrs Pentney’s class as well as my own, she’s away with flu. Have agreed to take Mrs Sykes’s grade lll class to-morrow, too. She too is off sick (Forsyth: Now we’ve got these bloody women there’ll always be off sick…must keep my fingers crossed. Apart from the feeling of fright in the pit of the stomach, am quite fit – we all are indeed, Laus Deo). It looks as if, far from cutting my evening classes [at Friern Barnet Evening Institute] down to two a week I shall be stepping them up to four.

Mr Weingarten seriously ill in hospital with cerebral haemorrhage.


Part 151: 21st December 1964, 8.15 p.m.

Monday, first day of holiday. “Aunty Olive” has just come in, bearing gifts for the children, and will try to write this before supper. Yes, school [Friern Barnet County School] is tough. Perhaps, with reasonable luck, it may be viable next year. Next term will be the cruellest term: long, only twp (three?) days mid-term, exams, which I shall have to try to write or type out myself.

In addition to the classroom difficulties there have been staff and headmaster-imbroglios, but these I can take in my stride. I duly delivered my sermon, but as Grieves [headmaster] said, it was too long. During these holidays I must a) enter my lesson notes, b) compile exam papers, c) write out “The English Story” notes (done – a gimmick; the problem of filling three long-hour periods with 4A is acute – anything in the nature of drama is impossible), d) write out “library assignment” cardss, e) get the books [for his brother’s handbag business] brought up to 30 Sep 64 – that seems to be about all.

Fortunately, we’re all fit – though Sam passed out last Saturday, purely the result of overstrain.