Part 101: Tuesday 11th September 1962, 10.10 p.m.

Rentreé yesterday. Am now not merely No. 3 in the French hierarchy of Barnsbury Boys’ School, which I was last half, but No. 2 in the hierarchy of the Eden Grove French Dept. (whereas last half I was No. 1 at Eden Grove, vice Davis who had left for a post with an allowance elsewhere). Depressing — C—b —l says his allowance has come through, W—ch got his post with allowance last term at the school, Ch—n takes over at the Assembly this morning – he’s the chap who got the English post for which I put in. I keep on saying I must accept that I shall remain an ungraded teacher, and so what, I had been prepared for this when I started teaching, but it is depressing to have the same status as a girl or boy in their twenties – a lower status, often – too tired to write any more. Am burdened with Sam’s business accounts, trying to get E. to do them. Not fair on her, but I don’t want to “start” with Sam…. Must record the bare bones. Did a translation for Peter Janson-Smith of Rothenberg’s Biblical Archaeology… Valentine Mitchell sent me a Yiddish novel which has been translated into Danish(!) for me to report on. 500 large typescript pages! We took the kids out over the holiday to Derry & Toms (roof garden), more or less Lucullan meal, to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, grim al fresco catering (wooden spatulas for tea, salt in large beakers, rickety tables, litter strewn thick around, to Hampstead Heath, salt-beef fress. We survived – but it was a pretty exhausting business. We painted the kitchen – I ought to be able to make a novel out of that. New lino has been laid. Again, behind the simple statement of fact, the incredible travail: the journeys up West, the placing of an order with X, the countermanding of the order with X and the placing of the order with Y, the precursory ( if the word doesn’t exist, it should) shifting of the gas cooker… On diet again, weighed 14st. 6lb., I think yesterday, on the machine at Manor House station.
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Part 100: Wednesday 22nd August 1962, 10.35 p.m.

Wally [Walter, colleague from Young Zionist days], and Beverly Gasson collected us and drove us to Watford where we had a very pleasant tea. I got the kids their hair cut this morning –  a feat. Kept waiting while an odious Jewess with blood-red, protruding fingernails, knuckleduster, had her two fat podges given beauty treatment. Anyway, I suppose it’s just as well one does encounter hundred-per-cent vulgar ostentatious Jewry affluence, as opposed to the discreet opulence of Wally & Bev. W. & B. married 28 years; B. to W. apropos of something or other: “you nit.” This is quite characteristic, I think it is fair to say. In justice to E., she sometimes describes a statement or action of mine as “stupid”, but she doesn’t “nit” me in the presence of third parties.

To Sam’s [brother] last night to help him with his books. I took them home with me in an attaché case provided by Sam. The book-keeping required is of the non-urgent kind, but I suppose any accountant would insist on its being done.

Relations strained between Sam and Lily, but Lily herself, invited us round to tea/supper next Saturday…Perhaps this may bring about a reconciliation, though Lily said that Sam had threatened to leave her if she did not go with him to Mum’s over Rosh Hashono [Jewish New Year].  Must impress on Sam that refusal to visit a husband’s mother, however legitimately distressing to the husband, does not justify a husband leaving his wife.

How futile all this weak, anaemic, stilted sentences are. Why the bloody, f — g hell couldn’t Sam be living happily, in a decent job, with a loving wife and two or three or four loving kids. The short answer is he was too good (the past tense is deliberate). He was good and weak, too, unfortunately (too good to leave Mum to my tender mercies, or to fend for herself; but perhaps also too weak to fend for himself). Perhaps now he is less good and is just in no position to be strong.

 

Part 99: Tuesday August 14th 1962, 3.40 p.m.

A propos the last sentence of the previous entry, [The truth is, Edith is jealous of the quiet, competent manner in which I handle the children.], Max was grizzling at 1.45p.m. while Doreen, who had called to take E. out for a break, was having a coffee in the kitchen with us. I more or less drove E. out of the house, went up to M., found him standing up in his cot with his nappy off (he now has nappies only when sleeping) and a neat turd on his sheet. It was the work of a moment for J. to take the turd in his fingers and dispose of it in the lavatory pan, take M. to the bathroom, pacify him with boats in the wash basin, clean him up (a globule of excrement needed removing from his podex, no more) and have both children fast asleep within minutes.

If it had been E. there would have been commotion, semi-tearful “oh-dear, – Maxie!”-s, “I-can’t-sit-down-for-a-minute”s, a new sheet on the cot…

We all went to Richard [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] on Sunday, by coach to Dorking (just over two hours in the coach, the children took it very well), whence Richard picked us up with Daphne, his eight year old stepdaughter. Going back Richard took us all the way from Burpham, an hour-and-a-half’s drive. A very enjoyable day. Richard has a nice, (yes, nice, H.L. [Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]) £4,200 house.

Esther laid on a very good spread and the kids enjoyed themselves on the swing in the garden and riding Daphne’s tricycle. We enjoyed ourselves speculating on the Richard-Esther-Daphne relationship (Esther was divorced from her Israeli husband). Richard said to us that he and Esther were “not ideally suited” – they have been married just over a year. The trouble is that Esther does not come up to Joyce Ollet’s standards. (Joyce was the committed R.C. from whom Richard eventually broke off – she rang this morning to tell us she was expecting. She is now married to a very high up atom man in Reading. She is coming up for 40; Esther is in her early thirties.

Rose Wagreich, wife of Harry Wagreich, brother of Sam Wagreich, top N.Y. G.P., was over with her 16-year-old daughter. The daughter makes barely intelligible noises – I can only get one word in ten – and understands what is said through lip-reading, I gather. Rose fears she is going blind. Harry teaches physics at City College, Rose teaches elementary school. Rose was wonderful; her loving patience with her daughter is beyond all praise. She was the unwitting cause of another bust-up at Ambrose Avenue, apparently the bust-up to end all bust-ups, Mum was present, but was specifically exculpated by Sam [brother]. I’m hopeful things will right themselves again. It is, alas, obvious that Sam and Lily are not ideally suited, but then how many married couples are?

Part 98: Sunday August 5th 1962, 3.15 p.m.

Well, the course is over. A first-rate affair. 105 teacher-students, divided into 7 groups, each under an H.M.I. To my surprise, most of the students were very well up in their French…(one woman, a Mrs Whitfield, non-Jewish, taught at Carmel College)…It was a joy to hear good cultured French.

I allowed myself to be our group’s rapporteur of the discussions pédagogiques, i.e., discussions on French teaching method…Our lectures were held in the Rue Henri Heine, and I cogitated throughout the fortnight on a Heine lead-in – “Heinrich Heine, now better known to us as Henri Heine, wrote a series of articles (an article?) for the Revue des Deux Mondes entitled “Confessions of a Poet…” and the idea was to link this with “Confessions of a Rapporteur”. In the event…when my turn came I abandoned the Heine lead-in, gave a perfunctory account of our very pedestrian discussions, but finished up with the vous-me-pardonnerez-c’est-votre-metier gag – I just couldn’t avoid parading Heine.

Anyway, it was done, the reaction of the group when Miss Dancer [the “weak, prim, lady-headmistressy H.M.I taking their group] detailed me for the job was sooner-you-than-me and a number of people congratulated me: I had taken less time than any of the others, and at least I hadn’t read out a carefully written string of platitudes.

E. [wife Edith] has just been in: “That’s right, tell them all about me…” — ? —  “Whatever you right (?! Freudian explanation, E. is right?) about me is detrimental.” All because I took an hour off this morning to clear up my bookcases. Poor E., nebbich, she wants the next one to be a girl and a blue stocking so that she (the girl) can show me up. But blue stockings have to have books, and a girl stands a better chance of becoming a blue-stocking if at least one of her parents is bookish.

Mea maxima culpa once more: I suppose I should manage my personal affairs between 5 and 7 a.m. and be at E’s disposal for the rest of the time she is awake. Better still, I suppose I ought to be earning £2,000 a year; anybody earning less, I suppose, can afford neither the money to buy books, nor the space to keep them, nor the time to read them and keep them in order – especially after Philip and Max have put them in disorder.

Oh well, it’s 4 p.m., all is quiet and peaceful, will break off now till the next outbreak. (P. would not eat his dinner to-day; eventually Daddy put the egg-timer he had brought from Paris on the table, challenged P. to eat his dinner before the sand disappeared from the top half of the hour-glass. P. accepted the challenge and ate his dinner. The truth is, E. is jealous of the quiet, competent manner in which I handle the children.

Part 97: Thursday July 10th 1962, 9.45 p.m.

A fine, cool evening. Returned from last class at Friern Barnet. There’s still another class to go, officially, but I decided to close down the class as I leave for Paris on the morning of the 18th, and I shall need the Tuesday evening, 17th, for packing.

The Ministry of Education placed me on its reserve list for the Paris course..and that which I hoped/feared came to pass – they offered me a place. I want to go because, primarily, I must have something to put down on an application form for a better job – especially in French. It may be that at 50 I stand no chance anyway, but I do not want to feel I have failed to do what I could have done towards a better job. I can’t deny that after fifteen months intense domesticity — pram and push-chair pushing, baby-minding, never stirring outside the Mayfield Avenue – Eden Grove/Camden Road – Southgate – Dinmore House – Moresby Road orbit — I welcome the break. On the other hand it will set me back £20 -£30 which may well have proved (the Hebrew phrase al keren ha’tsvi occurs to me – have I got it right? [yes – הניח כספו על קרן הצבי]) flung down the drain.

The shoulder still a nuisance; to-day feeling stiff generally, à la every-picture-tells-a-story (what has happened, by the way, to Kruschen salts, which used to show the story-picture of the crippled rheumatic leaping through the air “after”?) Maxie bashed his nose – Philip, apparently, pushed him off the bathroom stool when E. [wife, Edith Witriol, née Katz] rushed down to answer the door. His face is gradually assuming its normal colouring; a couple of days ago it was glorious technicolour. E. took him to the doctor and the hospital (she had to take Philip with).

Maxie’s birthday party went off well, except that I went off the very deep end – poor Mum again. If only she could keep Mum like Boobbe Esther [Edith’s mother]. Anyway, mea maxima culpa. The rift in the Sam and Lily [brother and his wife] lute seems to have blown over (awful mixed metaphors – who cares? I want to get back to my soma – La Cavalerie Lourde as of now; any French book with plenty of good colloquial French – not necessarily extreme argot.

 

Part 96: Whit Sunday 10th June 1962, 9 p.m.

Heat wave yesterday, to-day cool but fine.  Geoffrey & Hélène Stalbow picked us up and took us down to the old man – 84 – at Harpenden. We all stowed in  – Hélène & Geoffrey’s two girls, Ruth,12 and Judith, 9, and Philip & Max – in a four-seater car, but Geoffrey kept up a continuous patter which made the journeys there and back pass quickly. Max behaved unexpectedly well. They are a fine couple, Geoffrey squat, sturdy, bull-necked, like his old man; Hélène slim, trim, quiet, still pretty at – 36? She drove, Geoffrey apparently doesn’t drive. Strange, since he’s very much an aggressively – almost -virile type & was a captain in the R.A. The old man lives alone in his house with garden – he lives for Zionism and his garden…he’s an extraordinary character. He spends half the year in Rehovot & the summer at Harpenden…

Domestic trouble at Ambrose Avenue. Tension between Sam & Lily because Sam said some weeks ago, in front of Mum, that Lily hated/disliked/did not like us & the kids (the exact words are not certain…). Lily denies – what have the children done to me? Sam talks of leaving her, but I don’t see how he can….he’s nowhere to go to except Mum, and I told him he must try to imagine Mum’s in a single room & he can’t use Moresby Road as a bolt-hole. He says he’ll find somewhere else, but he can’t afford to keep up the house at Ambrose Avenue & pay £3-10-0 a week for a room. Basically the trouble is due to the fact that Lily, au fond, sticks to her conception of you-bring-in-the-money-and-I’ll-keep-a-nice home and is unwilling to recognise that to keep up her nice home…she needs a husband earning at least £1500 a year…I’m hoping…things will take a turn for the better. It seems all wrong, a more harmless, inoffensive chap than Sam it would be hard to find – a sod like me one can understand these things happening to – but he has to suffer because of his mother and brother…

Mum says she can no longer cope. Her geyser has conked out, it will cost £38 to replace. She will come round here for a bath to-morrow. Lily says Sam throws in her face that Mum lives alone…thousands of people live alone, thousands don’t so – more or less – what, Edith says I didn’t worry about Mum living alone before I married her. One can only hope, and this is of course my mother’s prayer, that she will be able to look after herself to the last. In any case, the spare bedroom at Ambrose Avenue is now used as an office/stock room… And — wait for it  — E. is pregnant once more. The safe period has not been so safe. Extraordinary thing about E. – one has only to breathe on her and she becomes pregnant. Extraordinary thing about J. – always feared he was impotent, and told the girls after he had more-or-less proposed to them that he was afraid he might be impotent. Ah well, sweet mystery of life. I hope Edith has an easier confinement than the previous two, and that No. 3 is as bonny as Max. “Bonny” is not an adjective one can apply to Philip, he’s too thin, but touch wood he is a healthy, if perhaps somewhat nervous and highly strung child.

Part 95: Monday 28th May 1962, 9.15 p.m.

Injected last Monday, but no change in shoulder condition…the pain is not severe, but continuous and tends, I am afraid,  to make me even less easy to live with than I am normally (poor E. wants to natter about the fireplace she has painted, the kitchen walls she wants to paint in the summer holidays; I, after keeping the kids – bless ’em – company till 8.30 p.m., just want to read).

Went to a conference on language teaching, at Woodberry Down, last Tuesday. Opened my mouth -in folly – strange to think that nearly thirty years ago I talked on equal terms with [Abba] Eban and [Victor] Mishcon. I seem to be unable to string half a dozen mediocre sentences together off the cuff. A propos of a concluding remark by Mrs Cox, the formidably efficient (but carefully avoiding any “mannishness” – pearls, soignée) Head of Woodberry Down’s Language Dept., that in translating, elegance (or correctness? – it doesn’t affect the issue) of English should be sacrificed to accuracy, I referred – clumsily – to my professional experience as a translator and said that to an English publisher readability of English was the first consideration; I myself – and others – simply omitted any difficult or uncertain passages. MacGowan [school Inspector] said he thought this was damnable, on a level with the “Daily Express”.

Another of the lecturers took the micky out of the je-coupe-la-banane – type of lesson; one learnt a foreign language to  acquire its literary treasures, not to be able to buy shoelaces in the market. He quoted Ruskin on housemaids and queens. His lecture was brilliant entertainment, but I thought that if there were a hiatus in the discussion I would make some crack about the housewife of to-day preferring to converse with a housemaid, if she could get one, to a queen. However, the opportunity did not occur. The last lecture was by a chap who provided an effective contrast to the Ruskin-quoter; he (the last lecturer) had sec. mod. kids to teach and gave them, with plenty of his own duplicated material, stuff of the “Avez-vous dansé le twist” kind. He was a youngish chap, full of enthusiasm,imagination; obviously he just doesn’t potter around when he comes home. Reading The Small Room by one May Sarton, on womens’ college in States.

Part 94: Monday 7th May 1962 – 9 p.m.

Actually I concocted quite a tolerable review, I think, without having to go to the B.M. I also did a review for the Linguists’ Institute of a Hebrew text-book they sent me – Ivrit lemaaseh by one Ch. Rosenthal. To get the picture on current Hebrew text-books I went to Foyles. I was prepared to spend 25/- – 30/- on (a) Hebrew book(s) as an inspection fee, getting the money from flogging some review copies and the definitive edition of Kipling’s verse which I sold in the event to Foyle’s buying dept. for 25/-. As there was no one in charge of Foyle’s Hebrew dept. I took a free look-round – they don’t seem to care, why should I?

The pain in shoulder still a nuisance. How boring all this talk of pain. [Dr]Pallot has forwarded me  to the physiotherapy wallah at the local hospital for an injection which I hope will do the trick. I’m not flapping, really, but as always cannot avoid feeling that perhaps it’s here to stay, in that case one could live with it and in fact one would hope that this would be one’s lot, so to speak. (oopkimminish -semasiology?). First day at school to-day. Sorry – but if only I were quite pain-free I think I could get through the term reasonably happily.

Back to Sam & Lily’s with kids on Shabbos. They’re both working very hard evenings, Sundays – I hope they’ll be able to make something out of it. Mot, Chip & Helen, Charles & Trudie and Gertie & ? Shields came round for supper – it was Lily’s birthday (53rd? 54th?) – and Mot took us home. It would seem, then, that the morale at Ambrose Avenue is not too bad.

The kids in first-rate form but very taxing on E. – I haven’t been able to help her as much as I should have liked causa doloris mei, which is my pathetic attempt at elegant variation. I wish I had a cine-camera & tape recorder and could fix them screaming and fighting for possession of the bike, Maxy saying “Mummy” (when I point to E. & say “Who’s that?), “Daddy” (when I point to myself), “Pippik” when I point to Philip.

Part 93: 21st April 1962 – 9.25 p.m.

E. suggests my opening entry: To the strains of Edith’s trumpetings (she has had a shocking cold for over a week) I herald in my 50th birthday.” I see last year I made no entry on my 49th birthday, but the half-century seems to deserve some comment. But what is there to say? It’s unfair to E. to indulge in excessive self-flagellation, pretentious too – my aut Caesar aut nullus line. All I can do is to hope that dum spiro – however much longer that is to be – I shall be able to discharge my family responsibilities. Perhaps I have laid too much blame for my failures on the fact that I had no father to be guide, counsellor, friend.

Unless Philip and Max are exceptionally unlucky they will have at least E. to guide them (unobtrusively) till they are in their twenties, and E. will not make the mistakes with them that my mother made with me. She will not hold them back from studying/working abroad, away from London, so that she may relieve her loneliness, if she is widowed. She will not tell them she will scrub floors for them for their sakes (though she will deprive herself of domestic help she might otherwise have been able to employ, so that P. and M. can study in a proper way – able to supplement their State and/or Local Authority allowances, etc., with pocket money provided very, very tactfully by her – “your father left you this money so that you could build up a library or take out a girl in style occasionally” – though surely by then the girl will certainly go Dutch).

Still pain in shoulder. Not acute; codein unnecessary, but twinges when lifting children. No use saying don’t lift’em – often most effective way of securing quiet is to lift them up on to window sill to survey passing scene.

J.C [Jewish Chronicle] sent me a book on Schnitzler, Kraus and a third Viennese-Jewish litterateur to review. [Karl Kraus, Arthur Schnitzler, Otto Weininger: Aus dem judischen Wien der Jahrhundertwende, Dr. Hans Kohn

They had previously sent me a book on German literature to review. They bungled one sentence – admittedly pretty convoluted in the original – completely in the printing, so that it reads incomprehensibly. Vienna is something, I suppose, on which one ought to be able to let oneself go – I read seinerzeit Schnitzler con amore, and ought to be able to drag in Czokor and his Dritte (?) Oktober 1918  – there’s a scene in which half-a-dozen Austrians lament the old Austria, and it is the Jew whose lament is the most heartfelt [sic: 3 November 1918] – but I’d have to go to the B.M. [i.e. to The Reading Room at The British Museum] to look up the play – and if I take a whole day off during my school holidays I develop a guilt complex.

Part 92: Monday 10th April 1962, 8.55 p.m.

A great relief –  Sam [brother] has got into the L.C.C. [London County Council] He’s starting at £715, rising by £35’s to £850. He started to-day and apparently everything is hunky-dory. He’s in an office with congenial, middle-aged/elderly types. After the nut-house of the Butts [Newington Butts, presumably referring to the handbag business that he had], this will be a rest cure for him, but he’s got to keep the business going — S. Witriol (Handbags) Ltd; in contrast to The Central Handbag Co.Ltd; did not go into liquidation — in order to find another £12-10-0 weekly before tax for Lily [his wife, neé Weingarten] and him to live on. If he can succeed in this, he may have turned the corner. In any case the L.C.C. job must be the sheet-anchor; if he has to chuck up the “business” (SWHL, etc., operating from Ambrose Avenue – apparently the neighbours are not objecting) Lily [wife] must get a £7 -£9 – £10 a week job and he must let a couple of rooms. Although having a miniature warehouse in her home is something Lily can’t find particularly pleasant, she seems to be taking a sensible, realistic view. When I phoned at 8pm she was busy pounding away at a typewriter. All I hope now is that they both keep reasonably fit, the rest will work out. It’s a relief to feel that if Sam does get a cold he can stay off for the odd day – or week – without doing his nut.

Edith has wax in ear, tummy-trouble. She popped into the doctor this evening and has to go in again to-morrow evening. I shall be going in myself to-morrow evening. Have developed pain in my right shoulder…

E. got no reply on ringing Boobbe Esther [her mother] on Friday night about 8.45pm. Eventually got policeman to call Uncle Morry and Auntie Rosie to get her out of bed – Boobbe E. had forgotten that Edith would be ringing her. Watch out for the next instalment in the thrilling Witriol saga.