Part 53: Sunday, 13th March 1960, 8.35p.m.

Mr Balin died, after much suffering and hospitalisation. The internment at Marlow Rd. cemetery. Mick and Sam comported themselves very well; Mick tall, thin, Roman-ascetic, in regulation bowler; Sam more rounded. Newman, the G/G synagogue minister said it was not permitted to deliver a hesped [eulogy] on Purim, but gave a short hesped (a zchiss [honour] which the deceased earned by virtue of Mick’s wardenship of the G/G synagogue.

Dined with E. yesterday at Gennaro’s [?] & saw Irma La Douce; our wedding anniversary celebration. E. enjoyed the lights and the general living it up; Leicester Square on a Saturday night is a fine place to be away from.

Am teaching French Monday evening’s at Church St, English for foreigners (mostly middle-aged Hungarian Jewesses) at Woodberry Down on Tuesday evenings, and E. for F. (mostly German/Austrian domestics) at Southgate on Wednesdays. Will carry on this term, but must drop at least one class for the summer term, when I am due to teach at a secondary school.

Received a letter asking me to do a light article on “Mechutanship” [mechutan =Yiddish term for your child’s parent-in-law] or something similar for a J.C. “Brides and Homes” supplement. Concocted a “Letter to a Baal Simcha” which duly appeared; “rotten she-b’rotten” said my mother. I agree, but I have a family to feed, and cannot afford any never-publish-anything-beneath-his-own-highest-level nonsense.

Part 52: Tuesday, 9th February 1960, 10.00p.m.

Philip’s birthday, marred unfortunately by a spat just now with E. I had gone down to the dining-room, where E. was ironing, intending to give the little woman a little company while making this entry. It would have been better, in the event, had I not gone down, as E. construed my presence, reasonably, I suppose, as an invitation to talk; I was curt, and said if I couldn’t have quiet I might as well go upstairs – “Go upstairs” – and here I am. All very sad, but I’m afraid after the nerve-wracking days I have at school, in which E. seems completely uninterested, while expecting me to manifest an interest in her trivial round, I just find myself unable to maintain control.

The Divisional H.M.I. is due to visit the school on Thursday. Burden has told him I want to teach secondary. Whether the H.M.I. will be able to get me into a secondary school, and whether I shall be better off if I get into one, is a very moot point. Burden has said it was not his policy to saddle teachers with “B” classes over a prolonged period, and, had I not Farbe bekannt, it seems likely he would have given me an “A” class next year. Even so, there would almost certainly be P.E. for all third/fourth year boys, ditto craft, and in spite of the fact that I somehow manage to get 40 boys doing something remotely resembling P.E. and even get some – very little admittedly – passable craft – I feel I might be better off in what would be a purely blackboard jungle in a secondary school.

Feeling a heel. Must go down to try to make peace with E, perhaps by reading her this entry & entry of a year ago.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 47: Woodberry Down up; Mount Pleasant difficult

Sunday, 1st November, 1959; 7.40 p.m.

Back to school to-morrow after one week’s mid-term holiday. The rest has done me good. E. [Edith] never gets any rest. Since P [Philip] was born she has had [sic] enjoyed a clear nights’ sleep only once, when P.I.W. went right through to 7.30 a.m. Incidentally, apparently E. is in the family way again. Strordinry! It wasn’t really an accident – E. says people usually say the second one was an accident – but I felt that a considerable amount of limbering up would be necessary before one could clear the bar, but apparently we have already cleared it in the limbering-up process.

To Sam yesterday, just back from Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived] to-day with the Babba. Very irksome, trying, un-gay and un-contemporary — this shlepping Phil on buses. One ought to be able to fling him in his cot in the car and purr along to his Boobbes and uncles. (Masochism dept: I wrote in my translation of Rothenberg’s book that their car – a Land-Rover or something similar – “purred”; Clark wrote in margin: “it wasn’t a Rolls.”)

I think I shall send 5/- to the B.B.C. for a Russian pamphlet & try to listen to their Russian lessons every Monday at 7.10 p.m. Talk about the triumph of optimism over experience! It’s well over ten years since I paid some ten guineas for a Russian Linguaphone course; I think I’ve heard the first record of it perhaps two or three times. Talking of Russian, I saw Vladimir Nabokov on T.V. this afternoon. He has written novels in Russian & English and is a lepidopterist. He spoke brilliantly, fluently & without a trace of accent. He spoke of “what I call Emigravia” (I remember racking my brains – all right, H.L. [my father regularly used this acronym for Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]- at O.C.T.U. to think of fictitious names for countries – the best I could do was Octovia), of his choosing reason when faced with the choice between “rhyme and reason” in his massive annotated translation of Eugene Onegin.

Mrs Tresiman has had to go to make way for a Miss Myers (not Jewish, I’m told), incoming Deputy Head.

For the record. I take a French class on Wednesdays at Woodberry Down, on Thursdays at Mount Pleasant School, Clapton. The Clapton class down to one student Thursday before last, up to two students last Thursday. the Woodberry class with, I think, 9 students, should last the session, or the best part of it. Difficult, the students – most of them – have no academic background and expect me to chatter in French to them.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 43: Frantic for Finchley

Tuesday 18th August, 1959 – 9.45 p.m.

Not so easy, this aequam memento business [“Remember when life’s path is steep to keep your mind even.” Horace]. The negotiations for the house worrying enough when Cruse, my solicitor’s Managing Clerk, slipped in a new blow in a letter I had from him this morning – he would have thought I could borrow cheaper than 6¼%, the rate of interest on an advance of £2,700 granted me by the Friern Barnet U.D.C. – I thought myself lucky to get it. Somehow it had not occurred to me to apply to a Building Society for an advance. I wrote sounding them in April, but their attitude appeared so unforthcoming that I decided I would borrow (as Sam [his brother] did nine years or so ago) from the local authority. The Temperance Permanent Building Society advances @ 5½%, however, and a calculation shows that the difference between interest at 6¼% and 5½% on £2,700 over twenty years, allowing for income-tax allowance on the interest is about 5/- a week, or about £250 over the 20 years. After a depressing day in which Cruse 1) advised trying to get a loan from a building society, 2) said he would see what he could get, I eventually told him to go ahead on the basis of the status quo.

To add to my depression I tried to work  up a short story for the J.C. competition, found that I was unable to “mask” the characters in it, and that even if the “hero” who I am pretty sure, if he is alive, reads the J.C. — though he may be dead, for all I know, I hope not — did not sue me for libel, the publication of the story would have been unkind to him. And, you may not believe it, H.L., [Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur] I do not want to hurt people.

Have been like death warmed up all day – vivid trope, what, H.L.? — taking it out of E., [Edith Witriol, nee Katz] who has been the good-wife lightning-conductor. However, in fairness, sometimes the roles are reversed.

“Aunt Debby” [Deborah Coltonoff, Edith’s father’s sister] round, a great help to E., I glum all the time. Fed up, f — d up, and I wish we were already installed in the new place in Finchley.

Had intended “getting away from it all” to-day; will try again to-morrow.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 36: Philip my son, my son Philip

Tuesday, 10th February, 11.15 p.m.

E. [Edith Witriol] presenting a rather East Lynne-ish picture to-night. Poor girl – she has been going through it. She is being kept on a low diet, is having the wind taken out of her and, as she says, her body is not her own.

Next time – if there is a n.t. – perhaps I would keep my mother to her word and E. could go in as a private patient. The medical attention would not be better, perhaps, but she wouldn’t be mucked about and observed by so many people and perhaps one wouldn’t find sisters of the bitchy type whom I encountered to-night. She made an unnecessary crack about the food that was being brought to Edith and which E. couldn’t eat. She has also created some alarm and despondency. When I asked her about the Briss [short for brit milahcovenant of circumcision’], she said I was to tell the Mohel  [circumciser] that “it was a Caesarean and not very satisfactory” and that the ward sister was to examine the baby before the mila could be performed. She probably meant that it was not very satisfactory for a Caesarian baby to be c-cised on the 8th day after birth, but her remark was upsetting all the same. As far as a layman can judge, Philip seems healthy enough – no special measures are being taken in connection with him as far as one can see – and the number of “Caesars” is legion.

I find it very hard to experience any paternal feelings. No time. School, chores (minimum, admitted – Mrs H. will clean out the flat on Friday, and most meals I have at the Mums, and my mum will give me provisions for the w/e), to E. at hospital, then phone calls to both Mums & Alf [Katz, Edith’s brother], to Sam (he in bed to-day with cold; a worry, he can’t afford to take a day off; fortunately Lily was able to go in to-day), to Bikkur Cholim [lit. ‘visiting the sick’ society] woman, to Mohel, to Franny, [?] etc. Before writing this, dashed off another application for deputy headship pro-forma. But must try to think less of myself. All that matters is that Edith and Philip should be well. And myself too. If I have to be confined to bed, let it be in the holidays. But better not at all. Angst, angst, angst all the time. Philip – there’s no point in reproaching me with having brought you into the world, son. Admittedly my reasons were, au fond, au fond, right au fond, selfish, but in spite of the times when I have said I wished I had never been born or that I had died, I am, as of now, life-affirming. Anyway, for all I know you may turn out to be a cheerful extrovert. It is too much to expect you to be spared all sorrows, but may you be healthy above all. The rest will follow. Perhaps I have got paternal feelings after all. Philip my son, my son Philip. When you’re giving me heart-aches later on, low position in class, shikse-kreechin [going after non-Jewish girls] (by which I don’t mean forming a genuine attachment to a decent non-Jewish girl to love, I shan’t do any shiva  [week long period of mourning following a relative’s death], mirror-covering act, let her “come over”, or – if you’re both agnostics (and how can I blame you for being what I am) at least Phil — al tifrosh min ha-tzibbur [do not separate yourself from the community] – when, etc. — I must try to think of you as you were in your cot to-night; your shrivelled mug, your black hair, your bawling and yawning.