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.

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Part 88: Sunday 31st December 1961, 9.45p.m.

The old year expiring in snow-drifts. Sam [brother] marooned. Unexpectedly received a new 4-vol English-Hebrew dictionary from Beno Rothenberg, together with a letter asking me if I would be interested in going to Israel if a “job”, house, etc; were waiting for me. Wrote saying could not consider settlement in Israel, even a two-year spell difficult. It is strange, considering how ardent – and, I like to think, sincere – a Young Zionist I was, that Israel per se has such little attraction for me. I suppose it’s the vis inertiae.

But there is the point that I have to consider E’s mum – as regards depriving her of the kids, Boobbe Yetta [mother] says she would go to Israel with me (living with whom?) – and Sam, who is now coming up for 56 and in whose not particularly happy life the kids are the only ray of sunshine. And although I have no illusions about the difficulties of Jewish living in England, I hanker after the idea that P. or M. or both of them will make the mark in the specifically English world that I failed to make.

All absurd, all confused, but in any case, the practical question remains: What job, what house has B.R. in mind? Though even here, there seems little point in asking. Presumably the house would contain E; the kids, myself and the books; we should be as warm as – warmer than – we are here, and I don’t see how E. could work harder. The kids’ clothes would have to be washed more often, but there would be fewer of them. I’m applying the same sort of criteria that I would to the possibility of settling in Italy or Argentina. Very strange, but there you are.

Part 84: Wednesday 13th September 1961, 8.50p.m.

Rosh Hashanah has come and gone, on Mon. & Tue, 11th & 12th. Every year now I get the feeling that I am going through some charade; for the last ten years the world apparently, has been on the brink of self-extermination, and we go on blowing our shofars and going through the rest of the rigmarole. School started –  for me – to-day. Pouring rain but morale initially on the whole good. I have a form, at last; a lower 1st year form, but with only one or two exceptions they all wore school uniform which, at least, was heartening. Present mood rather black. Rushed to Friern Barnet Evening Institute for enrolment duties only to find Newman – the principal – had forgotten that he had asked me to do enrolment this evening and tomorrow evening. I suspected there might be a shlemozzle as I had not heard from him in writing…Anyway, he ran me home and I introduced him to the family. Philip announced that he had cut off boobbe. Newman was familiar with the word, I asked him how he came to know it. He said the children of his neighbour were always talking about their boobbe. His neighbour turned out to be Norman Eckert, who was at Forest [Teacher Training College] with me. He did history, I remember, and was very keen – now has an S.R. post, of course. I remember his telling me he was assistant stage manager at the Yiddish theatre in Stoke Newington.

Went to Deepdene yesterday – a home for Jewish infirm blind. Koschland [Rev Bernard Koschland, Woodside Park Rabbi] had appealed in the morning at the overflow service for people to make up a minyan [quorum of ten men for prayers]I turned out to be the only one to have responded. Plaskow, our young – and excellent – chazan [cantor] did a sort of mincha [afternoon prayer service]. The other “visitors” present were apparently members of one Lenga(?)’s committee. He asked if I would care to join the committee. When I said I had to give a hand at home he didn’t press the invitation. Presumably committee membership involves 3-figure donations. The house cost £12,000; equipment £40,000. There were seven or eight women residents at the service, one man. Some of the committee lifted up a lady – I use the word deliberately – with an amputated leg in her wheelchair.

While I was starting on this entry E. hacked me oon a tcheinik about the nappy man. I was unable to register rapt interest. Tension. My fault I suppose. “Nothing more important than your diary”. I suppose it is a waste of time. It’s not a complete, or even properly selective record, of my trivial (but wearing) round and common task. I suppose all my troubles arise from lack of moral fibre. I ought to go and sit down (Hinchcliffe is going to, also has wife and two children) and invite 3 months inside (and lose job? Hinchcliffe not all that worried, perhaps, about this, because he’s giving up the job anyway to see if he can make a go playwrighting, and he once confided to me that he’d been left some property by his grandfather). Earl Russell, 89, sentenced to week’s imprisonment; Wesker, Bolt and others to one month’s. Got to hand it to them. Russell, one imagines, will get V.I.P. treatment; after all, he’s a Lord, and old (in that order). Wesker? He’s a Yid.

Part 78: Sunday 14th May 1961, 3.25 pm

Situation still grimm. (The misspelling indicative of situation’s grimness). Persistent pain – left ankle, buttock…Saw Pallot again on Friday morning. He was quite helpful: I wouldn’t die, if I was thinking in terms of not being able to carry on for the next eleven years, I should stop worrying..It’s not death one worries about after all, my death would solve my problems and  would constitute less of a problem to E. [wife, Edith Katz] than my inability to continue my job as a schoolteacher. “If I should die” E. gets a lump sum of £1100 – plus the house is fully paid up. I imagine your best course, darling – I’m not being morbid, but one ought to try to prepare for these eventualities – would be to sell the house and try to get yourself into Dinmore House [Council flat where her brother and mother lived]…trying eventually to get a four-bedroom Council flat. I think Alf [brother] should hang on to the Dinmore House flat like grim death…[detailed passage follows on financial/housing options – includes comment that by selling the house a clear “profit” of £800 could be made – see below].

Incidentally, it is very remiss of me not to have made a will. I imagine it would cost anything from 10-20 guineas to make a proper will…Anyway, I doubt whether there would be anything complicated in my estate. I hereby solemnly bequeath everything I own at the time of my death to my wife Edith. I should like to make some dispositions regarding the books; if sold skilfully they might yield £100, but probably the best thing would be get Foyles to make an offer for the lot, or for Jack Mazin to offer for the Jewish books which on reflection must be worth at least £50 alone (N.B The Memoirs of Glückel of Hamelin  in the Yiddish text (printed in Hebrew characters) cost me £5-5-0)….

Peter Jansen-Smith returned Poor Cicero the other day. Will try to flog it to Thames & Hudson, though cannot help feeling prospects of success are remote.

Extraordinary blunder. As the house is “fully paid up” under my “protection policy” with the Liverpool London & Globe Ins. Co. it follows that by selling it a “clear profit” of £3,500 could be made. This sum would yield at least £2-10-0 a week interest, which would pay for the Council flat, …(though I suppose tombstone,etc. would come to about £300-£500 – plain, unonstentatious stone, factual epitaph – another thing I can’t bloody well do, think up a decent epitaph).

Part 74: Sunday 19th March 1961, 9.45 pm

Many, many years ago I read Freud’s Traumdeutung. I don’t remember much of it, except that he said that if you dreamt about water you would wake up to find you had been wetting the bed. I believe I checked the truth of this empirically —  or, at any rate, the water-dream went with an urge to empty one’s bladder —  but I couldn’t see in this sort of thing the signs of one of the master-minds of modern times. Anyway, I have frequently wanted to set down my dreams, I have an average of three a night, but have never been able to remember them.  One of the things I was impressed by was Freud’s setting down, at night, his dreams as he had them.

Anyway, here is the blurred memory of one of last night’s dreams: I inserted an advertisement for a schoolmaster to occupy some such post as I might conceivably occupy myself: say, French with an allowance of £90. The idea was to see what sort of “field” the advertisement would attract, the potential competition. Afterwards, I realised – I couldn’t advertise, I wasn’t the employer. Repercussions were not long in following. I was had up on the carpet, and I remember saying I had two children. Later on I dreamt kids were reading out their marks in a test I had given them, and they all seemed to have marks of 11 or 14 or so. The “Interpretation”? — and I don’t remember Freud’s being more profound — I dream about my job.

Took the kids to Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived]  to-day. A tough operation, six buses mounted. Kids now sleeping soundly, one relaxing in dining-room (in which we have placed one of the three-piece suite easy chairs and the tubular easy chair – the convector heater is more warming (note the incipient Spoonerism [i.e. letter m in more written like a w]) than the “Magi-glow” in the living-room). A good deal on the old plate. Richard’s [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] chassena [wedding] next Sunday, at which I am to act as best man/M.C, the school journey, Edith had a phone call from Thames & Hudson, and they were supposed to be publishing the Sinai book Marchwards anyway. [God’s Wilderness: Discoveries in Sinai by Beno Rothenberg]

But will now try to get half-hour’s quiet before turning in.

Part 69: Sunday 11th December 1960, 7.15pm approx.

Saw The Misadventures of Mr Pickwick at Unity Theatre last night. Behind the bald statement lies a wealth of organisation, needed for us to get out for a few hours. Alf baby sat – study/bedroom had to be prepared for him. Sam & Lily brought round to help him cope. Tea/supper prepared for sitters-in. In the event, E. got Max off before 6pm, but it was not till 10.30pm that Philip finally went off. They both slept without a break till 7.30 this morning. Boobe Yetta round to-day (in spite of cold weather, bad for Mum’s – bronchitis(?)), Philip sleep-drunk, fortunately at 6.30 pm to-day, fortunately. We hope to celebrate an undisturbed supper in the dining-room. I must attempt to record Philip’s vocabulary: hat, “hutt” (staccato) = hat, “shahann” = shake-hands, mind!, no more!, tcheeair, knife, fork, spǒon, mĕhmĕhnēh = ?, un-ùn (as in french), on seeing potty, which he refuses to use, cold. Book (no longer bukh) and door; allo boobbe, which he says except when the boobbes are on the phone; I believe I have already recorded Bye-bye.

Pickwick is a musical by Arnold Hinchcliffe, a likeable, unassuming colleague at Eden Grove. E & I enjoyed it. It seemed to me to show extraordinary talent; it is a successful West End musical in posse, I think – and it would be a welcome change from the “Fings” and “Irma La Douce” brothel-type show – it will be interesting to see if it becomes one in esse.

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.