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.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 44: The first cut is a set-piece.

Monday 31st August, 1959, 9.0 p.m.

Rentreé des classes to-morrow. I did manage to get a day out, after all. Did the Great Missenden trek very successfully except for the last leg, where building-up has obscured Fieldfare’s tracks [Fieldfare was the pen-name for an Evening News columnist who wrote guides to walks in rural areas of the Home Counties].

More or less resigned to the 6¼% now; my revised calculation shows that I only lose about 4/- a week, I think, on the 5½% offered by the Temperance. I ought to hope that rates of interest on advances, including advances by local authorities, come down generally; but my human nature being what it is — and I doubt if it’s much worse than the average run of human nature —  I find myself hoping that Building Society rates will go up (the rate of the Friern Barnet U.D.C’s advance to me will remain constant).

Also, meno male, I succeeded in getting off a short story for the J.C. [Jewish Chronicle]. I am not at all sure, this time, whether it will even get printed (I would have been surprised had my “What is a Jew” effort not been printed, at least). Lacking imagination, I was forced to write up a chapter of biography —  the story is called “Service at a Circumcision.” It is a more or less straight account of the Briss — for fictional purposes I made it take place during term, at 1 p.m. (The historical event took place at 2 p.m. while I was on holiday). I have no plot-making ability, so I knew that whatever I wrote would have to be a set-piece description. Even so, I failed to rise to the heights of my theme, which was the awful responsibility of bringing a child into the world. I know I lost no sleep about the fate that might befall you, P.I., [Philip Israel] and that I am doing nothing to try to make the world safe for you to live in. That doesn’t mean, of course, my boy, that I don’t pray ( I can’t pray to anyone, unfortunately, but there’s nothing can be done about that now, but I do “pray that”) that you will have a long, happy life. I confess that my motives in begetting you were not entirely pure and lofty, but very few people, I venture to assert, do have children from wholly pure and lofty motives. Please believe me, though, – I don’t know what to say. I love you? But that raises again the question of whether I am capable of love. I don’t know. Admittedly you give me great happiness, now, when you’re seven months old, and I think you’re happy, too, for by far the greater part of the time. I suppose I want to have a built-in guarantee of your happiness. Forgive this pitiful meandering, Philip. Und das hat dichten wollen!  Nothing would give me greater pleasure than for you to show me up. But then, again, I suppose I mustn’t set too great hopes on you. Mustn’t drive you into making up for my failures. Be healthy, be reasonably successful – I think you have a reasonably happy disposition anyway. I think your old man has, too, really; but, without wishing to make too much of a song and dance, he rather had it taken out of him in his early, formative years – up to 20 – and I hope this won’t happen to you.

Saw Clark of Thames & Hudson today. Handed him completed typescript of God’s Wilderness, though I haven’t had B.R.‘s [Professor Beno Rothenberg] corrections back yet. He sounded me out about translating two other books by B.R. I suppose I ought to have said I would want 4 guineas a thou.; instead I just said I would need till September 30th 1960 to do a book equivalent to God’s Wilderness. But perhaps, in spite of my seemingly monopolistic position, I wouldn’t be able to get more. I think T. & H.’s reaction to an attempt by me to exploit my position might have been to say: thus far and no farther. B.R. told me they gave him £100 advance fee to retain the option over each book he wrote; but even so, they might have decided not to send good money after bad, or for 4 guineas a thou, say, they might have been able to get David Patterson [scholar of Modern Hebrew literature]. Or, if I were in their place, I would put an advt. in the J.C. – unusual, but then it’s unusual not to have translators on tap. And I’m pretty sure an advt. in the J.C. would produce some reasonable translators, even if Clark had to sub their text more heavily than he does mine.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 41: Sol Loewe, Stern Burden

Sunday, 3rd May 1959, 3.45 p.m.

I gained second prize – 25 guineas – in the J.C. Essay Competition. They rang up for me to give them some dope, and a photograph, for their “Incidentally” column. Rather depressing to think this is the nearest to fame I shall ever get. The essay itself was a feeble affair; the lucid analysis, firm grasp of all the problems raise, are conspicuously absent. A few Hebrew and Yiddish phrases and – perhaps it is not unfair to say – a general readability – gained it the prize, I suppose. Anyway, the money has enabled me to put E’s bank balance in a healthy state; it needs to be, because as I keep on telling her, if we move – rather, when we move – her allowance will be cut by £7-10-0 a month. I suppose if I could rely on £150 p.a. net from “fees” before deduction of tax I could then keep my own finances on an even keel, on the assumption that gross rent would not exceed £7 p.w.

Sam [brother] in bed with cold, Mum has cold. The worry and sheer physical strain of his business is too much for him. He was offered a job with Shell Mex on leaving school, but my father ע״ה [may peace be upon him] wanted him to be with “Yiddishe people,” so he worked for Sol Levy (“there’s not a captain’s wife leaves the ship doesn’t buy one of Sol Levy’s handbags”). Hinc illae lacrimae. For the record, a drizzly day, Alf and Boobba Esther [Katz: brother-in-law and mother-in-law] have arrived. In any case, I cannot think – I never can – of any particularly noteworthy entry to make.

Thursday, 21st May 1959, 11.30 a.m.

Raining. Taking E. [Edith Witriol] & P. to Victoria Chest Hospital this p.m. Up early (6.25 a.m.), fed P., made own breakfast, cleared E’s, own shoes, wrote to Rothenberg – feeling virtuous.

A letter from Raphael Loewe saying he enjoyed my article (sc. prize-winning essay) in the J.C. I gather from his letter he was a runner-up; if so, it was very sporting of him to write to me – he bears, after all, a distinguished name in Anglo-Jewry (his father was Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge) and is an M.C.

The Southend women Zionists want me to talk to them – I have arranged a tentative date for October. Left 34M+ words with T&H y’day. Very enjoyable evening at Richard’s [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen]  last Saturday, with Joyce; sherry, wine, French bread; Dr Zhivago, Sleepwalkers [presumably this book] lying around – pleasant. Also an enjoyable day last (Whit) Monday – perambulated P. to Moresby Road [mother’s home in Upper Clapton] & back. Sam & Lily there [brother and sister-in-law], but both run down. E. not her usual sunny self going, but coming back my kindness, forbearance, patience and general saintliness had its effect and she revived. P. has been grizzling, so E. has dumped him on to me while she makes feeds. I am entertaining him. Back to school on Monday! Must try to rally for this last (8 week -9 week?) lap. We have a new head; Burden, 35-ish. He seems a good type; footballer, cricketer. But he’s modern, which means I must try to get the kids to make models & so on. I think I shall let events take their course this term. If I find, as I probably shall, that I have a lower-stream class next term, I shall then assume that it is unlikely I will ever have an “A” class – the only thing that could have made primary teaching endurable, perhaps even pleasant – and will try to transfer to a selective secondary school. But I understand that even Burghleigh, the dumping ground, [now called Acland Burghley] want a head of languages (sic, plural) dept. I wouldn’t be eligible for that, but perhaps a French-teaching job there, even, if it turned up?

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 34: Who was/is/will be a Jew?

Tuesday, 2nd February 1959, 11.10 p.m.

Thames & Hudson were evidently unable to find a competent translator for Beno Rothenberg’s Sinai book, and now want me to “report” on it for them. It seems almost certain that I shall get the commission, on my own terms of £3-3-0 a thou. The outlandish Arabic names (in Hebrew letters) present a difficulty. Moreover, on top of my Monday evening French class and Sunday morning NLJC class and – we  hope – a lusty infant, I shall be up to my eyebrows. Still, one must seize the opportunity.

MacGawan, the L.C.C. Divisional Inspector, passed me (observing me do a history lesson) for interview by an Inspector’s Panel at County Hall – in connection with my application for the Promotion List. I have had the interview; I don’t think I did badly in it, but am not entertaining any hopes. I missed my chance 5-6 years ago; at 46 I am a bit long in the tooth for a headship. Though surprisingly enough my age was not mentioned in the County Hall interview.

Have written out my “Who is a Jew” essay. It lacks the firm grip on the subject, the closely-reasoned argumentation, but frankly – I think it’s worth 10 guineas. The 1200-word limit was a great difficulty.

Edith now shoin neynter vee veiter, [see comment below] but we shall all be glad when she’s an em semeycha, hallelujah [Psalm 113:9].

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 33: Taxing times

Friday, 2nd January 1959. 11.20 a.m.

Writing this in Holloway Central Library, to be out of the way of Mrs Holland – who “obliges” for E [Edith Witriol] – and her little daughter.

Have kept my diet so far! Have also risen virtuously early. Outburst of tears from E. last night. She depressed after mauling at hospital and I out all day and failing to be “communicative” on my return. Very difficult. Had spat with Mum previously re income-tax demand. She wants to pay schedule A tax at standard rate, though her income is bona fide low enough for her to have to pay far less than the standard rate. But she doesn’t want to reveal her income (rent from tenants), etc. Very difficult, but still – abee gezinnt.

I see the J.C. [The Jewish Chronicle] is offering prizes for the best essay on “What is a Jew?” [sic – Who is a Jew? was the title]. Also very difficult – one must be careful to stick to the terms, I imagine, which are that one must put oneself in the place of a recipient of Ben Gurion’s letter to various Jewish scholars asking them to reply to the question: “What is a Jew?” [sic!] However the prizes: £50, £25 and £10 for each essay printed, are worth competing for. A pity this breaks just at the end of my holiday – perhaps will try to get to J.C. library on the last day.