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.

Advertisements

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.

Part 91: Monday 26th March 1962, 9.10 p.m.

Poor Max fell and cut himself –  we presume –  on the fire guard on Saturday morning. Edith had been up with him since about 7a.m. I came down about 9.30, looked in the lounge and thought I would leave them both there while I made myself a cup of tea. Next thing I heard was howling, to which I didn’t pay too much attention, as howling is routine, but when I went in Maxie was bleeding profusely. Somme toute, the bleeding eventually stopped, but I did not suggest calling a doctor. Left to herself, Edith would probably have called the doctor in, but she knows I prefer to underclaim rather than overclaim on doctors’ time. Maxie will be left with a permanent scar on the bridge of his nose. This could have been avoided, the doctor told us, had he been treated immediately. We called the doctor last night. He came promptly and gave Max a conscientious going-over. This must be remembered when criticising the N.H.S. As usual, I blame myself and try to make excuses for myself – a chap’s entitled to pour himself out a cup of tea, etc. Max was poorly in the (Saturday) night, and E. was up 3-4-5 hours with him. On the Sunday (yesterday) we went to Boobe Esther’s [Edith’s mother] as usual. Max uttered hardly a sound the whole time. It was painful to watch. The doctor said he had an inflamed ear. It was this, and not the cut, which had been troubling him.

Kopul Rosen died. He was contemporary with me. My recollection of him is as one of the bhoys. [?group from same home town or thereabouts] Aubrey Eban used to tell how he (Kopul) wanted to enter the U.S [United Synagogue] ministry, but the Chief Rabbi told him to go and get his matric [school-leaving certificate]. He got a war-time Manchester M.A. (I could never understand this; I should have thought that to get even a war-time degree matriculation or exemption from matriculation was indispensable). I see also from the lengthy J.C. obituary that he got a London Ph.D. in 1960 – I don’t remember reading about this at the time. However, I still remember the impression he made on me when he spoke at the old B.B.Z. (Bow B’nai Zion) on his experiences at the Mir Yeshiva – this must have been – was – pre 1939. The chief thing I remember of this speech are two anecdotes he told in Yiddish – one of a dull-witted student laboriously working out the relationships among a group of people, and the other of a burly Jew heaving a cart out of a rut, saying voo denn, koiach darf men hobben, sechel miz men hobben! Which makes it all the more remarkable that he should have conceived and realised the idea of a Jewish public school on traditional English lines – Carmel College, which is resoundingly successful. I am impressed too, by his answer to the “anti-segregationists” – it is precisely the boy educated at a Jewish school who takes his Jewishness as something normal and who, because of his “segregation”, is subsequently more at ease with non-Jews. The whole thing is very reminiscent of Prince Hal – wasn’t it – who turned from playboy to sober responsibility. I remember too how in his talk about Mir he had said that the students would kiss each other on parting – which evoked titters. This was the first time I had any inkling of the new Kopul. Sam [brother] remembers him as  a scruffy East-ender to whom he once gave a lift and being told by him that he (Kopul) would have to take his matric a third time. The J.C. obituary photograph shows fine, ascetic features.

Update I emailed Kopul’s son, Jeremy, asking him, inter alia, if he could translate the Yiddish in the extract above. He kindly replied as follows

Thank you so much for sending me your father’s memories of mine….

The Yiddish you quote literally translates as ” So, then, a person needs to have strength, but a person must have intelligence!” I guess the joke was that the burley carter was using brute strength to free the cart from the mud when a little common sense might have been more productive. The fact is my father spoke Yiddish at home with his parents but refused to teach us, his children, on the grounds that he wanted us to master the English language. I think on that point he was mistaken and I wish he had taught us Yiddish. I picked it up later.

And yes he made no pretence of being a goody-goody as a youngster and he was friendly with Aubrey ( Abba ) Eban in those days.

All of it brings back wonderful memories of him.

I am so glad to have the link to your father’s memories.

If you are ever in New York please get in touch.

Warmest regards

Jeremy

 

Part 90: Thursday 15th March 1962, 9.45p.m.

Nat Teff has died. He was about 50 and had been very ill. Leaves a wife, schoolboy and schoolgirl. He was a (half?) brother of the late Mrs Sugarman, I think. The usual assortment of death-tags occur to one, but they offer no solace.

One can only pray – I mean hope – that one doesn’t become a burden to anyone before one goes. I suppose that’s all, for oneself – the fact that one was self-supporting would of itself ensure that one did not suffer excessive pain; if one did, one wouldn’t be able to work, hence one would become a burden, Q.E.D. And, for one’s loved ones younger than oneself one hopes for a good span of life on the same terms – for those older than oneself the same.

Incoherence partly due to Edith nattering on phone to Lily [sister-in-law], je constate tout simplement. (Purely for the record, I rang up – to speak to Sam [brother] – and was answered by Lily. E. had told me she wanted to speak to her. I called E. to the phone and then started this entry. It is now 9.55 by kitchen clock. E. finished about 10.10 – by the dining-room clock, which is ahead of the kitchen clock — oh…)

Part 89: Saturday 3rd March 1961, 8.45p.m.

Sam [brother] is giving up his business. He has been pouring money down the drain into it for the last three years. He will be 56 in April, Lily is 53. What will they do? I went round there this afternoon. Lily says she realises she has got to earn her living. I said Mum ought to live with them, thereby releasing her flat at Moresby Road [Hackney], from which £5 a week net before tax could be got, but she says no – they will manage. “Your mother is difficult to get on with.” As my mother says, one prays to God for old age…

[Sam] is eligible for employment as a clerical officer by the L.C.C; starting at £575 p.a; but I am not sanguine about his chances of getting in. He is also entering a Civil Service over-40 competition, but here again I am pessimistic.

It’s galling; he’s done everything for me – coached me for my Junior County Scholarship, kept the family going, let me live like a lord when I was demobbed…All I can do is to hope they keep in good health, or healthy enough to go out to work each of them.

S.B. has walked out on his wife M. after twenty-five years of what Mum always described as a model marriage. They were her tenants – men hat nischt geherrt kenokker vertt fin zey. They had adopted a girl, now 14. S apparently is impotent, or at any rate sterile – perhaps they’re not the same thing – his seed is like water, says Mum. Mum had a fenster hartz off zey because they adopted V. and brought her into the house without telling Mum…Sam says it is possible M. may go to live with her Mum…If she went, I suppose I ought to give serious consideration to the possibility of our moving in…

Meanwhile, my own situation is such that I have borrowed £50 from the bank…I suspect that in about three months’ time I shall again be insolvent, or rather unable to maintain this house. In that case should I try to force the issue by moving into Moresby Road – perhaps M & V could free one of the two rooms they now occupy?

My article appeared – cut – in the Jewish Chronicle but has aroused no comment in the correspondence columns as yet. One Dr Ruth Cohen wrote to me from the German Hospital to say that an Irish ward sister had assured her that “neebeech” was Gaelic for frail, puny person. Coincidence, pure coincidence, as I wrote to Dr. Cohen.

An unexpected commission from D.F.Long – an article on man-made fibres in Israel to translate. Will net me about £6. O.K., so I had about £5 pinched from me the other morning at Camden Road. Zoll zahn de kupoora. Half my report books missing on Friday, doing my nut (thinks: everybody must think this chap Witriol is just impossible, he can’t hold a thing — I could have sworn I’d left ’em all in the staff-room, with the work-sheet inside the top book – Anderson’s – at 5p.m. on Thursday, 1st March — I could have sworn, but would I have sworn? No, I wouldn’t, honest Joe). About 3.15 p.m. Mrs Read presents me with the missing books – Martin, the woodwork man, had taken them home and just returned them to her. I am reduced to !**!

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 87: Wednesday 27th December 1961, 10.30p.m.

Very cold, Mum poorly. She stayed a couple of day’s at Sam’s. We went round there yesterday for  couple of hours, home by hired car – 20/- plus 2/- tip. The kids more of a handful than ever, bless ’em. Aunt Debbie round to-day. The kids screaming blue (why blue?) murder. I was typing an article – Polish-Russian elements in Yiddish – in the study. Eventually I was able to pacify P., who was furiously demanding “little R” – he can now recognise most of the letters of the alphabet. There’s no question of my forcing him; he asks me to “do letters.”

Financial situation still dodgy…without translating commissions it will be a struggle to keep heads above water. Am glad got the Polish-Russian Yiddish article out of my system, even if the J.C. don’t accept it. [it was published by the Jewish Chronicle]

Break for ice-cream and raspberries and coffee.  Azoi geht ess – even in my holiday to get two hours a day to do my schoolwork (have to get February half-yearly exams done; difficult, have to test 3M on “commerce”, spend most of the lesson threatening them with lines, detention), see to accounts, corres; and any “literary” work or study – is kreass yam soof. Well, well – abee gezinnt, abee gezinnt.

Part 86: Monday 23rd October 1961, 2.30p.m.

First day mid-term. Slight ear-ache, slight sore throat, slight spottiness on legs with irritation, but – abee gezinnt. P. sleeping in cot, M. running around with bottle in study. Hope to slip off with E. to flicks to night, Doreen and Alf baby-sitting. Nothing much to report; K (Kruscheff) talks about exploding 500 megaton bomb, which presumably could annihilate 50, 500 ? million people (500 million people is probably an exaggeration; why don’t you know your facts, Witriol – though, of course, I imagine one has to allow a “margin” of an odd million or so). A.J.P. Taylor, in a review yesterday, says his guess is that at the end of the century a few thousand people will be eking out an existence in caves, though the guess of the historian whose book he was reviewing was that millions of people (how many millions?) will be living in unparalleled happiness. Hinchcliffe, who I believe I have mentioned here before, certainly takes a gloomy view and told me he was seriously considering migrating to somewhere “safer” – India or Nigeria, say. He says, as far as I can judge, rightly – that one ought to have serious Civil Defence plans, as Sweden has. Apparently the latter country can get all its population deep underground and keep them there for weeks (months)?).

Part 85: Sunday 1st October 1961, 4.35p.m.

Leo Youngerwood’s mother passed away. Mot [?] took Sam [brother] and myself to the funeral at Bushey. Normally, I would have gone to Dinmore House with E. [wife, Edith] and the children; this Sunday Doreen – Alf’s [Edith’s brother]  young lady, more of her anon – would have taken us there in the car. However, Mot took me back home and I had a little shloof (why do we tell Philip to have a little shloof, davvke? – there’s nothing particularly emotive about the word, yet somehow one talks to him, and he repeats “goin’ have a shloof.”) Yes, Doreen – a charming girl…and runs a smart car. A schoolteacher, now teaching infants, but she did have the scholarship class, with which she got fed up. I never reached the heights of taking the scholarship class; well, well. Watch these pages for future developments.

Yesterday I received a piddling little job. A proof slip with the printed characters on it (Hebrew characters): Lama Ha-miklat ha-zeh shonneh mikol ha-acherim? (It’s quicker for me to write be’atiyot latinot than Hebrew proper, in either print or cursive, and this even though I have to think about the transliteration). The printer evidently knew no Hebrew and had got several of the Hebrew characters wrong…Stupidly, I translated Miklat as gramophone record (for which the Hebrew, of course, is Taklit). Incidentally, it’s Maklet, not Miklat. My one-volume all-Hebrew dictionary doesn’t give Maklet, but the five-volume one, an extraordinarily generous and useful gift from my late uncle Menachem, does; it means radio set (as well as telephone receiver). Anyway, I rectified the error. I charged ’em 10/6 –  a purely nominal fee – for what really ought not to have taken more than fifteen minutes from the time of opening [the] envelope and putting mine in our nearby pillar box. The rectifying post-card took another five-ten minutes.

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.