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)?).

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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 dairy”. 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 83: Thursday 7th September 1961, approx 11am

Overslept this morning, we awoke around 9.15 am. Dreamt a) Had received a bill for transport of books to Ireland, evidently – it seemed in the dream – the books I had sold to Sulzbacher. Clipped to the bills were miniature bottles of liquor. Dream. problem: How to get the bill to Sulzbacher (he had obviously sold the books to a customer in Ireland)? I could not send it through the post unless I packed it elaborately, to avoid the bottles getting smashed. I decided to give the bill to Sam [brother] when he next called, so that he could take it to Sulzbacher (whose house-and-business premises are near him) who, I took it, would stand Sam a drink from one of the bottles, b) I was worried about Philip and Max, I rushed into the shop (sic, at Newington Butts)…to find Philip tumbling down followed by Max. I grabbed hold of them and rushed with them to E. who was talking calmly to Minnie Blatt. E did not seem at all put out or in any way ashamed, her air was one of cool contempt. I remember thinking I must tick her off, but “correctly”, and saying: “Perhaps Mrs Blatt will excuse you now”, and waking to find Philip grizzling.

…It was not until yesterday that I manged to get down to a book on commerce; I am supposed to be teaching the subject to third-year kids next year…In the third year, I gather, it’s just waffle about various ways of retail distribution. Max now definitely walking. He’s a sturdy, happy boy. I can’t honestly say the same about Philip, who seems cantankerous. Philip, it seems to me, will be more emotional, more complex. Anyway, may they both make more of their lives than their old man has done. (And you pipe down, H.L. [ Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur])

Went to shool for yoortseit  [for his father] this morning. The new minister, Rabbi (?) Koschland, came up to me afterwards. Was I related to the Witriol who wrote for the J.C? It’s refreshing to find someone for whom the name rings the write-for-the-Jewish-Chronicle bell, and not the aren’t-you-related-to-Mrs-Witriol-of-the-Shabbos-bureau bell.

Part 82: Friday 1st September 1961, 2 pm

In the event [right charge for a translation job, see Part 81] I charged for 4000 Hebrew words at the Institute of Linguists top rate: £10-17-6 per 1000 words. No cheque has come as yet, but presumably this is just a question of office routine. Still, I shall be happier when the cheque does arrive, money seems to be poured into a bottomless barrel here.

Made a successful get-away yesterday, to Stoke Poges, following a Fieldfare ramble [Fieldfare was the pen-name for an Evening News columnist who wrote guides to walks in rural areas of the Home Counties]…

The church at S.P. seemed uninteresting. I didn’t inspect the inside as it was so dark, and I wanted to press on. A defect of this particular ramble is that there is nowhere to take tea en route. I suppose one ought to be thankful there is no “Elegy” tea-house, although I could have done with a cuppa.

Gray’s memorial is surrounded by a ditch; one gains access to it, presumably, via some gardens for which an entrance fee of one shilling is charged. I didn’t go in. Perhaps I ought to go again…spending an hour in the church and gardens and identifying, or trying to identify, the rugged elm and the yew tree’s shade. I have interrupted this entry for a moment – the train of thought will be obvious – to try to track down “joy cometh in the morning” – I got out a P.G.W. book with this title. My big Hoyt’s encyclopedia of quotations doesn’t seem to give it, but I find from Cruden that it’s Psalms 30:5 – I ought to have known. E. has dumped Maxy on me while I’m writing this, but he’s crawling around without giving any trouble.

The day before y., while Aunt Debby [Deborah Coltonoff, my mum’s Aunt] stayed with Max, we succeeded in getting to the Finchley swimming pool. Philip not a water-baby, but perhaps this will come. The pool is an admirable affair, really; a large children’s’ pool, cascades, refreshments, deckchairs. If one could get into it when it wasn’t overcrowded with schoolkids it would be very pleasant.

Part 81: Wednesday 23rd August 1961, 2.20 pm

Was going to say that I was writing this in peace, perfect p; when Alf [brother-in-law] rang, and now Max has awoken from his siesta. However, he is still at the stage of making giant-waking-refreshed-from-his-slumber noises and I may be able to get in a short entry before he demands attention. He now demands attention…resumed 9.20pm.

I suppose I ought to record that the buttock-ankle irritation seems more or less ok now…when I refer to my entry of 14 May, [Part 78] for example, I realise how well off I am.

Have done some translating of press-cuttings (Hebrew) on Orde Charles Wingate. D.F. Long got me the commission – said he wasn’t interested in these “casual” jobs…Perhaps he didn’t realise the extent of the job. I find it comes to 5100 Hebrew words and the Institute of Linguists’ recommended standard rates are from £7-7-0 to £10-10-0 upwards per 1000 words. I have been wrestling with the problems a) what number of words to charge (I can’t count individually 4-5000 words), b) what rate to charge…It’s all very, very sordid. Perhaps I’ll charge @£6-6-0 per 1000 English words, which may seem psychologically less devastating, but as I understand from Alf the English text will run to at least 700 wds, this may be the better bet for me. Ten o’clock, time to retire on this sordid note.

Part 80: Tuesday 15th August 1961, 9.20 pm

The second day of the third week of the holiday. Concocted a review-article on Der Jüdische Witz by Salcia Landmann for The Jewish Quarterly. Must try to get something for it, and the review I did of God’s Wilderness in the previous issue over the initials PAM (with which I am rather pleased – Peloni Almoni Mechudash).

[For] about a year I wrote a full page or more for The Young Zionist (in 1934/5) under the pen-name of Peloni Almoni. And that since then I have resolved that whatever I write, however tripey it is, will be written over my full name. On the grounds that my name would have been known in Zionist/Anglo-Jewish circles and that I would have been able to exploit the publicity. But would I, even if I could have. I had always had rooted objections to being a Zionist official.

Fritz and Esther Ben Aharon here on a visit. She – her father a Witriol, her mother a Balin (my mum’s dad a Balin). They lost their daughter a year or so ago – Tirza, when Tirza was about eighteen. She had been suffering from – I don’t know the technical term –  but for years she could only walk, talk with difficulty. Esther and Fritz fine Chalutz [ Hebrew for a pioneer] types. Esther obviously shattered, but behaved very bravely here. We have entertained them, so have Mum & Sam [brother] & Lily [his wife]. Very difficult for all of us: we have the two kids, who are now more than a handful, bless ’em; Mum, ken en hora [Yiddish –without the evil eye] is 82; Lily is recovering from an operation, Sam had been looking forward to a fortnight’s respite…on Tuesday he went to M/C to see a manufacturer, on Thursday he took them to the National Gallery – and he has a cold anyway.

Am trying to sell up the old library. Have packed up books for Sulzbacher: a run of Jewish Monthlies, Danby’s Mishna, Friedlander’s Guide, etc; coming to just over £5…. Had I not been in such a hurry I would have kept a few [Jewish Monthlies] with some humorous pieces in them – they might have come in useful if I am ever invited again to lecture on Jewish Wit and Humour. Edith just finished off the ironing, 10pm. This, be it noted, is when we are on holiday. There can be no question of going away until the summer of 1963, unless, which is unlikely, I receive some exceptionally lucrative translating commissions. It’s not too bad for me. At least I got away, travelled, for ten days. And I must go away next Easter too. E. has never, I think, been away from the house for more than eight hours at a stretch. Must try to remember this when the inevitable frictions occur.

Young Michael Youngerwood taken to hospital with virus infection; understand much better now.

Part 79: Thursday 27th July 1961, 8.10 pm

Barnsbury struck. I arrived at Camden Rd. in the morning, we had assembly as usual and I was going up with the kids to the classroom when an announcement came over the loud speakers telling all boys to re-assemble in the hall. The kids told me that the staff at Eden Grove had gone on strike. After about five minutes I found I was the only master left in the hall. I went up to the staff-room, where Leece, Bath and Leff of Eden Grove had arrived to tell a hastily convened meeting of the Camden Road staff that they (the Eden Grove staff) had in fact gone on strike and sent the boys home. They wanted to know whether or not we would follow suit. They wanted to know whether or not we would follow suit. To my surprise a majority voted in favour and the kids were sent home. I feel rather depressed about the whole thing myself, but must admire the determination shown by the Eden Grove instigators.

Background to the “strike”. N.U.T. asked for basic of 700-1300… A good many teachers, myself included, thought privately that the authorities’ offer was not too bad…

As I say, I find it very hard to come down on one side or other of the strike fence. There is the question a) Is it morally right to strike? and b) If the answer to a) is “yes”, would a teachers’ strike benefit a) me, b) other teachers?

As regards question a), I have always maintained that where non-essential services are concerned, people engaged in them have a perfect moral right to strike. Thus, when the London busmen went on strike, I never queried their moral right to do so. They provided an amenity – not, as the fortnight’s strike showed –  a vital service. But  where health or education is concerned … I feel an “effective” strike – as opposed to one-day “token” strikes – is morally reprehensible.

And then question b), expediency. It is questionable whether individual teachers would benefit financially when the battle was over but as Madley, Senior Master in the Lower School said, one was striking to make a stand, to demonstrate that one could not always “take it out of the teachers.”…

Fortunately, the ankle-buttock trouble has considerably lessened. It is still there, but viable without codein. But I haven’t had the strain of the two evening classes.

The other day I received an unexpected translating commission – from [a firm] calling itself Universal Advertising Ltd – to translate an article in Hebrew on times of planting carthamine (had never heard of it before, had you H.L.?), חריע in Hebrew. £14-4-0 gross for about 8-10 hours work. Forty jobs a year like that, no evening classes, and we could have a decent holiday every year, maintain the house and garden with paid labour to a high standard, and E. could have a woman in for three hours twice a week. Just, on the proposed new 600-1200 scales.

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 77: Monday 8th May 1961, 9 pm

Bad, bad. I did hold on till May 1st, when Dr Pallot said as the “biff” he had given me hadn’t done the trick I would have to have the “whole shooting match”. He gave me a letter to a hospital. Eventually, I fixed up an appointment at the Whittington…Meanwhile I had mislaid Pallot’s letter. I went to him this evening. He enquired, and on my telling him that the pain was now concentrated in the ankle, abandoned his slipped disc diagnosis.

There is much talk of “striking” in the staff-room. It does seem that teachers are more determined on a sizeable increase than they have ever been before. All I can think of is this blasted ankle…Philip and Max delightful, ken en hora [Yiddish –without the evil eye], the weather fine, snug in our mass-produced three-bedroom semi-detached; even the job, in spite of 3R, could be far worse – I’m sure that if I were only fit I could cope in my stride, and there’s good company in the staff rooms. Went on a one-day course the other day at Woodberry Down. Excellent talk by the HM of Owen’s (I think), one Borrough. A propos of something or other he quoted an epitaph on a still-born child:

  Since I was so quickly done for,     

  I wonder what I was begun for.

It will be interesting to read this entry in a couple of months’ time. I’m thinking in terms of it getting no worse…

Took the kids to Boobe Esther [My mum’s mum] yesterday. Tried out a new scheme: Alf [my mum’s brother] came back with us. Cannot help thinking this quite a good idea, eased the strain considerably. Actually, yesterday wasn’t so bad as weather was good, and Philliboy had to be carried only at the Nag’s Head change-over [i.e. bus change]. But the three of us would mean that Alf and I could take a kid each, and Edith the other impedimenta. Feel sorry for E, who is quite splendid; only hope I shall be able to make it up to her.

NB: I recently received an email from an ex-Hasmonean pupil which refers to an event in 1967, which is already online at the excellent melchett mike blog here where my dad’s Journal entries relating to his time at the school can be found. 

I hope I have reached the right person …Philip Witriol the son of a very loved teacher, Joseph Witriol, of Hasmonean fame.

I was in the 4th form when he arrived at Hasmonean, and was amongst the mischievous ones who concocted the idea of an induction for him as form master. I was not the type to be disrespectful, but was imaginative and helped with many of the ideas, leaving it to the fearless troublemakers to execute the plans. As I remember it we were somewhat unsure how to treat him. Until then we had been exposed to 3 groups of teachers, the Adas frum frum, the secular, and those that were not Jewish. Even among the students there were more of the frum children of refugees and the culturally Jewish but not very observant, than the United Synagogue traditionals.

Anyway we saw that he felt a genuine sense that Jews must be loyal to each other, and that he was charmed and fascinated to be in a school which offered daily davening. We were genuinely impressed that he agreed to lead Mincha on that day!

Reading his diaries was a treat, after having left England many years ago. I was saddened to know that he was somewhat depressed and considered himself a failure, he was a really well liked person, and I am sure that every student who reads the diaries will be charmed by his honest reportage and [his] faithful rendering of the personalities and buildings brought back fond sentiments.

Best wishes
Avrohom A. (Arthur) Marmorstein
New York City

He also noted that he transferred to Hasmonean in the middle of 3rd form, from William Ellis, so was keenly aware of which things ran differently in non-Jewish schools.