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 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 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 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 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.