Part 73: Thursday 16th March 1961, approx 9.10 pm

Nearly two months since my last entry. Now that I am sitting down determined to get another entry off, wonder what to put down. Raises whole question of point of diary at all. Let me try to think what has happened.

We celebrated Philip’s second birthday. Even now he goes to a drawer in which some of the birthday cards he received are kept and says: Two. Whenever he sees a road name-plate he points to the letters and says Ay, Dee; like his dad, he is no pedant, and ay-dee’s any letter. Occasionally, I think, he can sort out a genuine A and a genuine O. The weather has been exceptionally fine the past few weeks and I have taken him sometimes, on coming home from school, for “walky” or “wun”, at the beginning of, or during, which he demands “keller” = “carry”. Two examples of metathesis noted: efelant and villa (liver). Maxy has had cold, doctor in twice. E. also had gold (?Freudian explanation), sticking gallantly to her post. Lily [brother Sam’s wife] has had very bad pains, at long last has had x-rays taken, hope everything will be alright. Sam a few weeks ago in flat spin because of absence of Pinakhe, Mrs Piena, his septuagenarian book-keeper.

More meo I had succeeded in losing the payments register of the school journey to France I am organising. My fellow macher, Lloyd, chose as epigraph for our booklet: “Fair stood the wind for France.” So far it has stood anything but fair. The original three comprised Lloyd, myself and a youngster called Welch, but McGowan (the District Inspector) ruled that we must have a permanent member of staff with the boys. Leece, the P.E. man, who has been giving me lifts for the last term or so, volunteered to come in. Fahn, voil, [?] –  a few days ago he develops some chest trouble and it is extremely problematical whether he will be able to come after all. I shall be away for Pesach [Passover]; I had miscalculated the dates. But I think I had no option but to go. I am supposed to be a teacher of French. It is nearly nine years since I was in France. I hope to get a free trip out of it, and to register with Davies (the head) as a live wire. Fantastic that at my time of life I have to think in terms of “getting into the boss’s good books” – not that I count on anything. And anyway, it’s given me some scope for machmanship.

Read “The something-or-other Saga” by Auberon Waugh (what a memory!), he the son of Evelyn or Alec Waugh. Devastating satire on R.C. public school, astonishing sophistication and range (hospital scenes technically convincing, conveying impression that author must have been houseman).

Someone wrote recently in The Observer that he had no sympathy with married teacher colleagues who complained of poverty. They always overlooked one thing, he said: they chose to marry, and he didn’t see why he should subsidise their marital bliss any more than he already did through taxation. I wrote a weak reply, which however was published on 12/3/61 – the Observer had plugged occupational family allowances for teachers and my letter was short. I said many young teachers wanted to marry but could not because they could not afford to bring up a family on their schoolmasters’ salary. But the whole point of the first letter was that nobody was asking them to start a family.

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Part 72: Monday 23rd January 1961, approx 9.30 pm

E. has gone round to some woman locally who got in touch with her through a “house-bound women” scheme started by The Observer, I think, and which I egged E. into joining. [National Women’s Register?] Children asleep, all quiet, but I am tired, in spite of easy day (Mondays – 4 short periods in morning; free before play in aftnn, 1A – easy – after play) and anxious to get a short read and coffee in before bed. Have just had to jettison fountain pen the nib of which disappeared – into ink-bottle? If so – retrieve ? – when I was trying to fill it. Ink-stained hands. Paul Jennings can write about, 50 guineas, 100 guineas (or perhaps 30 guineas?); all I can do is record inadequately here.

Have read another Anglo-Jewish novel, The Limits of Love, by Frederic Raphael. Written with terrific vitality. The ragging of the Jewish hero at his public school a tour de force.

Philip now names all articles he has experience of. His latest acquisition a “beiggel” (bicycle) actually tricycle – from his Boobbe Esther. He says naughty, dirty, dark, “mind!”, hold tight. Max now turns over, sits up. Cohen, at school, lost in admiration of atom bomb, deplores spinelessness of physicians in refusing to blow up Universe. A good line, he himself quite a card. A brilliant pianist, a good talker. His wife was smitten with polio, a few years ago. Has two children, I think.

 

 

Part 71: Sunday 1st January1961, 5pm

We had been looking forward to going to the Kopkins to-day, Lew was going to collect and return us, but Philip was very much off colour yesterday morning. The doctor came and said flu. Philip was much better this morning, bright and cheerful, but we thought it best not to risk taking him out. However, Lew called for Max & Edith, and I am now writing this in a blissful quiet in the study. Philip was on the go from 9 till 3, when, after two unsuccessful attempts, we hardened our hearts and left him, still protesting, in the cot. Talking of hardening our hearts, it’s amazing how we bawl at him –  NO, you must NOT throw things (the culprit stands stock still, plunged, apparently, in profound thought) – but when he’s not well – ah, where does it hurt you darling? Have some eggy darling? Mookky (milk) darling? Very pathos-ic.

Part 70: Wednesday 28th December 1960, 4.5pm

Another Kratzmass over, as my Mum says. Richard and his fiancée, Esther, came round on Monday, with Esther’s little girl, Daphne. Esther is a gay divorcée. She has been a number of years in Israel. They came loaded with gifts, balloons, and brought some sparkle into the place. Boobbe Esther has been staying over the holiday. Mum stayed at Sam’s, came over by car midday yesterday – she couldn’t wait any longer to see the kids. Also round yesterday: Leo, Clara and young Michael, aetat circa 10. Michael was very helpful with Philip. He, Michael, is a good-looking, exceptionally well-spoken boy; hated by his brother Howardaetat circa 15, who is a very gifted pianist.

All this entertaining caused rumpuses between E. & myself. My fault, I suppose; or perhaps, as is so often the case, no-one’s fault, simply la force des choses, or both of us equally to blame. I received an unexpected commission to translate an article on goitre in the Galilee from D.F. Lang (Translations) Ltd. (Goitre in Galilee – title for article – but will I get round to writing it – will I hell!) I tackled it straightaway – difficult to explain to E. that one must do these things immediately – with the result that E. was utterly overworked and overwrought. Philip is up, has been grizzling all morning, but has slept two good hours in the afternoon. I resume at about 8.30pm. Both kids in bed, peace. Alf in bed with sprained ankle; Minnie Secker, Mum informs me, in bed with a bunion, abee gezinnt. There’s lots I wanted to do in this holiday, I had asked E. to clear the study (by night M’s bedroom) for me from 8-10pm, but I don’t know whether I’ll use it – it might be best to try to, otherwise E. will think that “having a lot to do” is just my story.

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 68: Sunday 20th November 1960, 6pm

Dedication of stained-glass windows at New Synagogue this morning 12.30. Mum had a window put in in memory of my father זצ״ל. [Israel Witriol – who died when dad was twelve] Service very well done, with sherry and refreshments afterwards. Read Roots; entertaining, which in my terminology is complimentary. The theme is of Norfolk farm workers. The heroine is awakened by her Jew-boy lover in London. She tries to communicate to her family the zest which he has communicated to her. Her family is keyed up to meet him; he fails to turn up, but she feels it has been worth it, he has enabled her to see what life could really be. It is amazing that an East-End Jewish boy could have caught so well the Norfolk country milieu.

The children flourishing, Mum too. Keep fingers crossed.

Also read The Crossing Point by Gerda Charles. Again, a thoroughly entertaining Anglo-Jewish novel.

Part 67: Wednesday 2nd November 1960, 2.10pm

A week’s mid-term holiday. Apparently, we can get a week for each of the three mid-terms, in addition to six weeks in summer. I had thought one would get only two mid-term days in the secondary school. Presumably there will be very few, if any, “occasional closures.” Anyway, it’s just as well. Even the five days hardly gives one a chance to breathe and look around – another tiff with E. yesterday, caused, ultimately by my getting up late – 9.30-ish. To-day up shortly after eight, having fed and changed Max 6.45-7.20. Aunt Debbie [Deborah Coltonoff, my mum’s Aunt] and Boobe Yetta round. Edith off with Aunt Debbie and Max to clinic; Philip asleep in cot, Mum reading The Crossing Point by Gerda Charles in sitting-room, I writing this in study, breaking off to bring in washing. Sun has emerged, leave washing out for another half-hour or so, continuing this in sitting-room.

Prize giving at Archway Central Hall the other evening. Edward Blishen presented prizes. I enjoyed his speech, though his ad-libbing was not to the taste of Leece, the Eden Grove P.E. man. Blishen said he would start off with what he imagined must be a unique opening on these occasions “Revenge is Sweet”. He said Barnsbury was the first school he was sent to, after having presented himself at Divisional Offices, a dungeon wherein sat a number of pallid young teachers obviously trying to persuade themselves they did like children. Anyway, he’s certainly earned his revenge. Anybody who can “take” a modern secondary school and have enough energy left over to write a good book (Roaring Boys), numerous articles and to give numerous lectures deserves to get out, as he has done, and on to the BBC.

After some inward debate went to a meeting organised by the Jewish Quarterly at the National Book League’s premises to celebrate publication of Arnold Wesker’s Trilogy. I haven’t seen or heard any of the plays, though I’ve gathered they’ve had a great success. They haven’t made Wesker really wealthy, though, I don’t think; to get really into the money, you have to write “musicals” (Lionel Borden [sic]) or be a comedian with a gimmick (Bresslaw, gangling 6 ft. plusser, “I only arst”). I came after Sonntag, J.Q. editor, had started explaining the theme of the discussion. I didn’t quite know what this was, but it seemed to be, what is “Anglo-Jewish” writing. From the platform Frederic Raphael, young author of well-reviewed Anglo-Jewish novel, The Limits of Love, spoke and ? Lansdowne, well-known man of theatre. Raphael said he detected a tendency among Jews not to want to “leave the family”. Ruth Sternberg, née Schiff, spoke well from floor, though irritatingly saying her background was middle-class (unlike Wesker’s East-end working-class). Although at first hearing it might seem ridiculous to talk of Jewish “classes” (“so his dad came over on the banana boat before mine,” as Alan Spears used to say), they do exist: working class — pressers, cabinet-makers; lower middle-class  — small shopkeepers; middle-middle — wealthier shopkeepers and – pre-1939 – schoolteachers; upper-middle — doctors, lawyers, accountants, wholesalers; upper-class — Rothschilds & Co. Obviously these are very broad categories.

Part 66: Sunday 2nd October 1960, 10.25

Perhaps things are not too bad, after all. We have coped with less friction than in the holidays. Another Yom Kippur over; I can’t say I enjoy the fasting. However, am feeling all the fitter now, probably because I didn’t cram the equivalent of the missing meals into my stomach last night. Talking of fitness – it’s amazing; a fortnight or so ago I experienced a pain in the instep of my right foot. Not severe, I attributed it at first to some fault in the shoe, but the pain persisted over several days, even when I wore other shoes.  Although I no longer flap as I did in 1949 with my left leg trouble – I know that pains do come and go – I was worried, so much so that I shlepped to my doctor in Wood Green. His deputy -he himself was on holiday – straightaway said it was nothing. I went home feeling, at least, that I had not been neglectful. Quite all right now, but why pain in instep of right foot, davke? A touch of lumbago, I can understand – in fact I did have a very mild touch recently. It’s all very strange, there you are, as the P.B. says: yadam ach yodanu she-chayenu tefachim, and in spite of one’s various “cribs” – drudgery, confinement to home (though one realises one is lucky to have one’s own home) – one realises that all that matters is reasonable health for one and one’s own.

The highlight of the period under review has been the visit of Sam Wagreich, M.D., and his wife Rosalind. He is the son of my father’s – olov hashalom – late sister. My brother sam has corresponded with him sporadically. He turned out to be quite a guy. Fairly tall – if I remember aright – iron-grey hair à la brosse. Apparently he’s President of the “Five Counties” Medical Association, an association of about 16,000 N.Y. G.P’s. He put over a convincing defence of the American Way of Life  -he’s a good talker. An English G.P. in a corresponding position would have had more gravitas, I imagine – but there again, perhaps it’s a matter of “familiarity breeding contempt.” Anyway they left Sam & me a watch each; the price tag had been left – inadvertently, presumably, it was 55 dollars. I’m afraid I’m developing mercenary tendencies; I had been sweating on a fifty-dollar cheque.

 

 

Part 65: 3rd September 1960, 10.15 p.m.

Will it be believed if it is told? Even on “holiday” it has taken me a month, almost, to get round to an entry; once school starts al achat kama vekama [Hebrew expression – how much more so] will it be difficult to keep up the diary. However, it may work out differently in practice.

It’s been very much a save-the-mark holiday. E and I have been at it all the time coping with the kids, bless ’em; so much so, that it has been an achievement for us to get out, pram-pushing, for a couple of hours together; or for E. to get down with Philip to her mother, or for me to make a dash for freedom on a “day out.” On this day out I went to Hatfield — a 2/- or so Green Line journey from here — leaving about 10a.m. It was a drizzly day. The stately home at Hatfield was closed, it being a Monday. I tried to do a “Fieldfare” ramble, but found myself, as usual on these occasions, up against barbed wire. However, I found my way to St. Albans, where I gave the cathedral the once-over. It’s impressive inside, soaring Gothic, though unimposing outside – the external fabric is modern. I also tried to do the Roman ruins, but was too tired, and a new shoe I was wearing was pinching me. I set off earlier than I had thought I would for home and returned to feed Max about 7 p.m.

And so back to school on the Monday. Things will be pretty tough. I’m teaching two evenings a week, Southgate English for Foreigners at 42/- a time, Friern Barnet beginners’ French at 33/6. This latter came as a bit of a shock. I learned that another class I had agreed to take at Wood Green (“German for Tourists”) only rated 33/6. I had thought of turning down both lower-rate jobs, but eventually decided to take the Friern Barnet one; at least it will be within walking (though not easy walking) distance.

Financial situation is such that I will certainly take another evening at 42/- if it turns up. My bank balance is alarming. I was overdrawn for August. Only a couple of pounds, and only for a few days, but it’s annoying all the same. Last time something similar occurred the Bank charged quite heavily. Am cashing £30 worth of Philip’s National Savings Certificates, Edith’s £25 Premium Bonds. Even with this, & the £24 or so Thames & Hudson owe me, I’m pretty sure I shall have to ask Sam for £25; he’s already given me £75 of the £100 he said I could have. There you are; my gross schoolteacher salary is £1143 p.a. — £1141, I think — my extras between £100 to £200 p.a. net before tax — we have not gone away since before the children were born; I think the last time we were out together was on our anniversary, when admittedly it cost us £3-£4, I suppose; the highlight of our day is a cigarette, with coffee and ice-cream; and yet we cannot balance our budget.

I can’t see the situation ever improving, much. As soon as both children are at school E. will have to try to get a three-hour daily, 4 or 5-day weekly job, which will just about cover the extra needed for the children (their fares will have to be paid, their food bill will be substantial, etc. — these increased costs will, however, be to some extent offset by saving on nappies, cotton wool, cellulose, which comes to at least 15/- a week at present) and a very cheap, almost certainly do-it-yourself holiday. House repairs, redecorations will have to be left until the children can find their way to school and both E. & I can work full-time, with what resultant strain can be imagined. But there it is, it’s a common way-of-living pattern. E. has finished her Hoovermatic-ing, I think; she had a perm yesterday and bought herself a pair of trews to-day, which she is now wearing. I find myself positively approving. Strange to think I once found be-trousered women upsetting. I suppose I found it a usurpation of my masculinity, but since E. has demonstrated her femininity, I can afford to be “big” about the trousers. She is a very good girl really; her life consists of an unbroken round of preparing feeds, feeding babies, changing nappies. Inevitably she “lets fly” at times, but her terrific sense of humour — “terrific” is wrong, “strong” will do — comes breaking through. But is she scared of the possibility of another pregnancy! Makes me feel quite lecherous, as if I’d sired twenty-two, not two, children.

The children, ken en hora, [Yiddish –without the evil eye] are lovely; it’s unfair to think of them as simply something to be coped with. After all, Philip usually sleeps the night through. Perhaps every other night he starts screaming about 3 a.m., but even then, all he needs is a bit of a run-round and his bottle of milk and he’s off again. By day all he wants is paper and books to tear up and pots and pans to throw about and to have fun and games generally.

Part 64: 8th August 1960, 11.45 a.m.

Writing this in the study, Max in the carry-cot on the divan next to me. Philip gurgling in play-pen, E. & her mother pottering around. Philip after an exhausting afternoon yesterday “performing” for his uncles, slept like a log (tired simile, we had a discussion on this the other day in the staff room, two members of the staff saying kids should not be encouraged to learn these clichés, another chap, Lloyd – whom I have pigeon-holed as reactionary (militantly N.A.S., bachelor-in-his-forties-at-least, anti-feminist) – saying they should. I tend to agree with Lloyd. If you can think of better similes than sleep like a log, fit as a fiddle, right as rain (this sounds wrong – let’s pass on), sound as a bell, hard as nails, all right; but if you can’t, you should know your clichés. To get back to Philip. His long sleep – E. gave him some milk at 6, and the he went right on till 10 – gave E. a bit of a break, with a consequent lessening in tension all round. Must break off. Max demanding. 5.15 p.m. – resumed. Pouring. It’s been a tranquil day, mercifully. Philip was quiet in his play pen in the morning, slept (again!) in it this afternoon, Max has been sleeping well. Even so, I haven’t been able to “do” anything, except mow the lawn (20 mins.), but it’s something not to feel headache-y (through interrupted and/or insufficient sleep) and to have a reasonable atmosphere in the house.

Am getting through That Great Lucifer (Sir Walter Raleigh) by Margaret Irwin. Am “doing” it for the benefit of my next year’s history pupils. Surprisingly enough, to me, the book was one of the half-dozen best sellers, although it wasn’t particularly well reviewed.