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.
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.
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.
Have got through my first half-term at Barnsbury. Some lessons are just as nerve-wracking to take as was 3D at Hargrave, but much virtue in that “some.” I have 5hrs. 25 minutes official free periods, and one “sitting-in” lesson. This will make all the difference. Even if I have to take over for an absent master I shall usually be able to tell them to get on with their HW, while I can get on with mine. I think I shall be able to “cope” better than I could at Hargrave; and if this proves to be the case, it will be enough. Nevertheless, the large staff at Barnsbury – must be well over 40 – tend to show up the buses I have missed. However, one must just accept, and hope that Philip will do better than I have done.
A very pleasant day to-day; sunny, one or two slight showers. Sunday was unbearably hot. Went to Landau’s stone-setting. Depressing – O.K., I know these affairs are not festive, in the nature of things – the officiant was a “permanent cemetery” official it seemed, who had not known the late Mr. Landau, or if he had, had nothing to say about him. He had no-one to say Kaddish for him. Did he have any children? His widow and two step-sons and step-daughters were there.
Lily baby-sat for us this afternoon, and we took the opportunity to see the Trials of Oscar Wilde film. Fine. Most annoying, I had an omnibus volume of all his works with illustrations by Donia Nachsen. Cost 5/-. I suppose I would have to pay 30/- to 50/- to get all his writings between boards now.
Mum, Sam & Lily round yesterday. Philip in fine form. He stumbled against a tubular chair and gave himself a real shiner. E. wanted to take him to the doctor yesterday morning, but there was no surgery (it was Whit Monday) and we are letting vis medicatrix naturae do its stuff.
E. is waiting still. The embryo, which was at one time strangely placed, has now righted itself, which means that E. will not have to go into hospital a fortnight “before term” for a second Caesarean. I hope she has a better confinement than last time. Things are bound to be leybedik anyway; I shall be up to the hospital every evening, phoning the boobas.
For the record. The Senior History Master at Barnsbury was one Sam Freedman, a homely Leeds Jewish type. He told me he had applied for a job teaching cadets at Hendon Police College – “I didn’t think a Yiddishe boy would have a chance, but so I’d lose another sixpence.” He got the job. He has a glass eye, in the room of one of his own he lost treading on a mine in the war, I gather. I suspect the glass eye got him the job. He’s to teach English, I gather, with some history. His degree, I gather, was in commercial subjects, but he struck me as being quite articulate. This is not meant to be patronising.
Started at Barnsbury. On the whole, the move has justified itself. I have classes to take which are as difficult as the one I left at Hargrave, but, and I think this will prove decisive, I never have any one class for more than an hour at a stretch, and no class for more than four periods a week. There are difficulties, of course; although I will probably be able to average five free periods a week, I will probably have to spend a couple of hours a week in marking. (I am time-tabled to have seven 35/40 minute free periods and one 1hr. F.P. I also get another 35 minutes sitting in with a class). Today we had off; a bye-election [sic] at the Camden Road school buildings – “glass box” – housing the Upper School (3rd, 4th & 5th years). I am in the Lower School in Eden Grove, a dingy street opposite the Northern Polytechnic. I do a morning and afternoon at Camden Road taking history with three 3rd-yr forms. I found myself reading Trevelyan on Charles II to-day. One of the classes is very dim, but fortunately there are only twenty of them.
To the Trocadero last Sunday for Jennifer Gasson wedding. “Goldener krenk off portzellanen tellern” as my mum says, but, once the initial jam waiting to be greeted by the protagonists was over, one had one’s cup of tea and glass of champagne, and danced to a good band, in comfort. Mum enjoyed herself, tipsy in the car on the way back. She had “a sweet revenge” – Lily spilt a glass of champagne over her (Mum’s) dress.
International situation serious. Khruscheff [sic] has bawled the Summit off; apparently the Yanks sent a U.2 plane spying over Soviet air-space. Rainy to-day, have just given E. a belated hand bathing P. He screams blue murder when you talc and dress him. However, he is now quietly in his cot.
Another Pesach through, Gott soll mir nisht shtroofen far dee reyd, [something like, God shouldn’t punish me for saying this] but they seem to become more difficult year by year – traipsing to one Boobbe the first Seder night, to another the next, the business of changing crockery, etc. It’s true we enjoyed it as kids, as I said to Sam over the phone to-night (he in bed with slight cold), but then there were just the three of us – no, on reflection my memories of enjoyment must date from the time when there were four of us – the Gottseliger [holy person – used for Joseph Witriol’s father], my mother, Sam and myself. But I can’t remember my father, ע״ה during Pesach. The picture that remains is of my mother showing us how to play “nuts” – rolling nuts (walnuts and Spanish nuts – I’ve seen neither this Pesach) down a hackbrettl [dulcimer shaped chopping board?] and across the floor. I also recall the hard-boiled egg, potato and matzo in salt water. But I remember no tunes from the Gottseliger‘s zeit. Our only “tune” – “dayenu” – I seem to remember from Sam, when there were just the three of us celebrating the Seder.
Writing this with my swish Parker Duofold desk-pen, bought mainly out of proceeds of collection for me from staff and pupils at Hargrave Park. (The collection came to £3-10-0; the pen, a glass paper-weight desk-stand job, cost £4-4-0.)
Saw the Deputy Head of Barnsbury Secondary Boys’ School, a man named Shar. (Divisional Office allocated me to this school, one of the better “Modern” Secondary schools. I think it is pretty certain that I shall get some French (though I can’t feel too optimistic about teaching French in the Lower School, anyway, and almost certainly – no, because if they’re taking French they can’t be the dimmest classes).
Must break off here, as want to get in early. E. has to be up at 8.00 to-morrow, latest, as she has an appt. at the dentist’s at 9.30 a.m. Philip, imbeshneer, flourishing. Walks and walks, rides in triumph in his pram, graciously acknowledging tributes from passers-by, intensely interested in everything that’s going on. He’s full of joie de vivre, I must try not to infect him with my pessimism. Stuffs the wet, soapy face flannel in his mouth, E. tries to get it out, Philip laughs and laughs and laughs.
Read The Caine Mutiny. The last time I remember being so gripped by a novel was when I read Drei Kameraden, also over a Bank Holiday. Must comment in another entry. Also half, three-quarter read Brian Glanvilles’s Along The Arno. Only so-so; there seemed to be no “story,” or if there was, it never got under way properly. Plenty of idiomatic Italian in italics to give colour. But this was not enough. The genius of the city of Florence not brought out – Renaissance Florence, art Florence – superficial reportage of Florentine cafes and of American Bohemians.