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.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 43: Frantic for Finchley

Tuesday 18th August, 1959 – 9.45 p.m.

Not so easy, this aequam memento business [“Remember when life’s path is steep to keep your mind even.” Horace]. The negotiations for the house worrying enough when Cruse, my solicitor’s Managing Clerk, slipped in a new blow in a letter I had from him this morning – he would have thought I could borrow cheaper than 6¼%, the rate of interest on an advance of £2,700 granted me by the Friern Barnet U.D.C. – I thought myself lucky to get it. Somehow it had not occurred to me to apply to a Building Society for an advance. I wrote sounding them in April, but their attitude appeared so unforthcoming that I decided I would borrow (as Sam [his brother] did nine years or so ago) from the local authority. The Temperance Permanent Building Society advances @ 5½%, however, and a calculation shows that the difference between interest at 6¼% and 5½% on £2,700 over twenty years, allowing for income-tax allowance on the interest is about 5/- a week, or about £250 over the 20 years. After a depressing day in which Cruse 1) advised trying to get a loan from a building society, 2) said he would see what he could get, I eventually told him to go ahead on the basis of the status quo.

To add to my depression I tried to work  up a short story for the J.C. competition, found that I was unable to “mask” the characters in it, and that even if the “hero” who I am pretty sure, if he is alive, reads the J.C. — though he may be dead, for all I know, I hope not — did not sue me for libel, the publication of the story would have been unkind to him. And, you may not believe it, H.L., [Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur] I do not want to hurt people.

Have been like death warmed up all day – vivid trope, what, H.L.? — taking it out of E., [Edith Witriol, nee Katz] who has been the good-wife lightning-conductor. However, in fairness, sometimes the roles are reversed.

“Aunt Debby” [Deborah Coltonoff, Edith’s father’s sister] round, a great help to E., I glum all the time. Fed up, f — d up, and I wish we were already installed in the new place in Finchley.

Had intended “getting away from it all” to-day; will try again to-morrow.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 35: A child is born. Stop.

Monday, 9th February, 11.27 p.m.

She became an e.s., hallelujah, [ i.e., em semeycha, Hebrew אֵם שְׂמֵחָה, joyful mother, Psalm 113:9] at 1.5 p.m. to-day at the Middlesex hospital. She had a difficult labour and eventually a Caesarean. These are women’s finest hours, in which they make men seem pretty sheepish. The clinical observation – almost, anyway – at the beginning of this entry conceals a pretty harrowing 40-odd hours. I found myself quite callous watching Edith having her contractions on the Sunday evening, thinking it was the last lap – but this morning the sister phoned me at school to tell me that it had been decided to do a Caesarean, and suggested I ring back at 4 p.m. I suppose, H.L.[Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur], you have been or will go through this yourself, so I will not enlarge. My mother said, movingly, soll er osvachsen a koovid ts’n aich ‘n a koovid tsem yeedentoom. Omeyn. [roughly: “May he grow up to be a credit to himself and to the Jewish people. Amen.”  I remember my grandmother blessing me thus.] And may I be a worthy husband to Edith and a good father to Philip.

 

These are telegrams, cards and notes received from relatives and others after my birth. I do not know the names of some of the senders.

Telegram from Leib Potash and family, Southport and the Rosens [?], North (i.e. Barnsbury)

Telegram from Leib Potash and family, Southport and the Rosens [?], North (i.e. Barnsbury)

From Alf Katz and Esther Katz

From Alf Katz and Esther Katz

From Yetta Witriol

From Yetta Witriol

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

The Log - Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log – Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log - Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log – Furness Withy staff magazine.

Birthday card from Senior Ramblers Group

Birthday card from Senior Ramblers Group

Birthday card from Deborah Coltonoff (my mum's Aunt)

Birthday card from Deborah Coltonoff (my mum’s Aunt)

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from 1959

Letter from Rita Learer (husband Harold, daughter Susan)

Letter from Rita Learer (husband Harold, daughter Susan)

Birthday card from John Miles [?]

Birthday card from John Miles

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from John Miles #2

Birthday card from John Miles #2

Birthday card from Henry [?]

Birthday card from Henry [?]

Letter from Audrey Fowler-Dixon

Letter from Audrey Fowler-Dixon, landlady at 406 Camden Road

Letter from Edna & John Julius

Letter from Edna & John Julius

Letter from Joyce 2

Letter from Joyce 2

Letter from Joyce [?] 1

Letter from Joyce [?] 1

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)2

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)2

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)1

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)1

Telegrams from Rose Lament [?], Stamford Hill and Frances, Louis and Susan [?], Golders Green

Telegrams from Rose Lament [?], Stamford Hill and Frances, Louis and Susan [?], Golders Green