Wally [Walter, colleague from Young Zionist days], and Beverly Gasson collected us and drove us to Watford where we had a very pleasant tea. I got the kids their hair cut this morning – a feat. Kept waiting while an odious Jewess with blood-red, protruding fingernails, knuckleduster, had her two fat podges given beauty treatment. Anyway, I suppose it’s just as well one does encounter hundred-per-cent vulgar ostentatious Jewry affluence, as opposed to the discreet opulence of Wally & Bev. W. & B. married 28 years; B. to W. apropos of something or other: “you nit.” This is quite characteristic, I think it is fair to say. In justice to E., she sometimes describes a statement or action of mine as “stupid”, but she doesn’t “nit” me in the presence of third parties.
To Sam’s [brother] last night to help him with his books. I took them home with me in an attaché case provided by Sam. The book-keeping required is of the non-urgent kind, but I suppose any accountant would insist on its being done.
Relations strained between Sam and Lily, but Lily herself, invited us round to tea/supper next Saturday…Perhaps this may bring about a reconciliation, though Lily said that Sam had threatened to leave her if she did not go with him to Mum’s over Rosh Hashono [Jewish New Year]. Must impress on Sam that refusal to visit a husband’s mother, however legitimately distressing to the husband, does not justify a husband leaving his wife.
How futile all this weak, anaemic, stilted sentences are. Why the bloody, f — g hell couldn’t Sam be living happily, in a decent job, with a loving wife and two or three or four loving kids. The short answer is he was too good (the past tense is deliberate). He was good and weak, too, unfortunately (too good to leave Mum to my tender mercies, or to fend for herself; but perhaps also too weak to fend for himself). Perhaps now he is less good and is just in no position to be strong.
A propos the last sentence of the previous entry, [The truth is, Edith is jealous of the quiet, competent manner in which I handle the children.], Max was grizzling at 1.45p.m. while Doreen, who had called to take E. out for a break, was having a coffee in the kitchen with us. I more or less drove E. out of the house, went up to M., found him standing up in his cot with his nappy off (he now has nappies only when sleeping) and a neat turd on his sheet. It was the work of a moment for J. to take the turd in his fingers and dispose of it in the lavatory pan, take M. to the bathroom, pacify him with boats in the wash basin, clean him up (a globule of excrement needed removing from his podex, no more) and have both children fast asleep within minutes.
If it had been E. there would have been commotion, semi-tearful “oh-dear, – Maxie!”-s, “I-can’t-sit-down-for-a-minute”s, a new sheet on the cot…
We all went to Richard [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] on Sunday, by coach to Dorking (just over two hours in the coach, the children took it very well), whence Richard picked us up with Daphne, his eight year old stepdaughter. Going back Richard took us all the way from Burpham, an hour-and-a-half’s drive. A very enjoyable day. Richard has a nice, (yes, nice, H.L. [Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]) £4,200 house.
Esther laid on a very good spread and the kids enjoyed themselves on the swing in the garden and riding Daphne’s tricycle. We enjoyed ourselves speculating on the Richard-Esther-Daphne relationship (Esther was divorced from her Israeli husband). Richard said to us that he and Esther were “not ideally suited” – they have been married just over a year. The trouble is that Esther does not come up to Joyce Ollet’s standards. (Joyce was the committed R.C. from whom Richard eventually broke off – she rang this morning to tell us she was expecting. She is now married to a very high up atom man in Reading. She is coming up for 40; Esther is in her early thirties.
Rose Wagreich, wife of Harry Wagreich, brother of Sam Wagreich, top N.Y. G.P., was over with her 16-year-old daughter. The daughter makes barely intelligible noises – I can only get one word in ten – and understands what is said through lip-reading, I gather. Rose fears she is going blind. Harry teaches physics at City College, Rose teaches elementary school. Rose was wonderful; her loving patience with her daughter is beyond all praise. She was the unwitting cause of another bust-up at Ambrose Avenue, apparently the bust-up to end all bust-ups, Mum was present, but was specifically exculpated by Sam [brother]. I’m hopeful things will right themselves again. It is, alas, obvious that Sam and Lily are not ideally suited, but then how many married couples are?
Well, the course is over. A first-rate affair. 105 teacher-students, divided into 7 groups, each under an H.M.I. To my surprise, most of the students were very well up in their French…(one woman, a Mrs Whitfield, non-Jewish, taught at Carmel College)…It was a joy to hear good cultured French.
I allowed myself to be our group’s rapporteur of the discussions pédagogiques, i.e., discussions on French teaching method…Our lectures were held in the Rue Henri Heine, and I cogitated throughout the fortnight on a Heine lead-in – “Heinrich Heine, now better known to us as Henri Heine, wrote a series of articles (an article?) for the Revue des Deux Mondes entitled “Confessions of a Poet…” and the idea was to link this with “Confessions of a Rapporteur”. In the event…when my turn came I abandoned the Heine lead-in, gave a perfunctory account of our very pedestrian discussions, but finished up with the vous-me-pardonnerez-c’est-votre-metier gag – I just couldn’t avoid parading Heine.
Anyway, it was done, the reaction of the group when Miss Dancer [the “weak, prim, lady-headmistressy H.M.I taking their group] detailed me for the job was sooner-you-than-me and a number of people congratulated me: I had taken less time than any of the others, and at least I hadn’t read out a carefully written string of platitudes.
E. [wife Edith] has just been in: “That’s right, tell them all about me…” — ? — “Whatever you right (?! Freudian explanation, E. is right?) about me is detrimental.” All because I took an hour off this morning to clear up my bookcases. Poor E., nebbich, she wants the next one to be a girl and a blue stocking so that she (the girl) can show me up. But blue stockings have to have books, and a girl stands a better chance of becoming a blue-stocking if at least one of her parents is bookish.
Mea maxima culpa once more: I suppose I should manage my personal affairs between 5 and 7 a.m. and be at E’s disposal for the rest of the time she is awake. Better still, I suppose I ought to be earning £2,000 a year; anybody earning less, I suppose, can afford neither the money to buy books, nor the space to keep them, nor the time to read them and keep them in order – especially after Philip and Max have put them in disorder.
Oh well, it’s 4 p.m., all is quiet and peaceful, will break off now till the next outbreak. (P. would not eat his dinner to-day; eventually Daddy put the egg-timer he had brought from Paris on the table, challenged P. to eat his dinner before the sand disappeared from the top half of the hour-glass. P. accepted the challenge and ate his dinner. The truth is, E. is jealous of the quiet, competent manner in which I handle the children.
A fine, cool evening. Returned from last class at Friern Barnet. There’s still another class to go, officially, but I decided to close down the class as I leave for Paris on the morning of the 18th, and I shall need the Tuesday evening, 17th, for packing.
The Ministry of Education placed me on its reserve list for the Paris course..and that which I hoped/feared came to pass – they offered me a place. I want to go because, primarily, I must have something to put down on an application form for a better job – especially in French. It may be that at 50 I stand no chance anyway, but I do not want to feel I have failed to do what I could have done towards a better job. I can’t deny that after fifteen months intense domesticity — pram and push-chair pushing, baby-minding, never stirring outside the Mayfield Avenue – Eden Grove/Camden Road – Southgate – Dinmore House – Moresby Road orbit — I welcome the break. On the other hand it will set me back £20 -£30 which may well have proved (the Hebrew phrase al keren ha’tsvi occurs to me – have I got it right? [yes – הניח כספו על קרן הצבי]) flung down the drain.
The shoulder still a nuisance; to-day feeling stiff generally, à la every-picture-tells-a-story (what has happened, by the way, to Kruschen salts, which used to show the story-picture of the crippled rheumatic leaping through the air “after”?) Maxie bashed his nose – Philip, apparently, pushed him off the bathroom stool when E. [wife, Edith Witriol, née Katz] rushed down to answer the door. His face is gradually assuming its normal colouring; a couple of days ago it was glorious technicolour. E. took him to the doctor and the hospital (she had to take Philip with).
Maxie’s birthday party went off well, except that I went off the very deep end – poor Mum again. If only she could keep Mum like Boobbe Esther [Edith’s mother]. Anyway, mea maxima culpa. The rift in the Sam and Lily [brother and his wife] lute seems to have blown over (awful mixed metaphors – who cares? I want to get back to my soma – La Cavalerie Lourde as of now; any French book with plenty of good colloquial French – not necessarily extreme argot.
Heat wave yesterday, to-day cool but fine. Geoffrey & Hélène Stalbow picked us up and took us down to the old man – 84 – at Harpenden. We all stowed in – Hélène & Geoffrey’s two girls, Ruth,12 and Judith, 9, and Philip & Max – in a four-seater car, but Geoffrey kept up a continuous patter which made the journeys there and back pass quickly. Max behaved unexpectedly well. They are a fine couple, Geoffrey squat, sturdy, bull-necked, like his old man; Hélène slim, trim, quiet, still pretty at – 36? She drove, Geoffrey apparently doesn’t drive. Strange, since he’s very much an aggressively – almost -virile type & was a captain in the R.A. The old man lives alone in his house with garden – he lives for Zionism and his garden…he’s an extraordinary character. He spends half the year in Rehovot & the summer at Harpenden…
Domestic trouble at Ambrose Avenue. Tension between Sam & Lily because Sam said some weeks ago, in front of Mum, that Lily hated/disliked/did not like us & the kids (the exact words are not certain…). Lily denies – what have the children done to me? Sam talks of leaving her, but I don’t see how he can….he’s nowhere to go to except Mum, and I told him he must try to imagine Mum’s in a single room & he can’t use Moresby Road as a bolt-hole. He says he’ll find somewhere else, but he can’t afford to keep up the house at Ambrose Avenue & pay £3-10-0 a week for a room. Basically the trouble is due to the fact that Lily, au fond, sticks to her conception of you-bring-in-the-money-and-I’ll-keep-a-nice home and is unwilling to recognise that to keep up her nice home…she needs a husband earning at least £1500 a year…I’m hoping…things will take a turn for the better. It seems all wrong, a more harmless, inoffensive chap than Sam it would be hard to find – a sod like me one can understand these things happening to – but he has to suffer because of his mother and brother…
Mum says she can no longer cope. Her geyser has conked out, it will cost £38 to replace. She will come round here for a bath to-morrow. Lily says Sam throws in her face that Mum lives alone…thousands of people live alone, thousands don’t so – more or less – what, Edith says I didn’t worry about Mum living alone before I married her. One can only hope, and this is of course my mother’s prayer, that she will be able to look after herself to the last. In any case, the spare bedroom at Ambrose Avenue is now used as an office/stock room… And — wait for it — E. is pregnant once more. The safe period has not been so safe. Extraordinary thing about E. – one has only to breathe on her and she becomes pregnant. Extraordinary thing about J. – always feared he was impotent, and told the girls after he had more-or-less proposed to them that he was afraid he might be impotent. Ah well, sweet mystery of life. I hope Edith has an easier confinement than the previous two, and that No. 3 is as bonny as Max. “Bonny” is not an adjective one can apply to Philip, he’s too thin, but touch wood he is a healthy, if perhaps somewhat nervous and highly strung child.
Actually I concocted quite a tolerable review, I think, without having to go to the B.M. I also did a review for the Linguists’ Institute of a Hebrew text-book they sent me – Ivrit lemaaseh by one Ch. Rosenthal. To get the picture on current Hebrew text-books I went to Foyles. I was prepared to spend 25/- – 30/- on (a) Hebrew book(s) as an inspection fee, getting the money from flogging some review copies and the definitive edition of Kipling’s verse which I sold in the event to Foyle’s buying dept. for 25/-. As there was no one in charge of Foyle’s Hebrew dept. I took a free look-round – they don’t seem to care, why should I?
The pain in shoulder still a nuisance. How boring all this talk of pain. [Dr]Pallot has forwarded me to the physiotherapy wallah at the local hospital for an injection which I hope will do the trick. I’m not flapping, really, but as always cannot avoid feeling that perhaps it’s here to stay, in that case one could live with it and in fact one would hope that this would be one’s lot, so to speak. (oopkimminish -semasiology?). First day at school to-day. Sorry – but if only I were quite pain-free I think I could get through the term reasonably happily.
Back to Sam & Lily’s with kids on Shabbos. They’re both working very hard evenings, Sundays – I hope they’ll be able to make something out of it. Mot, Chip & Helen, Charles & Trudie and Gertie & ? Shields came round for supper – it was Lily’s birthday (53rd? 54th?) – and Mot took us home. It would seem, then, that the morale at Ambrose Avenue is not too bad.
The kids in first-rate form but very taxing on E. – I haven’t been able to help her as much as I should have liked causa doloris mei, which is my pathetic attempt at elegant variation. I wish I had a cine-camera & tape recorder and could fix them screaming and fighting for possession of the bike, Maxy saying “Mummy” (when I point to E. & say “Who’s that?), “Daddy” (when I point to myself), “Pippik” when I point to Philip.
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.
Poor Max fell and cut himself – we presume – on the fire guard on Saturday morning. Edith had been up with him since about 7a.m. I came down about 9.30, looked in the lounge and thought I would leave them both there while I made myself a cup of tea. Next thing I heard was howling, to which I didn’t pay too much attention, as howling is routine, but when I went in Maxie was bleeding profusely. Somme toute, the bleeding eventually stopped, but I did not suggest calling a doctor. Left to herself, Edith would probably have called the doctor in, but she knows I prefer to underclaim rather than overclaim on doctors’ time. Maxie will be left with a permanent scar on the bridge of his nose. This could have been avoided, the doctor told us, had he been treated immediately. We called the doctor last night. He came promptly and gave Max a conscientious going-over. This must be remembered when criticising the N.H.S. As usual, I blame myself and try to make excuses for myself – a chap’s entitled to pour himself out a cup of tea, etc. Max was poorly in the (Saturday) night, and E. was up 3-4-5 hours with him. On the Sunday (yesterday) we went to Boobe Esther’s [Edith’s mother] as usual. Max uttered hardly a sound the whole time. It was painful to watch. The doctor said he had an inflamed ear. It was this, and not the cut, which had been troubling him.
Kopul Rosen died. He was contemporary with me. My recollection of him is as one of the bhoys. [?group from same home town or thereabouts] Aubrey Eban used to tell how he (Kopul) wanted to enter the U.S [United Synagogue] ministry, but the Chief Rabbi told him to go and get his matric [school-leaving certificate]. He got a war-time Manchester M.A. (I could never understand this; I should have thought that to get even a war-time degree matriculation or exemption from matriculation was indispensable). I see also from the lengthy J.C. obituary that he got a London Ph.D. in 1960 – I don’t remember reading about this at the time. However, I still remember the impression he made on me when he spoke at the old B.B.Z. (Bow B’nai Zion) on his experiences at the Mir Yeshiva – this must have been – was – pre 1939. The chief thing I remember of this speech are two anecdotes he told in Yiddish – one of a dull-witted student laboriously working out the relationships among a group of people, and the other of a burly Jew heaving a cart out of a rut, saying voo denn, koiach darf men hobben, sechel miz men hobben! Which makes it all the more remarkable that he should have conceived and realised the idea of a Jewish public school on traditional English lines – Carmel College, which is resoundingly successful. I am impressed too, by his answer to the “anti-segregationists” – it is precisely the boy educated at a Jewish school who takes his Jewishness as something normal and who, because of his “segregation”, is subsequently more at ease with non-Jews. The whole thing is very reminiscent of Prince Hal – wasn’t it – who turned from playboy to sober responsibility. I remember too how in his talk about Mir he had said that the students would kiss each other on parting – which evoked titters. This was the first time I had any inkling of the new Kopul. Sam [brother] remembers him as a scruffy East-ender to whom he once gave a lift and being told by him that he (Kopul) would have to take his matric a third time. The J.C. obituary photograph shows fine, ascetic features.
Update I emailed Kopul’s son, Jeremy, asking him, inter alia, if he could translate the Yiddish in the extract above. He kindly replied as follows
Thank you so much for sending me your father’s memories of mine….
The Yiddish you quote literally translates as ” So, then, a person needs to have strength, but a person must have intelligence!” I guess the joke was that the burley carter was using brute strength to free the cart from the mud when a little common sense might have been more productive. The fact is my father spoke Yiddish at home with his parents but refused to teach us, his children, on the grounds that he wanted us to master the English language. I think on that point he was mistaken and I wish he had taught us Yiddish. I picked it up later.
And yes he made no pretence of being a goody-goody as a youngster and he was friendly with Aubrey ( Abba ) Eban in those days.
All of it brings back wonderful memories of him.
I am so glad to have the link to your father’s memories.
If you are ever in New York please get in touch.
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…)