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.

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Part 91: Monday 26th March 1962, 9.10 p.m.

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.

Warmest regards

Jeremy

 

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 88: Sunday 31st December 1961, 9.45p.m.

The old year expiring in snow-drifts. Sam [brother] marooned. Unexpectedly received a new 4-vol English-Hebrew dictionary from Beno Rothenberg, together with a letter asking me if I would be interested in going to Israel if a “job”, house, etc; were waiting for me. Wrote saying could not consider settlement in Israel, even a two-year spell difficult. It is strange, considering how ardent – and, I like to think, sincere – a Young Zionist I was, that Israel per se has such little attraction for me. I suppose it’s the vis inertiae.

But there is the point that I have to consider E’s mum – as regards depriving her of the kids, Boobbe Yetta [mother] says she would go to Israel with me (living with whom?) – and Sam, who is now coming up for 56 and in whose not particularly happy life the kids are the only ray of sunshine. And although I have no illusions about the difficulties of Jewish living in England, I hanker after the idea that P. or M. or both of them will make the mark in the specifically English world that I failed to make.

All absurd, all confused, but in any case, the practical question remains: What job, what house has B.R. in mind? Though even here, there seems little point in asking. Presumably the house would contain E; the kids, myself and the books; we should be as warm as – warmer than – we are here, and I don’t see how E. could work harder. The kids’ clothes would have to be washed more often, but there would be fewer of them. I’m applying the same sort of criteria that I would to the possibility of settling in Italy or Argentina. Very strange, but there you are.

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 78: Sunday 14th May 1961, 3.25 pm

Situation still grimm. (The misspelling indicative of situation’s grimness). Persistent pain – left ankle, buttock…Saw Pallot again on Friday morning. He was quite helpful: I wouldn’t die, if I was thinking in terms of not being able to carry on for the next eleven years, I should stop worrying..It’s not death one worries about after all, my death would solve my problems and  would constitute less of a problem to E. [wife, Edith Katz] than my inability to continue my job as a schoolteacher. “If I should die” E. gets a lump sum of £1100 – plus the house is fully paid up. I imagine your best course, darling – I’m not being morbid, but one ought to try to prepare for these eventualities – would be to sell the house and try to get yourself into Dinmore House [Council flat where her brother and mother lived]…trying eventually to get a four-bedroom Council flat. I think Alf [brother] should hang on to the Dinmore House flat like grim death…[detailed passage follows on financial/housing options – includes comment that by selling the house a clear “profit” of £800 could be made – see below].

Incidentally, it is very remiss of me not to have made a will. I imagine it would cost anything from 10-20 guineas to make a proper will…Anyway, I doubt whether there would be anything complicated in my estate. I hereby solemnly bequeath everything I own at the time of my death to my wife Edith. I should like to make some dispositions regarding the books; if sold skilfully they might yield £100, but probably the best thing would be get Foyles to make an offer for the lot, or for Jack Mazin to offer for the Jewish books which on reflection must be worth at least £50 alone (N.B The Memoirs of Glückel of Hamelin  in the Yiddish text (printed in Hebrew characters) cost me £5-5-0)….

Peter Jansen-Smith returned Poor Cicero the other day. Will try to flog it to Thames & Hudson, though cannot help feeling prospects of success are remote.

Extraordinary blunder. As the house is “fully paid up” under my “protection policy” with the Liverpool London & Globe Ins. Co. it follows that by selling it a “clear profit” of £3,500 could be made. This sum would yield at least £2-10-0 a week interest, which would pay for the Council flat, …(though I suppose tombstone,etc. would come to about £300-£500 – plain, unonstentatious stone, factual epitaph – another thing I can’t bloody well do, think up a decent epitaph).

Part 74: Sunday 19th March 1961, 9.45 pm

Many, many years ago I read Freud’s Traumdeutung. I don’t remember much of it, except that he said that if you dreamt about water you would wake up to find you had been wetting the bed. I believe I checked the truth of this empirically —  or, at any rate, the water-dream went with an urge to empty one’s bladder —  but I couldn’t see in this sort of thing the signs of one of the master-minds of modern times. Anyway, I have frequently wanted to set down my dreams, I have an average of three a night, but have never been able to remember them.  One of the things I was impressed by was Freud’s setting down, at night, his dreams as he had them.

Anyway, here is the blurred memory of one of last night’s dreams: I inserted an advertisement for a schoolmaster to occupy some such post as I might conceivably occupy myself: say, French with an allowance of £90. The idea was to see what sort of “field” the advertisement would attract, the potential competition. Afterwards, I realised – I couldn’t advertise, I wasn’t the employer. Repercussions were not long in following. I was had up on the carpet, and I remember saying I had two children. Later on I dreamt kids were reading out their marks in a test I had given them, and they all seemed to have marks of 11 or 14 or so. The “Interpretation”? — and I don’t remember Freud’s being more profound — I dream about my job.

Took the kids to Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived]  to-day. A tough operation, six buses mounted. Kids now sleeping soundly, one relaxing in dining-room (in which we have placed one of the three-piece suite easy chairs and the tubular easy chair – the convector heater is more warming (note the incipient Spoonerism [i.e. letter m in more written like a w]) than the “Magi-glow” in the living-room). A good deal on the old plate. Richard’s [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen] chassena [wedding] next Sunday, at which I am to act as best man/M.C, the school journey, Edith had a phone call from Thames & Hudson, and they were supposed to be publishing the Sinai book Marchwards anyway. [God’s Wilderness: Discoveries in Sinai by Beno Rothenberg]

But will now try to get half-hour’s quiet before turning in.

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.