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 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 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.