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.

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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 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.

Part 69: Sunday 11th December 1960, 7.15pm approx.

Saw The Misadventures of Mr Pickwick at Unity Theatre last night. Behind the bald statement lies a wealth of organisation, needed for us to get out for a few hours. Alf baby sat – study/bedroom had to be prepared for him. Sam & Lily brought round to help him cope. Tea/supper prepared for sitters-in. In the event, E. got Max off before 6pm, but it was not till 10.30pm that Philip finally went off. They both slept without a break till 7.30 this morning. Boobe Yetta round to-day (in spite of cold weather, bad for Mum’s – bronchitis(?)), Philip sleep-drunk, fortunately at 6.30 pm to-day, fortunately. We hope to celebrate an undisturbed supper in the dining-room. I must attempt to record Philip’s vocabulary: hat, “hutt” (staccato) = hat, “shahann” = shake-hands, mind!, no more!, tcheeair, knife, fork, spǒon, mĕhmĕhnēh = ?, un-ùn (as in french), on seeing potty, which he refuses to use, cold. Book (no longer bukh) and door; allo boobbe, which he says except when the boobbes are on the phone; I believe I have already recorded Bye-bye.

Pickwick is a musical by Arnold Hinchcliffe, a likeable, unassuming colleague at Eden Grove. E & I enjoyed it. It seemed to me to show extraordinary talent; it is a successful West End musical in posse, I think – and it would be a welcome change from the “Fings” and “Irma La Douce” brothel-type show – it will be interesting to see if it becomes one in esse.

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.

Part 64: 8th August 1960, 11.45 a.m.

Writing this in the study, Max in the carry-cot on the divan next to me. Philip gurgling in play-pen, E. & her mother pottering around. Philip after an exhausting afternoon yesterday “performing” for his uncles, slept like a log (tired simile, we had a discussion on this the other day in the staff room, two members of the staff saying kids should not be encouraged to learn these clichés, another chap, Lloyd – whom I have pigeon-holed as reactionary (militantly N.A.S., bachelor-in-his-forties-at-least, anti-feminist) – saying they should. I tend to agree with Lloyd. If you can think of better similes than sleep like a log, fit as a fiddle, right as rain (this sounds wrong – let’s pass on), sound as a bell, hard as nails, all right; but if you can’t, you should know your clichés. To get back to Philip. His long sleep – E. gave him some milk at 6, and the he went right on till 10 – gave E. a bit of a break, with a consequent lessening in tension all round. Must break off. Max demanding. 5.15 p.m. – resumed. Pouring. It’s been a tranquil day, mercifully. Philip was quiet in his play pen in the morning, slept (again!) in it this afternoon, Max has been sleeping well. Even so, I haven’t been able to “do” anything, except mow the lawn (20 mins.), but it’s something not to feel headache-y (through interrupted and/or insufficient sleep) and to have a reasonable atmosphere in the house.

Am getting through That Great Lucifer (Sir Walter Raleigh) by Margaret Irwin. Am “doing” it for the benefit of my next year’s history pupils. Surprisingly enough, to me, the book was one of the half-dozen best sellers, although it wasn’t particularly well reviewed.

Part 63: Monday, August 1st 1960, 10.15 a.m.

It has been a pretty grim week. At the moment the scene is peaceful. Max sleeping in his pram in the garden, Philip having a more or less tranquil breakfast with, or rather, at the hands of his mother and her mother. I have washed, shaved, dressed, breakfasted and feel, as of now, fairly rested. Max demanded food at 11.15 last night, as we went to bed. We got to sleep just after midnight, using an electric feed-warmer, installed by Alf (mum’s brother); saves someone going down to the kitchen at nights to warm up the feed. Max up again about 4 (I can’t remember whether I got up too – I think I did, but it wasn’t to do much more than lend moral support), then  – an unexpected complication – though nothing is unexpected in this lark – Philip up howling at 6a.m. He slung away the proffered bottle, but after a few minutes did take it and went off to sleep. By great good fortune he stayed asleep till 9.30. meanwhile Max created at about 7.30. I capitulated and lay dozing, E. giving Max water, which I believe sent him off by about 8. I must have then got in half-an-hour’s sleep, which has benefitted me enormously. P. is now seated on the divan (b night the visitors’ bed) in the study, guzzling his milk from his polythene bottle.

We are having mother trouble; inevitably, I suppose, my-mother trouble. Boobbe (my father had his own transcription system for Yiddish words) Esther, (my mother’s mother) afflicted with hard hearing and a gammy leg, gives no trouble. Boobbe Yetta, though, has the defects of her virtues; highly strung, ambitious, a “live wire”, she tends to lay down the law, “kommandire“. [? writing unclear] Nevertheless, in fairness to her, I must say that as far as I have been able to observe, she has behaved as correctly towards E. as any “foreigner” in her eighties (ken en hora) can be expected to. There was a painful “incident” last Tuesday, when she came round, from Clapton to here, a wearisome journey even for me. She gets no credit for this from E. In the past, we have on a number of occasions been able to miss out on visiting Boobbe Y. and visit Boobbe E. instead. It is only human nature, I suppose, for E. to resent* my mother’s being able to come to us whereas her mother is confined to her flat (she has come to us by car for a week, and will return by car – Alf got someone to do the job cheap). Must break off – P. is breaking up the study. I think he knows “book” — he says “boo-er.” The only other words he knows are “fleh” (flower) and “bubber” (rhyming with rubber) = baby. The incident arose out of the name question. E. and I. had agreed on Menachem as the Hebrew name, and Max for the English name. A few weeks before the confinement my mother had said (or was this after the birth? I think the latter because when E. became pregnant Boobbe Y. had started talking about names, and E. had said why not wait till she was safely delivered –  a rebuke which, again in fairness to my mother, I must say she accepted and I think didn’t revive the name question till after the birth) why not give the child a name Menahem Mendel, which, she persists in saying, was her late brother-in-law’s name. As far as I know, it was Mendel tout court, which at some stage he changed, in Israel, to Menahem. Although I don’t like Mendel particularly myself (though I don’t feel violently about it) and Menahem Mendel even less (because of Sholem Aleichem’s Menahem Mendel) I said all right, Menahem Mendel, my mother was tearful, it’ll be a blessing for the child. I dropped a clanger in not telling E. – “I’m only the mother.” Hence when my mother called Max Mendel the fat was in the fire, E. had a touch of hysteria, she’d, obviously, been under great strain, and my mother, correctly, left the house. Somme toute, she says she won’t come to us any more. This isn’t the whole story, which cannot be told here, but perhaps I’ve already given it too much space. The fault, if anyone’s, was mine, in not telling “E” about the “Mendel” in time; but it never occurred to me she would worry about the “Hebrew” name.

*incorrect. Do not resent. –  Booba Y. comes if she can to see the children & that way can see them more often. Booba E. must wait till we can come with them which is more infrequent — E.W. [my mum’s footnote to this entry]

Part 59: Monday, 20th June 1960 – 6.00 p.m.

A sweltering day. I note that three out of four sentences in the last paragraph of the preceding entry contain the words “I gather”. And I who am always drumming into the kids to avoid repetition.

We took P.I. into the J.B.G. [Jewish Board of Guardians]  nursery yesterday. A bit of a shlemozzle. We had to get him O.K.’d by the J.B.G. doctor first, and when we got to his surgery, we learnt that he wouldn’t be turning up, as he felt under the weather. (I had suggested to E. she ring up the doctor beforehand; no, it wasn’t necessary. It is true we might have been let down anyway, even if E. had done as I asked & rung up, as the doctor’s indisposition was presumably unforeseen and he might still not have put in an appearance at the surgery. On the other hand, the knowledge that people would be at the surgery who had come a long way to see him, and – even more – that there was a fee to be picked up – might have spurred him to make the effort to turn up.) In the event, after much traipsing around in search of a doctor, I was lucky to get the radio doctor to come and give us a certificate of P.I.’s good health – put me back a guinea.

The nursery is well equipped, and although Philip howled after we left him, I’ve no doubt he’ll settle in happily. I suppose it’s a terrible thing to say, but the house is beautifully quiet without him. And although it’s true E. gets up to feed him – 4a.m. ish – on “working nights”, I believe I had a better night’s sleep than usual last night, with beneficial consequences today, I think. In spite of the heat, I played two of the better boys at tennis this morning, beating them comfortably, and rode 1K. (difficult) and 1E (admittedly a “better” class) quite easily in the afternoon. Yes, I know, he’s a dear little chap, may he grow up to be healthy and happy.

Part 55: Tuesday, 19th April 1960, 9.30p.m.

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.

 

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 50: Death of a Pioneer

It’s taken two years and eight months for me to transcribe Volume One of Joseph Witriol’s Journal. There are 19 more, so I may have to start cutting out passages if I am to finish this project.

Wednesday, 30th December 1959 3p.m.

Nothing good with which to bring the year and this volume to a close. A letter from Sarah to inform me that Uncle Mendel had died (the husband of my mother’s sister). He was one of the early chalutzim [pioneers], had worked with Ben Gurion. Of well-to-do parents, I believe, he emigrated to Israel “to build and to be built” on its soil. He worked like a goy, as a plumber (?installateur? [i.e. dad is wondering what the Hebrew word is]). His daughter was a true Sabra, Hebrew her only language (apart from Yiddish which she used with her parents), a natural patriot. Uncle Mendel lived Zionism, I preached it in my youth.

From the solemnity and nobility of Menachem Kessler’s death – Milton’s lines – “a death so noble” – occur to me (shut up, H.L.[Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur] ) – to life with a small l. I picked up by chance at Alf’s [my mother’s brother, Alf Katz]  a most entertaining book, Rally Round the Flag, Boys by Max Shulman. It describes with brilliant humour the impact of a Nike battalion on a small town with its three vertical social divisions: the Yankees, the New York commuters and the Italians. The various liaisons, frictions, contretemps are brilliantly rendered.

E. [Edith Witriol] out 3-piece-suite hunting, leaving me to hold the baby. I held him on Monday for most of the day, miraculously succeeding in changing my first nappy. Philip is now beginning to grizzle slightly – he gave me a good hour’s quiet to write to Sarah and Aunt Dora and make this entry.

Since, as I believe I have repeatedly stated, I have no illusions about this journal being acclaimed as one of the showpieces of world literature, and my meagre income renders it desirable for me to keep some record of certain items of expenditure, I record

  1. the purchase of a raincoat, £11-0-6 ex local Moishe Burton; adjudged satisfactory by E. & Mum
  2. the purchase of a blazer, £5-19-9, from the same source. Adjudged unsatisfactory by both ladies (my mother was right; it is a tight fit); am going to try and exchange.

END OF VOLUME ONE