Part 97: Thursday July 10th 1962, 9.45 p.m.

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.

 

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Part 96: Whit Sunday 10th June 1962, 9 p.m.

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.

Part 94: Monday 7th May 1962 – 9 p.m.

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.

Part 93: 21st April 1962 – 9.25 p.m.

E. suggests my opening entry: To the strains of Edith’s trumpetings (she has had a shocking cold for over a week) I herald in my 50th birthday.” I see last year I made no entry on my 49th birthday, but the half-century seems to deserve some comment. But what is there to say? It’s unfair to E. to indulge in excessive self-flagellation, pretentious too – my aut Caesar aut nullus line. All I can do is to hope that dum spiro – however much longer that is to be – I shall be able to discharge my family responsibilities. Perhaps I have laid too much blame for my failures on the fact that I had no father to be guide, counsellor, friend.

Unless Philip and Max are exceptionally unlucky they will have at least E. to guide them (unobtrusively) till they are in their twenties, and E. will not make the mistakes with them that my mother made with me. She will not hold them back from studying/working abroad, away from London, so that she may relieve her loneliness, if she is widowed. She will not tell them she will scrub floors for them for their sakes (though she will deprive herself of domestic help she might otherwise have been able to employ, so that P. and M. can study in a proper way – able to supplement their State and/or Local Authority allowances, etc., with pocket money provided very, very tactfully by her – “your father left you this money so that you could build up a library or take out a girl in style occasionally” – though surely by then the girl will certainly go Dutch).

Still pain in shoulder. Not acute; codein unnecessary, but twinges when lifting children. No use saying don’t lift’em – often most effective way of securing quiet is to lift them up on to window sill to survey passing scene.

J.C [Jewish Chronicle] sent me a book on Schnitzler, Kraus and a third Viennese-Jewish litterateur to review. [Karl Kraus, Arthur Schnitzler, Otto Weininger: Aus dem judischen Wien der Jahrhundertwende, Dr. Hans Kohn

They had previously sent me a book on German literature to review. They bungled one sentence – admittedly pretty convoluted in the original – completely in the printing, so that it reads incomprehensibly. Vienna is something, I suppose, on which one ought to be able to let oneself go – I read seinerzeit Schnitzler con amore, and ought to be able to drag in Czokor and his Dritte (?) Oktober 1918  – there’s a scene in which half-a-dozen Austrians lament the old Austria, and it is the Jew whose lament is the most heartfelt [sic: 3 November 1918] – but I’d have to go to the B.M. [i.e. to The Reading Room at The British Museum] to look up the play – and if I take a whole day off during my school holidays I develop a guilt complex.

Part 87: Wednesday 27th December 1961, 10.30p.m.

Very cold, Mum poorly. She stayed a couple of day’s at Sam’s. We went round there yesterday for  couple of hours, home by hired car – 20/- plus 2/- tip. The kids more of a handful than ever, bless ’em. Aunt Debbie round to-day. The kids screaming blue (why blue?) murder. I was typing an article – Polish-Russian elements in Yiddish – in the study. Eventually I was able to pacify P., who was furiously demanding “little R” – he can now recognise most of the letters of the alphabet. There’s no question of my forcing him; he asks me to “do letters.”

Financial situation still dodgy…without translating commissions it will be a struggle to keep heads above water. Am glad got the Polish-Russian Yiddish article out of my system, even if the J.C. don’t accept it. [it was published by the Jewish Chronicle]

Break for ice-cream and raspberries and coffee.  Azoi geht ess – even in my holiday to get two hours a day to do my schoolwork (have to get February half-yearly exams done; difficult, have to test 3M on “commerce”, spend most of the lesson threatening them with lines, detention), see to accounts, corres; and any “literary” work or study – is kreass yam soof. Well, well – abee gezinnt, abee gezinnt.

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 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.