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.

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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]