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.

 

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Part 54: Thursday, 24th March 1960, 9.30p.m.

Have been officially transferred to Divisional Staff. There has been correspondence between MacGowan, the D.I., and the D.O. and myself, they “noting my willingness to teach general subjects,” I insisting that I want to teach French and English among the “general subjects.” I don’t know whether  my new state (teaching “general subjects” in a secondary school) will be better than my present condition, but I feel I can’t carry on another term with my present class. A humiliating experience the other day. Trying to line the class up quietly in the corridor, before going up to Assembly, I “saw red” when young Kenny Storey – one of my nicer kids – carried on talking after I had yelled at them to keep quiet. I smacked him hard on the bare thigh, with an unexpected reaction. He howled and writhed (he’s a tough footballer, from whom I hadn’t expected it). I took the kids up, and then came down to find the bird had flown. Late in the afternoon Mrs S. came up, not abusive, foul-mouthed, as I had feared, but obviously tensed (I was trying to line up my 30+ 3A & 3B boys ready to go down to P.E., perhaps this was of some psychological advantage, as it perhaps showed that conditions were trying). Anyway, I referred her to Burden. He called me up at 4.30 p.m. & very loyally supported me, “leading” me with Q.C.’s skill (” so you were defying Mr Witriol, weren’t you, Kenny?”). Kenny, to his credit, admitted his guilt (though Heaven knows I have passed over more heinous offences innumerable times) and so the incident was closed. Kenny, I omitted to say, had a bruise on his thigh.

The sort of thing one ought to be able to write up; the aggrieved Mum, the assaulted youth, the young Headmaster, the teacher trembling for his job. However, one hasn’t the ability, c’est tout, but what one ought to have learnt from the incident – and what I think I must try to learn, after over ten years’ teaching, is on no account to strike a pupil, unless “regularly,” i.e., entering punishment, by cane or hand in approved manner, in punishment book. Fortunately, with secondary school kids it will be more difficult to slap them (long trousers), one can push their heads if provoked, but one must just try to platz and platz and platz – and then go home and forget about it. One of the women in the staff room mentioned that there was a Civil Service competition for mature (40-50) entrants – would I not find it more congenial? Salary starts at £700. Out, of course (but if allowances are made for approved experience and one could start at £1000, say – with non-contributory pension – one would certainly think about it). Read The Unspeakable Skipton by – forgotten her name – C.P.Snow’s wife – Monica Chapman? – good; the author manqué scrounging in Bruges ( an unusual milieu, which she does well, with touches of authentic-sounding Flemish).

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 47: Woodberry Down up; Mount Pleasant difficult

Sunday, 1st November, 1959; 7.40 p.m.

Back to school to-morrow after one week’s mid-term holiday. The rest has done me good. E. [Edith] never gets any rest. Since P [Philip] was born she has had [sic] enjoyed a clear nights’ sleep only once, when P.I.W. went right through to 7.30 a.m. Incidentally, apparently E. is in the family way again. Strordinry! It wasn’t really an accident – E. says people usually say the second one was an accident – but I felt that a considerable amount of limbering up would be necessary before one could clear the bar, but apparently we have already cleared it in the limbering-up process.

To Sam yesterday, just back from Dinmore House [in Hackney, where Edith Witriol’s mother, Esther, and brother, Alf, lived] to-day with the Babba. Very irksome, trying, un-gay and un-contemporary — this shlepping Phil on buses. One ought to be able to fling him in his cot in the car and purr along to his Boobbes and uncles. (Masochism dept: I wrote in my translation of Rothenberg’s book that their car – a Land-Rover or something similar – “purred”; Clark wrote in margin: “it wasn’t a Rolls.”)

I think I shall send 5/- to the B.B.C. for a Russian pamphlet & try to listen to their Russian lessons every Monday at 7.10 p.m. Talk about the triumph of optimism over experience! It’s well over ten years since I paid some ten guineas for a Russian Linguaphone course; I think I’ve heard the first record of it perhaps two or three times. Talking of Russian, I saw Vladimir Nabokov on T.V. this afternoon. He has written novels in Russian & English and is a lepidopterist. He spoke brilliantly, fluently & without a trace of accent. He spoke of “what I call Emigravia” (I remember racking my brains – all right, H.L. [my father regularly used this acronym for Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur]- at O.C.T.U. to think of fictitious names for countries – the best I could do was Octovia), of his choosing reason when faced with the choice between “rhyme and reason” in his massive annotated translation of Eugene Onegin.

Mrs Tresiman has had to go to make way for a Miss Myers (not Jewish, I’m told), incoming Deputy Head.

For the record. I take a French class on Wednesdays at Woodberry Down, on Thursdays at Mount Pleasant School, Clapton. The Clapton class down to one student Thursday before last, up to two students last Thursday. the Woodberry class with, I think, 9 students, should last the session, or the best part of it. Difficult, the students – most of them – have no academic background and expect me to chatter in French to them.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 41: Sol Loewe, Stern Burden

Sunday, 3rd May 1959, 3.45 p.m.

I gained second prize – 25 guineas – in the J.C. Essay Competition. They rang up for me to give them some dope, and a photograph, for their “Incidentally” column. Rather depressing to think this is the nearest to fame I shall ever get. The essay itself was a feeble affair; the lucid analysis, firm grasp of all the problems raise, are conspicuously absent. A few Hebrew and Yiddish phrases and – perhaps it is not unfair to say – a general readability – gained it the prize, I suppose. Anyway, the money has enabled me to put E’s bank balance in a healthy state; it needs to be, because as I keep on telling her, if we move – rather, when we move – her allowance will be cut by £7-10-0 a month. I suppose if I could rely on £150 p.a. net from “fees” before deduction of tax I could then keep my own finances on an even keel, on the assumption that gross rent would not exceed £7 p.w.

Sam [brother] in bed with cold, Mum has cold. The worry and sheer physical strain of his business is too much for him. He was offered a job with Shell Mex on leaving school, but my father ע״ה [may peace be upon him] wanted him to be with “Yiddishe people,” so he worked for Sol Levy (“there’s not a captain’s wife leaves the ship doesn’t buy one of Sol Levy’s handbags”). Hinc illae lacrimae. For the record, a drizzly day, Alf and Boobba Esther [Katz: brother-in-law and mother-in-law] have arrived. In any case, I cannot think – I never can – of any particularly noteworthy entry to make.

Thursday, 21st May 1959, 11.30 a.m.

Raining. Taking E. [Edith Witriol] & P. to Victoria Chest Hospital this p.m. Up early (6.25 a.m.), fed P., made own breakfast, cleared E’s, own shoes, wrote to Rothenberg – feeling virtuous.

A letter from Raphael Loewe saying he enjoyed my article (sc. prize-winning essay) in the J.C. I gather from his letter he was a runner-up; if so, it was very sporting of him to write to me – he bears, after all, a distinguished name in Anglo-Jewry (his father was Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge) and is an M.C.

The Southend women Zionists want me to talk to them – I have arranged a tentative date for October. Left 34M+ words with T&H y’day. Very enjoyable evening at Richard’s [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen]  last Saturday, with Joyce; sherry, wine, French bread; Dr Zhivago, Sleepwalkers [presumably this book] lying around – pleasant. Also an enjoyable day last (Whit) Monday – perambulated P. to Moresby Road [mother’s home in Upper Clapton] & back. Sam & Lily there [brother and sister-in-law], but both run down. E. not her usual sunny self going, but coming back my kindness, forbearance, patience and general saintliness had its effect and she revived. P. has been grizzling, so E. has dumped him on to me while she makes feeds. I am entertaining him. Back to school on Monday! Must try to rally for this last (8 week -9 week?) lap. We have a new head; Burden, 35-ish. He seems a good type; footballer, cricketer. But he’s modern, which means I must try to get the kids to make models & so on. I think I shall let events take their course this term. If I find, as I probably shall, that I have a lower-stream class next term, I shall then assume that it is unlikely I will ever have an “A” class – the only thing that could have made primary teaching endurable, perhaps even pleasant – and will try to transfer to a selective secondary school. But I understand that even Burghleigh, the dumping ground, [now called Acland Burghley] want a head of languages (sic, plural) dept. I wouldn’t be eligible for that, but perhaps a French-teaching job there, even, if it turned up?

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 39: Facts and figures

Thursday, 19th March 1959, 9.35 pm

I have been unable to keep up the spate of entries, but can’t think what precisely has kept me so busy. I see this is the first entry since Edith and Philip have been home. For me, the much-advertised trials of fatherhood – up with baby all night – have hardly materialised. Edith does all the feeding; I am wakened once in the night when E. takes him out of the bedroom to feed, and once when she brings him back after the feed. Philip, imbeshneer, thrives. I feel I ought to write a set piece about him, but well ( I visualise him reading this in about twenty-five years time wondering whether he can get an article out of it and perhaps saying, “jolly interesting, Dad” in an insufferably patronising tone). To the facts: E. breast-feeds him with a large complement of macheraikki [ I only knew dad’s use of this word to describe food such as my mum’s ratatouille type dishes!]. Things have proved more or less manageable as we have been using a nappy service and a Mrs Frankel has been doing cooking, etc. (She supplied by North London Chevrat Bikurim [lit. Society for first fruits] @ 4/- per hour). Also E. has had her once-weekly woman in, though not this morning and she will not have her for the next three weeks as she, the w.w. (Mrs Holleran) has her baby ill with whooping cough. At the moment, Philip has set up an all-time record by going 5-6 hours without a murmur.

I have come home from Mum (to whom I went from a school football match, we won 3-1, the first round of our cup competition – the first time in Hargrave history we have got through the first round). Mum can’t remember when the war ended – neither can I, I can’t remember which month of 1945 VE day came in, and am not sure whether VJ was in 45 or 46! – or when she first came to Moresby Road. I suppose it is things like this for which a diary is useful.

I was not recommended for a second interview at County Hall (see p.157). I also went for an interview at County Hall on Wednesday evening but for an instructorship-in-charge (55/- for three hours) on one evening a week at Stoke Newington Evening Institute. Chairman of the interviewing trio was Dr. Plummer, former Director of Forest Emergency Training College, of which I am an alumnus. I don’t really know whether I wanted the job; I suppose it would be prudent to take it if it were offered me, as the net remuneration (before tax) would be at least as much as that from the NLJC Sunday mornings (though I suppose I needn’t declare the NLJC – however, we won’t start discoursing on that now) and I could do more with a free Sunday evening, probably, than with a free Monday evening. However, it’s quite likely I won’t be offered even this one-evening-a-week instructorship. There were other candidates and I don’t suppose Dr. Plummer will do an “old boy” act for me. If he remembers me at all – the name, at least, had stuck – he probably thinks of me as a slightly shady character – can’t go into that now, either. Have applied for job of Hebrew Programme Organiser at BBC, £1255 – £1735 p.a. I doubt whether I have the necessary drive for it. But still, applying for it is not as saugrenu as it might seem prima facie for a primary school teacher to be doing (shocking English, so what).

Ian Clark of Thames & Hudson & he agreed orally to my suggested fee of £3-3-0 per thou words English text. I had a letter a fortnight or so ago from him telling me he would be dealing with points in my letter (in which I told him I was going ahead with the translation without waiting for his formal confirmation of the commission), but so far I have not heard from him again. I suspect dirty work at the crossroads (Sonntag of the Jewish Quarterly, said on the phone that Neurat [Neurath], Director of T & H was a “difficult” man), but what I’ve done, at any rate, T & H will jolly well have to pay for.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 38: The first cut is the deepest

Monday 16th February 1959, 9.35 pm

After a lot of telephoning, the Briss [circumcision] took place this morning. Circumcision – practised by savages, we know, but it is ennobled by Jewish religion, the link with Abraham, the practice has been invested with holiness. Mr Winegarten performed the duties of Sandek very ably (must = Syndic I feel sure), Alf [Katz, my mother’s brother] handed the baby to the Mohel with admirable aplomb. I found myself near-blubbing when saying Hinneni muchan – I am here ready to perform the affirmative precept to circumcise my son. It had taken me forty-six years to get here…No more…”Let the father rejoice in him that  came forth from his loins and the mother be glad with the fruit of her womb.” Amen, amen. “And even as he entered the covenant, so may he enter into the Law, the nuptial canopy and good deeds.” Amen, amen. Hard to be an agnostic.

The ceremony could hardly be impressive, with only the four of us present, and the circumcision taking place in a small room at the hospital. But the service has the usual dramatic flair. Upon the arrival of the child who is to be initiated into the Covenant of Abraham, those present at the Ceremony rise and say:-

ברוך הבא [lit: blessed (is he) who comes, i.e; welcome]

A fine opening to life’s drama – but I have an awful suspicion I forgot to say it. Anyway, Chaim Feivish Yisroel Ben Yosef – Blessed be thy coming.

Sam [his brother] seemed a bit better to-day; I hope he’s on the mend. The recurrence of the fainting fits, from which he’d been spared for over three years, is worrying, but he’s going to see his doctor about it. I’m hopeful that with Lily to look after him and his nephew to give him a new interest in life, his health will improve. But he was never robust, and has had more than his share of trouble in his life.

Up early, fortunately, this morning and got two hours Sinai done [translating God’s Wilderness – Discoveries in Sinai] before the telephoning got under way.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 36: Philip my son, my son Philip

Tuesday, 10th February, 11.15 p.m.

E. [Edith Witriol] presenting a rather East Lynne-ish picture to-night. Poor girl – she has been going through it. She is being kept on a low diet, is having the wind taken out of her and, as she says, her body is not her own.

Next time – if there is a n.t. – perhaps I would keep my mother to her word and E. could go in as a private patient. The medical attention would not be better, perhaps, but she wouldn’t be mucked about and observed by so many people and perhaps one wouldn’t find sisters of the bitchy type whom I encountered to-night. She made an unnecessary crack about the food that was being brought to Edith and which E. couldn’t eat. She has also created some alarm and despondency. When I asked her about the Briss [short for brit milahcovenant of circumcision’], she said I was to tell the Mohel  [circumciser] that “it was a Caesarean and not very satisfactory” and that the ward sister was to examine the baby before the mila could be performed. She probably meant that it was not very satisfactory for a Caesarian baby to be c-cised on the 8th day after birth, but her remark was upsetting all the same. As far as a layman can judge, Philip seems healthy enough – no special measures are being taken in connection with him as far as one can see – and the number of “Caesars” is legion.

I find it very hard to experience any paternal feelings. No time. School, chores (minimum, admitted – Mrs H. will clean out the flat on Friday, and most meals I have at the Mums, and my mum will give me provisions for the w/e), to E. at hospital, then phone calls to both Mums & Alf [Katz, Edith’s brother], to Sam (he in bed to-day with cold; a worry, he can’t afford to take a day off; fortunately Lily was able to go in to-day), to Bikkur Cholim [lit. ‘visiting the sick’ society] woman, to Mohel, to Franny, [?] etc. Before writing this, dashed off another application for deputy headship pro-forma. But must try to think less of myself. All that matters is that Edith and Philip should be well. And myself too. If I have to be confined to bed, let it be in the holidays. But better not at all. Angst, angst, angst all the time. Philip – there’s no point in reproaching me with having brought you into the world, son. Admittedly my reasons were, au fond, au fond, right au fond, selfish, but in spite of the times when I have said I wished I had never been born or that I had died, I am, as of now, life-affirming. Anyway, for all I know you may turn out to be a cheerful extrovert. It is too much to expect you to be spared all sorrows, but may you be healthy above all. The rest will follow. Perhaps I have got paternal feelings after all. Philip my son, my son Philip. When you’re giving me heart-aches later on, low position in class, shikse-kreechin [going after non-Jewish girls] (by which I don’t mean forming a genuine attachment to a decent non-Jewish girl to love, I shan’t do any shiva  [week long period of mourning following a relative’s death], mirror-covering act, let her “come over”, or – if you’re both agnostics (and how can I blame you for being what I am) at least Phil — al tifrosh min ha-tzibbur [do not separate yourself from the community] – when, etc. — I must try to think of you as you were in your cot to-night; your shrivelled mug, your black hair, your bawling and yawning.

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 35: A child is born. Stop.

Monday, 9th February, 11.27 p.m.

She became an e.s., hallelujah, [ i.e., em semeycha, Hebrew אֵם שְׂמֵחָה, joyful mother, Psalm 113:9] at 1.5 p.m. to-day at the Middlesex hospital. She had a difficult labour and eventually a Caesarean. These are women’s finest hours, in which they make men seem pretty sheepish. The clinical observation – almost, anyway – at the beginning of this entry conceals a pretty harrowing 40-odd hours. I found myself quite callous watching Edith having her contractions on the Sunday evening, thinking it was the last lap – but this morning the sister phoned me at school to tell me that it had been decided to do a Caesarean, and suggested I ring back at 4 p.m. I suppose, H.L.[Baudelaire’s hypocrite lecteur], you have been or will go through this yourself, so I will not enlarge. My mother said, movingly, soll er osvachsen a koovid ts’n aich ‘n a koovid tsem yeedentoom. Omeyn. [roughly: “May he grow up to be a credit to himself and to the Jewish people. Amen.”  I remember my grandmother blessing me thus.] And may I be a worthy husband to Edith and a good father to Philip.

 

These are telegrams, cards and notes received from relatives and others after my birth. I do not know the names of some of the senders.

Telegram from Leib Potash and family, Southport and the Rosens [?], North (i.e. Barnsbury)

Telegram from Leib Potash and family, Southport and the Rosens [?], North (i.e. Barnsbury)

From Alf Katz and Esther Katz

From Alf Katz and Esther Katz

From Yetta Witriol

From Yetta Witriol

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

London County Council Baby's Book

London County Council Baby’s Book

The Log - Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log – Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log - Furness Withy staff magazine.

The Log – Furness Withy staff magazine.

Birthday card from Senior Ramblers Group

Birthday card from Senior Ramblers Group

Birthday card from Deborah Coltonoff (my mum's Aunt)

Birthday card from Deborah Coltonoff (my mum’s Aunt)

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from 1959

Letter from Rita Learer (husband Harold, daughter Susan)

Letter from Rita Learer (husband Harold, daughter Susan)

Birthday card from John Miles [?]

Birthday card from John Miles

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from 1959

Birthday card from John Miles #2

Birthday card from John Miles #2

Birthday card from Henry [?]

Birthday card from Henry [?]

Letter from Audrey Fowler-Dixon

Letter from Audrey Fowler-Dixon, landlady at 406 Camden Road

Letter from Edna & John Julius

Letter from Edna & John Julius

Letter from Joyce 2

Letter from Joyce 2

Letter from Joyce [?] 1

Letter from Joyce [?] 1

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)2

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)2

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)1

Letter from Kitty (work colleague)1

Telegrams from Rose Lament [?], Stamford Hill and Frances, Louis and Susan [?], Golders Green

Telegrams from Rose Lament [?], Stamford Hill and Frances, Louis and Susan [?], Golders Green

Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 34: Who was/is/will be a Jew?

Tuesday, 2nd February 1959, 11.10 p.m.

Thames & Hudson were evidently unable to find a competent translator for Beno Rothenberg’s Sinai book, and now want me to “report” on it for them. It seems almost certain that I shall get the commission, on my own terms of £3-3-0 a thou. The outlandish Arabic names (in Hebrew letters) present a difficulty. Moreover, on top of my Monday evening French class and Sunday morning NLJC class and – we  hope – a lusty infant, I shall be up to my eyebrows. Still, one must seize the opportunity.

MacGawan, the L.C.C. Divisional Inspector, passed me (observing me do a history lesson) for interview by an Inspector’s Panel at County Hall – in connection with my application for the Promotion List. I have had the interview; I don’t think I did badly in it, but am not entertaining any hopes. I missed my chance 5-6 years ago; at 46 I am a bit long in the tooth for a headship. Though surprisingly enough my age was not mentioned in the County Hall interview.

Have written out my “Who is a Jew” essay. It lacks the firm grip on the subject, the closely-reasoned argumentation, but frankly – I think it’s worth 10 guineas. The 1200-word limit was a great difficulty.

Edith now shoin neynter vee veiter, [see comment below] but we shall all be glad when she’s an em semeycha, hallelujah [Psalm 113:9].