Category Archives: Hasmo Legends

Hasmo Legends XXVIII: AHB Unplugged

I could have been forgiven for feeling somewhat less than enthused upon receipt of that WhatsApp message, some three years ago.

Yes, it informed me that there was in existence an audio recording of a Cyril lesson. But the message was from Grant Morgan – a boy of such Hasmo-honed piss-taking pedigree that I hadn’t even believed him when he told me, around the same time, that an ex-classmate had died (I am still not convinced: Sam Michaels, if you are reading this . . . ) – and the tape was supposedly in the possession of none other than Eric Elbaz, the undisputed lout of our Class of ’78.

I did not, however, heed my inner skeptic. How could I? If there were indeed extant a Room 1 recording of the Great Swansean, it would be a coup for Hasmo Legends of Dead Sea Scrolls proportions. So, for the past three years, I have been nagging and attempting to cajole Morgan to get the tape off Elbaz, and, from time to time, even called the Moroccan myself (putting his failure to ever pick up down to some unsettled debt).

I was even more persistent, however, on a recent visit to London; and, last week, I received my holy grail (converted by Morgan to MP3 format).

Considering that it was made by Elbaz – with a concealed Aiwa walkman from his single desk at the front left of Room 1 – in November 1983 (over 32 years ago), the 31:25 minute recording has stood the test of time remarkably well. No forensic examination is required to verify its authenticity – this Legend was truly inimitable – and what a joy it has been to once again hear those dulcet Welsh tones . . . even (especially?) when uttering niceties such as “Oh, what an idiot!”

The opening seven or so minutes of the fifth year class give a somewhat muffled, though still entertaining, taste of the much acclaimed Cyril & Elbaz Show that ran – with a one-year hiatus that enabled Elbaz to terrorise Marion Rosenberg as well – between 1978 and 1984. (For those who never had the pleasure, Elbaz – or “Ell-baz”, as Cyril would call him – is the creature beseeching “Can you shut that door . . . it’s getting rather drafty in here!” and who has lost, or pretends to have, his “expensive” Parker pen.) And the general hubbub of those opening minutes exemplifies the complete lack of both pupil derech eretz and teacher authority so typical – in those days at least – of Holders Hill Road.

The sound quality is even better from the start of the lesson ‘proper’ – at around 7:20 – in which Cyril reviews an English-to-French translation assignment, An Honest Woman (Une Femme Honnête), from the previous week.

The recording – discovered when Elbaz’s mother moved home three years ago – exhibits lots of lovely (and less than lovely) Cyrilisms, which I hope the reader/listener will enjoy as much as I have . . .

Your observations, as always, are welcomed as comments below (rather than on YouTube, please).

Chag sameach!

[As well as to the wretches Elbaz and Morgan, my gratitude and thanks to Daniel Greenspan, and especially to Alan Rubin for uploading and arranging the audio and accompanying slideshow.]

Next on Hasmo Legends, Part XXIX: Eric Elbaz

Hasmo Legends XXVII: Liselle Bailey – The Revenge of the Willy

Other than a good ogle of Page 3 girl Jo Guest as she leant over the pool table in Golders Green’s seedy hangout, The G-Spot, one mid-90s (decade and approximate temperature in my Jockeys) Saturday night, I had never even got close to anyone in the adult entertainment industry. And certainly no one who had also taught at Hasmonean High School for Boys.

So, while some may have frittered recent years Looking for Eric (for once, not Elbaz) or Searching for Sugar Man, I have spent them hot on the tail of Liselle Bailey, the supply teacher who, on days that she wasn’t teaching English on Holders Hill Road, was shooting porn films.

Or so I had been reliably tipped-off. And what could be more reliable than a couple of frum, middle-aged accountants? (Though the recollection of one of them sweating so profusely, and pathetically, into his chicken soup when I informed him that they would be named in this piece precludes (even) me from outing them.)

But all of this, I told myself, was pure fantasy. The only pawn at Holders Hill Road in our day was in the Chess Club, the only knocking-out considered (aside, naturally, from the spawn of DJ) was of frummy prefects, and the only stiff little things to be shunned were the arthritic ones in the headmaster’s handshake.

To my surprise and delight, however, my contact high up in the school, rather than erect the wall of silence I had expected, at once confirmed that this would be no wild skirt chase . . .

“Miss Bailey was actually a supply teacher for a short time at the school – she was a very good teacher. She was doing some work in movies, but it was production not performing.”

So that’s alright then . . . only porn production!

That was all he could (or, at least, would) give me. But I didn’t have long to wait for a little more meat, with another inside sauce sending me a link to a London Evening Standard piece titled “English teacher packs in job for porn films” (full article), prefaced by the momentous words “I think this is her . . .”

Who now gave a toss about the hairy terrorist in Pakistan, that Saudi Rabbi Angel? I was on Miss Bailey’s scent – I was sure it smelt a great deal sweeter – and was going to make it my job to meet and grill her. After all, how many other ex-Hasmos would have been willing to take on such an altruistic task?

I was still, however, beset by doubt. Even if I succeeded in locating Miss Bailey, wouldn’t she be too proud to confirm the shameful truth . . . that she actually taught at Hasmonean High School for Boys?!

That was back in 2011. My quest took three long years, and was close to breaking me. When I made initial contact with Miss Bailey, she simply could not fathom my interest (can any non-ex-Hasmos comprehend the place’s endless fascination to us?) Indeed, until I actually spotted Liselle – as lovely in the flesh as she had sounded throughout our prolonged e-correspondence – walking towards me outside Hertford East train station that weekend lunchtime, I was certain that she would pull out or blow me off before I had even had a chance of bashing this out.

Liselle led me to a local gastropub and, over beers, started to relate how she had ended up in teaching, porn, and, for Spring Term 2009, the hallowed halls of Holders Hill Road . . .

Born in west London, Liselle qualified as an English and drama teacher, and, for four years, was head of drama at a “scary” Christian private school in Sunderland. After moving back to London and working in children’s television, she eventually decided to pursue a career in the porn film industry. “I felt it was a job with a purpose,” Liselle told me. “Most people like porn, and I wanted to make good porn rather than the rubbish that’s out there.”

“I grew up in a very conservative home,” Liselle, 34, continued. “My mum didn’t even know what a blowjob was. ‘Why would anyone want to do that,’ she would ask. But I had always been completely fascinated by porn, and liked watching it from a very young age.”

Liselle Bailey

“When I was at Hasmonean,” Liselle confessed, “I was actually working three days a week there and the other two in the porn business, before I became full-time.” And she was somewhat taken aback by her first exposure to Orthodox Jewish teens. “I had never met a bunch of more hormonal boys! They were extremely blatant and flirtatious. I wasn’t used to it in such an in-your-face way. The GCSE boys would crowd around me, asking for my phone number and things like ‘Have you ever kissed a girl?’ It was quite intimidating. And I couldn’t get past that initial hormonal thing. Perhaps I wasn’t best at keeping boundaries. I was a bit too friendly, too much myself.”

Had Liselle ever stopped to consider, I wondered, the untold millions of sticky issurim she had caused so many nice Jewish boys to be oyver (though I didn’t phrase the question in those terms)? “I feel flattered if I did,” came the instant reply. “I see that particular thing . . . er, sinning . . . as a good and healthy thing, not a bad thing. In fact, it is quite a bloody magical thing!”

And I couldn’t argue with that. If Liselle Bailey had been teaching at Hasmo in our day, I would have suffered repetitive strain injury two whole decades before getting anywhere near my first laptop. And she certainly would have provided welcome relief from the tired Readers’ Wives (no connection, incidentally, Bridge Lane readers, with your very own Congregants’ Wives).

I did try to get Liselle to dig some dirt on DJ, but she had no recollection of the benippled one, and – pornographers clearly possessing more scruples than journalist-lawyers – I couldn’t persuade her to make any up. “The only rabbi I remember was the head, a massive guy, who was very nice. He wanted me to stay and take a permanent role. I was really touched, but also troubled about him thinking, later on, that I had tricked him.”

Liselle Bailey

The only folk at Hasmonean who knew anything about Liselle’s double life were her colleagues in the English department. “It came out in the pub after school, and they were all very cool about it. I anyway planned to leave Hasmo at Easter, because of articles I knew were going to be published about me in The Sun and Sport.”

Long after leaving Holders Hill Road, Liselle had to remove “inappropriate” comments by Hasmo boys from YouTube and Twitter. “I have ex-students I’m still very friendly with from the school in Sunderland, but the Hasmo boys were just so flirty . . . or worse!”

As for my own ex-Hasmo hormones, I controlled them until we had finished lunch. “What is it like directing porn films,” I asked. “Some days,” explained Liselle – who now works full-time for Kaizen XXX – “you can just forget what you’re doing. It’s ten in the morning, you’re thinking of very logistical things, you walk into a room and there’s a guy with his c*** in his hand [warming up, I imagined]. It takes you by surprise! But it’s like any other production job, only we film a couple of people having sex for about an hour of the seven hour day!”

On a roll, I then asked Liselle – I figured the accountants would want to know – whether she ever appears on the other side of the camera. “I’m a voyeur not an exhibitionist,” she answered, “though I have had flings with quite a few of the actors privately.”

Liselle Bailey

And with that titillating thought firmly in mind (it still is), and before my Yetzer HaTov had a chance to make a fool of me, I headed off to Heathrow. Liselle had been a delight. An English rose with a penchant for porn. Yum.

Perusing the biography of Hasmonean founder Solomon Schonfeld (by ex-Hasmo dad Derek Taylor) soon after meeting Liselle, the Rabbi Dr’s struggle with his more enlightened, worldly headmaster, W.W. (“Willy”) Stanton, to have Lady Chatterley’s Lover – already deemed fit for publication by the English courts – removed from the school library appeared even more pointless than it must have at the (early 70s) time . . .

“Stanton defended the literary merit of the book. Schonfeld told him in front of the governors that either the book had to go within twenty-four hours or the Headmaster would. The phrasing was exceptionally and quite unnecessarily rude . . . Schonfeld always got his way because the governors were mostly handpicked supporters.”

And it was delicious to imagine Mr. Stanton, as he looked down on Miss Bailey causing her charges to stand to attention in his former classrooms, allow himself a wry, even cheeky, smile . . .

What poetic justice! A triumph for Willy in every sense.

With Liselle Bailey

I did it mike’s way . . .

“You’ve got too much to say,” I was repeatedly told, in my youth, by a French-teaching Welshman.

Since excitedly bashing out Virginal Meanderings, however, one typically dull commercial lawyer’s morning back in November 2008, I fear that I may now have said it all.

“Why do you have to write about things like that?” has been my poor mother’s refrain over those four years as I would ask her to proofread each and every new effort before hitting the Publish of no return.

“What would you like me to write about,” I would respond, “the crisis in the eurozone? People don’t read blogs for stuff like that . . . or, at least, not this one.”

“Gotta go,” she would then hang up, on her marks to dash to her PC, always calling back, minutes later, with something like: “It is actually quite good. You know who taught you to write like that . . .”

In each of their own individual ways, I take considerable pride in my 188 posts to melchett mike (far more than I would have imagined possible on that distant November morning). They are the book that I never wrote (and which, in spite of continued encouragement from various quarters, I see no point in writing).

In recent months, however, I have lost much of that urge to write.

I still, of course, have important questions. Like . . .

Why do Russian women feel the need to pose for every photograph – even at sites like Har Herzl and Yad Vashem – by pinning themselves up against the nearest wall or tree, as if for a Playboy shoot?

And why are charedim such God-awful drivers? Check it out for yourselves: Aside from the inevitable wankers in their 4x4s, the drivers obstructing the fast lanes of Israel’s highways nearly all have beards (Ivan “It is always the frum ones” Marks, it would seem, knew of what he spoke).

I also continue to enjoy fascinating encounters in my seeming unending search for the future ex-Mrs. Isaacson . . .

I mean what could have given my most recent JDate the idea that I would want to treat her – on our first (blind) date, scheduled for a mid-afternoon – to a meal in a boutique hotel? “I will be hungry by three o’clock,” Irit informed me, after we had finalized a time. “And I would like to eat at the Montefiore,” she added, as if arranging a shopping-and-lunch date with her Ramat Aviv Gimmel mother.

“Dog food again please,” by way of contrast, is the only demand ever made of me by the lovely female (see photograph below) with whom I am currently shacked up. “And that fetid bowl will do just fine.” A woman or dogs, then? Now there’s a toughie . . . oh yes, and there was no first date.

But I am set to embark, in November, on the next chapter in my continuing, studious avoidance of anything that could reasonably be called a career. And I am reliably informed that the two-year Israeli Tour Guide Course requires more diligence than comes naturally.

In a scene chillingly reminiscent of Marathon Man’s “Der Weisse Engel”, Ole Nipple ’Ead himself (who says the Law of Return is too exclusive?!) was recently spotted and confronted on Jerusalem’s King George Street by my old classmate, Paul Kaufman, giving me a great idea for a future tour . . .

  • From the Footsteps of the Prophets to the Doorsteps of the Despots: Join ex-Hasmo hunter, melchett mike, as he surprises retired ‘teachers’ – DJ, Jerry, and many more – in the suburbs of Jerusalem.

So I log off, but do not shut down. melchett mike – the “Never forget” aid for damaged, eternal North-West London schoolboys – will always be here for your amusement, reminiscence and comments . . . and even perhaps, when I re-find the urge, the odd post (indeed, the best Hasmo Legend could well be yet to come, awaiting a combination of circumstances beyond my control).

In the meantime, thank you to all the commenters (all 7,502 of you) – from the sublime to the Shuli – who have contributed to making this such good fun.

Over . . . but not out.

Hasmo Legends XXVI: Upper Sixth, 1978/79

Following my request, at the end of Hasmo Legends XXV: Lower Sixth, 1962/63, for more photos of the nuthouse, I was inundated with precisely two – and then both from the same reader (though even that was an improvement on the precisely none who responded to my appeal for donations in Hasmo Legends XIX) – but boy did Danny Amini come up with the goods!

The photographs below – click on to enlarge (you will then be able to zoom in) – were taken a few minutes apart, circa June 1979, the first (“With Willy”) official and the second (“No Willy”) rather less so. They both, however, give rise to the same burning question . . .

What the bloody hell happened to Hasmonean in the mere 16 years between 1963 and 1979?!

 The former’s Lower Sixth (see photograph) comprised 36 immaculately turned out boys, each one with uniform blazer, shirt and tie (done up), neat hairdo, appropriate smile, and general demeanour of derech eretz.

The following, on the other hand, display a collection of scallywags – or, as Rabbi Cooper would refer to us, a “rotten lot” – who look as if they had been given ninety seconds to run into Oxfam and throw on whatever they could find (because they would then draw attention away from the state of the building and window frames behind them?)

Back row (left to right): David Silber, Simon Maybaum, Jeffrey Glausiusz, Daniel Amini, Simon Lawrence, Shimon Goldstein, Zvi Israel, Jonny Solomon, David Josse, Mark Neuberger, Daniel De Lange, Harvey Perlmutter, David Miller, H.P. Cohen, Eric Dangoor, Manny Ezekiel, Michael Churn. 2nd row from back: Shalom Orzach, R.D. Cohen, José Frohwein, Yossi Davis, Elliot Stefansky, Daniel Drukarz, Martin Freedman, Danny Roper (obscured). 2nd row from front: Meir Jacobson, Yechezkel Hepner, Jonathan Abt, Benjy Dorman, Jeremy Davis, Laurence Foux, Julian Rose, Shmuli Orenstein, Manny Nissel (arm on shoulder), Ronnie Joseph, David Sagal (back), Brian Cohen (front), Jonathan Kovler, Yisroel Chalk, Naftali Reiss, Ricky Kahan, Stuart Gnessen, Ian Shiner, Adrian Warren, Mark Engelman, Mr. S. Posen, David Dunitz. Front row: Solomon Cohen, Arthur Weller, Jonny Silver, Martin Reich, Mr. W.W. Stanton, Rabbi P. Greenberg, Dr. L. Finkelstein, Mr. C. Johnson, Mr. A.H. Bloomberg.

Take David Miller (back row, fifth from right), for obvious instance. “This boy” – seemingly not satisfied with his lack of blazer, white v-neck, and shaggy black pooch perched on his head – was allegedly referred to, long after his departure from Holders Hill Road, as the “wretch with the Ray-Bans.”

Talking of the Legendary Welshman (front row, extreme right) – who, sadly, passed away last Thursday, aged 88 – he is clearly longing for just a few minutes’ peace with his Telegraph; while Michael Churn (back row, extreme right) is, judging by the pained expression, even more desperate for some privacy. A dodgy (as if any weren’t!) slice of Mrs. B’s meat loaf?  Whatever the cause, “Churn by name, churn by nature” doesn’t hang around for No Willy . . .

Back row (left to right): R.D. Cohen, José Frohwein, Yossi Davis, Elliot Stefansky, Daniel Drukarz, Danny Roper, Manny Ezekiel, David Sagal, Eric Dangoor. 2nd row from back: Shalom Orzach, Shmuli Orenstein, Ronnie Joseph. 3rd row from back: Zvi Israel, Meir Jacobson, Jeremy Davis, Laurence Foux, Martin Freedman, Jonathan Kovler, Simon Lawrence, Brian Cohen (obscured), Yisroel Chalk, Stuart Gnessen, Harvey Perlmutter, Mark Neuberger, Mr. S. Posen, Daniel De Lange. 2nd row from front: Adrian Warren, Arthur Weller, Jonathan Abt, Jonny Silver, Martin Reich, Shimon Goldstein, Simon Maybaum, Daniel Amini, David Silver, Jeffrey Glausiusz, Ricky Kahan, Manny Nissel, Naftali Reiss. Front row: Benjy Dorman, Julian Rose, David Miller, H.P. Cohen, Solomon Cohen, David Josse, Yechezkel Hepner, Mark Engelman, Jonny Solomon, Ian Shiner (on lap), David Dunitz (crouching), Rabbi P. Greenberg.

I invite Ian Shiner, perched on the lap of Rabbi Greenberg (of all people) – and looking as if he is rather enjoying himself, too – to explain himself . . . especially since, with this single, seemingly voluntary, act, he undermines the various allegations of teacher impropriety made by commenters to Hasmo Legends. (It is traditional, or so I am told, for lap dancers, after they have done their stuff, to have a little something slipped into their underwear. Let us only hope for the boy Shiner – who looks somewhat disappointed, in With Willy, that neither Mr. Bloomberg nor Mr. Johnson were up for a dance – that this custom was honoured merely in the breach.)

Conspicuous by their complete absence from these photographs are future pedagogues, and co-authors of Hasmo Legends VII: “Woody” Woodthorpe Harrison, Daniel Marks and Nick Kopaloff. The former is said to have been expelled from Hasmo just days earlier – for mimicking the subject of his aforementioned tour de force in the act of picking his nose – while the latter, I am reliably informed, was most likely to be found in Starkey’s Turf Accountants down the road.

And what about the eponymous TonyW? Can it be that the son of a future President of the Board didn’t make it into the Hasmonean Sixth Form?! Surely not . . .

Your responses are welcomed.

In memory of Alan Hyam (אבא חיים בן משה) Bloomberg, born 12 November 1923, died 17 May 2012 . . . the ultimate Legend.

[Thank you to Danny Amini. Also to Graham Summers – who had left Hasmonean for Kilburn Poly (now, no doubt, Edgware Road University) – for identifying all patients/inmates. And, again, the address for old photos/memorabilia:]

Hasmo Legends XXV: Lower Sixth, 1962/63

Ex-Hasmo Stewart Block (1957-64) has come forward with the following photograph, of the 1962/63 Lower Sixth, which I feel is worth posting . . . and not just because it contains a certain Stephen Posen.

Seymour Popeck and Alfie Hecksher (you can’t get any more kosher than that) must both – along with my old mate Pinchos Chalk – be strong contenders for the most original Hasmo name of all time.

And is that Keith Fisher of Brent Street hairdressing ‘fame’? An ex-Hasmo?! If you are reading, Keith, I would like to thank you (if somewhat belatedly) for Morelle, who provided invaluable “food for thought,” if you get my gist, in my frummie adolescence.

Back row (left to right): Seymour Popeck, Gabby Handler, Ronald Hoffbauer, Mark Schimmel, Keith Fisher, Stewart Block, Anthony Finn, Stephen Leveson, Robert Josse, Peter Bloomberg, Samuel Abudarham, Richard Feinmesser, Stuart Plaskow, Anthony Goorney, Leon Storfer. Middle row: Robert Lewy, Robert Coe, Howard Bluston, Alfie Hecksher, Monty Frankel, Michael Neuberger, Mr. Z. Greenbaum, Ronald Feutchwanger, Barry Schechter, Michael Schine, Steven Greenman, Geoffrey Gilbert, Lucien Jacobs. Front row: Stephen Posen, Jack Berger, Menachem Persoff, Ivor Mindel, Eliezer Grunwald, Nathan Schiner, Esmond Goldfield, Paul Cohen, Moishe Tesler. (Absent: David Eckhardt, David Lopian, Malcolm Lewis, Michael Harper.)

To view a larger image, click on the photo; or, for a clearer pdf, on the following link (and, if you ask one of your children nicely, I am sure that he/she will show you how you can zoom in) . . .

Lower Sixth, Hasmonean Grammar School for Boys, 1962-63

Thank you, Stewart (and for taking responsibility for name misspellings). If other readers are in possession of old Hasmo photos, or related memorabilia, the address is!

The Witriol Diaries, Part V (Hasmo Legends XXIV)

Goodbye Joe

Thursday, 11th December 1975, 9 p.m.

A peculiar development in the article on Jewish Forenames [submitted to the JC, for which dad was an occasional contributor]. I wrote later on asking Geoffrey D. Paul [Features/Deputy Editor] to print G-d, Israe-l, etc. because I wanted to avoid offending my Hasmo colleagues. I mention all this because at the “naming” ceremony at the School Rabbi Schonfeld mentioned en passant the “trefa Jewish Chronicle” (it has mildly criticised him in the past) and last Monday, I think, Philip happened to mention that a master had told him that boys ought to get their parents to subscribe to the Jewish Tribune because the Jewish Chronicle was “anti-Orthodox”. Anyway, the Monday night I kept on worrying about this and got into a panic. Could Schonfeld get me sacked for writing for the J.C.? (As a member of the staff of an Orthodox school he might be able to use my writing for an “anti-Orthodox” paper as an excuse. He might not give this as a reason, the story to me might be that he was re-deploying staff. First thing in the morning I wrote to Paul asking him not to publish the article.)

The fear of the sack may be far-fetched, and although both Ellman and Sam Balin are over 65 and employed part-time, the School has the power, as has the Borough Council, to retire me compulsorily anyway at 65 [dad was 63 at the time].

All this is probably grotesquely alarmist, but at the least, I think, Philip would have been exposed to anti-J.C. comments by certain members of the staff who take him, so that I still felt I did the right thing.

Sunday, 21st December 1975

Felt a bit off-colour on going into school on Friday morning, last day of term, but survived the morning. Daniel Rickman told to sit by the side of the HM in assembly, in honour of his having gained open scholarship to Oxford. Must plug this for Philip and Max, the latter is again “creating” about leaving Hasmo, but I hope I will manage to get him to stay for the last two years.

Monday, 18th January 1976, 2.30 p.m.

Spent about 5 hrs last night and this morning marking, mainly mock MH. Not more than six at the most of my boys stand a chance of a “C” – AM [Albert Meyer] has a class of about 35 at the moment. If he has six or more who he thinks don’t stand a chance of a “C”, it might give me an extra three free periods – my six could join his class. On verra.

Wednesday, 17th February 1976, 8.45 p.m.

Bad day at school. Clouted no one, but unseemly shouting: “How much does your father pay to keep you at the school?” – no wonder there’s so much scandal attached to the school.

Sunday, 21st March 1976, 8 p.m.

Have just returned from bunfight at Hasmo celebrating marriage of Dr Schonfeld’s son. He seems a charming boy, apparently left the school about a year before I came. Wished him mazal-tov, to which he responded something which I couldn’t quite catch. I asked him, and he said it was boorekh tihyeh – which I suppose is more sensible than saying “Thank you!” or “please G-d by you”.

I introduced myself to Dr Schonfeld, saying I taught at Hasmo. “Ah yes, you teach science”. “Not quite,” I replied, “modern languages, no doubt there is a connection”. Ugh! As E. [my mum] said afterwards, it would have been tolerable if I had said, at least, that I taught French scientifically.

Easter Monday, 19th April 1976, 4.30 p.m.

A fine day, have been doing nothing except reading Maariv. I have this idea that when we get back to school on the Monday, Meyer may ask me to give the Hebrew Yom Atzmaut speech. I should say the odds are about 33-1 that he won’t [sic, will], but just in case, I want to get into the feel of things.

Wednesday, 5th May 1976, 11 p.m.

Today, Yom Atzmaut, the school was closed by order of Dr Schonfeld. It has caused a bit of a scandal. The Israel Society at the school had invited the Chief Rabbi, and so I heard, suggested to Schonfeld, more or less, that perhaps he would care to come along too . . .

Monday, 12th July 1976, 8.45 p.m.

I do not want to drive everybody mad, but today has been better [pain in his left foot had persisted since mid-May]. Can only keep my fingers crossed. Symptoms still present, but milder, perhaps much milder. Anyway, although I hired a car to go to school this morning, and the morning itself was easy (first period cancelled for some reason; for my normal second period – Extra French, a difficult period – I was asked to take five visiting French Jewish boys, and I continued with them in the 3rd period, which I would normally have had free; period 4 I attempted to teach the 3rd year – needn’t have done, could just have said get on with something quietly, which is what in fact I did do period 5, 2nd year French) – although, as I say, the morning was easy, the fact remains that I carried out a normal programme afterwards.

Tuesday, 13th July 1976, 8.30 p.m.

Bad again. Sod. Although finished school at 4.15 today, in terms of physical exertion, or strain on foot/leg, yesterday was much worse.

Wednesday, 14th July 1976, 10.20 a.m.

Yesterday did a lot of standing, attempting to teach instead of telling the kids to do what they liked, quietly, as would have been legitimate at this stage of the term. Did not feel too uncomfortable while doing so – at any rate did not say I ought-not-to-be-in which I usually find myself unable to avoid saying when I’m under the weather.

Thursday, 15th July 1976, 7 p.m.

Very easy morning at school. Went by car, and sat in for two periods only, rest of morning paper work in staffroom.

Monday, 19th July 1976, 10.30 p.m.

A full Monday, no car. My impression is that there is rather a little less actual pain.

Wednesday, 21st July 1976, 11.30 p.m.

Usual programme. Caught bus outside Ashby’s in High Road, walked to school from bus stop outside Allandale Avenue. No teaching, except, ex gratia, last period, when I really did succeed, I think, in teaching some 23 boys Ah vous dirai-je maman (my excellent book of songs borrowed from the library explained that the tune went to “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. I had hoped I would be able to say to one of the [i.e. his] children, at any rate, “Play this for me on the piano [me]/violin [my brother, Max]/clarinet [my sister, Susannah] – but a nekhtiger took. If I had enough energy, I could browbeat Philip or Max into playing the music, but the result wouldn’t be worth the energy I’d have to expend).

Saturday, 24th July 1976, 10.45 p.m.

Well, I managed to get through the term. The big question is will I be able to get through a full winter/spring term. Summer term is always a cinch: the fifth form go on study leave at least six weeks before the end of term, which gives me three extra free periods, four weeks from end of term the exams start, which means that teaching practically finishes. There are examination questions to get banda’d [copied], scripts to mark, reports to do, but all this is sedentary and no problem.

Friday, 27th August 1976, 1 p.m.

Max’s “O” level results came this morning: AA Maths; A Eng Lit (!); B Eng, Phys, Chem; C French (B oral); C Brit Con, Art. The twit had put a 6½p stamp on the s.a.e., so his results arrived after his pals (who presumably had had the sense to frank their envelopes 1st class, with an 8½p stamp) had got theirs.

Anyway, it’s a bit of a weight off my mind, I had been preparing myself for his getting a D in French. This wouldn’t have been a disaster, as I told him, but it would have been a nuisance – I think it would have been advisable, had he failed, to re-enter him in Jan. He himself was quite ala keyfik (2nd world war army slang, Arabic – in case any of the children read this = couldn’t care less, indifferent), I brought him up the envelope while he was in bed, and he opened it with a comment “B in English” – my hands would have been trembling.

One of his pals Stephen Gerber, got 6 “A”s – somehow, I thought of his pals as being all nice lads but, shall we say, non-academic.

Monday, 20th September 1976, 9 p.m.

I can get through a week’s stint, meno male, but there is still some pain and discomfort. Lots of odd bods have appeared: Mrs P. who came along last year to take over some “C” French groups (leaving me with the “D”) seems now to have consolidated her position, she takes a small (3 boys) 6th form group; a Mr Lesser takes MH and Fr. and/or German, a Mr Pearce takes Fr. and Germ., and today a Mr Staiger [unclear] turned up wanting to teach MH and is being taken on – or consideration will be given to his being taken on – just like that. So I shall be expendable next year.

In the evening Jonathan Martin came. He was a contemporary of Philip at school. I remember him as being a particularly black bête noire when I had him in the 3rd form, then in the 5th he came into my C set, did no work at all, but sat as good as gold. If this was because he did not want to embarrass a friend (Philip) whose father taught at the school (or embarrass a teacher with whose son he was friendly) he showed more tact than any of Max’s pals did – or perhaps I should say rather more tact than most of Max’s pals did.

He got O levels only in Eng, Eng Lit and Biology (the last-named “fascinated” him, he said – he couldn’t “relate” to physics or chemistry). He wants to take up male nursing, a commendably off-beat choice as I told him. He’s quite a charming boy, well mannered – thanked E. for tea, said to Philip, as he went off to do something to his moped, he would be back to say good-night to Mrs Witriol. He is working pro-tem at a book shop in the West End.

Monday, 6th December 1976, 6.30 p.m.

A fairly strenuous day at school, but fortunately it didn’t go off too badly. Free till 1020, then four periods till lunch break, then did some marking after lunch (instead of my usual shloof), then three periods after lunch. Period 6, the period after lunch, was in “the Old Library” a room next to the staff marking room (with members of staff marking intently eavesdropping) and the office (to which WWS seems to betake himself these days). WWS came in: “A noisy class Mr Witriol.” Actually I had taken about 20 kids for French for a double period in the morning in the same room, and had flattered myself on having the situation under control. In the afternoon I had, I suppose, 35 kids for MH – the usual shlepping in of chairs. Anyway, WWS sat in and was privileged to take part in my MH lesson. At the end he said it was a great privilege to learn Hebrew – not “to learn Hebrew with Mr Witriol”, as he should have said of course. It was just as well that I had, by chance, the lesson well prepared – I had given the kids back a test they had done, which I had marked, sod it, and of course the lesson went like clockwork.

Saturday, 5th February 1977, 7.15 p.m.

It looks like the chopper is going to chop. About a fortnight ago Stanton showed me a letter from the office in connection with 2000 unemployed teachers in Barnet and suggesting Mr Witriol’s position be examined. W.S. said I had come (or was coming) to the end of the road. I said I hoped not, and that I had three children to put through University. He said I would be in a parlous (rather nice rococo touch) position financially if I could not carry on. I agreed. He will play on replaceability-only-with-difficulty, though in point of fact he can get plenty of teachers for MH, German and French.

Tuesday, 31st May 1977, 9.55 p.m.

Chadwick, who is about 62, has resigned. He hates Hasmo, though I think he was lucky to get a scale IV post. He is a good teacher – geography and maths – of the old school. He has a degree, but I do not believe he has ever taught the sixth, perhaps not even the fifth. He says he’s not worried about the financial side, says he’s had offers of jobs, but in any case can draw unemployment benefit. In his case he’s probably right, as he will probably get a pension of half his salary, whereas I got a pension of only about three eighths.

Meyer, too, is resigning. This time apparently for real. Seems he was befrunzelt because he was not invited to a meeting of senior staff, though as Nachum Ordman pointed out, he can’t be expected to receive an invitation to a senior staff meeting if he’s only on part-time. I had been thinking I would have to have two months’ notice, but it has been put to me that as a part-timer I am entitled to only one month’s. So I must assume that I cannot avoid the chop. Susannah [daughter] mentioned that one of her teachers [at Henrietta Barnet] had said that Barnet Council would not be replacing retired teachers (which makes sense, if staffing economics are to be effected). In that case who will take MH at Hasmo if Meyer, myself and Heckleman [unclear] (the shaliach, whom I have not seen this week, and whose tour of duty ends, I believe, at the end of term) go? There are other teachers who could “have a go”, but I doubt if they are as well qualified as AM or myself and, it only occurred to me some weeks ago, when AM put me in touch with an Israeli girl pupil whom I am coaching for A Level MH, that AM himself would not know how to start teaching A level MH literature.

Monday, 13th June 1977, 9.15 p.m.

First day back at school, without any “trouble”. It’s true I had only to teach for five periods, by kindness of the 5th form who are taking their “O” levels, but on the Friday before mid-term I had only one period to take but was unable to avoid – I can’t remember whether I actually clouted a boy or whether there was an unseemly fracas.

Sunday, 24th July 1977, 8.30 p.m.

I perhaps ought to have written out my retirement oration and memorised it. I have started on bits and pieces, but am just bearing in mind some brief heads and will trust to luck.

Will present R. Gothold, in charge of stock, with a jar of chalk “accumulated over a period of time” – “bit of a wag”, as Philip would say.

Friday, 29th July 1977, 4 p.m.? (watch stopped, can’t be bothered to go downstairs to check) [I cannot help but note the symbolism which, untypically, seems to have escaped dad’s eye for such things]

Well, I’m fully retired, as a schoolteacher anyway.

The retirement went off more or less ok. But neither Chadwick nor I were asked to sit on the platform, which I thought a bit much even for Hasmo. I followed Chadwick into the back of the hall, hardly believing it possible that we would not be asked to go on to the platform. Stanton mentioned from the platform that we were leaving, and David Solomons spoke about Chadwick, and Gerry Laver [Garry Lauer?] spoke very briefly about me. All I heard him say was that I was leaving a “deposit”, viz. Max – he meant pledge? hostage? I then told Chadwick we should go on to the platform. Chaddy said his career had been a sandwich (laughter, the younger kids are not familiar with the metaphor): Army – school (his previous school) – Hasmo. He told me in the staffroom he wanted to convey they’d both been traumatic experiences. As I had imagined, he spoke briefly – though I had been prepared for even a couple of sentences: good luck, thank you – which meant I couldn’t go to town. However, a few kids and members of staff said it was O.K., even D.J. quietly wished me shkoich and Baddiel said it was a change to hear someone saying something – a brokh tse de yoohren.


Postscript: Lid off Hasmonean

Sunday, 23rd October 1977

Hasmonean has been in the news in the J.C. recently, so concocted an article “Hasmo” this p.m. [for published article, click on link below to dad’s yellowing cuttings book]. About 1½ hours flat. Suppose it will be rejected, pathetic how every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be able to get something in, but I can’t. However, it shows, I suppose, I’m still alive.

Sunday, 30th October 1977, 6.15 p.m.

Should I have written the article for the J.C.? Philip read out their “billing”, in their issue of 28/10, for November: the attractions for the issue of Nov 4 included “Hasmonean: A View from the Inside by a Teacher”. It is mildly critical of the school, I speak of the extreme Orthodox right wingers, but the only “hard” criticisms I make are of the attempt to get boys in the football team to have some form of covering on their heads and the abandonment of the attempt to get boys to shower because “Nudity is repellent to us” (as one mother had written).

Did I do it because I wanted cheap publicity, wanted to see my name in print at last? Yes. So what.

I suppose it will embarrass Max. Fortunately, Stanton has signed his UCCA form. Perhaps, in a way, it’s just as well this hadn’t occurred to me, or I probably wouldn’t have submitted the article, and I don’t see why I should refrain from allowing the J.C. to publish two articles which they would have been prepared to accept.

“Lid off Hasmonean” by Joseph Witriol (Jewish Chronicle, November 4, 1977)

[For The Witriol Diaries, Parts I – followed by A (Hasmo) Son’s IntroductionII, III and IV, click here, here, here and here. Thank you to Philip Witriol for transcribing the Diaries, and for his patience with my ever-so-slightly obsessive attention to detail!]

The Witriol Diaries, Part IV (Hasmo Legends XXIII)


Monday, 4th September 1972, 7.35 p.m.

Rentreé. Many new faces in staffroom; bearded rabbinical, mostly. I have no form this year. Rabbi R said I was being given a “respite”. Is this because Stanton is not sure that he can rely on my being available full-time this year, or because he thinks I was a lousy form-master? Ivan Marks said the latter inference was not necessarily drawable; he himself had not been given a form this year. Nor have I a Fifth Form this year. 5C has been given to a Miss Krollick, a dumpy, bosomy bespectacled girl who, I am told, took a degree in philosophy and Italian in U.C., has spent a year in Italy and a year teaching in a comprehensive school in Upminster. It may well be she will have them just where she wants them. All the same it seems wrong to give a young woman – and the only woman on the staff – a class with a high proportion of oafs in it. The only compensation for my ego, is that I have been given an “A” form, 2A.

In front of me at Mincha was David Marx [see 30th June 1972 in Part III]. I had a presentment, which proved correct, that he would say Kaddish. I wished him long life, for which he thanked me.

Monday, 2nd October 1972, 8.25 p.m.

School resumed to-day after a week’s Succos break, itself occurring after we’d been back only three weeks. One Peter Thomas, a local M.P. and a Cabinet Minister (“member of the cabinet” on the invitation cards – is there a difference?) spoke on Foreign Affairs to inaugurate the new hall. He was the typical Conservative Q.C.: well built, hair brushed back, plummy voice. However, he spoke well for half an hour, reading cleverly from his script. In spite of Schonfeld’s bumbling, there was a sense of occasion, and as usual Mitchell Taylor organised very competently.

Tuesday, 7th November 1972, 6.10 p.m.

I got up, if anything, a little earlier this morning, it being Rosh Chodesh. I arrived at school as usual, looking forward to my pre-Assembly siesta, only to find there was some marking I hadn’t done. I spent fifteen minutes on the marking, and had about five minutes shut-eye. I anticipated disastrous consequences, but the morning passed off peaceably. In the break, Chichios, the new P.E. man, a Cypriot, asked me if I would supervise the table-tennis club in the lunch hour. I agreed, and so forewent my lunch hour siesta. Again, the afternoon went off without incident, I was impressed by the fine fettle I was in. I was shouting of course, but in one of the lessons, at least, I had a distinct impression of possibly teaching someone something. When I came back [home] the reaction set in.

Saturday, 13th January 1973, 7.45 p.m.

Albert Meyer, a Yekke, who was in at the start of the Hasmonean Boys’ School and is in charge of the Modern Hebrew, Classical Hebrew and, jointly I believe with another Yekke, Leonard Cohen, of German (he does the A level literature), also music, after threatening a number of times to resign – all before my joining the school six years ago – “finally” resigned last term, only to turn up again on the first day of this term. I had been given his German O level and A level language class on the assumption that he would not be coming back. Having made the necessary emotional adjustment to giving up these classes, and having told myself that at my time of life I couldn’t care less whether I took the Upper Sixth or a second year C stream, so long as I got the money, I found myself retaining AM’s ex O and A level German classes. The latter consists of two lads, one a German boy, the other a Sabra who came over here when he was three, and who has no German background at all.

It is humiliating that I should have to owe any improvement in my teaching load to “Buggin’s turn”. Thirty years ago I would have enjoyed the “yichus” of a sixth form, but now, in my last year of full-time teaching . . .

AM’s case is peculiar. All right, as he once said, is it any wonder I’m “difficult” after all I’ve been through, but Cohn, presumably, and others, went through as much – and Cohn served in the forces and went on to get a degree at Birkbeck and yields nothing to AM in Orthodoxy. It appears that AM couldn’t stand certain things that went on in the school. I don’t know what things – he did start mentioning the subject to me in the last few weeks of last term, then had to go off to take a shiur. Apparently he complained about Stanton to Schonfeld, in a letter. The latter passed the letter to the former, who was understandably incensed.

I couldn’t understand how AM could afford money-wise to carry out his threat. He’s 58. I’d heard that he’d sought a post, unsuccessfully, at JFS. He hasn’t a car, so even if he’d got a job at JFS he’d have to face an irksome journey. As it is he’s always cadging, with scrupulous politeness, lifts to Golders Green. Rabbi Roberg said the financial side was not important, he’d got Wiedergutmachung, but Wiedergutmachung hier, Wiedergutmachung her, one doesn’t chuck up £2,700 a year or more. It should be said that although he is a man of fine culture, he has no English teaching qualification, so that I doubt whether he could get a job in a non-Jewish school.

Tuesday, 6th February 1973, 9 p.m.

Back to school today [dad’s beloved older brother, Sam, had passed away on 28th January].

Monday, 26th February 1973, 4.45 p.m.

First day of two-day mid-term holiday.

Letter from Stanton. He’s unable to commit himself to re-engaging me on the “39/55” basis I had requested. Sod. In many ways I’d like to teach elsewhere, but it would almost certainly be out of the frying pan into the fire. And I’ve got into the “observant” groove. I’ve tried to pin him down to offering me at least three full days, any days, but I doubt whether he’d even do that.

Tuesday, 8th May 1973, 7.10 p.m.

I had avoided making further entries till now [Max, my younger brother, had been in hospital for three weeks with peritonitis].

Stanton recommended Philip [me!] to do a reading at the Yom Atszmaut service at St. John’s Wood Synagogue on Sunday. Willy came into the Staff Room and said Philip had done very well, “nice boy”. Well, well, well. Anyway, as I told him, it’ll do him no harm to keep in with Willy. I can’t see him being Head Boy, I think this might go to a froom lad, but it will help with his UCCA form.

Am feeling generally virtuous. To-day was an easy day, it is true – only four periods teaching. Even so I spent the first of my two free periods marking, contributing to my feeling of virtue. I have three free periods to-morrow morning, with no marking to do, so that I could, and probably will, spend them preparing my afternoon lessons – whether the preparation will have any effect I don’t know.

Thursday, 13th September 1973, 8 p.m.

Started school last Friday. The rentreé was on Thursday [dad was now on a three and a half day week].

Thursday, 4th October 1973, 6.30 p.m.

Have been timetabled to do games with the 4th. I don’t think I’m really necessary. Chishios the P.E. man goes down together with Hacket, the one-day-a-week bloke, and Rabbi Schmall, ample staff for even eighty boys, which is the number who should attend. In point of fact, as a number of boys, including Philip, do art, we’ve only been having about sixty. When the sub-standard artists, including Philip, are weeded out, no doubt there will be 70-80 boys turning up.

Still, I have been joining in. Yesterday, I pulled a muscle? sprained? my thigh endeavouring to tackle Rabbi Schmall, who is quite an athlete – plays every Sunday at Stamford Hill. Actually your humble servant did not do too badly, for a sexagenarian; I managed to kick the ball well and truly at least twice, averted a dangerous situation by correctly kicking the ball to my own goalkeeper, and once charged nebbich, a dangerous forward, knocking him over. [Dad played for Birkbeck 3rd. Had it had a 4th, he always said, he would have played for it.]

Saturday, 27th October 1973, 9 p.m.

A Mrs Jones has taken over my fourth year French B group and I have been given a second year MH class and an Upper 6th MH group, consisting of Doron Segal, whom I took for German last year, Eli Joseph (the boy whom I invigilated in hospital [see 12th June 1972 in Part III], he’s a Revisionist, or Herutnik as I think they are these days) and Adrian Frei, a froomer, but whose MH is extremely good.

Tuesday, 12th March 1974, 6 p.m.

Poor Max in trouble. Found him facing the wall this morning. As Meyer pointed out to me “facing the wall” has terrible associations for Jews. I have in the past told kids to do so, but won’t again. Apparently he has a detention to make up. He complains that two other boys were let off but his J.S. master, one Roston, who seems, I must say, a very decent sort of chap – no beard, no protruding tsitsitt – not that these are stigmata of course – you know what I mean – said he would see that Max did not get off. Unfortunately, too, at registration this morning, he piped up with some facetious remark and Cyril, the —, gave him an eight-page essay.

Wednesday, 16th October 1974, 8.35 p.m.

On Monday evening I felt queer, though never actually reaching the point of vomiting. Yesterday was a ghastly day. Fortunately I had only four periods of teaching. (On the Monday morning I genuinely, but conveniently, forgot I had a 3rd year German lesson to take; Stephen Posen stepped in and said he enjoyed himself!) To-day, however, I was in brilliant form, taking everything in my stride, paternal, benevolent all through seven periods straight off the reel (the last period I stood in for the master who should have taken the first year and “did” a passage in their history books with them).

Sunday, 3rd November 1974, 6.15 p.m.

I am beginning to doubt whether I shall find much consolation in [my] kids. Of course, of course, health for them above all, but I am becoming less sanguine about their “making good” conventionally. Neither of the boys strike me as Oxbridge, certainly not Oxbridge scholarship material. Philip natters about doing A levels at Barnet College, he’s not interested in the idea of becoming a prefect (which might count in his favour). Max has no ideas about a career. Perhaps the simplest answer might still be to turn Philip into a solicitor and Max into a Chartered Accountant, and bugger Harrison’s mickey-taking of our Philistine (from his viewpoint, they’re not interested in King’s College, Cambridge – from the Orthodox Jewish viewpoint this is the last thing the Yeshiva Stream Boys are) “Char-erd Ekuntant.”

Saturday, 11th January 1975, 11 p.m.

In the event [dad had had a tooth extracted at an evening surgery during the week, having been unable to get it seen to during school hours] I was glad; I went into school and didn’t miss any lessons. I did go into the office to see if they had any aspirin, but Klein, the school officer, kindly gave me some of his own “Panedeine”, which I found analgesically effective. Though, as I always do when I’m a bit under the weather, I find it impossible to avoid laying it on in the classroom (“Of course, I know I’m a fool to come in”). What is interesting is that on Wednesday morning I was a bit late, so I took my coffee with the Panadeine, into my German class and, in an endeavour to המחיש “concretise” the lesson I drank the coffee (ich trinke den Koffee was tue ich?) in front of the kids. I couldn’t remember whether I had taken the tablets.

Sunday, 9th February 1975, 7.50 p.m.

Walking home from school on Friday, I found Maxie seated on the bench by the bus stop near Kinloss. I assumed he’d “bunked” – I had left early – but he told me he’d fallen on to the concrete and bumped his head while playing football in the P/G.

Thursday, 27th February 1975, 4.20 p.m.

Boobba’s [dad’s mother’s, our grandmother’s] Y/Z to-day. I stayed on at school last night for maariv, and went to school today for mincha. On the way to school I noticed a boy getting on to a bus, one Lorrimer, in the second year. He lives with an elder brother, having lost both father and mother. While I was in the staffroom last night the caretaker came in and said the brother was worried because the boy hadn’t arrived home – this was at about 5.30 p.m. As he was getting on the bus today I asked him why he got home late, and he said it was just the usual delay.

I was thinking, in my capacity of vigilant schoolmaster, of reporting the matter so that the kids could know that Big Brother is always watching (he may have had a legitimate excuse, of course). But Big Brother was watching. B.B. was Stephen Posen who caught Maxie bunking. The kid panicked and said he had a dental appointment and wants me to cover up, but I don’t see how I can really. Agreed, some kids can omit some lessons with advantage. Agreed the two periods of J.S. he missed are counter productive, but I have always stood for the principle that kids cannot just take time off when they feel like it. In Maxie’s case, no harm would have been done, as it’s unlikely he would have derived any benefit from the missed lessons, and he was productively or at any rate harmlessly occupied at home, but one can’t run the risk of hordes of schoolkids roaming all over the place between the hours of 9 and 4 p.m.

A few days ago Maxie fell on his nut again – he came home early then, too, whether with or without permission, I don’t know. It’s all a shame, I received complimentary remarks from Dr Gerber, who takes him for maths – he said Maxie was the only one who could answer a question he put to the class, and it’s a good class – and from Ivan Marks on his English.

I saved the cigar we received [at a wedding] and, ministered to by Philip, took one or two puffs at it, whereupon I was told enough! Philip was violently sick in the night. He too bunked on Monday last, but he wasn’t caught.

Wednesday, 30th April 1975, 9.30 p.m.

Yesterday went with 70 3rd year boys to Leith Hill on Lag B’Omer outing. In charge was one Paley, a bearded Cockney character who is froom. Strange combination. He is obviously an experienced orienteerer, if that’s the word I want [footnoted correction, over a year later, to “orienteer”]. He had prepared a number of neat route-maps. His intention was to send the boys off in groups, each group to find its own way cross country with the aid of the “drawrin”, a procedure which to me seemed very insouciant. He did in fact do some to-and-fro-ing getting everybody together. We did a fairly stiff scramble up a slope at one time in the course of which one boy, very much overweight, panicked and was unable to dodge some stones dislodged by boys in front. He was bleeding a little and was generally in a bad way. However, I told Paley he was “covered” as – he said – he had told the boys there was an easy way up (though I hadn’t heard him). Moreover, he was to have had Chishios (the P.E. man) with him, as well as Rabbi Angel and myself, but Chishios was unable to come as he had sprained his back. Incidentally, full marks to Rabbi Angel. I saw him gallantly worming his way up the slope. He is a tall, saintly-looking man, and I’ve no doubt he could have avoided going with us had he wished – but perhaps he didn’t envisage the terrain being so difficult. As I said, Paley is rather a curious combination. He had all the boys up by the tower at Leith Hill and said that “in our religion we attach great importance to nature” and that “God is redeemed from the ground over which a Hebrew prayer is spoken” and so perhaps God might be redeemed from this spot where perhaps for the first time the sounds of Hebrew had been heard. We benshed, led by a bruiser called Brown who I fortunately don’t take but whose reputation had preceded him – he benshed excellently. A very enjoyable day, it was gratifying to find that the jaunt seemed quite mild to me [dad was a keen rambler]. On the way back a boy, Solomon Cohen, engaged me in fluent French conversation. His accent is impeccable, but other boys in his group are better at the written work he tells me.

Wednesday, 25th June 1975, 10 p.m.

A somewhat heartening incident yesterday. I take 3C for French. There are about 35 boys on the register of whom about 32 – eventually – turn up. I should say at least ten boys are without text-books, as I am (if one asks Sam Balin to do something about it he will discourse on the iniquities of Roger Gothold who “looks after” stock, on his (S.B.’s) multifarious responsibilities – so I don’t approach S.B. on the subject). Ten chairs, at least, have to be brought in. One or two of the kids have behavioural problems, a dozen are completely uninterested and natter, fidget with complete indifference to the teacher. Some of the boys, it is true, are very keen and exemplary in behaviour, though very, very weak. To cap all, we have been minus a door. The last few days an elderly carpenter has been fixing up a new one for us.

At the end of yesterday’s lesson, he said: “I’d like to be one of your pupils.” Why? Because I had spoken interestingly about French deriving from slang Latin (tête < testa, cheval < caballos, etc.). “Of course,” he said, “I shall soon be 79, but that’s no reason why I shouldn’t carry on learning.”

This morning I tried to exploit the tale in class, without much success (“If he’d been doing his job, he wouldn’t have heard what you said”). You can’t win.

[For The Witriol Diaries, Parts I – followed by A (Hasmo) Son’s IntroductionII and III (of V), click here, here and here. Coming soon on melchett mike . . . The Witriol Diaries, Part V: Goodbye Joe.]