Tag Archives: Mitchell Taylor

The Witriol Diaries, Part IV (Hasmo Legends XXIII)

CHICH, BOSOMS, AND A BEARDED COCKNEY: HASMO, THE NEXT GENERATION

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.]

The Witriol Diaries, Part III (Hasmo Legends XXII)

A WALL IS A WALL AND A SCHOOL IS A SCHOOL: DECONSTRUCTING MARX

Wednesday, 26th November 1969, 9 p.m.

An uninterrupted treadmill at school, except for last Thursday, when eight or nine N.U.T. members of the staff went on strike. The rest of us were told by Stanton to report from 9.30 to 10.30 a.m. in order to qualify for pay as usual. I spent most of the day at school doing some marking and waiting for Naomi [school secretary?] to finish a typescript she was doing for me. I gave her £12 for it, but will get £60 from the Wellcome Foundation [for a translation].

Developed cold on Sunday. Stoic act at school on Monday, not completely cleared up, but managing.

Monday, 22nd December 1969, 6.40 p.m.

The cold mentioned in the previous entry cleared up, but last Friday week – the Friday before the Thursday (18th) on which we broke up – I developed what may have been some kind of “flu”y condition. I repeated the Spartan act, but on the Thursday on which we broke up I felt all-in, and had to cry off cheder in the evening.

I don’t seem to have recorded that we went to the Jewish Secondary Schools Movement 40th anniversary a few weeks ago. At the Central Hall, Westminster. Most impressive. About 400 guests, dinner-jacketed mostly. Organisation first-rate – Sam Balin said meal was mediocre, but for a non Lebemann like me, it was good enough. There was even wine – Israeli – which I found quite strong – Harrison had been alarmed at the prospect of the thing being completely “dry”.

Monday, 30th March 1970, 10.30 p.m.

We “recce’d U.C.S. [University College School] where Philip sits for his free-place examination to-morrow. As I told Edith, it is not vital he gets into U.C.S. – he will be able to get as good O & A levels from Hasmonean as from U.C.S. and will stand as good a chance of getting into University from either school. U.C.S. will enable him to pass as an English gentleman, a concept to which I personally still attach some importance. Hasmonean will make it easier for him to become a Talmid Chacham, which also represents an ideal.

Thursday, 16th April 1970, 9.30 a.m.

He didn’t get the U.C.S. place, my comments above still stand. It’s been a bit of a battle against E., who is not favourably disposed to Hasmonean. It’s understandable. Most of the staff, though worthy, do not speak the kind of “distinguished” English which might be able to influence Philip’s own London, semi-cockney accent. (I include myself in the speaker of non-distinguished English.) Also, I suspect, the proportion of boys not able to pass “11+” is higher in Hasmonean than in other grammar schools.

However, the fact remains that there are a number of bright boys in the school and every year we get our proportion of 6-9 “O” levels and 3 “A” level passes. (It is impossible to make comparisons with other schools. A high proportion of boys who sit the exam from Hasmonean pass, but to make significant comparisons one would have to know what proportion of an original 11+ plus intake sat and passed, and, if one wanted to refine the comparison, at what levels. In making an overall comparison, too, one would have to “debit” the Hasmonean performance with the amount of extra paid-for coaching some Hasmonean boys receive, often from Hasmonean masters. The proportion of boys receiving private coaching is higher at Hasmonean, I am pretty sure, than at other schools. This is not because Hasmonean teachers are worse, but because Hasmonean boys are dimmer and/or because Hasmonean parents can pay for extra coaching whereas other parents either can’t or won’t.)

There are the other disadvantages of Hasmonean: very little woodwork or art is taught, athletics and sport come off worse than they do in other schools. Even here, though, one must be fair. Boys do take “O” level art, though how Mr Rothschild can manage I don’t know. He must be over seventy, and he’s not a sprightly septuagenarian as Dr Lewis is a sprightly octogenarian – he shuffles around, nebbich, but still, he takes his classes and every year a couple of boys get “O” levels. Sport: two of our school teams did beat Hendon County recently, Jurke did represent Germany, I believe, in the Olympics, we do have a bona fide athletics afternoon and swimming gala, Jurke is chairman of the Barnet swimming association.

Undoubtedly, too, Hasmonean enables a boy who is reasonably receptive, as Philip is, to practise Judaism if he feels so disposed. Although most of the Hasmonean boys either go to outside Chedarim on Sunday mornings and/or two or three evenings a week, or are in the “Yeshiva” stream – extra Jewish studies three evenings a week and Sunday mornings, and, I believe, shiurim every morning – or have extra morning shiurim at school, I am prepared to let Philip be content with the Jewish studies he receives during normal school hours.

Thursday, 21 May 1970, 7.30 p.m.

In bed yesterday and day before, as a result of sore throat followed by cold. My conscience is quite clear. In the 10+ terms I have been at Hasmo I have taken off, including the two days previously mentioned, only 3 days altogether; the other day was to assist in conducting an oral exam for the Institute of Linguists. On Tuesday, I could not even have staggered in, and on Wednesday I might have been able to stagger in but doubt whether I could have lasted out (Wednesday is the hardest day: no free periods and my toughest class – 2nd yr. C group French).

Saturday, 6th February 1971, 8.30 p.m.

The general picture is pretty gloomy. I smacked a boy on the cheek on Friday morning. As so often happens, a likeable, cheerful boy – a little high-spirited at times, so what. As also tends to happen, the situation was dramatised by his nose bleeding as a result. He himself didn’t say a word, no dumb insolence, nothing.

I don’t think there will be parental repercussions, but I can’t be sure, and as a result am going through a phase of humiliation which by now I ought not to have to go through. There is no excuse, or very, very little (the actual casus belli was the boy’s waving a playful finger at me, I forgot apropos of what), but it is appalling that I have so little self-control.

Wednesday, 10th February 1971, 9.45 p.m.

Mood of depression, arising from headaches accruing – figurative headaches, I mean – from school journey to Paris I have foolishly attempted to organise. One Hersh, who runs a Travel Agency in Golders Green Rd., offered to quote us – his son is in the first form. His quotation, I found was rather less favourable than the price I calculate I could have operated at myself, but on calling to discuss matters with him, he gave me the alarming, and I hope, alarmist news, that there might be no accommodation for us. His wife, French-Jewish, had phoned the Foyer at Paris, or rather Neuilly, where the Comité-whatever-it-is had said they could accommodate us, and the lady at the Foyer said they had booked about 30 boys for a party from London – on reflection I am hoping this may be the ‘about 20’ I had said I wanted to have accommodated, and perhaps 10 JFS pupils – I have an idea that I heard somewhere or other, I can’t think where, that the JFS were going to stay at the Neuilly Foyer, too.

There were no repercussions over the boy I smacked. Must, must try never to smack a boy again – impossible not to touch them – when they turn round I find I have to screw their heads back to face front again. But must try not to do this, even.

Parents evening last night. As always, touching to hear how they worry about their kids.

Sunday, 21st February 1971, 7 p.m.

I did crush a boy’s face into his desk on Friday – they will turn round. Nose-bleed. Jurke came into the lesson – did I have X and Y in my class? At first I said no, then realised they should in fact have been in my lesson. They were in fact in the P/G, where Jurke had caught them. Suggested J. take them to W.S.S., which he was going to do, anyway. I went up to the Headmaster’s study at the end of the period, where I found Jurke and the two culprits. W.S.S. asked me to cane them. I felt all in, my cold was recrudescent, and took off my jacket to do the job. This must have alarmed Stanton – he asked me not to lay it on too hard. Two strokes each. Yes, yes, it will make heroes of them, no, no, there was no sexual stimulation for me whatsoever, and I am pretty sure it will stop those two particular boys cutting any lessons in future.

Yes, our accommodation at Neuilly has evidently been pre-empted by JFS. A boy whose sister is going tells me they are paying £49-10-0 for 10 days, compared with the £30-0-0 I was charging for 7 days.

I rang up M. Paul Maidenberg, who had written to say he could accommodate us, to ask him to find out if he could get us other accommodation.

Thursday, 27th May 1971, 11 p.m.

Holiday to-morrow. Harrison had been expostulating on beauty of a film “The Wanderer” (“Les Grand Meaulnes”) he had seen at a cinema in South Kensington. I said I would like to see it, but begrudged the time, to which he said – not superciliously, he is not supercilious, but that it was rather amusing of me to think my time so valuable – again I have got myself in a muddle – “to which he rejoined” perhaps, that there was nothing particularly important I could do with my time, anyway. Sub specie aeternitatis this is true, but sub specie of my mundane daily existence: I have a letter to write [a list of other tasks follows] . . . and I cannot see how I can [do all that] and shlepp to South Kensington.

Moreover, I’m supposed to be on what is a short enough holiday, and I don’t want to have to rush. Harrison will no doubt – not quite despise, he doesn’t despise, I rather think he likes me, secure in the knowledge of the superiority of his major’s rank to my lieutenant’s – this is probably a fair reflex of the difference between, or rather in, or does it matter, our calibres.

I “managed” school to-day, having had a fair night’s sleep. If I go to bed after midnight and don’t fall asleep straightaway, which I usually don’t, I’ve “had” it, and school becomes purgatory.

Wednesday, 14th July 1971, 10.50 p.m.

Wondering if I could get a 70% post at Hasmo or elsewhere from Sept 1972, and if so whether I could carry on on that basis for another ten years. In fact, with 13 free periods a week this year, I have had an “80%” job compared with my Friern Barnet or Barnsbury jobs, but next year I shall have only 8 free periods.

Tried to be bang on target with a lesson on the French Revolution to-day, but as usual, don’t really know the subject. Ah well, als naynter vee vaater, only 8 days to go.

Sunday, 18th July 1971, 7.15 p.m.

To a reception to EJF – Mr Frank, Deputy Head, Hasmo – given at the school to-day. A very nice affair, organised by Mitchell Taylor. Tea and bar professionally catered. Stanton made a good speech, in which he said he had little Latin and less Greek (not his ipsissima verbai), but he had raked out a quotation from Horace which he would quote in English, as (his words) the Philistines on the staff wouldn’t understand the Latin and he didn’t want to make Mr Frank wince by his (Stanton’s) scansion of the Latin. The quotation: Eheu fugaces etc and monumentum aeri – EJF had created his memorial by impressing his personality on generations of boys. He also said, what was very true, that Frank was the epitome of the ideal that the School had in view when it was founded: the pious Jew who had a wide secular culture.

EJF is indeed a remarkable character: A Cambridge classicist (I think he told me he once got the Parson prize for Greek verse – apropos of something or other, he wasn’t bragging), a musician (he taught himself the piano), a Wagnerian (I once said to him that Wagner could not be anything but anathema to anyone with a Jewish consciousness, but he was sublimely unbigoted in this respect), neo-Orthodox (he ran the school Minyan) and, not merely Orthodox, completely unruffled by his daughter’s marriage to a Stamford Hill Chassid and his grandchildren’s peoth, but peoth.

Sunday, 25th July 1971, for time see below

I estimate the time to be about 7 p.m. Finished school on Friday. Slept till midday in bed yesterday, and then most of the afternoon. Have felt extremely depressed, for a number of reasons. One, seeing people controlling their lives, e.g. Frank, Winter – at 60+ – young Macleochlon, deciding to spend two years in England and getting in a trip to the States as a member of the Hendon Rugby team en passant. He left to an ovation from the boys. He deserved well of them, really giving them a chance to do some games. He scored 43 for the Staff against the School, incidentally. The School won by 1 run with 2 balls to go – sorry, the Staff won, the first time I could remember them doing so, said Stanton. I did not distinguish myself. The Walter Mitty dream of, if not the brilliant catch, at least the sound, reliable catch, remained a dream. A fairly hard ball came for me, but like the stoat I seemed to be paralysed by fear. Had I run forward two yards I could have caught it. As it was, I partially atoned for the missed catch by stopping the ball with my jaw (or was that another ball; it was on the bounce, anyway, and not particularly painful) and thus stopping a possible extra three runs. Another reason for depression: Mitchell Taylor, who always captains the team, was flat on his back the next day, and dragged himself to school on the Friday afternoon with a stick. If only I could be sure of keeping as fit over the next 13 years as I have been over the last! Perhaps this is hubris – to use one of Harrison’s favourite words.

Wednesday, 8th September 1971, 6.05 p.m.

Back to school. It’s going to be a very hard year. The “honeymoon” last year, when I had 13 free periods, will not occur again – at least, it would be very unwise to assume it might. This week, sorry, year, only 8 free periods – and larger classes. Already a disastrous day yesterday, but better to-day.

Friday, 8th October 1971, 4 p.m.

I must brace myself to ten weeks, or just under, at school without a single break.

The 10% minimum increase awarded by Burnham [committee for determining teachers’ pay] as far back as July, perhaps earlier, will not be paid till the end of October.

There can be no question that I must try to semi-retire and re-engage with a 70% post from next September.

Wednesday, 5th January 1972, 10.15 p.m.

[Not Hasmo-related but this entry, on dad’s first trip to “Arets” since a period of leave during the War, bears reproduction here.]

Two incidents [from the trip] stand out. Friday evening went to the Kotel with EJF [Mr Frank]. As I had always envisaged the Kotel left me unmoved; it was a wall, and a wall is a wall is a wall. There were numerous minyanim davenning, the one we attached ourselves to comprising Stamford Hill types – boys with curled peot, men with shtreymlech, nothing to get excited about. Then a group of yeshiva bachurim came down and formed a circle, right hand on shoulder of bachur in front, chanting yasiss alayich elohayich kimsoss chatan al kallah from the lecha dodi. They beckoned to EJF and me to join them, which we did, and then I found the tears coming, or was it later, as I was walking home with EJF. Perhaps because, as EJF said, the boys were normal, well built most of them. After the davenning they formed up again, with us, and we all marched up some crude wooden steps constructed in the scaffolding – “like a film set” as EJF said – and went into their Yeshiva, the Yeshivat Ha-Kotel, where their Rosh Yeshiva – presumably – gave a derasha.

I boarded an Egged bus for the return journey [from Eyn Feshka on the Dead Sea]. The driver told me he had come down empty. I said sherut zeh sherut, service is service, and he said ken, sherut zeh sherut. I was the only passenger on the way back. He told me he was a sixth generation Jerusalemite, had been captured by the Jordanians in 1948. En bayot, he said, they’re no problems. Sadat’s talk about 1971 being a year of decision – ehya; I can’t reproduce the scornful sound. Kol zeh shayach li, he said, all this belongs to me, pointing to the Judean and the Jordanian hills. But if he claimed the Jordanian territory this was koach ha-egroff, I said; the power of the fist. Ma zeh koach ha-egroff, he said, what’s this about koach ha-egroff? The Iraqis expelled the Jews with only the clothes they stood up in, the Jews were driven out of Egypt, Morocco (?) – they could, we couldn’t? Don’t worry, he said, I bet I sleep more soundly than you do in London, our army is the finest in the world, if the Arabs want to work, O.K., if they want a fight (he used the English word ‘fight’) they’d get it, en bayot, bo-u bahamoneychem, come in your masses. And again I found the tears flowing.

Friday, April 21st 1972, 5.30 p.m.

Sixty! No philosophising.

A routine day at school, i.e., wandered around with class in search of an empty classroom, eventually entered art-room, for first period. Second period could find no classroom at all, was told afterwards that lower library was available (would be available this particular period in future?), also hall (workmen banging, fifth formers doing alleged private study) and gym changing room (!).

Nevertheless, got through day without having to close eyes after lunch; did, even, a little marking (marked a whole class’s [?] grammar [square brackets in original, presumably questioning apostrophe use] test in less than a period – in my only “free” period, in fact, when I sat in with a class who were mäusestill), and although breathing fire and slaughter, managed to avoid sending anybody to WWS. My general feeling, that particularly if I didn’t have to go to shool every school morning [his mother had died in March], I could manage full-time school quite easily.

Ikkar, almost, shachachti. We – 2W – had raised £75 for the J.N.F.and Dr Levy, the Director, had said he would like to present the certificate. Because it was such uphill work getting them to be quiet, I told the kids I would ask Dr Levy not to come. I did, and he didn’t, but he sent a Jewish Observer photographer, and so yours truly will have his phiz preserved for posterity, presumably, in next week’s issue.

Tuesday, 9th May, 1972, 6.30 p.m.

Going back from the school’s swimming gala in Jack Ordman’s car we heard that the Israelis had freed all the passengers and crew [of a Belgian plane hijacked at Lydda].

Rabbi Cooper and Gerald Lever were in the car. Obviously jubilation. A ness. Baruch Ha-Shem. As Rabbi Cooper said, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth among Israel’s enemies. Israeli policy seems to be vindicated all along the line. Even Mr Jacobson, an Israeli Shaliach on the staff, said Israel would have to accede to some of the terrorists’ demands, but J.O. was firm that Israel would be quite firm, and he was triumphantly right.

Monday, 12th June 1972, 6 p.m.

On Friday morning I conducted the French dictation and aural at the Hospital of St John and Elizabeth (Roman Catholic) for Eli Joseph, a pupil in my “B” set. I knew his parents came from Egypt and were French speaking, and in fact his French was fluent, though pitted with grammatical errors.

From what WS had told me the previous day (“he’s got a twisted testicle or something”) I had imagined he would be sitting up fairly cheerful. In fact, he did the 3-hr paper in bed, obviously under great strain. His mother, a young, pretty woman told me her G.P. had said he (Eli) had developed a condition which might be fatal if not tackled immediately.

For me it was a restful morning: the peace of a quiet room with one other person in it, keeping quiet, after the hurly-burly of coping with classes of 20-30 rowdy kids (“after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue, the deep deep peace of the double bed”, as I mentioned to WH [Woody Harrison] – Mrs Patrick Campbell, he said (what did she say it apropos of?)).

Friday, 30th June 1972, 7.15 p.m.

A terrible latter part of the day yesterday. It was the 17th of Tammuz, and all I had had was a cup of tea before leaving for shool. And yet I had got through the morning, and had only one lesson to take in the afternoon, when . . . A boy, one David Marx (3rd year MH) had, as his is wont, been one of the last to come in to the lesson. There was, as is still not unusual in Hasmonean, no chair for him. (I think we must be one of the few schools in which a teacher goes into a classroom without being sure there will be a chair and a desk for every pupil, and a chair for the teacher.) I told him to stand in a corner. He sat on a desk, a broken one I think. I cannot remember the exact sequence of events that followed: I imagine he argued (“What’s wrong with sitting on the desk?”) or was tardy in standing up – Anyway, I grabbed him by the lapels, pushed him against the wall and then cuffed him on the head. It’s no use: I vow every day I will not touch a boy, but hardly a day passes when I don’t clout someone. He came forward. I said: “Where are you going?”. He said: “I’m bleeding”. He was, and his shirt was bloodstained. He said, after the lesson, there was a nasty cut on his head. I suppose I was fortunate there was no delegation to WWS. I don’t know whether I’m out of the wood yet, but no parent breathing fire and slaughter turned up to-day, and the assumption is that by Monday the signs of the assault will be less prominent than they were to-day. I even had fears he might have had to stay at home owing to his injuries (which looked bad – blood and bruise always do, take it from a professional sadist who always tries to beat up his victims without leaving any traces).

The tragedy is that the boy is not the blackest of my bête noires. He had told me, before, that his father was seriously ill, and in fact a few days previously I had stormed at him in class and said that it was only because of this that I was showing him indulgence.

Sam [dad’s brother] had had a reversion to his I’ll-get-a-divorce mood, which I suppose didn’t help. However, I can’t make excuses. IT MUST NOT HAPPEN AGAIN (yes, H.L. [see 22nd December 1966 entry in Part I], keep your eyes open to see when it will).

I think perhaps I should have tried to retire on a 38/55 basis, which would have meant, presumably at least a 30% approx less chance of these incidents occurring.

Monday, 17th July 1972, 9.05 p.m.

Coals of fire. Stanton read out a letter from Mrs Marx to the staff on Wednesday or Thursday. She mentioned no name of any teacher; they were having Mr Marx at home – he has cancer – so that he could spend his last days in comfort. David was a helpful boy at home; she did not object to reasonable punishment (I think she even wrote she did not object to reasonable physical punishment), but no hitting on the head.

I wrote a letter to her making the amende honorable, as far as any amende was possible, and as far as any amende could be honorable. The idea was my own, though A.M. had said he would have done this in my place, “though you don’t have to do what I would do,” etc.

To-day I was completely in control, including at cheder, though I gave formal lessons (some masters have started on the be-reading-quietly-while-I-get-on-with-this-marking/these-reports a few days ago). Almost certainly because I was in bed by 10.45 last night. If I could do this every night there will almost certainly be no trouble.

[For The Witriol Diaries, Parts I – followed by A (Hasmo) Son’s Introduction – and II (of V), click here and here. Coming soon on melchett mike . . . The Witriol Diaries, Part IV: Chich, Bosoms, and a Bearded Cockney: Hasmo, the Next Generation.]