EXTRACTS FROM MY DIARY, 1949
By Ashleigh Brilliant (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ashleighbrilliant.com)
[At this time I was 15 years old and for the preceding two years had been living with my parents and younger sister, Myrna, in our small semi-detached house at 67 Highview Avenue in Edgware, a suburb in NW London. In 1946 we had returned to England, after having spent the war years in Toronto and Washington D.C. I was now in the Fourth Form at what was then called Hendon County School, a "Grammar School" to which I rode by the #113 public bus. My father, Victor Brilliant, a British Civil Servant, worked in Whitehall in central London. We didn't have a car. My mother, nee Amelia Adler, was originally from Canada. We were a Jewish family, but not very orthodox.]
Sat Jan 1
Hello diary. Today I slept late again. The weather was cold & wet. I played about 4 games of chess with Daddy, won 2, drew one, & lost one
I experienced another evidence of Daddy's unlikeable ways when he refused to let me see some [paper]work he was doing, work which he assured me was perfectly harmless and usual, but which was merely none of my business. I cannot agree with this. I feel, in the first place that everything to do with our family is my business, and that anyway things should not be deliberately concealed from me which are of no consequence.
Sun Jan 2
Daddy made me angry again when he interrupted a joke I was telling [to some visitors] to explain a detail.
Thurs Jan 6
Sometimes it is dreadfully dull for me at lunch time at school. The lunch hour (12:30 - 1:40) is divided into two sittings, the second sitting (which I have) starting at about 1:00 o'clock. Some boys play football in the playground before school in the morning, at break, & at lunch hour year in and year out, but I got tired of it after a few weeks. Sometimes I read or try to write something - a poem, a letter, a story, but usually I waste my time. The trouble is that practically all parts of the school are out of bounds - the library, form-rooms - the hall in fair weather - the school field in winter - the gym & even the cloakroom - and most of these restrictions are foundationless or unnecessary.
Examinations - those dreaded hated useless tortures will be starting at school in 2 or 3 weeks. How nice it would be to get away from it all.
Sat Jan 8
I wrote a letter to Grandma & Grandpa Adler [my mother's parents, who lived in Toronto] who are now in California [visiting, my Uncle Marsh.]
Sun Jan 9
OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Henceforward, as from now, I shall consider myself as having the name of J. BRILLIANT, and as never having had any other. For convenience's sake I will allow myself to be known as JUNIOR BRILLIANT until I choose a more suitable name [signed] JBrilliant
[I hated my real name of Ashleigh, but fortunately at school, although girls were known by their full names, boys were called only by their surnames, sometimes with an initial. Thus if called on by a teacher in class, I was "Brilliant." In the school magazine, I was "J. Brilliant."]
Mon Jan 10
Big event of the day: Daddy shaved off his moustache - the lip ornament he has worn constantly for 18 years. [My mother had induced him to grow it when she met him.] He did it, he says, because Myrna and I always wanted to see what he looked like without it. It certainly does change his entire personality and appearance. I never realized Daddy had such a long upper lip. I think it makes him look younger & more like his brothers [none of whom had moustaches.] Mummy however threatens dire deeds if Daddy does not begin recultivation immediately, and I think that the moustache will soon reappear on its old site.
Thurs Jan 13
In the afternoon we played "Pirates" in games period. This is a game in which boys chase other boys over all the apparatus in the gymnasium. It is rough & someone usually gets hurt. Today a boy tripped over a beam & badly hurt his knee. I don't think a game is worth playing if someone is always bound to be hurt.
Fri Jan 14
This morning in French class the teacher [Miss Davis] a fussy old thing who has actually forbidden the use of ball-point (this type) pens in her classes & who is also senior mistress, was trying to get the answer to a question out of a boy. "What would you do," she asked as a helping question, "if I said 'Ready!'?"
"I wouldn't know what you were talking about."
[Those early ball-point pens didn't write well for very long. Soon after penning the above, I discontinued using mine -- a birthday present the previous month -- after it became increasingly splotchy.]
Mon Jan 17
Our tyrannical French Teacher rebuked a girl for coming into class with her cardigan sleeves rolled up.
We had an Advanced Maths lesson today & it was hopeless. I have almost given up trying to understand. The teacher [Mr. MacDonald], though he realizes that some people are having a hard time of it, is practically ununderstandable. He caters for the fastest & best pupils instead of for the others.
I have had a bad cough for some days now, and for the last few days it has kept me up late at night. This evening I went with Daddy to Dr. Levy. He examined me & said that there was nothing much wrong with me. This was a relief for Mummy & Daddy, who had feared that I might be inheriting something from Daddy. [He was asthmatic, and my sister had the same condition.]
Monday is always our worst day at school - almost solid work, and it is the one day when I am really glad to get out.
Tues Jan 18
I wish I could make someone really happy.
Thurs. Jan 20
I proposed the motion in a debate we had in English on the proposal "That it is better to be fairly good at several things than to be very good at one thing." Our side lost overwhelmingly, but I really believe in it.
Fri. Jan 21
We looked at some tiny baby trout under magnifying lenses in biology class at school
After school I went to our dentist Dr. Strauss, there to leave my dental plate, which has a crack in it. I will pick it up tomorrow. It is certainly a great inconvenience & source of embarrassment not having it, as I can hardly speak. [I lost my 2 upper front teeth in a ball-catching accident in Washington in 1943. At first I had a fixed bridge, then (after we returned to England) a removable plate. I didn't finally get a permanent bridge until 1967.]
Sat. Jan 22
In the evening I went to my school to see the third and final nightly performance of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" acted entirely by members of the staff [faculty]. I had already seen the film of the same name. A few weeks ago I bought a 1/9 [one shilling and nine pence] ticket for this performance. Half of the audience were adults. I really enjoyed the play & think it was by far the best play I have seen at our school yet. Some of the acting was very good. The play is a farce about a twice-married man whose dead first wife haunts him. Miss [Eunice] Holden, our big, energetic, versatile art teacher, placed Madam Arcarti, the medium, and was excellent.
Thurs Jan 27
After school I decided to visit the Hendon Central Library. I stayed quite a long time there. I arrived home about 6:45 & as soon as Mummy saw me she burst into tears. She and Daddy had been worrying about me all the time. I don't like to think that people are worrying about me. M & D say I should have phoned, but it never struck me as being necessary. I don't think I am worth worrying about.
Mon Jan 31
There so many things I would like to know about, so many things I'd like to learn and take an interest in, that I now have a real grass-hopper mind.
Exams start at school tomorrow & I have Physics & English Language. We were allotted our exam seats in the same way as in previous years. All the forms are mixed & shuffled so that there is little chance to cheat.
Let it be said here and now, in case I next read this during a war with Russia, that I do not hate any Russian, or, in fact, any other national. I see no reason why I should ever want to hate or dislike them or why I should ever fight them. War is a maddening disease which constantly breaks out. It is senseless and usually gainless. May I never see another.
As there were no exams for our form today & we would otherwise have to do "private study," we (my form - 4S) were taken by 2 teachers, one of them being our Chemistry mistress, on a special outside visit to an exhibition in the West End. Some days ago we were told we were going to go, and great care was taken that everyone was wearing full school uniform.
The exhibition, called "The Nation's Wealth," was in a building at the corner of Grosvenor Crescent and Grosvenor Place, I think near the Marble Arch, and we went there by tube, changing at Leicester Square. It was all about coal gas, its mining, uses, and by-products etc. And though it was not very big, it was well set out, and interesting. It was typical, I think, of the modern sort of exhibition where nothing is square, and everything is either circular or has rounded corners, and there are lots of strings and tubes leading from one thing to another. A woman showed us around. We could only stay about 45 minutes as we had to be back at Hendon about 4 p.m. All our fares were paid by the school.
Fri Feb 11
There must have been something particularly unwholesome in school dinners today as I have had bad stomach pains all the latter half of the day.
Sat Feb 12
My stomach gave me more trouble today, but I think I will be alright tomorrow.. . . .
In the evening we heard the Saturday Night radio play, [on the B.B.C.] which as usual was boring, miserable, and depressing.
Sun Feb 13
A few days ago I was playing with the thought of writing a letter to the King [George VI] inviting him to dinner. At least then, I thought, I might receive a formal refusal. Well today I did it. Yes, I actually wrote a letter to the King inviting him here to dinner on Friday 25th of February! Tomorrow I will post it. I wonder if I will get a reply. Suppose he accepts! [My parents didn't like this idea, especially since my father was a Civil Servant, but they did nothing to stop me. There was no response from Buckingham Palace.]
Sat Feb 19
This afternoon I walked with Myrna through Edgware to Burnt Oak where we saw "The Desert Song" (Dennis Morgan film made from the famous musical play) and "Elephant Boy" (Sabu - Indians & elephants - poor story - poor production - nice elephants.)
Sun Feb 20
The afternoon I went with the family to the celebration at a Hampstead catering establishment of Michael Arcus' [family friend?] bar-mitzvah. . . There were cakes, creams [?] music & dancing. I was bored as usual & came home early. It is peculiar the way conversation at such events rarely has any bearing on the occasion of the gathering.
Mon Feb 21
Good News! We heard on the radio tonight that all sweets rationing will end on April 24th. Hurrah! This will make life much pleasanter. [Rationing lasted in Britain for many years after the war. My sister and I felt it keenly, having come back from a land of plenty.]
Fri Feb 25
We saw half of a preserved human brain in biology class at school, & I realized for the first time that the brain is a solid mass with dents & fissures, & not a snake-like bunch.
Sat Feb 26
At home I did a rough draft of an English homework essay called "Cats." I am doing it in my own ultra-modern style with the aid of some long words from my Roget's Thesaurus.
Wed March 2
Mummy refuses to use our kitchen plate-rack though it would save a lot of drying.
Sat March 5
Uncle George [one of my father's brothers, who lived with his parents in Bournemouth where they had a fur business] is in London & he phoned us this morning. He spoke to Daddy & Mummy & gave strong intimations that someone has come into his life, someone we will soon be "getting to know." Well, well, can this be the first inkling of something big? Can a man make the same mistake twice? [He had been married & divorced once.] I have always felt sorry for Uncle George considering the drab life he leads. I hope he is on the way to happiness. Mummy seems very happy about the whole thing. [Uncle George's new someone became my Aunt Hilda, and the marriage lasted until George died about 25 years later.]
Mon March 7
Richmond's house [Brian Richmond, my Hendon class-mate and best friend, who also lived in Edgware] is getting a television set. This is important to us, I feel, because every piece of news we hear about TV becoming more popular & more widespread brings us one more step towards the wonderful reality of having a set ourselves. I was explaining to Richmond today that I am keener on TV than most people, because I can remember hearing, only a few years ago, that perhaps some day in the far distant future every home might have a set - as good as the movies! This was such a distant dream that even now, after months of development, I am startled by the realization that TV is a thing of the present, that it is here today. For us it is still only just out of reach - but soon .
Tues March 8
It is very cold & windy today. At school we did P.T. in shirts & shorts outside on the field in spite of the cold. The warmly dressed teacher rebuked me for having my hands in my pockets. The form-room was a terminus of drafts.
Wed March 9
A meeting of our school council was held in school time, for the first time, and, having the option, I attended. Once more I was appalled by the obvious lack of effectiveness of the council, by the way in which nearly all matters were referred to somebody or something else, never, doubtless, to be heard of again; by the way in which the Headmaster controlled the council, killed good motions, and made everyone feel uncomfortable, and by the general way in which the proceedings were run.
One last minute proposal proposed by my form's "representative" asking for something to be done about an unfair allotment of classrooms to art pupils (this affected me & I was one of the most vigorous complainers & the one who felt most strongly about it) was coldly & ruthlessly discarded by the Headmaster (who is, theoretically & constitutionally little more than a spectator!) with very little reason, before the whole case had been heard & before the council had time to think about it.
This is the finish! I have put too many hopes and trusts in that powerless body of fellow-pupils, only to see hardly anything ever done - all through lack of power, control, decision and intelligence. Henceforward I disassociate myself from it. It certainly does not represent ME in ANYTHING.
Thurs March 10
I played the new boy in our form at chess in dinner hour today & he beat me drastically. [I was playing a lot of chess at this time, often with my father - also a lot of table-tennis, much of it on improvised surfaces.]
Our table found a piece of rope about 4" long in our school dinner pudding.
Fri March 11
I had chilblains in my hands & feet today & it made me very irritable, especially this evening. [I had never had this problem in Washington, but began suffering from it in cold damp weather soon after we moved back to England.]
Tues March 15
Something which makes me very angry: -- A party from my school is to go on an exchange visit to Switzerland this summer. There was one last year, but then I could not go because it was only for the upper school. Mummy said she would have liked me to have been able to go. [Up to this point, except for 3 weeks at an American summer camp in 1943, I had never been away from home and family.] This year I am eligible & have been attending all meetings concerned with the visit. Parents, however, are putting forward every obstacle to my going. They belittle me and do not take it seriously. Today when I brought home a form which must be filled in, they stated flatly that they would not allow me to go.
This, I hope, is not the end of the matter [sadly, it was] but it is just another example of what I have repeatedly noticed, especially about Mummy. When a thing is next to impossible, it is all very well & if only it could be, but when it becomes a reality or possibility they fight against it as hard as they can.
Tues March 22
News! Mummy received a distressing letter from California where are still staying Grandma and Grandpa Adler, being taken care of by Uncle Marsh. It told of Grandpa's poor mental health, and Mummy is now planning to leave alone for California in the near future. One of our neighbors is connected with a shipping firm & parents have contacted him with a view to booking a passage. If Mummy does embark on this newborn venture, she will be away quite some time, perhaps 2 months, and, though it has not been discussed, the cost will doubtless be quite high. How I wish I could accompany her!
Mon March 28
I took my baseball bat to school and we used it to play rounders. [I had brought the bat back from America in 1946. It wasn't full-sized. The English game of rounders pre-dates baseball, and is very similar to it.]
Mon April 4
[My mother was to leave on April 16.] All I hear from Mummy now is instructions, instructions, instructions . . .Now it is clothes - keep clean - don't annoy Myrna - tidy the house - etc. all day long.
Fri April 8
. . . I got my report, and, for the 5th consecutive term, I came 3rd in my form. Form teacher's comment: "He is working carefully and well, and is reaching a really high standard in some subjects. He has one low grade only [French: C] & he ought to be able to improve this." Head's comment: [Headmaster E.W. Maynard Potts] "An able boy who is perhaps over-attracted by the unorthodox." [I have in later years often quoted this line.] He always puts some paradoxical comment with a suggestion of a hidden meaning. I got A- for Art, & my teacher said I am "passing through a surrealist stage."
[At my instigation, we had accepted the offer of a local firm for a free weekend demonstration loan of a TV set in our home.] I was made very excited over this [installation.]. . .They brought the set at 3 p.m., erected a temporary aerial, and installed the receiver, a large-screen Ferguson. It was ready by 3:45, and I watched the end of a movie, "Jack London" that I saw about five years ago. . . .The rest of the family hasn't seen the set in action yet. This evening I watched with a little boy visitor from one of our neighbors, news, cabaret, and an illustrated talk.
Sat April 9
I watched all of today's television transmissions. . . . This afternoon I saw Scotland beat England 3-1 at the international [soccer] match at Wembley. This evening I saw cabaret & a yoga demonstration. Mummy & Daddy were too busy to watch much.
Sun April 10
It will not be long before Mummy leaves for America. By next Sunday she should be on her way. Two months now begins to seem a long time.
This was the last day of our television set. Tomorrow they are taking it away. I again watched all the transmissions (4-5, 8:30-10). Television now seems to me almost an essential thing. Parents are still against it, but I think that the loan of this set has brought us a little nearer to having one of our own.
Wed April 13
This afternoon I went on a bicycle ride to Watford. [ My bike was still the large heavy American one - I think a "Rollfast" - that I had brought back from Washington in 1946. Unlike English bikes, it had a flashy appearance, thick tires, no gears, and back-pedal brakes.] I rode about 8.2 miles (there & back) through Stanmore, Bushey, & Bushey Heath. I stopped frequently to look in shop windows etc. & spent a long time in the Bushey public library. There must be a lot of good luck in store for me. In the course of my ride I found both a rabbit's foot and a horse-shoe. Gert Rose [family friend or relative] visited us yesterday, and when Myrna & I both said something at the same time, she said it meant there was a letter in the post for one of us. I reached Watford at 5 p.m and got back home about 6:45.
Thurs April 15
Today, the day before Mummy leaves for America, was for me a horrible day. It was hot, & I just couldn't seem to concentrate on anything. . .All day our phone was ringing & people were coming to say goodbye to Mummy. Mummy isn't at all eager or excited. She tells everyone that traveling will be no pleasure to her. Myrna & I have made out lists of things we want from America for Mummy to try to get for us. My list included stamps, a camera, and a turtle.
Sun April 17
This was our first complete day without Mummy who is now on the ocean. Myrna is preparing all the necessary meals & Daddy & I wash up.
Mon April 18
This afternoon, a bank holiday, we three went to the fair on Hampstead Heath. I tried one thing - a dart-throwing game in which you keep all you stick, 4 darts for 6d [sixpence.] I didn't stick anything, (though the attendant made a mistake & gave me 6 darts & I picked up another one off the ground) but I found 6d later, so I didn't lose anything. Daddy & Myrna didn't try anything. There was a great crowd of people there.
Whenever I go to fairs such as this, I am aghast at the way people throw their money away getting nothing in return. There seems to be a catch in every stall, and the prizes are of poor quality.
Tues April 19
In a Mill Hill stamp shop window, I saw a notice of a stamp competition for children under 16: 24 portraits from stamps, with the rest of the stamp covered up. The idea was to identify all the portraits. I realized that the competition would be very difficult unless one had a stamp catalogue, so rode home, got my catalogue, and rode back. I spent the next 3 ½ hours trying to identify the portraits with the aid of my catalogue. I succeeded with all but one of them. I consider this very good, and eligible for the philatelic prizes. [I eventually learned I had won 3rd prize - a cheap stamp album.]
Wed April 20
This afternoon I went on a long message for Daddy to the Shoreditch factory of Uncle Michael Gilbert [some relative, but not really an uncle] who sold us 2 doz. eggs for 14s.. . .What a depressing area Shoreditch is! - full of bomb damage, waste land, and slums.
Fri April 22
This afternoon I rode my bike to Sunnyfields Park, Hendon. There I read my library book on photography, [had just taken my first roll of pictures] rode my bike up & down the lovely hill, and played a while in a slow cricket game that 3 of my 4th-form schoolfellows were playing in.
Sat April 23
Daddy, Myrna & I are really getting on each other's nerves now. We are quarreling and squabbling at every opportunity. Daddy made the announcement that he intends to take some days off next week as well. This I can't understand. One would think he has too much of us as it is.
This afternoon I rode up to Sunnyfields Park again. I found the same people there, for they said they would be, and I got into another cricket game. I made the highest score (25 runs) in a 2 inningsed match & also made the winning hit.
Sun April 24
Sweets [candy] came off the ration today, after 7 years of rationing. Many sweets shops were specially open today (Sunday.) I saw one in Edgware where there was a sizeable queue & people were coming out with bags of sweets. [There was in fact such a rush that sweets rationing had to be reimposed, and wasn't finally ended until 1953.]
This afternoon, much against my will, I had to go with Daddy & Myrna to the Brixton Synagogue to the wedding of Ronnie Nathan (Wally Norwood's brother) [cousins of my father] to Phyllis Lewis. Everything was behind time, I didn't like the food, and I was thoroughly bored and fed up. I have before made resolutions that I won't attend any more of these affairs, and always find myself going and being bored and disappointed. Let me therefore make one final resolution to avoid when humanly possible any future events of this type.
I am forming a new theory about time, concerning the hypothesis (I hope that's the right word) that time is composed of time-atoms - the smallest possible lengths of time.
Mon April 25
I took a new census of my stamps today, and found that I now have 2874 different varieties in my album.
I bought our first off-ration candy today. It felt strange to go into a shop, say just what I wanted, pay, and walk out with it.
Wed April 27
This afternoon I renovated an easel I had when about 5 yrs old & put some nails in it so that I could use my drawing board on it. [During the war years while my family was abroad, and after our house (in Dollis Hill, another, closer-in, London suburb) was "requisitioned" for use by another family - we never got it back -- many of our household goods, including my toys, had been put into storage, and weren't finally recovered until 1947, after we had bought this house in Edgware.]
Thurs April 28
We received a telegram from Mummy from Los Angeles, California, sent last night, saying she had had a good trip through beautiful country, was welcomed in L.A. by Uncle Marsh & her parents. Later in the morning we received a letter from her mailed on the boat telling of her sea-sickness and saying that, rather than endure it again, she would like to come home by air. [But she didn't.]
This afternoon Daddy took Myrna & me to Greenwich. We went by boat from Charing Cross though the weather was cloudy. At Greenwich we saw the Maritime Museum and the exterior of the Observatory. I saw the clock, barometer, and standards of length outside the Observatory and also the line of the Greenwich meridian from which the world takes its time. We came back to Charing Cross by tram. The London trams are noisy, wobbly, and very worn and old-fashioned. They should all be done away with. [They were, just 3 years later, in 1952.]
Home again, in the evening I went to the Edgware Civic Restaurant for the advertised free showing of four films about Israel. [Israel had been an independent state for less than a year.] The audience was about 40 persons (It was raining heavily) [Otherwise, in a place like Edgware with a large Jewish population, a larger attendance would have been expected.] The films were interesting and informative, though they were largely propaganda and repeated each other a good deal. I noticed that, though the films were said to be "Israeli films," all the commentaries were spoken by Americans.
Fri April 29
We also received another (the 2nd) letter from Mummy written just before, & after, she got off the boat, and before she left on the train. She told of being kindly and joyfully received by many relatives. Sadly she didn't tell of her feelings or emotions upon stepping once more onto American soil. If it had been me, my emotions would have been very strong, I'm sure. I have been thinking it over recently, & have come to the conclusion, from my limited knowledge and experience, that the American way of life is just about the finest in the world.
In the evening, we three were invited to the Harris's home [cousins of my father] in Hendon for dinner. There we saw Jessie, Max, Phyllis, Jimmy, & the baby, Monica Anne (asleep in bed.) Jessie has dyed her hair a horrible blonde, and is still smoking and coughing as much as ever. I disagree with people dyeing their hair, and my anti-smoking views are very strong. . . Phyllis [daughter of Jessie & Max] seems now much uglier than when I first saw her 3 years ago. I talked to Jimmy [her husband] about photography and television. He is not keen on TV at present, and I am afraid he has influenced Daddy against buying a set. He is very technically minded, and it seems a shame that such a brain should be wasted in the clothing trade. In his conversation, he seems to have the knack of turning simple words into the most complicated phraseology. Half of what he said I didn't understand, but he seemed ignorant of my ignorance and went on talking even when I wasn't listening.
Sat April 30
We received another letter from Mummy, mailed this time from the trans-continental train on which she traveled from New York to Los Angeles. She didn't tell much, but expressed repeatedly her earnest desire that we should all go back to America to stay.
This evening we three went by tube to Balham to visit [my father's] Aunt Sadie and Uncle Alf. We had supper there, saw their cat & canary, and watched their television from 8:30 to 10:00. In contrast to Jimmy (see last night) Aunt Sadie & Uncle Alf were very keen and enthusiastic about television. They spoke very highly of the many programs they have seen on their set, and said they were completely satisfied with it. Daddy's cast-iron opinions were, I regret to say, little dented by this enthusiasm.
Mon May 2
Back to school again today for first day of the summer term - the term of cricket and athletics - of exams and excursions.
The announcement that Miss Holden, my art teacher, had been married, caused quite a stir. I could never associate her with marriage. She is so active and versatile - so big and masculine. [She asked now to be called Mrs. Black but was really Mrs Blachowski, and there was later another stir when she and her Polish (?) husband appeared on the front page of London's Daily Express in connection with some wild seafaring escapade. I have just now learned from the Internet that, as Eunice Black, she subsequently had a long apparently very successful career in British films and TV, and died only in 2007 at age 91.]
Leaving school, I went to a record shop in Hendon where I ordered a record of the Light Cavalry Overture [My father had suggested I might like it, and I did.] I often think what a shame it is that all other things are forsaken for music on records. Why can't they record more speeches and poems, more descriptions of famous events?
Two people (boys) from my form at school will probably be absent all this term One has a septic shoulder, the other rheumatism. What a terrible thing it is to be so indisposed!
Tues May 3
Today we received our first letter from Mummy from Los Angeles. . . . Again she emphasized the beauty, luxury, and good life that we are missing.
This evening I went to the club [a Jewish youth club in Edgware I had joined earlier in the year] for a discussion. It was managed by a young woman, a Miss Hayman, and she did it quite well, though perhaps giving too many of her own views, and hurrying up people's contributions for the sake of hearing everybody. About 12 people came (including only 3 girls who said hardly anything.) The discussion was on the behaviour of modern youth. I participated freely, but rather lost interest when the subjects turned to dance halls etc.
[At school] I was the only boy in our form who chose the needlework optional class, & am the only boy in the class. I chose it because there was nothing better, to be different, and because I would like to be able to sew. Today I had my first lesson. The teacher started me making a tea-cozy on a cardboard loom.
Fri May 6
We had another letter from Mummy with news of the luxury of California life, of the need for a car, & of the scanty clothes worn there.
Sat May 7
When in Edgware this morning I saw & heard a loudspeaker car, parked, which was canvassing votes for the Communist candidate at the approaching local elections. After a while, a policeman came along & made the man stop "broadcasting" because someone had complained about it. This is a typical result of the current anti-Communist feeling in Britain. If the party had been Labour or Conservative, no one would have complained.
Mon May 16
I can feel myself getting worse at my studies this term at school. I have lost all interest in Chemistry & it is showing in my marks. Advanced Maths is absolutely hopeless. I haven't understood a word of the lessons all this term. [When I started at Hendon in early 1947, I had been placed in a "Science" form rather than one with emphasis on the Arts. In terms of aptitude, this was probably a mistake, not rectified until I reached the 6th Form.]
Mon May 23
A very happy thing happened at school today. After thinking it over very carefully, and weighing every angle in the balance (mixed similes) I decided to try to change my pool subject from Advanced Maths. This would be a momentous step as the Fourth forms have been having pool subjects since September of last year, and it would mean a staggering lot of catching up to do. However, I was confident that I could catch up, and I felt I just could not stand Advanced Maths much longer.
Well, this morning I finally plucked up courage to ask my form teacher whether or not this change would be a possibility. She said it was a bit late, but she would speak to the teachers concerned, and find out what could be done. At the beginning of afternoon school, Miss Wright, my form teacher, told me that Mr. Mcdonald, the Advanced Maths teacher, agreed that I had been wrong to take that subject, but did not think I was hopeless at it (though I myself was positive of this.) [I now think it was not so much the subject as the teacher.] He would however agree to let me go if Miss Camp, the Geography teacher [later Mrs. Moss] would accept me.
Miss Camp, on the other hand, had said that she thought it practically impossible for me to catch up. Not in the least deterred by this, I went to see Miss Camp after school, and, after a rather long discussion, in which she kept saying "Well, it's like this, Brilliant," she did agree to accept me in her pool, though she still seemed quite dubious. The first lesson is tomorrow, and I am overjoyed to think that no more will I have to dread the approach of Monday afternoons and Tuesday mornings. There will of course be a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I am prepared to work hard.
Tues May 24
Today I had my first Geography lesson since July, 1948. I felt a strange joy of satisfaction at learning Geography and drawing maps again. I felt that I was among old friends. I have just come in at the beginning of Germany. To catch up, I must learn many countries of Europe, including France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Denmark. The time seemed to fly this morning.
After school, I had to go to Strauss, the dentist, on the appointment I made 2 weeks ago for a filling. It was a filling in one of my lower middle teeth, & hurt quite a bit. I had been dreading that time for 2 weeks & when it was over I felt a tremendous relief and freedom. [The combination of much candy eating and minimal education in dental hygiene meant frequent visits of this kind.]
Wed May 25
There are four boys of my form at school who regularly play table tennis on a large table in an open space opening on the playground, underneath the school. I am one of them. Recently (6 days ago) we instituted a championship. To become champion, one had to beat the current champion in two consecutive games. Richmond, one of the four, was made the first champion. For 6 days now he has held his title, though I tried to win it many times, and often almost succeeded. Today I did finally win it, thus becoming the first champion to actually win his title.
Fri May 27
At school, I soon lost yesterday's championship back to Richmond.
I was sitting right in front of Richmond's desk, facing him, at school this afternoon, when he was unexpectedly sick. I myself was almost sickened by the sight.
Sun May 29
Tomorrow Daddy will be going with Myrna to Bournemouth for the funeral [of my grandfather, Henry Brilliant, who had died May 27.] I have no desire to go, and am afraid that I will miss important school work. [This refusal of mine to go to my grandfather's funeral must have added to my father's grief, but apparently he didn't pressure me to go.]
Tues May 31
I had my 2nd Geography lesson today. There wasn't one yesterday as we went out on the field to watch sports. It was an impressive sight - all the school grouped around the running track and jumping posts at the bottom of the large field. Most of the staff [faculty] were there, looking on.
This evening I went to the club, where we had a discussion on Classical and Modern (jazz) music. This time it was not quite so monopolized by Miss Hayman, the chairman. I am utterly against jazz. I can make nothing of it. It sounds to me like a cacophony. Some people there, though, appeared to like it.
Thurs June 2
This morning I woke up at 9:20 a.m. I had forgotten to pull up the alarm button on my clock last night, and as Myrna and I were the only ones home [my father had gone back to Bournemouth] & I had to wake Myrna, we were both late. I scrambled into my clothes, snatched some biscuits and milk & was out of the house by 9:30, arriving at school at 9:55, 55 minutes late. [My bus ride to Hendon took 15-20 minutes, and then there was a 5-10 minute walk to school.] I came in in the middle of an English debate. No one said anything to me about being late.
Tues June 7
Yesterday I finished reading "Alpha of the Plow - 2nd Series," a book of essays by A.G. Gardiner. . . A sentence which sticks in my mind from one of them is "It is inconceivable to us that space should have limits, and yet it is inconceivable that it should be limitless."
Wed June 8
The 4th form at school saw some films today. They were both of scenes from Shakespeare. The first one was 2 scenes from "Macbeth, " and the second was the forum scene from "Julius Caesar." We are, at present, "doing" the latter play in English. I hate the way we "do" plays. We just read them through, each person taking one part, & sort of act them at the same time in front of the form. The "actors" rarely understand what they are saying, & it is rarely explained to them. I often get the feeling that I am missing so much, just as in Music class, where I have never yet been satisfied with a single lesson.
Fri June 10
This evening we three went to the Bermans' home for a chicken dinner & stayed quite late. [The Bermans were my Uncle Leonard's in-laws, parents of my Aunt Sylvia.] Mr. Berman appears to me a most unusual character. His theories & topics of discussion seem most silly to me. Typical example: "If the eye could feel, would it have a soul?"
Sun June 12
Today was another day of study for me - mainly Geography, with some English literature - all for the school exams which begin next Friday. Daddy keeps telling me how foolish I am to work so hard, but I believe that it is worth it. I must have had a thousand petty squabbles with Daddy today. He just won't leave me alone.
Good news! Two of the 9 contributions I submitted to our school magazine have been accepted for publication. They are, "A Royal Cruise," a poem [about the Siamese Court] and "Down With Catchphrases," the essay. (All the others were rejected.) I had to type out the latter this evening, because they could not send my handwriting to the printers. I can only type with one finger (sometimes two) and it took me quite a long time on Mummy's machine. [Typing was not taught at our school - I didn't learn until 1957, after coming to California.] Mummy sails for Liverpool from Quebec today. She will soon be home.
Wed June 15
This morning I went with many other boys of our school to the mass X-ray radiography at the Hendon Technical College, done free by the government. We had been told about & given forms to fill out some weeks ago. The girls went on a separate day. It was a chest X-ray photograph for any diseases etc. We had to strip to the waist & after answering questions about any previous X-rays or diseases, we went into the room where they had the big X-ray machine.
We were stood one by one before a square screen, resting the chin in a groove at the top. The hands had to be held in a certain position behind the hips. Then a man behind a little window said into a microphone "Take a deep breath - hold it," (a buzzing sound for about 3 seconds,) "Next, please" - and that was all there was.
Both the operators always stood behind little windows while the photographing was in progress. I was puzzled at this at first, but afterwards a boy explained to me that X-rays are harmful, and continual exposure to them (by the operators) would be dangerous. We had to give in stamped addressed envelopes, and will be notified of the results.
This afternoon I went on another
. school visit. Our
Art optional class (about ¾ of it - 8 people - who wanted
to go) went by bus to the National Art Gallery at Trafalgar Square
to see the current exhibition of European art treasures from Munich.
I knew that they were very good, but was not otherwise much impressed.
Most were of a religious character.
There is a school rule that all people on school visits must wear full school uniform. This, of course, is a most stupid rule. The teacher would not let 2 girls come with because they were not wearing the regulation beret. The ridiculous thing is that none of the girls wear the beret in summer - in fact, these two could not even borrow berets when they tried!
Thurs June 16
Tomorrow sees the start of our summer examinations at school, and next year about this time we will be 5th Formers taking the Matriculation Examination. Mr. Potts, the Headmaster, gave a talk after assembly to all the 4th Formers today, warning us of the danger of neglecting weak subjects and advising us to start in at them from the beginning in our spare time. He told how he had resolved to make good in French & had succeeded. He is a very clever man & has at least one degree. Many other teachers are telling us about the pleasures awaiting us next term in the form of doubled homeworks in every subject.
I do feel that this is all rather unnecessary. I think it is horrible working your guts out for a year just to pass a few exams in one particular week. I cannot yet really see the extreme importance of passing this examination at all.
Quarrels between me and Daddy are becoming more and more frequent
and bitter. Daddy often strikes or threatens to strike me. Thank
goodness Mummy will be home soon - on next Tuesday, we think.
[Reading this 60 years later, it saddens and surprises me. I don't remember my father as a violent person. But this was a time when his wife had been gone for 2 months, his own father had just died, and he was having to contend with a moody uncooperative teenage son.]
Sat June 18
[At a local fair] I watched a "Keep Fit" display given by a ladies' keep fit class, with their instructress. This was one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. At the sight of those 15 women, most of them about 40 & some quite bulging, romping about in black gym shorts and trying to look graceful, I almost burst out laughing. I had to applaud them though for their courageous effort at the age when most women have given up trying.
Sun June 19
Today was a complete day of study for me. I spent practically all my time studying Chemistry, Physics & English for tomorrow's & Tuesday's school examinations. I find that this effort helps me considerably. Things which I could never understand at school have become clear to me. Of course, I hate all the work, but I think it is worth it. Anyway, the exams are over on Tuesday & Mummy will be home on Wednesday, so there will be a double celebration.
I found time to play Daddy two games of chess today and to win both of them.
Wed June 22
I learned today that in the Geography examination, I came top of the class with 85%. This, even in my opinion, is an amazing feat.
Well, tomorrow Mummy will be coming home. . .I am very glad. . . I have put several flags outside the door, and will put a small notice saying "WELCOME HOME!"
Fri June 24
Mummy, only one day back from the greatest trip of her life, today started in this house on a grand clean-up. She has gone from room to room, duster and mop in hand, constantly deploring the state of affairs. I myself can see little grounds for grumblings. Under the circumstances I think we kept the house quite well. But Mummy will keep on grumbling. I rather wish that she could have come back gradually instead of thrusting herself, as it were, back into our midst.
I was greatly surprised and most pleased to learn that I had come top of my set in French. . . . It has always been one of the subjects I disliked most and understood least. . . I can remember Daddy saying, long ago when he thought it next to impossible, that he would buy a television set when I came top in French. Now he meets my reminders to him of this with aversions and sarcasms.
Sun June 26
Marcus, Sadie & [their young son] Neville King [relatives or family friends] came for tea. There was conversation in the garden about holidays. They have just returned from the south of France. It pained me to hear of the wonderful time they had there. It pained me to hear parents' speculations as to our holiday this summer: of whether we will have one; of which dull resort we will inhabit. . . It pains me that I have been no farther than Bournemouth [on the coast, 108 miles SW of London] since we came back to England.
My ideal holiday would be not with the family, but with a few boys of my own age - in some new and beautiful country where a foreign language is spoken - where I will not have to come home for supper or polish my shoes - where there is food in abundance and something to do in every direction - where there is freedom. I am tired of this house and of the existence I have led around it for 2 ½ years. I want to see the world and more of life. I want to enrich my experiences. I want to travel. Though I want to see more of this country, I have no intention of remaining here any longer than circumstances decree.
When I was shaking Mummy's duster the other day, I suddenly thought how foolish it was to meticulously gather all the dust in the house, and then shake it out again into the air for it only to return again. This has caused me to add a clause to the constitution of my Utopia making it a crime to shake dust into the air and enforcing rather its burial.
Mon June 27
Very good news indeed: [Although I had thought I had little chance, I learned I was one of the successful candidates for a Saturday morning free scholarship at the Hornsey Art School. But it was not really such a big deal, since 6 of the 7 people from my school who applied were accepted.]
Gert & Henry Abrahams & Tony [their young son] have been here all afternoon & evening. Tony keeps wanting some "gimes" to play. This form of speech in which A's are turned into I's is very common at my school. The very sound of it is repulsive to my ears.
Tues June 28
I took my new camera [brought back from Canada by my mother] to school today to show it to a boy in my form who is a keen amateur photographer. He expressed approval and explained to me several points about it about which I was not clear. He advised me to buy an exposure chart .Later this afternoon I bought a "Focal Exposure Chart" for 2/6.
Wed June 29
The boy who talked to me about my camera .today brought to school to lend me a whole set of books on photography - one main book "The All-In-One Camera Book" by W.D. Emanuel, and 14 booklets on all aspects of photography. I think it was very kind of him to do this. At 4 o'clock I played tennis with him (This boy's name is Just.) I beat him decisively in both sets we played. We had bets of 3d on some of the games & I won them all, winning 9d from him altogether. [Alec Just is one of the few Hendon classmates with whom email and the Internet have in recent years brought me back in touch. Thanks Alec! After 60 years, your kindness still resonates.]
Fri July 1
I am doing an impressionistic composition at school in Art class, suggested by a poem by T.S. Eliot (which I cannot understand.)
After school I went for the 4th day in succession to play tennis
at Hendon Park. I had not before played the boy I played this
time, [Kenneth] Taylor. He was better (though much smaller) than
me & beat me in both the sets we played. After 4 hours of
tennis this week, I have come to several conclusions: (1) It is
a very tiring game
.(2) There is much unnecessary work such
as chasing balls (3) It is a very skillful game (4) It is expensive
to play. It cost me 2/- (2 shillings) theoretically for 4 hours,
but I won some (10 1/2d ) of this back in bets
.(5) It gives
rise to hunger and thirst in considerable degree.
On the whole, I would call it more like work than like play .Perhaps we can put some of the discomfort down to the great heat this week .These being my first real games, I have not yet had time to even begin to develop an over-arm service, and have been serving mostly under-arm.
Tennis, then, I conclude, is not my game. I will continue to play it, for I do find some pleasure in it, but I feel sure that I will never really be good at it.
Sat July 2
This afternoon I went to the Mill Hill Swimming Pool. We have been having warm weather for a long time, but the water didn't seem warm to me & I didn't stay in long. It was interesting to watch all the people There was always someone screaming, whistling, or yelling.
Sun July 3
Still the fine weather continues - about a month now. [At home] we have been having many meals in the garden.
Mon July 4
I arranged to play [Roderick] Neale, a boy in my form, at tennis after school tomorrow. He is supposed to be quite good. I don't expect to beat him.
We had rain this evening for the first time in 20-odd days. The sun shone through it with a strange white light, and there was a beautiful rainbow.
Tues July 5
A girl in my form has been away for some days, & now everyone knows that she has tuberculosis, discovered in last month's X-rays (June 15). She has probably had it for some time & will be going into hospital soon.
I played Neale this afternoon at Hendon Park, and was very surprised at the results. He beat me in the first set 6-1; I won the 2nd set, 6-1; and he was winning the third set 3-1 when we had to stop. I didn't think I would beat him at all, neither did anyone else. It wasn't so hot, so I wasn't so tired as I usually am.
I put on my roller skates for the 1st time in about 2 yrs & skated on the sidewalk along the Watford Way.
Wed July 6
At school in Art class I finished my picture of two people playing chess. The people are modeled on Daddy & me but don't, & weren't intended to, look much like us .I also did an impressionistic painting called "Superstition." Nobody liked or understood it, but it satisfied me.
Thurs July 7
This afternoon Grandma Brilliant came from Bournemouth to stay with us for a few days. This means that Daddy has to sleep in the downstairs hall, for the decorators are still working in our living-room. I feel rather left out of planning the redecorating of our house, as I do in most other affairs affecting the family, for parents never willingly discuss with me or explain these matters to me. Consequently my interests tend to wander from those local or domestic.
Grandma seems to me a small, beautiful, but rather pathetic old lady. I have never felt a strong bond between myself and my English relatives.
Fri July 8
Grandma, who will be staying with us for some time, is sleeping in Myrna's room. Myrna occupies Daddy's bed in parents' bedroom & Daddy sleeps downstairs in the hall, which is full of furniture from our being-redecorated living-room. . [Ours was a 2-story house, with living-room, dining-room, and kitchen downstairs, and the 3 bedrooms, bathroom, and lavatory upstairs.]
Sat July 9
Today was Hendon County School Sports Day, the day when the present & past pupils come along with relatives etc. to the school field to watch the competitive athletics of the present pupils. Loudspeakers are set up, there are chairs & tables for staff & judges in the middle of the field.
Yesterday I volunteered to sell tickets for teas With another boy, both of us calling "Tea tickets! Tickets for teas!" I sold about 25 tickets [for a shilling each.]
When I arrived on the field, I was told that, as I was a reserve & a boy hadn't shown up, I was to run in a relay. I was rather surprised at this, but I had brought my shorts and plimsolls [gym shoes], so was not unequipped. I was to be the 3rd runner of 4 in a relay team . I had to run 110 yards against 3 other boys of different houses, I representing Blue House. [For purposes of athletic competition, the student body was randomly divided into 4 groups, named for colors, and called "Houses."] I think I ran 2nd of the 4. I was given a good lead, but I was on the outside track
After the sports, prizes were presented in the school hall. My house, Blue, came 2nd in the inter-house competition.
Sun July 10
In the afternoon I rode on my bike up to Apex Corner taking my camera to see if I could get any good pictures. I stopped by the railway bridge and walked for the first time down towards the tracks. There I saw a large gang of workmen shoveling stones into cars on a train. I walked towards the engine. The guard saw me with my camera and hailed me. He asked me if I would like to have my picture taken on the engine. I said I would, & gave him the camera & climbed up on the engine & stood beside the driver. The guard took my picture from the bank & I thanked him. Then I took a picture of the engine with the guard, driver, & another man in front of it. An express train approached and I photographed it just before it thundered by.
Mon July 11
Sensation of the day at school was an article with pictures which appeared this morning on the front page of the "Daily Mail." It was about a man whose sailboat had sunk near Gibraltar & who was found "swimming on his back and waving the Red Ensign" and picked up. The important thing was that this man is the 2-months husband of my Art teacher. An interview is given with her & there are two pictures of her - one yesterday alone & one on the sunk boat with her husband. The article (the length of the page & very prominent) said that the boat was to have been their "honeymoon ship." .It said she was an "ex-pantomime principal boy and Art teacher at a London College." The part which got the biggest laugh at school was in her own words talking about her husband: "Of course, he is completely crazy, but then, so am I, that's why we get along so well together." When she was married it was announced at school that her new name was Mrs. Black, but from the article it appears that it is Blachowski.
"Mrs. Black" was not at school today. I wonder why. From the ideas and conversation I have heard today, I think she will have a pretty hectic time from her pupils As I myself said, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I hope it won't be wasted.
Tues July 12
Mrs. Blachowski came back to school today. At break I went up to her & told her the article had caused quite a sensation. Then she gave me a long indignant talk telling how disgusted she was at the article. She said it was utterly distorted and untrue and that she never said any of the things they "quoted." I believe her, though I suppose there was something in the article. A much truer form appeared in the "News Chronicle." She said she didn't come to school yesterday because of her emotions at the article.
This evening Richmond came up here .We did some interesting experiments in "telepathy." The main one was one I had read about in a book, but I myself was surprised at the results. I went out of the room & Richmond hid an object. Then I came back, held his relaxed right hand in my own, and was thus guided to the object. He was supposed to guide me in his mind [but not at all with his hand.] It worked with surprising success every time. I had to feel his hand carefully, & found that by little subconscious pulls & pushes I was guided, unknown to him.
Thurs July 14
All the boys in my Art class were given detentions for Monday by the teacher for, as it says on the card, "repeated disobedience and rudeness." We were making jokes about the recent sensation.
Fri July 15
We saw some Biology films this morning at school. Most of them consisted of animated diagrams and I found them neither interesting nor instructive. Some of them made me feel sick, though I don't know why. There was one on respiration, one on elimination, one on circulation, & one on digestion.
Sat July 16
This morning I cycled into Edgware .Daddy has expressed his interest in a Baird portable television set & I went to the Norwest electrical company & talked to the man there about it. He said it had a built-in aerial & cost about £58, that it was light & easy to carry from room to room.
We were visited by Mr. & Mrs. Berman. Mr. Berman was off as usual on his crazy theories and beliefs. I laugh to listen to them, but he doesn't seem to mind. This time the theme seemed to be the brain in relation to the body. It is difficult to converse with Mr. Berman because he so readily twists the subject and introduces irrelevant things. To me he is a very interesting character, but I cannot understand or explain him.
Sun July 17
This afternoon Colin & I rigged up an arrangement in our garden something like this. [Diagram shows tennis ball on "strong elastic" hanging from a line strung between our coal shed and a pole driven into the ground in our garden.] It was to practice tennis on, but, when hit, the ball flew madly in all directions, so it wasn't much good.
I played 25 games of table tennis with Colin on his dining room table & won 10 of them. [Colin, who was about my age but went to a more prestigious school, was the only child of our neighbors, the Marshalls, who lived in the adjoining house. Much later - long after I had lost all touch with him - he became the head of British Airways.]
Mon July 18
After school I had to stay in for detention (see July 14). About 20 boys were there & we could do any quiet work we wanted to. I made a draft for a new Detention Card in which, among other things "The Staff requests the pleasure of " the [company of the] detainee.
Wed July 20
Pupils at school who are having exchange visits with Swiss children have been bringing their Swiss guests to school.
Thurs July 21
After school I had a haircut in an establishment in Hendon. The barber took more hair off me, I think, than I can remember having taken off before. I kept asking him to take off more & more. I always have trouble with keeping my hair under control, but it looks nice now. Two new things happened during the haircut: (1) the barber actually used a razor as a sort of scissors (2) he handed me a towel to [wipe] my forehead after the haircut. This is the first time this has happened.
Fri July 22
Today was the last day of the school term. We received our reports. Mine was just about the best I have ever received . I came 2nd in the form for the first time ever .but I feel sure that this was only because the boy who usually comes 2nd [Kenneth Taylor] was on holiday during the exams .
There was the usual end of term assembly which included the usual sitting on the floor and getting cramped, [In ordinary assemblies, we stood. Our school was unusual in being co-educational, but boys stood on one side of the hall, girls on the other] the usual (for me) going up to the platform to receive my report, having been among the top 3 in the form . There were the usual sad goodbyes to teachers who are leaving the school, the usual speeches by them, who, as usual, described it as the most awful moment of their lives. Then there came the usual "surprise" presents to them. We then had the usual long lists, processions, and awards of and to the usual athletics and games heroes, among which I was, as usual, not included. All these events were punctuated by the usual Headmaster's jokes & remarks, and, at the end, when my legs were almost numb, there was the usual "Happy Holiday" wish. About the only thing which I thought interesting & unusual was the presentation of parcels of sweets to the girls who had worked in the tuck-shop [snack-bar.]
Sun July 24
A very long time ago Mr. Berman once promised to give us some offspring of the many plants he keeps in his conservatory. Almost as long ago we sent over some flower-pots for him to put them in, but from that day to this he had never done anything about them, though we constantly reminded him. Yesterday, however, parents were at the Bermans' house in Golders Green & they again reminded him; this time he said he would do them today, & I said I would pick them up this morning.
Thus I arrived at their house at noon today under the impression that the plants would be all ready for me to take home. How sadly I was mistaken! When I arrived, Mr. Berman had not even started on them. For the next hour I had to follow him around his garden filling the pots with various types of soil, sand, & fertilizer. It was very hot - Mr. Berman worked very slowly, & I was getting aggravated.
I must say that Mr. Berman is an extremely good & patient worker; if a stone was not set just right, or there was not just the right amount of earth in a pot, he would go on until it was right. By 1:20 we (I was helping) had only succeeded in filling our 5 pots with the layers of earth & watering them. I was most impatient, though of course I didn't show it. I was then invited to stay for lunch, & as it was chicken, I accepted. All the time I was still thinking that I was going to take the plants away.
After lunch I had to help Mr. Berman fill some pots for another man in the same way we had done mine, after which we started planting 4 little cacti in one of mine. By 3:15 he had only succeeded in doing one of the 5 pots, and then he said that he would keep the plants for a few days, just in case he decided to alter anything. It was then I felt like blowing up.
He said I had only come to help him. I left almost immediately, feeling that my time had been wasted, but I guess I learned something about plants, for Mr. Berman, in spite of his superlative eccentricity, is a clever man, and one can learn a lot from him by watching and listening.
When I came home, Ray & Jack King [family friends] were here, the heat was intense, I had nothing to do, and I felt miserable, so, on the spur of the moment, I decided to go to the movies again. [Had just been the previous day.] I went to the Ritz in Edgware & saw "Hawaiian Nights" (a well-made musical which I found surprisingly entertaining, for I do not usually like them ****.) and "Kit Carson" (Jon Hall - a really exciting picture about pioneers, Indians, & wagon trains with plenty of fighting & shooting *****.)
Grandma Brilliant, who has been staying with us since July 7th left today to stay with Aunty Nan & Uncle Mort [my father's elder brother] for a while. She gave Myrna & me 10/- each before she left.
Mon July 25
The first day of my 6-week summer holiday from school .This afternoon it was again very hot & I decided to go to the Mill Hill open-air swimming pool. It is a short bus-ride from here, & admission is only 4d. The water was quite warm & it was very crowded. I don't consider myself a good swimmer. I know the proper way to swim, but I do not find it easy or enjoyable.
Tues July 26
I continued reading my library book "The Home of Mankind" by Hendrik Van Loon. I have had this book out for a long time, but haven't found time to read it. I have been renewing it regularly.
I seated myself in a deck-chair at the bottom of the garden in the shade of one of the small trees there, & read. I took my [wind-up] gramophone & some records [all still 78s in those days] as company. I find a deck-chair very uncomfortable. The hard wooden bars poke one in all directions.
This afternoon I discovered that three of the records I had taken out had become badly warped - the result, I suppose, of the very hot sun .I put them under heavy weights consisting of boards & books & this has had some success so far .
Wed July 27
Today the decorators finished painting our living-room. They had to go over the coat that they just did because parents thought it was unsatisfactory. In the next few days, my & Myrna's rooms will be done. I have suggested for my room a colour scheme of cream & green; I now have cream & very dark brown.
Thurs July 28
Holiday misery is beginning to set in for me. All day at home I am persecuted by my parents in one way or another. It is Mummy who usually starts it & Daddy is quick to take it up. For this reason I am nearly always unhappy at home & long to get away - the farther & longer the better. The worst part of it is that we are all making each other miserable. Mummy is always expressing her dissatisfaction & saying that she's "sick of everything." Daddy is always bemoaning his lot & never seems to be doing anything he enjoys, and Myrna is just plain grumpy. The disorganization caused by the builders [decorators] being in is increasing our general unrest.
There is a current ½ hour weekly series of radio broadcasts called "The Piddingtons" in which a man & his wife give demonstrations, some of them quite remarkable, of mental telepathy & thought transference. It is very interesting indeed.
Fri July 29
The decorators have now finished our living-room Yesterday they started Myrna's room - the small one in the front, & today they finished it & started mine. Myrna's now has stippled-green walls & plain green wood. My walls are to be yellow-cream & the woodwork green. The two cupboards in my room will be green.
This afternoon I went to the movies, for want of something more enjoyable. I saw "Helter Skelter" (a crazy British film - one of the most unusual I have ever seen. It was a comedy built on a theme, but wandering from it at every opportunity. Because a woman has hiccoughs, we see a ventriloquist act, a slapstick sequence, a satire on the B.B.C., a mock silent film, and many other things - all entirely unconnected. I must give this film **** because it was so unusual & interesting, though I think it failed in its object.) I also saw "Reign of Terror" (about the R. of T. in the French Revolution. All the Frenchmen in it speak with American accents. It was disappointing, for there were few violent mob scenes & only a glimpse of la guillotine ***).
Sat July 30
Today was a happy out-day for me. This morning Mummy wanted to go to Watford to buy some antiques for Uncle Saul [one of her 3 brothers, who had a second-hand store] to sell in Toronto. Antiques are Mummy's newest interest. It doesn't interest me, but I'm glad Mummy can find a diversion like that. If only Daddy had a similar one! Mummy is very enthusiastic too.
Well, I asked Mummy to pack me a lunch, and I went with her by bus to Watford, the fairly large market town about 6 miles from here, planning to go on by myself to St. Albans. I had been to Watford before. I left Mummy in the market and spent the morning looking round the shops. Then, after eating my lunch, I managed to find & get on a bus going to St. Albans, 7 ½ miles further, where I had also been once before.
I spent the whole afternoon in this historic town, famous for its cathedral and Roman remains. I walked through & around the cathedral walked in the pleasure gardens went in the museum & visited the remains of the only Roman theater in Britain Then, to complete the trip, I visited an excavated Roman Hypocaust (the Roman form of central heating) .Before coming home, I photographed a row of very old houses called "French Row."
Sun July 31
Yesterday the decorators finished doing my room The house is now in grand disorder. Furniture in all rooms except the kitchen & lavatory is disorganized & out of place. [As in many English houses, our lavatory was in its own little room, separate from the bathroom] For the past two nights, I have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor in our dining room while my room was being done. Tonight I am moving to the living-room couch which opens out into an uncomfortable bed. My room will be used for holding the furniture from parents' bedroom, which is being done next.
Mon Aug 1
The most important event today was not the first I will relate events as they happened.
Recently, to mark the 1500th anniversary of the Danish invasion of Britain, Denmark sent a reconstructed Viking ship manned by Danes in appropriate costume rowing & sailing from their country to ours Today it was to come up the Thames I determined to see it & photograph it I went by tube to Tower Hill station & thence to the bridge [Tower Bridge] which was lined, along with the neighboring embankment in front of the Tower of London, with crowds of people all there to see the Vikings .It was about 85 minutes before the ship came into view. It was being towed by a tug & the striped sail, which I had hoped to see, was not raised. It was smaller than I expected & had a golden dragon's-head prow. There were many oars at each side & the oarsmen could not be seen because they were hidden behind the rows of shields at the sides of the boat. Thus, only a few of the crew, standing, could be seen.
When the boat had passed under the Bridge, I ran down to the embankment, but couldn't get a very good view I found myself in Billingsgate fish-market (closed , of course) and near to the Monument [of the 1666 Great Fire of London] Seeing that it had a good viewpoint & cost only 6d to enter, I decided to go in for the first time. This was the most interesting part of my day. The Monument is a tall cylinder, slightly tapering, & with a caged platform at the top surmounted by a fiery golden ball. Inside it, to reach the top, was the longest spiral staircase I have ever seen, composed, as notices informed me, of 311 steps. It was thus quite a long climb & the edifice was full of people moving slowly up & more quickly down. It was funny to look down from the top at all the hands & arms moving along the banister.
At the top, I found the best view of London I have ever had, & a man who kept urging everybody to keep moving round. If it had not been for this, I could have stayed up there a long time. It was most enjoyable.
Coming down, I had part of my lunch (I ate it in parts over some hours) & then made my way to the Tower of London. Today being a Bank Holiday, it was open free to the public & as I had never been in it before, in I went, & was there for the rest of the afternoon. My impressions of it are a collection of old buildings with a gruesome history surrounded by a wall .The guide seemed to like talking about subjects like poisonings, beheadings, and torture .
Leaving the Tower of London, I came home. As I entered the door, the phone rang. Daddy answered it. Myrna had gone with a friend to a fete in Bushey, a town a few miles from here. It was this friend who phoned saying that Myrna had fallen off a swing, hurt an ankle, and was now in the Watford Memorial Hospital. Mummy, as usual, was alarmed and anxious, but Daddy was calm. They phoned the hospital & heard that it is a suspected broken ankle, but an X-ray will be made tomorrow. Parents immediately left for the hospital, leaving me here. They returned some hours later, having seen Myrna & ascertained that she was comfortable. I still do not know all the details, but it seems she was on the swing with some other girls & slipped off. She didn't cry or faint & was carried by stretcher & ambulance by St. John's Ambulance men to the hospital. She may be there for some days & may be indisposed for many weeks. We don't know now what will happen about our holiday.
Tues Aug 2
We learned today that Myrna has two broken bones in her ankle. Mummy & Daddy went to see her again this evening. Tomorrow the foot will be set while Myrna is under an anaesthetic.
I got the copy I had had made of the photo I took on July 10 of the three men in front of the [train] engine. When I took it I promised the guard I would send him a copy & he gave me the address, so today I wrote a short note & enclosed the photo with it
I started reading a copy we have of "How To Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie, a book which has sold more copies than any other non-fiction book & is famous the world over.
Wed Aug 3
Today Myrna had the bones in her leg set in hospital. She has broken the tibia and fibula in her foot. Mummy went to see her this evening & found her very miserable. She cried much & said she wanted to come home. This is certainly unexpected conduct from a girl of her age. She may be coming home tomorrow..
The decorators are now doing our hall. They have stripped off
all the wallpaper. The paper looked almost new to me. It was new
when we came here 2 ½ years ago.
Sleeping arrangements have been very confused lately. Tonight Mummy is in Myrna's room; I am in my own room, which is in a horrible mess, & Daddy is on the couch in the living-room.
Thurs Aug 4
Myrna came home from the hospital at Watford today. We have been told that the bones have not set right. She will have to go to the Edgware General Hospital to have it set again.
Most of my day was unhappy. Mummy is constantly nagging me. When she can find no new nags, she goes back to the old ones.
But I did manage to find escape and pleasure in the show at the "Odeon," Burnt Oak. Cinema prices have now been raised, & what were shilling seats are now 1/3s. I saw "Kind Hearts and Coronets" (Dennis Price - a very enjoyable semi-comedy about a man who has 8 relatives standing between himself and a title, and how he disposes of them, one by one .all the 8 relatives (including one woman) are played by one man - Alec Guiness. ****++) and "Fiddlers Three" (Tommy Trinder in a musical inconsequence about going back in time to the days of Rome ***). There was a newsreel showing the Duke of Edinburgh playing in a game of cricket. He was out (bowled) first ball. I was glad of this somehow.
Fri Aug 5
I received a parcel of 3 consecutive copies of the international edition of "Life" magazine These were the 1st of a year's subscription Uncle Marsh gave me.
This evening I went over to Richmond's house & watched the TV. There was an interesting composite program about London, a boring cello recital & a most unusual talk given by an American on the peaceful uses of atomic energy. I felt like laughing in some parts because of the most unusual way the speaker used his hands & made funny noises, but I think I learned from it.
Sat Aug 6
I did many shopping messages for Mummy this morning. She always wakes me up by telling me all the things I will have to do for her during the day.
Myrna is in poor spirits. She has been on our living room couch since she came back from the hospital. Mummy sleeps beside her on the floor. Myrna shrieks & moans at every opportunity & claims that even the vibration caused by a person moving about the room causes her pain.
Having nothing better to do, I went to the movies saw "Watch on the Rhine" (Bette Davis, Paul Lukas - I was very disappointed I had always been under the impression that it was a great film. To me, it was almost a play. It had been made from the play of the same name & can have been little changed. There were long boring conversations. There was little change of scene, & next to no action. I think, however, that the acting was very good. It was about a family from Europe just come to America in 1940. The father is an anti-Nazi underground worker: **-) and "Tarzan and the Mermaids" (Johnny Weismuller - a typical Tarzan picture with a ridiculous story & a lot of swimming: ***).
Sun Aug 7
A horrible day for me - lonely and miserable. I spent most of my time in my room, clearing up and trying vainly to amuse myself. The radio no longer gives me any pleasure. A television set would be just the thing in times like these.
I photographed Myrna on a couch, with her leg showing in the cast.
Mon Aug 8
Myrna will be going to the hospital in Edgware tomorrow .She has been complaining that the plaster cast cramped & irritated her toes.
Tues Aug 9
An ambulance took [Myrna & parents] to the hospital. I had to stay home to deal with phone calls etc . An X-ray was again taken of Myrna's leg & she was brought home again. While I was here alone there was a dinging of fire-engines outside & I rushed out to see that two engines had stopped outside a house only 5 or 6 doors away from here. I ran over & was disappointed that it didn't look serious. Either a portion of a fence or some rubbish between the fence & the garage had caught alight. There was a small amount of smoke & a fireman was playing water from a hose onto the area. I thought of my camera & rushed back to get it. I took a picture of several firemen & the lady of the house standing around the spot of the outbreak, but I don't think it will be very good.
Wed Aug 10
Today was another nice day out for me. Mummy made me a sandwich lunch & I set out first of all for the Hendon Magistrates Court where I determined to go in the public gallery .It turned out I was the only spectator. The cases appeared to be concerned with money matters - inability to pay debts. I was surprised that the judge was a woman. The courtroom (the first I have ever been in) was much as I expected I tried to be, but was not, very interested. After these cases, the court was adjourned for 10 minutes, & the few people there had to stand while the judge went out. While I was waiting, a policeman came & asked how old I was. I told him 15, & he said I had to be over 17 to be able to be there - so I had to go. He said that there wasn't anything interesting on anyway & that tomorrow would be the interesting day. He suggested I might try to slip in unnoticed then.
Leaving the courthouse, I got on a bus [going down the Edgware
.I wanted to see an exhibition [near Marble Arch but
got off in Kilburn and walked the rest of the way.] I had my camera
with me & was on the lookout for anything unusual. I found
it. Walking down the Edgware Rd I passed along & through Maida
Vale, the district which consists of nothing but blocks &
blocks of flats [apartments] on either side of the road and then
after looking in shops etc. I saw some people staring across a
vacant lot at a car round which there were several policemen.
I went over, and just around a corner I saw something very interesting.
A scene for a film was being shot
and there were two big
movie cameras, one raised on a platform. A crowd of people were
looking on & being held back by real policemen (for I found
that the others I had seen were actors.) A car on one side of
the very narrow road had been made to look as if it had crashed
into a fence there. A large brewery truck was parked nearby
When I got there, the director was instructing some actors. Then I saw a rehearsal, and it was indeed very thrilling. As the police car came dashing to the scene, a man climbed out of the crashed car and shot a man working at the truck. The police then leapt at the shooter and dragged him away while one policeman bent over the shot man and two women came out to look. I saw this scene done 4 or 5 times I left when they stopped for lunch.
Thurs Aug 11
We are leaving for a week's holiday in Westcliff in two days' time. ["Westcliff-on-Sea," a seaside resort about 34 miles east of London.] I think we are going to have a lot of difficulty with Myrna. Parents went with her by ambulance to Edgware Hospital this afternoon & the doctor said that the last X-rays showed that the leg was healing well; but Myrna will not try to walk on it, saying it hurts.
This evening I went to Richmond's house & played ball [and] card games. I met his elder brother Frank, about whom he has often talked, for the first time.
Fri Aug 12
This afternoon I went to the movies because I specially wanted to see "The Four Feathers" I am very glad I went. Though a rather old picture, it was in colour, and was most exciting. It was the story of a soldier who is believed a coward and who sets about to redeem himself in the war against the Dervishes and Fuzzy Wuzzies in the Sudan. Scenes of fighting in the desert were breathtaking: *****).
Sat Aug 13
Well, here we are in the "Clivedon" Boarding House, Manor Road, Westcliff - not so far from home, but a change, and that is what matters. Last year we were in Westcliff for 2 days. This time we plan to stay a week.
This morning I went into Edgware to borrow a pair of walking sticks from the Rosenbaums [family friends] for Myrna to use
We left home about 2:30 p.m. & immediately difficulties with Myrna arose, as I expected. She can only hop slowly along & she sighs & moans unnecessarily with every step.
We went by bus & taxi to Fenchurch St. Station and left there at 4 p.m. The train ride did not take long, but there was trouble when we arrived, for Daddy, who had planned to hire or borrow an invalid chair for Myrna, was unable to procure one, and it took some time to get Myrna to the boarding-house. This evening, however, Daddy was able to hire a chair from an establishment in Southend. Westcliff is part of the borough of Southend, but the central part of the borough is called Southend.
I started off with Daddy to get this chair, but at the bus stop we were at the front of the queue & there was only room for one on the bus, so Daddy got on & said he would meet me on the [beach] front. But hard as I looked & long as I walked, I could not find him. Eventually I walked right through Southend & back to the boarding-house, where I later met Mummy, Daddy & Myrna with Cousin Rex & Uncle Sam (Daddy's relations who live in Westcliff). By then it was time to go to bed.
Sun Aug 14
Our first whole day at Southend was made up mainly of much walking and much talking, the talking being mainly between Daddy, Cousin Rex, & Uncle Sam on dull subjects & in many places including the beach front & Rex & his wife Essie's residence at the rear of their shoe shop, the "Fashion Box." They were very kind to us, & this evening, because I was hungry, Essie made me 6 peanut butter & jam sandwiches & sent us home with 2 bars of chocolate.
Mummy has already made friends with 2 women at the boarding-house & has found that with one of them, Mrs. Fine, she has many mutual Canadian acquaintances.
This afternoon I went with Daddy for a swim in the sea - my
first sea swim for 2 years. We changed in bathing huts & I
had a very enjoyable swim. The reason I liked it so much was that
we were able to hire a life-belt for 4d, and this gave me more
fun than I have ever had in a swim before
.It was a sort
of long rubber tube, the ends of which hooked around the body.
What a thrill it was to feel that I could not sink!
Here in Southend, when the tide goes out there are great expanses of mud as far as the eye can see. I have noticed a greater number of television aerials than I have ever seen in any part of London.
Mon Aug 15
Parents have now become very friendly with Mrs. Fine whom I mentioned yesterday. There are several strange things about this woman. She doesn't look over 60, yet she is married to a man of 79. What is more, she has only been married to him for 5 years. This man, though he has lived in Westcliff for 50 years, cannot read or write English.
This morning I went with Daddy by bus up to the famous 1 1/3 mile long Southend Pier - the longest pier in the world. It looks very beautiful when it & all the front are lit up at night with decorative illuminations. Beside it on show was a full-size replica of the "Golden Hind," the ship in which Drake sailed round the world. I had my camera & wanted to take a picture of it I had the idea of taking it from one of the balconies of the Palace Hotel, the largest hotel in Southend, which overlooked the scene, and, strangely, Daddy encouraged me to do this. So I walked up to the door, walked boldly into the lobby & up the stairs as if I were a resident . & on every floor looked for some way out onto the balcony. I finally found a door marked "emergency exit" which led onto the fire escape. I climbed up the fire escape until I found myself on the top floor facing a metal ladder leading to the roof. After a moment's hesitation I went up this onto the roof. There was a lovely view, and I took 2 photographs. All the time, I was afraid someone would see me. Then I came down the same way & out through the lobby without anyone looking twice at me.
After that I walked with Daddy to the big indoor & outdoor amusement arcade known as the Kursaal. There we stayed some time, looking but not spending . The proprietors of many stalls tried to get me to "have a go" as business was bad, but I had no intention of doing this & only studied their methods of approach; and these were all pretty much the same: Firstly they would lean across the stall and beckon to me, calling me "Curly" or "Son" or "Sunny Jim." Then they would explain that they were just opening for the day - could I help them to get started. Then I was told how easy it was to win a prize & some concession [special offer] was made, such as 6 throws instead of 4. However, I resisted all this.
This evening I went to the very attractive Westcliff bandstand,
where I enjoyed for 6d a concert of light music played by Charles
Shadwell & his orchestra. There were several singers. The
seemed perfect for the concert.
So far, the food at this boarding house has been very satisfactory, especially the meat luncheon - but there is never enough of it. I could always eat more.
Tue Aug 16
This evening I went to the last show at the "Mascot" Cinema, Westcliff, to see "Knock On Any Door" (Humphrey Bogart - very good social study of the decline and fall of a young man in the slums of a big city. The Moral is supposed to be that we - society - are responsible for the murder he eventually committed & his execution which followed. ****)
Wed Aug 17
I had several pieces of luck today: This morning I found some uncollected lucky charms in the prize-box of a slot-machine; I also found a 3-sectioned leather purse containing 2s/1 ½ d on the sidewalk, and this afternoon I found a tennis ball on the beach.
This afternoon I went swimming again. The water was warm, but the air was so cold that it eventually forced me to come out. The mud at the bottom of the water feels repulsively squelchy to one's feet.
I sent a postcard to my friend Richmond in Edgware. He is soon going on holiday to France.
This evening I had the bitter experience of going to a greyhound race-track for the 1st & probably the last time. A woman at our boarding house goes regularly to the Southend Stadium & offered to take Daddy & me. Cousin Rex came with us. . . Daddy said he was going only to show me what it was like, but for him it was a most expensive evening. It was painful and surprising to see him almost throwing money away. Though Rex paid our taxi fare (2/6 each!) Daddy paid our admission (4/6 each plus 6d program). There were 8 races altogether and Daddy bet on every one of them. In the evening he lost £3"16s!! I watched the races intently & decided that there was not an iota of sport in them. Everything was money and gambling. I did not understand the complicated totalisator system, nor did I understand the ways of betting, but I learned enough to dislike it
Fri Aug 19
Today I had the first signs of an approaching cold. They became worse as the day went on & now I have a very sore throat & my nose keeps dripping. This is probably due to my swim two days ago.
This evening was the big night of the week for me. I went with
cousin Rex and his wife Essie's brother Ronnie to see all-in wrestling
at the poorly ventilated hall known as the Gliderdrome. This was
a new experience for me
The hall was packed & there
were some few women & children, but we had very good reserved
seats in the 3rd row. I cannot describe all my emotions
times I was amused, horrified, excited, nauseated - but never
bored. I thought about many aspects as I watched - the skill of
the wrestlers --, the toughness of their bodies --, the job of
the referee - the painful breathing and agonized expressions on
the wrestlers' faces. All the time the audience were shouting
& cheering madly. One bout had a man weighing 330 lb in it.
He bulged all over. Every time he was thrown (!) the floor shook.
One wrestler was cut above the eye & had blood all over his
I will remember the way hand and arm went white under a paralyzing grip; the wrestler who, after being beaten unfairly in the match (a trick was used in which a man pats his opponent on the back in the manner of the referee when he wants the fighters to break, and the opponent relaxes his grip) shook hands with his opponent, and then punched him in the face, knocking him flat -- & then climbed out of the ring.; the way a man gradually crumpled under a rain of slashes with the side of the hand & blows with the back of the hands & arms - how he tried once vainly to rise & was then counted out.
This was our last day here. Tomorrow we are going home.
Sat Aug 20
Myrna's leg is very slightly improved She doesn't moan quite so much.
We left Westcliff Station about 5:30 p.m. & got home about 8:30 . I found a letter waiting for me concerning something I had forgotten all about . from the driver's daughter [of the train crew I had photographed on July 10] telling how pleased he was with [the photo] & asking for 6 postcard size enlargements, for which, of course, he will pay. It was very nicely written & a stamped addressed envelope was thoughtfully enclosed. It gave me a strange feeling of pleasure
Sun Aug 21
This evening I went to a movie I had long wanted to see "Mutiny On The Bounty," the famous film starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable .The performance of Laughton was truly gripping. In the other roles I could not quite accustom myself to the American accents with which all the "Englishmen" spoke .****
Mummy has taken down the two pictures we used to have in the
dining-room, one of a house in the countryside & one, a famous
one, of a street in Venice. Though only copies, I liked these
pictures very much & thought they fitted perfectly the places
where they were hung. But Mummy thinks otherwise and so a change
which much saddens me is made. It makes me realize how accustomed
one gets to everyday things in the home & how even I, who
advocate progress & improvements, am hurt by a radical change.
Mummy's hair is beginning to go grey. Daddy's is part-grey. Time goes on
Mon Aug 22
GOOD NEWS .Daddy announced that he had arranged for a trial period demonstration of the [Baird portable TV set] and, if Daddy likes it, it may stay for good.
Tues Aug 23
VERY GOOD NEWS Mummy was not home when [the Baird TV] was installed, so I supervised the proceedings & the man explained to me how to operate the set.. It is a beautiful piece of furniture - has a 9" screen. There will come a time when people will look back on these early sets with laughter and perhaps a little contempt, but right now to me it is just about the most marvelous product of the hand of man . The price is £58"12s"6d. Colin came to watch in the evening.
Wed Aug 24
I took a book out of the traveling library (this is a very pleasant large truck equipped as a library which comes to this area every week because Edgware does not as yet have a permanent library) called "Love of Life - and other Stories" by Jack London. I spent most of the afternoon reading stories from this book & found that they were nearly all miserable and brutal.
This evening the whole family watched the whole evening's television for the first time. Daddy will still not say definitely whether he intends to buy the set or not.
Thurs Aug 25
When I asked Daddy if he will buy the TV set .he said "Probably."
Fri Aug 26
Today Mummy told the salesman that we will buy the Baird portable model that we have been having here on demonstration. This marks the end of perhaps the longest period of hopeful waiting that I have ever experienced.
Sat Aug 27
[Daddy] was able to get a pass for me [to an "Engineering and Marine Exhibition" at which, for a week, he was manning a Government Exports booth] so I went down to Olympia [exhibition hall] at 3 this afternoon, where he was waiting for me. The Exports stand was a small one & its only attraction was a large rotating globe. There was a tiny office in the middle of it. It would not be an understatement to say that Daddy did not have much work to do Most of the time he just sat . We always make fun of Daddy at home because of the small amount of work we think he does, but, from this afternoon's experience, I begin to wonder if there is not something in it after all
Sunday Aug 28
I was not satisfied with this day. I have many self-improvement projects in which I try to busy myself at available moments, but could interest myself in nothing today. These projects include learning to type, cultivating a better memory, learning as much geography and history as I can, and trying to get interested in the works of Shakespeare.
I often find when I am thinking to myself that my thoughts always run in terms of pen & paper. In other words, I think of putting whatever thought I am thinking into writing. This is perplexing, because, when I set out to write anything, I find it difficult to put my ideas into words. I feel, however, that the literate way in which my mind works is indicative of some powers or potentialities as a writer.
Since our TV set is here to stay, I must institute a system of reporting here what I see on it .In this country at this time TV is in black & white & has 405 lines of definition. This may sound strange one day, but I am quite satisfied .Far too much transmission time is taken up with people playing violins, or just sitting and talking. There is still only one station - Alexandra Palace - from which all studio programs come. Plays are mostly well-produced and well-acted. Outside broadcasts are hampered by bans on televised sport.
Mon Aug 29
I heard that there was a ballet on this evening in Harringay Arena. I have long wanted to see ballet, so decided to go I am not quite sure what things were performed, as, after paying 5/- to get in, I did not feel like spending any more on a program .I was not wildly excited, but I marveled at the grace & beauty of the dancers & admired their skill.
Wed Aug 31
Parents, especially Mummy, have often taunted me & urged me about not having a job or doing anything to earn any money. On top of this I have often rebuked myself about it & am now more than ever feeling the need to have an income of some kind. Last night I decided to advertise for employment. There are several shops near here which have advertisement boards outside on which a card may be displayed for 6d or 1/- a week. This morning I made out 2 identical cards & took them to 2 different shops to be put up for a week. This is what they said:
STRONG, INTELLIGENT BOY WILL UNDERTAKE ANY REASONABLE EMPLOYMENT. / Do you need any Floors swept? Babies minded? Lawns mowed? Shopping done? Furniture moved? I will: Read newspapers to old folks; Take dogs for walks; Photograph children or grown-ups; Pick fruit; Run errands./ QUEUE-STANDING A SPECIALTY. Act now - Do not delay./ Contact EDG 1710 at once. 67 Highview Ave., Edgware.
I do not expect any replies & will be much surprised if I get any. Anyway it's worth trying & the idea appeals to me.
A display by the "Magic Circle" on TV tonight, though entertaining, persuaded me that "magic" is not worth watching or paying money to see. I have long held this opinion vaguely, but am now sure of it.
Thurs Sept 1
Every once in a long while we receive a visit from one of the strangest characters I know Johnny Lensnor the man we all know as "Little Johnny." Tonight our dwelling was graced with his presence. I do not really know much about him except that Mummy knew him years ago in Toronto and that he now lives in the East End with his sister whom Mummy describes as "loony" .In appearance he's very short, has white hair and large, humourous eyes. Two important things about his visits are that they are always unexpected - he never lets us know that he is coming - and that he invariably arrives just in time for lunch or supper which of course is never refused him and which he never refuses.
He often sends us by post unsolicited packages of butter or margarine, which he does not use, and occasionally sends us a calendar which he obtains where he works (he has something to do with the P.O. telegraphs.) There is much that is pathetic about him, for, though he is aging, he is not married & has to keep working to support himself and his sister. One kind thing which Mummy often says about him, though she often makes uncomplimentary remarks about him, is that he never forsook or forgot his parents (now dead) during the depression .He has a whining voice & seems to find it difficult to express any idea in conversation. He stammers & repeats the same thing over & over again. He laughs loudly at jokes which are not very funny & has a habit of putting his right hand to the side of his nose when he does this. The thing about him which seems most pathetic to me is the fact that, although we hardly ever communicate with him, he never forgets us & often sends us letters or postcards from places he visits.
Fri Sept 2
In the theory of time which I have long been formulating the essential point is the assumption of some smallest possible [unit of] time .It has been difficult to define this, but I have now thought of a way The smallest possible [length] of time would be the time taken for the fastest possible thing to pass the narrowest possible thing. What is the former? I think it is light. The latter? Perhaps it is an atom. Let us say then that a time-atom is the time taken for a ray of light (in its fastest medium) to travel the width of one atom.
Sat Sept 3
It is today ten years since the beginning of the Second World War. It is now my most sincere and fervent prayer that mankind shall never see another .Yet at this very moment men are shooting each other in China in their civil war; governments are being overthrown with violence in South America; and America and Russia are accusing each other of being warmongers
Mon Sept 5
I had planned today as an outing day & wanted to go somewhere on the south coast where I hadn't been before, but no trains were available, so Mummy gave me 5/- to go on any bus ride I decided to go to Aylesbury, the county town of Buckinghamshire, about 28 miles from here I found Aylesbury a small, very quiet town full of old buildings and very narrow streets and alleys .One exhibit [in the town's museum] had a sign which said "The Curator will be very grateful to anyone who can tell him what this is." It had been dug up some years before. Also in the museum was an interesting collection of butterflies, moths, & insects. Some of the beetles, spiders etc. were so large and ugly that I was taken aback. They were, of course, all dead, with pins stuck through them.
I also visited the town's library, which was one of the worst I have ever seen. Thousands of books were crammed into a single room in one wing of an old school. (An interesting thing about this school is that its brick wall and those of nearby buildings are marked with many deep scratches. These, I learned in the museum, were made by the scholars of bygone ages who used to sharpen their writing instruments against the brickwork). They were not in disorder, but the books were pushed & crowded on the shelves in all positions. The shelves were very tall and crowded, and were only a few feet apart, so that it was difficult for one person to pass another, and it gave me the impression of being completely surrounded by books. The 2 librarians' desks were somehow wedged in between the shelves
I sat down on a bench to eat my lunch, but just then I saw a bus marked "Oxford." I wanted to go to Oxford, so I jumped on The day was hot & the sun shone fiercely. Oxfordshire was the fourth county I had been in today - the 2nd for the 1st time. The countryside was mostly flat & rather monotonous - green and yellow fields broken here and there by a few hay-ricks.
Oxford is about 62 miles from home. When I arrived there, a fun-fair was in progress On sale were hydrogen-filled balloons & it became an increasingly common sight to see these floating in the sky after soaring out of the hands of their luckless owners. I did not see much of Oxford; I looked in the main shops, but only saw the outside of one college - Christ Church. I did get the impression, however, of many churches and spires and of much fine architecture. I came home the same way & did not arrive home until 8:30 p.m.
Wed Sept 7
back to school for the start of my first term in the 5th form next May or June we will take the General Schools Examination Because of this exam, all my lessons in all subjects this year will be leading up to it. The exam syllabus must be followed. There will be much more homework & we will have more lessons per week in all exam subjects. It may now be seen, perhaps, why I am so firmly against examinations & particularly ones such as these. All else must be forsaken in pursuit of the coveted pass. You must learn, not about things you want to know or which will be useful to you in future life, but about things which will help you get through the examination. Teachers are not concerned with preparing you for future citizenship & a place in the world - [which should be] the real object, I think, of all schooling - they only want to get you through the exam. What a pitiful state of affairs! The coming year will be of necessity a year of cramming and memorizing - all for a few pieces of paper which cut themselves an unfair portion of your life.
Other changes - we are in a different form-room now, which has no attraction other than desks known as "lift-ups" the top of the desk is on a hinge & although getting things out of it necessitates the removal of things already on top, it alleviates the effort of bending oneself almost double to get books from the other kind .Our form is smaller. 3 people have been kept back in the 4th form Also a girl is away with TB. We 5th formers have the "privilege" of being able to stay in our form-rooms before school or during break & lunch hour. There is a superlatively stupid regulation forbidding others to do this. There are, of course, about 90 new 1st-form pupils (known as "rabs" for some obscure reason.)
This evening I was greatly surprised to receive a telephone call in reply to the advertisement I had put up on August 31st . It was a lady who lived in Brook Avenue, near here. She wanted me to mow some lawns .I went right round to her house & she gave me several jobs to do. I mowed the back lawn & weeded it & the front & helped to pick some plums. I worked for about 1 ½ hours &, as I told her to give me what she thought fit, she gave me 2/-. I did not take this thanklessly, but I did work very hard, & would have been more glad at 2/6. She said I should come again on Saturday morning to do some shopping or something. She did give me some orangeade. I felt very hungry when I came home, & ate a better meal than I would usually.
Thu Sept 8
The first Art lesson under a new teacher [Miss Ward] we were given pencil, eraser, drawing book. We made portfolios in which to keep our art work & were told that this term we would be having Art homework for the first time.
Our main books in English this year will be Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," "Silas Marner " by George Eliot, and the "Anthology of Modern Verse."
I now sit next to Richmond at school dinners. He dishes out
the meals. I helped, for the first time. The portions are miserably
small. Today we had jelly for dessert. I had previously seen it
set out on a window-ledge to harden. It had a visible layer of
dust on it.
In my form at school are the Wright brothers [Brian & Donald Wright, non-identical] twin sons of our window-cleaner. One, Brian, was not at school all last term & won't be all this term because of a growth on his lung. He cannot do any sort of exercise, though he can walk about. This evening I invited them both up here (they do not live far away - very near Richmond) to see our TV we watched the whole evening's transmissions Tea was served.
Sat Sept 10
This evening Mummy & Daddy went to a reunion dance of Daddy's old tennis club. This affair was expertly organized by Uncle Mort.
Sunday Sept 11
Parents are discussing the possibility of sending Myrna to a Pitman's business school I do not think that Myrna is particularly suited for a business career. She has no great skill in English, is a poor speller, and does not have a sense of business.
Tues Sept 13
.Myrna, [who] has been wearing a cast on her broken leg since the beginning of August had the cast removed. Mummy, who saw the removal, said that the leg was very swollen and bruised. It is now done up in bandages.
Daddy absolutely refuses to tell me how much money he earns, putting forward such absurd excuses as, it has nothing to do with me, or, if he told me, I might tell someone who would let the neighbors know, and why should they know?
Wed Sept 14
Mummy's friend Mrs Summers lives a few doors down the street [their] garden has a pear-tree They have given us much of [the fruit]. I love the cooked cinnamon pears which Mummy makes .
Thurs Sept 15
[Daddy and I went to an advertised meeting of the Jewish Psychic Society to see a demonstration of clairvoyance. In] the lecture by [David] Bronkhorst he related the many "proofs" he had had of survival after death. It was all very interesting because he was so sincere (as was everyone) but most incredible. Daddy kept muttering "Bilge!" and that annoyed me. There were many accounts of manifestations, ectoplasm, mediums, and "guides." The highlight was the demonstration by the medium, Ena Twigg I can truly say that she was a wonderful performer. It is not for me to say whether there was anything in it, though everything in me is against it.
The whole thing was very showy and theatrical. The medium, a quite young woman, simply stood on the stage, moving her hands & arms the whole time. Then she would call out to a certain person . asking if they had any connection with Berlin or Art or the R.A.F. or a man killed in a motor crash. Sometimes the answer was yes, sometimes sort of, & often no .It is quite possible that it was all a complete fraud She was wrong, I think, more often than not, but .she could make a person forget an error by going on quickly to something else The meeting ended with questions. I felt like asking if animals & insects had souls & passed over, but did not have the nerve.
Mon Sept. 19
..it is now becoming increasingly obvious that the only concern of practically all our teachers is to get us through those exams .Such phrases as "the examiners expect you to know" or "examiners don't like" are all too common in lessons.
Tues Sept 20
[I attended] my first Shakespeare play, [Donald Wolfit's modern-dress production of "Julius Caesar]. Almost all the characters wore present-day military uniforms In Antony's forum speech, there is a microphone before him on the rostrum. Brutus, speaking of a big hurricane lamp in front of him, says "How ill this taper burns." I hope some day to see this play done correctly.
Wed Sept 21
A rainy day. Several things weigh on my mind tonight. I have had a difficult day at school. I have not done all my homework. Daddy has angered me by making me keep quiet every time I wanted to say something during the TV program. What has hurt me most of all was a discovery of something Mummy kept from me. I saw a letter of Mummy's [probably in her typewriter] in which she told how the lady I have been working for recently phoned up & said she had a job for me as a baby sitter. She turned this offer down without saying anything to me about it. In the letter she said she knew I would be "furious" if I found out. I appreciate that Mummy did this only because she didn't want me to have any unnecessarily late nights, but it does seem unfair that she said nothing to me about it. I am now reading through for the second time Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." I wonder if I can apply the principles of that book to these last 2 problems.
..I bear no stronger ill-will to any aspect of my school life than to the weekly music lessons, and, in particular, to Miss Poulton, the teacher I like music, in a very broad sense. I feel that young people should be given a wide preparation for the music they are going to hear all the rest of their lives. To begin with, we have only one 40-minute music period a week In about 75% of all the lessons we have not heard or sung a note of music. Very often the fat teacher would tell us to bring books for private study so that she could get on with some private work. She treated our lesson as one of her free periods. In only about 1% of the lessons have we ever sung a song If we were very lucky, we might hear part of a record. She would talk about it for so long that when she put it on to play, the bell would ring. 2 weeks ago (and this is no exaggeration) she spent 38 minutes of the 40-minute period talking technical musical terminology about the record she was going to play The worst I can say about this teacher is that she doesn't care. She isn't fit to be a teacher .What burns me up most is that I fear many pupils because they dislike their music lessons will come to dislike all good music. What an infinite pity and disgrace.
Thurs Sept 22
Our new art teacher has what seems to me a very silly system of marking. The marks are always out of 10, and she says that she hardly ever gives above 8. She also says that a 7 is a bad mark. This means that practically all the marks are 8 or 8-, and one has little idea where one really stands.
Sun Sept 25
.I did my final drawing of a boy in a tree reaching for some conkers [horse-chestnuts] & am quite satisfied with it, apart from the leaves of the tree, which I found very difficult .I finished a draft of an English essay on the style & subject matter of the poems of W.H. Davies. I enjoyed these 2 pieces of work much more than I usually like doing homework, which is not at all & quite the opposite.
Mon Sept 26
There was a reshuffle today at school of the lunchroom seatings .There are two sittings. Every table seats 8 people. Every table must have two table prefects. The duties of a table prefect consist of dishing out the food setting the table before lunch, piling up the plates, and swabbing the table. It is a rotten job because it is thankless and rewardless .Now it has become compulsory for all 5th formers who have school dinners to become table prefects. I have to sit at the head of a table of 1st form boys & girls with another boy from my form & dish out all the food. I dislike doing it, but it does give me a sense of responsibility. [It was also a chance to secure a better portion.]
Tues Sept 27
Good News: [Despite my negative feelings about the School Council] I was today informed that I had been elected one of the 5 representatives from the 5th forms .I had long wanted to get on the Council, but had little hope Our class nominated 3 people on Friday, I being one of them .I am very glad I was elected, but this new situation in no way alters my attitude to the School Council. I have attended several of their meetings, and have seen what little power they really possess
Wed Sept 28
On the whole, I have always disliked the subjects of Chemistry and Physics. Now I do so more than ever. I seem to be falling behind in them .
We heard a few (too few) parts of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera "H.M S. Pinafore" in music lesson. I thought it absolutely delightful, and could have murdered the teacher who would go on talking and talking about the plot and the stage production when she could have been playing more of those wonderful records.
We are learning about figures of speech in English lessons now, and I think it very interesting. I am surprised that there are so many different kinds.
Sat Oct 1
Well, today I went for the first time to the Saturday morning art classes at Hornsey Art School, to which I won a scholarship by passing an exam I rode by tube & bus for an hour to get there [of about 70 students] there were far more girls than boys We were asked to draw anything suggested by the words "First Day of Term." Most people did a straight drawing, but I embarked on one of my surrealist specialties The class lasts from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m .During [a break] I looked at the work others had done. I was surprised at the low standard I then understood why so many people had passed the exam The standard must have been much lower than I expected. Although this is a "scholarship" course, we were given an impressive list of items, including brushes, paints, and a palette, that we must supply ourselves with.
From Hornsey I went to Olympia where I had arranged to meet my friend Richmond to go to "Radiolympia," the mammoth radio exhibition All the things which I particularly wanted to see, such as the demonstration of colour TV and the B.B.C. TV studio had so many people waiting to see them that it was not worth waiting, but I did have one thrill:-- It was possible for anyone who wanted to, to be televised on a closed circuit and to see himself on a TV screen. Richmond & I each did this & were much amused, though we each had only a few seconds on the screen .It was strange that I had to hurry home from Radiolympia in order to be in time to see a TV variety show which was coming from there. It was not a very good show either.
Sun Oct 2
Today was Erev [the eve of]Yom Kippur. We began our fast at 7:15 p.m. I think that fasting is rather silly However it is one way of making a day different from all the others, and, like knocking your head against a brick wall, it does feel so nice when you stop This evening I went to the Edgware shul [synagogue] for the Kol Nidrei service [ushering in the Day of Atonement.] I left towards the end. Mummy & Daddy went too, but I did not see them there.
An incident which rather pained me today occurred when Daddy slipped on a carpet in the hall. He could not get up & I had to help him, but he was alright.
Myrna has had the cast off her leg for some weeks now. She still goes to the hospital for exercises. She has not been to school all this term, and I do not approve of this. She will be starting to Pitman's school soon.
Mon Oct 3
Today was Yom Kippur and we all fasted. I didn't go to shul. I am usually miserable on Y.K., but I found enough to keep me busy, such as covering this and my last diary .This afternoon I walked along the railway tracks near here, & read some Physics books on the way. I felt weak towards the end of the fast at 7:15, but enjoyed the chicken meal enormously. I was, of course, excused from school.
Tues Oct 4
Back to school today. There are some few Jewish pupils in my school, and, because of this, on the major Hebrew holidays such as yesterday, no new work is done .I don't know if it was yesterday's fasting, but I have not been feeling quite well, and have been having mild eliminatory troubles and occasional stomach pains.
Wed Oct 5
In the [TV] newsreel there was a section which showed a complete film of a train-ride from London to Brighton [about 54 miles] - in four minutes! The film was taken from the front of the train and we were given the impression that we were traveling at 750 m.p.h It was thrilling to see the surroundings whizzing by. I don't know exactly how it was done.
Thurs Oct 6
I was unwilling model [for a life-drawing in Art class]. I found it very uncomfortable keeping still, even for 10 minutes.
After school I went with Richmond to see the now-famous film of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" with Lawrence Olivier It was the first time I had been to a cinema since we bought our TV I enjoyed most of it, but would have enjoyed it much more if I had known it better I was surprised how many of the phrases in the play were familiar to me because they have come into common use, e.g. "Frailty, thy name is woman," "A consummation devoutly to be wished," "Perchance to dream"
Fri Oct 7
There was a large prominent article on the front page of the "Hendon and Finchley Times" which came out today, headed "NO COUNTY SCHOOL CAROL FESTIVAL." For many years our school has held a festival of carols each year around Christmas. Though this annual event has become quite famous in the district, and school pupils past & present have taken part, the Jewish pupils have always been excluded. Now, as the article relates, 1/3 of the school is Jewish, and it has been wisely decided not to hold the Carols this year, but to give the Gilbert & Sullivan opera, "H.M.S. Pinafore," later on. The article tells of the indignation of the old pupils, who thought of the annual carols as the only link with the old school. I sympathise with them, but I am glad that now I will have a chance of participating in a school musical event.
Today, the first boys' rehearsal for "Pinafore" was held after school I went with Richmond, and we were placed in the 2nd basses & rehearsed some parts of the Chorus. Of course, not all of the many boys who turned up will get parts .
Sat Oct 8
My second Saturday morning at the Art School .Up to now, I have been sadly disillusioned in the lessons. We have not been taught one solitary thing None of the work is marked or even discussed or criticized
Grandma Brilliant came this evening to stay with us for a few days.
Sun Oct 9
This evening we had for guests Uncle Mort & Auntie Nan, and [my father's] Aunt Sadie & Uncle Alf .Uncle Mort gave me some stamps, most of which I already have .There are some things I like about him and others I do not. Among this latter is the way he talks to Aunty Nan in front of us. He seems to be always belittling her and the things she says. We never get enough of her personality; he overshadows her. [Mortimer Brilliant was the oldest of 4 brothers, and, like my father, a professional British Civil Servant. He was also my godfather.]
Mon Oct 10
This morning a boy fainted for some reason while our Headmaster was telling us of the punishment he was going to give a 5th-form girl for not working hard enough. This consisted of making her do her lessons for today by herself in the corridor
After school there was held the first meeting this term of the School Council to which I have recently been elected .The Head takes a large part in the meetings He is a smooth talker, and always manages to have what he wants done Most proposals dealt with ordinary school matters, eg "That there should be a longer games period" or "That there should be other inter-House activities besides sports." I was elected to the dinner sub-committee. If I was asked what effect the meeting has had on the school I could truthfully say "none." The school is just the same.
Tues Oct 11
The dinner sub-committee held its first meeting We investigated the possibilities of a new system for the distribution of cutlery
I think I am getting a cold.
News: a gruesome double-murder has been committed in Edgware A Jewish man & his wife were murdered in their home in Ashcombe Gdns. It is rumoured that their son-in-law did it. I thought I would like to see the murder-house, but I didn't know where the street was. I went out for 1 ½ hours looking for it, but did not find it. I discovered later that I had been quite close to it.
26 ½ out of 40 in a Chemistry test. My attitude towards Chemistry is one of boredom, though I feel that I ought to like it Chemistry should be one of the most interesting school subjects. I guess that it's all in the way it's taught.
Wed Oct 12
I went up to the murder house It was being guarded by 2 policemen, but, apart from some broken flowers in the front garden, I could see nothing unusual. It was just an ordinary house.
The Headmaster has reported stock missing from the school tuck-shop and has declared the existence of a thief (or thieves) in the school. He threatens to permanently close the tuck-shop.
Fri Oct 14
At school dinner today I nearly damaged a tooth on a stone the size of a pea which I found in my meat. When I complained, the man said nothing could be done about it or to prevent it happening again. It is very nice for the Headmaster to say, "If you have any complaints, tell them to Mr. Springate," but one might as well save one's breath.
I attended the 2nd ["Pinafore"] rehearsal I don't enjoy singing...a well-known tune [when] I have to sing it in different notes. This is called harmony. When I sing, I often think about sound & octaves & air vibrations and the range of the voice etc. I know little about this, and would like to know more.
Sat Oct 15
Back to the art school for the 3rd Saturday morning .We had a woman model who did about 4 different poses .We had to use charcoal, and I found this a very difficult medium. Sometimes the charcoal would not make a mark; sometimes it made too thick a line; sometimes pieces of it broke off; it was difficult to erase. I did not enjoy the drawing, and was dissatisfied with all the drawings I did. This week, for the first time, the instructor, a young man, gave suggestions and criticisms. One thing he told me stuck in my mind - It is no good just to draw the outline of a body and then to fill in the inside. One must consider the body as a solid with planes and curves at angles to one another.
Sun Oct 16
My bedroom now looks the epitome of the room of the hard-working student. Books are scattered all over my bed & chair - I can count 14, including 2 dictionaries & 3 encyclopediae.
Fri Oct 21
.It now appears that there is much more in [the carols cancellation story] than I first suspected the matter was brought up at the [Hendon Town] Council meeting on Oct. 18th. At this meeting, a letter from the Headmaster, Mr. Potts, was read. This stated that the sole reason for the suspension was the poor health of Miss Poulton, our music teacher, who has always organized the carols. [But] a doctor's certificate was produced at the meeting stating that Miss Poulton was in good health this certificate was enclosed with a letter from Miss Poulton to the Council .Some very interesting things were said at the meeting. The certificate was said to "give the lie" to Potts' statement about the teacher's health. He was accused of making the Jewish pupils an excuse. The Council agreed to ask Potts & Poulton to come up & thrash the matter out in a public meeting .There were three letters in the Hendon & Finchley Times some of whose contents approached anti-semitism.
Sat Oct 22
This afternoon I went to the cinema to see "The Snake Pit" about a woman in a mental hospital The censors gave it a special certificate saying no one under 16 was to be admitted, but I had no trouble in getting in. I was disappointed. The story was not so exciting, though the acting was good. A preamble & epilogue made it very clear that it was an American picture and that the conditions it showed were not representative of English hospitals.
Sun Oct 23
A day of extremely unpleasant weather - very cold, very rainy It was the first time this year that I have had the gas-fire in my room.
Mon Oct 24
The government have introduced some new economy cuts. They may affect the price of my school dinners, which now cost 6d a day.
Tue Oct 25
I began writing a poem called "Raising the Savings Flag." This is National Savings week in England, and the poem is to submit to a competition in Hendon Schools.
Myrna finally started school again today after being out since last July She has started to the Finchley branch of Pitman's Business College. Daddy is paying heavily for it .Myrna [will have] no geography, history, art, games, or P.T. lessons. There is not even a playground to the school, which I am told is a large house. Reading through the book of school rules, I found one which said that no conversation is allowed between pupils of opposite sexes either in or near the school. How foolish!
Wed Oct 26
[My essay on Shakespeare's use of history, which got an A] seems to have evoked a good deal of attention all the 5th form English teachers have praised it . and today I was asked to read it out to my form A good deal of it is copied or condensed from books, so the only way it can deserve all this attention is, I suppose, through my having taken a great amount of trouble in arranging and selecting my information.
After school I attended the first meeting this term of the school film club. All 4th, 5th, & 6th forms are eligible for membership, which costs 2/6 per year The feature was an old musical "One Hundred Men and a Girl." It was Deanna Durbin's first picture. I found it surprisingly good - much better than I had expected .good story, good acting, good music, and good direction. It was always interesting and entertaining. I wish all modern films were as enjoyable.
I almost finished the savings poem It is unusual in that there are only 3 lines in a verse.
Fri Oct 28
Although I don't have a high opinion of [my savings poem] my English teacher said it is so good that the judges may not believe that it is my own work.
SURPRISE! In the middle of the front page [of the weekly Hendon and Finchley Times] was an article headed "COUNTY SCHOOL CAROLS WILL GO ON." This told of how, after the Head & Miss Poulton had discussed the matter with the Council, it had been decided to hold the Carols after all but on a smaller scale (This does not cancel the opera ) [To my surprise and delight, the article also quoted in full a letter I had written and signed only "Form Vs, Hendon County School" which said:] "Your readers might like to know that the general opinion of present Hendon County pupils is all in favour of the restoration of the annual carol festival. Jewish pupils do not really care one way or the other, though many of them think that it is a pity to go back on a tradition of 21 years Many Jews have attended the carols because they enjoyed them as a musical festival, and because it was a school function."
Sat Oct 29
We have moved our TV set into the dining room for the winter, and I watched a football match which was actually being televised in Edgware At one time I could hear, on the set, an airplane passing over the football field. A few seconds later I could actually hear the plane passing over our house
Sun Oct 30
Profound Thoughts: (1) over the centuries, man's wars have become larger and more destructive, but his efforts at world unity and peace have become proportionally greater. (2) Everything that man is and does is for his hands; he has a brain to direct his hands; he has legs to transport them, a mouth to nourish them, eyes to guide them. Perhaps it is only what a person does and can do with his hands that really matters
Mon Oct 31
Halloween-but though we hear mention of it here, there are no great celebrations and activities as we used to have in America.
Tues Nov 1
Now that we have a TV set, there is only one material thing which I strongly desire, and that is a dog. I think I have wanted a dog ever since I knew that there were such things. I clearly remember scanning the pet columns of our Washington newspaper .Pets are something which has been largely missing from my life They might have a very beneficial influence upon me, something to love & care for, to train & play with Main difficulties are money and parents, especially Mummy. But Mummy has said that she does not object to goldfish, so I think I will start with them.
Sat Nov 5
Now for the BIG NEWS of the day: When I came home [from an afternoon as a volunteer seller of poppies - in aid of Army charities on Poppy Day] Mr. & Mrs Summers were in our house. They had come for tea, supper, & TV. They live only a few doors away from us, on the top floor of a house .There was a knock at the door, and a man wanted to see Mr. Summers. He was the man who lives with his wife on the lower floor of the Summers' house. He and his wife had just returned home, and they had found the front door open. They thought the house had been broken into. Daddy and Mr. Summers went round to investigate, and I went with them.
Sure enough, the house had been broken into, and the Summers had been burgled!! Their bedroom door had been jimmied open, cupboards and drawers searched, and things thrown onto the bed and floor. A valuable fur coat, and much jewelry was missing.
The police were called. The Summers' bedroom was the only room in the house which had been entered, and this has led to the conclusion that the thieves had knowledge of the house and its inhabitants. Mrs. S. suspects one of the tradesmen who come up to her bedroom when she is ill in bed .
Mrs. S., Mummy, & Myrna came in. Mrs. S. was at times almost hysterical, but at others quite calm. She kept repeating that it must have been one of the tradesmen or someone who knew all about them. Mr. S. seemed very sad, but was otherwise calm. Daddy kept offering foolish & painful advice & consolation, such as "take it philosophically," or "It might have been worse."
Afterwards, when I was not there, 3 Criminal Investigation Dept. men came & searched for fingerprints, but found none, & said the burglars wore gloves. The neighbors did not seem to have noticed anything. The loss goes into hundreds of pounds. The worst part about it is that the Summerses were not at all insured. Unless they retrieve their stolen property, it is a dead loss. I am wondering how a person or persons could have left the house with a fur coat & not be noticed. Could they have come & gone in a car?
Tues Nov 8
I am very pleased that Hendon libraries are forming a gramophone record section I am also pleased that first notice has been given at school of an attempt to form a chess club.
I did homework all evening, but am rather angry with myself because I allowed myself to be diverted by a radio play. Entertainment is not good when you have too much of it I must try to give less of my time to the radio & TV -- especially now, when it is important to my future to study hard.
Thurs Nov 17
Did some more lino-block printing in art class at school .Our art teacher makes a great fuss & gets very annoyed when anyone is in the least untidy in using the printing materials, especially when we are cleaning up, and we have to remove every scrap of ink from the trays & rollers which we use.
Thurs Nov 24
[at] the 2nd meeting of the School Council 3 of the 6 proposals on the agenda were mine.[dealing with notice boards, lost property, and school dinners]. It was the most satisfactory S.C. meeting I have attended as, in spite of opposition from the Headmaster, nearly all the proposals that I supported (including my own 3) were passed either in whole or in modified form. I was very pleased at this. I took a great part in the discussion, and like to think that my strong support helped pass motions which would otherwise have been defeated.
Fri Nov 25
Mr. Potts the Headmaster had a talk with me today The gist was that I should try to be more tactful, especially when criticizing the school dinners. It was not a harsh talk, although he did say a few unkind things such as calling me "over-clever." I must now watch my step. As I told Potts, I realize that I have a great need for improving my methods of dealing with other people.
Sat Nov 26
Daddy has not been well lately and has stayed home from the office since Nov 24. Of late, I have become rather disappointed in Daddy. He admits that he now has no desire to learn.
Mon Nov 28
The new Hendon Library gramophone record service opened today It was a pleasing sight to see all the brand new records I finally decided to take out the opera of "Carmen" by Bizet. I was very surprised to see how much there was of it. There were, in fact, 19 12-inch records, in 2 boxes. This was some weight to take home I cannot yet play the records because one of the strict rules is that only thorn or fibre needles may be used, and I do not yet have any.
Tues Nov 29
I bought a packet of 10 non-metallic gramophone needles Although each one should play 100 sides, they have to be sharpened after every few playings. One should have a specially-made sharpener for this, but I managed alright with a pen-knife.
Thurs Dec 1
My aggravating cough is still with me. Parents have been nagging me to go to the doctor I dislike going to doctors in general, but I have a particular repugnance for our doctor, Werner Levy. He is small and fat, has beady eyes, and a slimy foreign accent.
Fri Dec 2
As my cough continues, I went by myself to Dr. Levy He examined my chest with the usual thumpings and said that he could find nothing wrong with me & that probably I only had a slight throat irritation. He prescribed some medicine I learned one interesting thing: Upon my asking, the doctor explained why he thumps the patient on the chest & back. He demonstrated the difference between the hollow sound when the chest, full of air, is thumped, and the dull sound when the arm, which doesn't contain much air, is thumped. If a point on the chest or back fails to give a hollow-sounding thump, the Dr. can tell that there is some fluid filling the space where air should be.
Sunday Dec 4
If I were asked my greatest ambition, I would say it was to be versatile - not just like an athlete who can both run and jump well, but to be able to do well 2 or more entirely different things, such as cooking and singing, or painting and writing.
Wed Dec 7
In the School Council meeting on Nov 24, my proposal that a list of the food to be served at school dinners each day should be posted on the notice boards was passed to the dinner sub-committee of which I am a member. Recently I and another member of the committee drew out a chart with spaces for the meals each day on it. Today I posted 2 copies of this on 2 notice boards. My job is to find out the food each day from the people preparing dinners, and then to fill in the space on the chart. Today's menu was brown stew, potatoes, and Manchester tart.
Thurs Dec 8
Yesterday I received the good mark of A- for an English homework, but today I received two bad marks For a French class-work composition I received the mark of 0/15. The teacher said it was a disgraceful piece of work, and I suppose it was. The main reason was that we were supposed to prepare it, & I did not do this. The other bad mark was in Art: 7+ I was very disappointed indeed at this because I had spent such a long time on it. Actually, it took me over 5 ½ hours The teacher said that my lines were too thick, and that one figure (out of 7 ) was out of proportion .I cannot say that the teacher is wrong or that I should have had a higher mark. I only regret that I spent so much time on [it].
Fri Dec 9
Today was my 16th birthday. As is our custom I was met when I went downstairs this morning by an array of my presents accompanied by cards and greetings. My main present from parents was a set of the complete works of Shakespeare in 2 huge leather-bound volumes .The set is edited by Knight, but my encyclopedia tells me that he died in 1873, so the books must be quite old. But they are in excellent condition. There are some fine engraved illustrations.
From Myrna I received a thermometer and a date-indicator. From parents - a goldfish, a flashlight, and another large old leather-bound book, "The Art Journal 1903." This contains a great many illustrations of paintings etc. With money supplied by Grandma Brilliant, parents had bought me a collapsible metal camera tripod .Aunty Sylvia & Uncle Leonard sent me a postal order for 21/- & Uncle George sent me one for £1.
This evening I invited my friends Brian Richmond and Colin Marshall in. I showed them my presents, played 2 games of "Sorry" with them (Colin won both) and then we cut the birthday cake. Mr. & Mrs Summers also came in. They brought me 2 books, one about Cyprus, & the other about Wales. After blowing out all 17 candles (one for good luck) on the cake, I made a short speech. At the end [I said] I hope that on my next birthday I will be able to look back onto this one and say "What a fool I was then! How much more I know now, and what a long way I have come since then."
Some time ago at school in French lesson, all those who were interested in having a pen-friend in France were asked to put their names and addresses onto a piece of paper. I put mine. Today a letter arrived at the house addressed to "Sir J. Brilliant." I had forgotten about the pen friend, and at first I thought it was some joke. Then I remembered. The letter was from a French schoolboy named Michel Albert who lives near Paris. His short letter was written half in English & half in French. I will reply when I get a chance.
Sat Dec 10
Our TV is still away being repaired. I am hoping we will have it back by Dec 17 [when] the new TV station at Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, will begin transmissions and will make TV available to millions of people in the Midlands. I would hate to miss being in on this landmark in TV history. The new station will be the most powerful in the world.
[I wrote another letter] to the "Hendon and Finchley Times." I have been bitten good and hard by the newspaper letter-writing bug now, and I write just for the sake of writing, hoping that the letters will be printed. This one pointed out the ease with which watchmakers can charge excessive prices for repairs. I gave as an example the time a few months ago when a Hendon watchmaker examined my defective watch and said that it would cost 17/6 to have it repaired. This was too much for me, & I didn't have the repair don, but ever since then the watch has gone perfectly
Mon Dec 12
We were given our form positions today. I came 2nd, as I expected, and my friend Richmond came 3rd. Taylor, as usual, came 1st. Taylor is a very small boy - the smallest in the form; he is 6 months younger than me, but very clever
Tues Dec 13
The school term ends next Wednesday, and, as all our term marks are now in, there is a slight slackening of work in some lessons, and not much homework. A great many classrooms have, as every year, been decorated for Christmas, and the halls have been too.
Dogs & pets are coming into my thoughts quite a bit now.
Parents, particularly Mummy, are dead against the idea of having
any animals in the house. Sometimes I feel very sad and defeated
when I think of all the times that parents have said, someday
I will have a dog. Sometimes I feel I could weep at this injustice
it took 2 years to get a TV set!
Wed Dec 14
It seems strange, after what I said above, to record that only a few minutes ago I was seriously discussing with Mummy & Daddy the prospects of buying a dog. Both seemed to have changed their attitudes considerably. Daddy said he wanted a dog, but it was only because Mummy didn't that he spoke against it. Mummy, although still somewhat opposed to the idea, seemed much softened.
Wed Dec 15
the first big rehearsal of the "H.M.S. Pinafore" Both Richmond and I are first basses in the chorus of sailors. It was a very light hearted rehearsal, conducted by Miss Wright, my form teacher Apart from 2 men teachers, all the cast are pupils. We rehearsed in the school hall, and one of the interesting things we did was to sing with the gramophone records of the opera at the same time. It sounded good that way.
Fri Dec 16
Mummy's cousin, Lenny Gilbert, son of Aunt Minnie & Uncle Michael, has recently been put into a mental home. Though his mind has not altogether gone, it is to be feared that his mental balance is in an uncertain condition. Mummy visited him a few days ago.
The latest news about our TV set is this: When it became faulty, we sent it back to the shop we bought it from, who returned it to the Baird company who made it, who returned the cathode-ray tube to the General Electric company who made that. Mummy phoned the G.E.C., and they said that the tube was not found to be in bad enough condition to come under the terms of the guarantee. So we are getting our set back, unrepaired.
Sat Dec 17
[In] a shop in Burnt Oak [I] bought a gold-fish for 2/6. This is to go with the one I received for my birthday, to keep him (or her) company. I have named the two Leonard and Sylvia after my Uncle & Aunt. I hope the latters won't object. An easy way to tell the 2 fishes apart is by their tails. Sylvia has a tail with 3 fins Leonard has the more common type of tail.
As I wanted to see the opening of the new [TV] station [and our set was not yet returned] my friend Richmond invited me round to his house to look in on his family's set. There was a short opening ceremony - televised from the new station, and the rest of the evening's programs were quite normal variety, ice hockey, and a newsreel.
Sun Dec 18
I had a ticket to a B.B.C. comedy program, "Up the Pole." I went by myself. It was at the Aeolian Hall in New Bond St., where I have been to see broadcasts a few times before. The program series is quite popular, although I think it childish and unfunny. (This in no way affects my going to see it, as I like going to any program, just for the thrill and interest of it.) The audience were handed slips asking them to laugh as much as they liked (I did not laugh once) but to refrain from making catcalls, whistles, and jeers .After the show, I obtained the autographs of the 2 chief members of the program, Jimmy Jewel & Ben Warris.
Mon Dec 19
Today was the day of the big 5th form party We were let out at 3 p.m. instead of 4, and I came home and changed The party started at 6:30. It started off with dancing, finished with dancing, & had much (far too much) dancing in between. I did not dance at all, but I think everyone else must have done. All the school staff were there. Everyone was all dressed up, especially the girls. The party was in the school hall. We played several well-organized games, including one where a person had to convey to a group, by miming, an alliterative phrase such as "sucking slimy syrup." There were also games where a team had to fill a jar full of peas while holding the narrow-necked jar on their heads; and a relay race where the people had to carry pans on their heads and balls between their knees at the same time.
Halfway through the evening we all went up to the dining-hall, where tables were becomingly arrayed with cakes, sandwiches, and decorations. We all had paper hats. Coffee, ice cream, & cake was served out. The only food that I thought good was the cake, which was just like wedding cake.
After the meal, back we went to the hall. We sat in chairs to see a skit on "Humour Through the Ages" put on by a few 6th form boys. It contained many puns, at each of which up went a unanimous groan. After this we saw a short comic musical play put on by members of the staff. This was well acted and produced, but I didn't much like it.
The evening ended with the letting down of the balloons which had been suspended from the ceiling. I was fortunate in being able to obtain one of these, & quickly deflated it to prevent it from being burst.
Wed Dec 21
Today was the last day of the school term There was the usual end-of-term assembly [In] the Headmaster's review of all the forms in the school, he said that our form need to " grow up," and I quite agree with him. There are some people in the form who behave very childishly. I hope & think that I am not one of them.
The "Christmas Dinner" for school dinner today was no different from any other, except that there were niggardly portions of tasteless Christmas pudding.
Today our TV set was finally delivered back We had it on all evening & it worked quite well.
Thurs Dec 22
Today was the first day of my Christmas holiday from school. This will last until January 10th. Myrna's holiday from Pitman's School begins tomorrow, but is shorter than mine because Pitman's is a business school and is run rather like a business establishment.
I played Daddy a few games of checkers (they call them "draughts" in this country but I like the American name better) all of which he won. In fact, I can not remember ever beating Daddy at checkers. He is very good at it indeed, but I hope to improve with practice.
Fri Dec 23
Today Grandma Brilliant came to London for Uncle George's wedding which will be on December 26th, and she is staying with us. I don't know how long she will be staying, but it would seem for at least a few weeks by the amount of luggage she has brought. She is really a pathetic figure now, and occasionally cries about Grandpa, and how she will be all alone after George is married.
Sat Dec 24
Christmas Eve. Grandma is settling down here, and already we are beginning to feel the strain. Parents are always urging her to keep still and calm, but she will climb up & down the stairs. It is difficult talking to her because of her deafness.
This evening I started to write a poem I intend to call "Boundaries." I want to base it on the idea that all matter is continually moving all over the earth and that animals, plants, and everything natural have no respect for man-made boundaries.
Sun Dec 25
Christmas once more. Mr. & Mrs. Summers came for dinner, and stayed the whole afternoon and evening, and, what with them and Grandma, we had a full house. We had a grand XMAS dinner of turkey, peas, baked potatoes, and Christmas pudding with syrup. This last was very good; the syrup, I think, makes the pudding, for, without it, the pudding is only mediocre. The Summers are very good people and kind but, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and I do sometimes get tired of them
Mon Dec 26
Today was the big day - the day of Uncle George's wedding. This was his 2nd wedding. When I was 5, in 1939, I was at his first but I remember little of it. That one ended a few months later in separation and divorce. Uncle George is now 48, and his hair is completely grey. My new Aunt Hilda (nee Stafley) is a short plumpish woman. Neither her mother, who is an invalid, nor her father, who is in hospital, could attend the wedding. Mummy and Daddy acted as Unterferers, i.e. they accompanied the bride and groom under the canopy (chupeh). For this office, Daddy hired a dress suit & borrowed a silk hat. Mummy had a hat with long black feathers which swept everyone's face as they walked by.
A hired car took us to the wedding & back. Daddy & I first went to Uncle Mort's house, where Uncle George was staying. George had a worried look most of the day. The wedding was at Golders Green Synagogue, and it started a little after 1:30. (Every wedding I have been to has been somewhat late.) The reception was in the Shul hall. It was not a dinner reception, but there was plenty of all the usual food .My diet consisted mostly of smoked-salmon sandwiches, pastries, and orangeade Practically all my relations on Daddy's side of the family were there .
.I am not at my best at weddings. I always feel shy and self-conscious & don't want to meet or talk to anyone. What with that and the inevitable dancing, which disgusts me I get very bored During the reception, Hatikvah ["The Hope," Israel's national anthem] was sung 3 times. Toasts were given, and DADDY proposed the toast to the bride & bridegroom. Poor Daddy! He said very little. He tried to speak loudly and clearly, but his voice was low and hoarse, and his elocution was very forced. He had to clear his throat once or twice in the middle He said something like this:-- "I am going to be very crisp. Marriage has been referred to as the Sea of Matrimony (for some reason Daddy put the accent on the second syllable) - a lake with no outlet. I hope that their journey across this lake will be a calm and placid one. I give you the bride & bridegroom!"
Tues Dec 27
I slept today till exactly 12 noon.
This afternoon I invited my friend Richmond round to hear the set of records of "H.M.S. Pinafore" which I have from the gramophone library. We sang some of the tunes ourselves.
This evening parents went out visiting, and Grandma, Myrna
and I saw some very good TV. There was a very unusual play by
Thornton Wilder, called "The Long Christmas Dinner."
This play covers 90 years, although the scene never changes &
the curtain does not come down once - and the play only takes
about 40 minutes. Everything is very symbolic. The only scenery
is a table covered with food, cutlery etc, and the chairs round
it. There are three doors. One represents Birth & one Death.
Through the other is carried on the normal business of the house.
People are born & die through the doors of Birth and Death.
As people become old, they adjust their wigs & shawls in full
view of the audience.
There was also a very good variety program One [act] consisted of two people who seemed midgets who danced together in a clockwork-like rhythm. I was really amazed when, at the end of the act, the "two people" revealed themselves as ONE MAN. He had been bending double, with shoes on his hands and feet [and dummies attached to his back].
Another good turn was a sculptor who modeled faces in clay in a remarkably short time. A woman dancer collapsed in front of the cameras. We saw her fall down (and at first thought it part of her act) and, after a few seconds, we saw a man rush towards her. Then the picture was faded out. Afterwards it was announced that she had recovered.
Fri Dec 30
This evening, for the first time in my life, I ate a cooked meat dinner which I myself had entirely prepared. This is how it happened: Mummy was not feeling well & asked me to peel some potatoes while she rested in the dining room. When I had finished, I asked her if I could do the whole meal, a thing which I had often wanted to do Mummy did not think I was able to do everything myself. I was sure I could, given explicit instructions, and finally persuaded Mummy to stay in the dining room while I went ahead with the dinner.
During the whole 2 hours of that memorable preparation (4:30 - 6:30) Mummy did not once set foot in the kitchen, although she often wanted to. I was continually coming to her for instructions, but I did everything myself. I roasted the meat, peeled & cut the onions, cooked the peas, peeled, cut, & baked the potatoes, made the gravy etc .Everything turned out to be quite edible, although the meat was just a bit tough, and the potatoes just slightly salty Hard-hearted people might say that Mummy merely cooked the meal by remote control - but still I showed Mummy that I could do more than she would have given me credit for.
Sat Dec 31
New Year's Eve, but this year I don't feel very sentimental about it. Soon we will be starting out on the 2nd half of the 20th Century. Looking back on 1949, I think of it as quite a good year for me Apart from the great sadness of Grandpa Brilliant's passing, it has been a bright year. With respect to world events, it has not been a year that future historians will make much of.
My wishes for 1950 are that the Western powers will not become more hostile to the East, and that we may establish friendship with Russia. For myself, I hope to do credit to myself in the matric. exam in June, and that I may travel. Many people have this ambition, and it grows on me day after day. I want to see more of Britain, Europe, and the world. ###