Tibor Gold: A Life in Two Parts

Page 1

For my family, present and future


Chapter One 1942 - 1945 ‘Antecedents, Birth and Survival Against All Odds’ In the Beginning I was born on 26th January 1942 in Budapest. At the time, the Hungarian government was very right-wing, virulently antiSemitic with many restrictions on Jews and their businesses and professions. A yellow Mogendovid, [in Ashkenazi Hebrew, the Star of David] had to be worn visibly outdoors for all Jews, even for infants and children. The Government was intent on aligning itself with Hitler’s Germany and to adopt its anti-semitic ideology. It declared war, as a loyal ally of the Nazis, on the Soviet Union believing that this would help them regain territories they felt had been unjustly ‘lost’ after the First World War. Some Jewish men were already called up to do ‘voluntary’, actually forced labour, my father among them. This general darkening background helps to explain why my parents sought to protect my life by disguising my Jewishness. That is why my birth certificate registering my birth 5 days later gives my religion as Lutheran of the so-called Augustan Confession, a branch of Protestantism, which is what the abbreviated words in the 4th column mean. Oddly, my baptismal certificate states that the date of baptism was another 3 days later. That attempt also explains why I was given the ringingly Hungarian first names “Tibor Zoltán”, and why they did not have me circumcised (a circumcised penis was a tell-tale of Jewish men). These steps had important consequences for me, as will be seen later.


My mother with a well-swaddled me [4]

My Parents My father was born in 1905 in a small provincial town in SW Hungary, Nagykanizsa, of an Austrian mother and a Hungarian father. His name was János, the English equivalent of John. Yahnosh would be the nearest pronunciation in English. When I was born, he was a well-known engineer, working for one of Hungary’s biggest and most successful enterprises in a leading position, manufacturing lighting equipment under the brand name Tungsram. He had achieved a doctorate in Physics even though he had to wait to go to University because there was an official quota, the numerus clausus, designed to limit the number Jewish students at university. My father came from an assimilated (non-practising) Jewish family, and had two sisters. My mother, who was fifteen years his junior, was born in 1920 in Ujpest, then a suburb of Budapest, now incorporated into the city. Her name was Margit (Margaret) but was always known by her nickname Maca [Matza]. She had an elder sister Klári (Claire). Her parents were Jewish, too, Gizella (Gizi) and Jenő. My mother trained as a ballerina and an actress and before meeting my father toured Italy with a theatre company. By 1940 war was looming large just when an Italian nobleman fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. He was not Jewish and she was still just twenty, so her parents ordered her back to Hungary. How My Parents Met Arriving at her parents’ flat in Budapest, a smartly dressed young man offered to help my mother with her suitcases. As it turned out, this young man lived in the very same apartment block. A few days later, he rang her parents’ doorbell and asked my mother and her mother out to tea at a nearby smart café. This was the beginning of their relationship and they were married in March 1941, when my [5]


mother was 20 and my father 35. By then, anti-Semitic quotas were operated by all theatre companies and my mother was unable to resume her career as an actress. On page six is a photo from the wedding reception. Note how almost everyone is smoking. Survival Soon after, the Hungarian army - poorly equipped and poorly led was sent to the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union to fight alongside the German army against the Red Army where they suffered grievous losses. The winter of ’42/’43 in Russia was so severe that many Hungarian soldiers died not from enemy fire but from hypothermia. The Jewish forced labourers, including my father, were sent behind the enemy lines to clear up the corpses and do all sorts of very unpleasant things. They were allowed home from time to time, but always had to go back. The war on the Eastern Front was going badly for the Germans and by 1944 even the Hungarian leadership realised that the war was lost. Early that year, the Hungarians started to make overtures to the Allies - the British, French and Americans - hoping to make a separate peace treaty and leave Hitler. But unfortunately, there were some absolutely fanatical anti-communist generals in the army who betrayed the head of state (and his plans) to the Germans. So, in March 1944, the Germans occupied their own best ally, Hungary, and the real deportations of Jews began. Worse still, in the summer of 1944, a notorious Nazi called Adolf Eichmann arrived to organise the transport of the Hungarian Jews, 500,000 of them, to the extermination camps. It is incredible to think that while Germany was clearly losing the war and being bombed to bits, its leadership was willing to use all [7]

the railway lines and trucks it had to take over half a million Hungarian Jews from Budapest to the gas chambers, and especially Auschwitz. At the time, there was less than nine months of the war left. I would reckon that, on a quick head count, nine tenths of my extended family went to the gas chambers and never came back. It was a miracle that the tight kernel of my immediate family, namely my father, my mother, her sister and husband, along with their daughter and my maternal grandparents, survived. My paternal grandparents, whom I only met as an infant and whom I do not recollect at all, also perished, as did one of my father’s sisters and her husband. How did my mother and I escape? Mostly by luck and my mother’s ingenuity. Here are some details. By way of background, Sweden was a neutral country in WWII. The occupying Germans respected Swedish neutrality so if you were a Swedish citizen in Budapest you were safe, even if you were Jewish. Knowing this, a Swedish diplomat called Raoul Wallenberg - who became very famous as one of the Righteous Gentiles and who was a military attaché at the Swedish embassy in Hungary - started giving Swedish passports to Jews without the authority of his government. He also designated buildings as “Swedish protected houses”. My mother was able to procure one of these passports. I still have this document with a photo of me aged 2 on her arm (p.9). I treasure it.



Stamp and signature.


TRANSLATION: Sweden no. 01115 Name: Mrs Dr Jรกnos Gold, nee Margit Hoffmann Gold Date of birth: 8, VII.1920 Residence: Budapest Height: 162 cm Place of birth: Ujpest Colour of eyes: brown Colour of hair: Brown And Tibor Gold, 26.jan.1942, Budapest Photos and signature. The Embassy in Budapest of the Kingdom of Sweden certifies that the above-named, authorised by the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Sweden, will travel to Sweden within the framework of repatriation. The named persons are included in a collective passport. Until departure the above named as well as their residence are under the protection of Budapest Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweden. The document will lose its validity within fourteen days of arrival in Sweden. Entitlement to travel only when accompanied by the collective passport. Budapest, 22nd September 1944

But in mid-1944, the Germans decided to delegate power to an extreme fascist Hungarian government known as the Arrow Cross who no longer respected the Swedish passport. As my mother would say, they “out Nazi’d the Nazis.” But my mother was a remarkably resourceful person and got hold of another protective document for us, this time from the Vatican, or officially The Holy See (p.11). It is signed by the Pope’s ambassador known as the Nuncio. This is dated 8th November 1944 – only 3 months or so before Budapest was liberated but hundreds of Jews were still being murdered by the Arrow Cross, and only 6 weeks before my father was captured and condemned to death. In a predominantly Roman Catholic country, the Vatican letter carried some weight even with the Arrow Cross. So, by the time I was two and a half, I had been Hungarian, Jewish, Lutheran and Catholic, then protected by the Kingdom of Sweden as if a Swedish citizen and then by the Holy See i.e. the Vatican! Even the document from the Holy See only worked for a short time because any Jews who had not yet been deported were being rounded up and shot wherever they could be found. Some were even shot straight into the Danube River, see later. By that time, my mother and I were in hiding or living in houses known as ghettoes. In October 1944 my mother and I were arrested and taken to a brick factory prior to deportation to Auschwitz. She escaped with me – I don’t know how - and took refuge in the cellar of a hospital whose owner was a relative by marriage - my grandfather’s sister’s husband who was German and not Jewish. He was protective of his family (though not of other Jews) and would tell the authorities “there aren’t any Jews in this hospital.” As a German, he was believed.


TRANSLATION: Protective Letter The Apostolic Ambassador of Holy See of Rome certifies that: Mrs Dr János Gold, née Margit Hoffmann (mother Gizella Ecker) and her son Tibor Z. d.o.b. 1920 at Ujpest and 26th January 1942 respectively, residing at Budapest, V. Hollán u. 49, are under the protection of Apostolic (Papal) Embassy of Budapest. Budapest, 8th November 1944. [Comment: the date is a mere 8 weeks before the Soviet siege to liberate the city, 29/12/44-13/2/45] (Rubber stamp and signature of Nunzio Apostolico (Ambassador of the Pope)


My father’s survival story up to the end of 1944 is more mysterious to me, apart from his stints as a forced labourer and that he lost half his weight and caught typhus fever which in severe cases could be fatal. But for a large proportion of that year he was separated from my mother and me and neither knew what was happening with the other. For me, the period of October ’44 to February ’45 when the Soviet Red Army liberated Budapest from the Nazis is obviously a bit hazy. As a 2-year old I don’t actually recall those months exactly although I do remember hiding in a cellar with rats running around. My mother described how she used to try to keep my clothes clean, washing them all the time but finding to her distress that they quickly became dirty grey again because the cellars were used to store coal. People used coal to heat their homes, so there might well have been coal dust in the air all the time. Quite how and in which houses we hid, I’m afraid my parents are no longer alive to tell, but we must have escaped both air raids and raids by the Arrow Cross hunting for Jews. All I can say is that by the time the final siege of Budapest had ended in February 1945, my mother and I had somehow survived. The siege had been long-lasting with bombing from the air by the Allied forces and house-to-house fighting over 3 months on the ground between the Red Army and the German/ Hungarian Nazis. The only other memory I have of this time is that, after it was all over, a Russian soldier gave me a piece of chocolate. (Much can be said about what evil things the Soviets/Russians had done to and in Hungary in subsequent years, but I constantly remind myself that if it had not been for the Soviet Red Army defeating the German and Hungarian fascists in 1945 not a single Hungarian Jew, my entirely family and I, would have been left alive.) Although I don’t remember much of the war its effect on me has remained. [12]

The flat we had lived in must have been sealed up when we went into hiding. My mother never said if it was looted. Many Hungarians didn’t like Jews. If they knew that a Jewish neighbour was deported or in hiding, they would often break into that family’s home and either occupy it or just loot it. I cannot give any detail about what happened to our possessions but I don’t think we owned anything particularly precious, so my mother wouldn’t have cared much. The immediate problem had been survival and then obtaining food. During a siege, there’s just no food, the shops are either shut or empty of basic foods - if you’re an urban person, where do you get food? Once the fighting had ended, one of my abiding memories is of my parents telling me that people started foraging from the countryside and my mother was offered a chicken in exchange for two of my father’s silk suits he had had made before the war. The old Hungarian currency had no validity and there was raging inflation anyway. It became a barter economy. Anybody who had a bit of gold or some dollars could get food for that but only if there was some food to be had at all. During this period my father was separated from us on forced labour service. He somehow made his way back to Budapest, only to be caught by the Arrow Cross just before New Year’s Eve, 31st December 1944. Along with a bunch of other Jews, he was taken from a prison, stripped naked and marched in freezing weather to the banks of the Danube, for execution. It was so cold, the Arrow Cross had to use dynamite to blast the ice away. Then they lined the Jews up to shoot them into the water below. So there my father was, about to be shot. But miracles happen. There are two versions of what transpired next. I’m not entirely sure which of them my father might have embroidered. One version is [13]

that he jumped into the river just before the shot was fired and swam underwater (he was a good swimmer) downstream for as long as he could in the icy water. When he finally clambered out, some kind people gave him some rags to put on and he survived. This is the version he described in the book “Churban” by the then rabbi of the Weybridge Reform Synagogue, Tony Bayfield. The other version – I must have got it from him, who else? - is that some Hungarian resistance fighters who were dressed up in high rank Hungarian army uniform intercepted the execution squad and told the executioners “We’ll take over from you and we’ll finish these people off.” Once the executioners had disappeared, they took my father and the other prisoners to one side and told them to run away to wherever they could. Either way, he managed to escape and to the end of his days he would always say: “31st December is my second birthday.” A strange and ironic coincidence: decades later, he died on the 31st December, here in England. This is the story of survival against all odds – miraculous yes, but by no means an uncommon story. Many Eastern and Central European Jews surviving Nazi deportations have similar stories to tell.


Chapter Two Growing up in Budapest 1945 - 1956

No Fish, Thanks Between my birth and the end of the war in Budapest, I was very poorly fed. For months we were hiding in cellars and even before that food had become both scarce and of low quality. The city was bombed incessantly by both sides and supplies were unreliable at best. My mother and I would have been worryingly thin and I developed mild tuberculosis. Sometimes I am asked where my complete refusal to eat fish originated. Once the Russians liberated Budapest from the Germans and their Hungarian Arrow Cross allies, my mother managed to get hold of a Red Cross food parcel and in the parcel was a tin of sardines. When it was opened, the sight, smell and taste of it caused a volcanic eruption in my stomach and by a kind of psychological extension, I have developed a total dislike of any food from sea or water. The Communist Take-Over After the war, Hungary was under Soviet occupation but there were free elections in ’45, ’46, and ’47. The Communist Party used a sort of salami slice method to merge with and then take over all the other parties. By 1948, elections were no longer democratic and the communist take-over was complete. Hungary became utterly subservient to the Soviet Union and there are few family stories from that period.


The enterprise my father worked for was actually a ‘spider in the web’; the owner of a network of companies in Western countries. Hungary was essentially an agricultural country, so food production and distribution went back to normal. In 1946, my father was sent to London to check on an English subsidiary of “Tungsram” and in the course of that he visited my mother’s first cousin, Maca Wasserstein and her husband. My father had no idea that at that time that food was still rationed in England. When the Wassersteins served him dinner, some kind of meat dish, my father being a healthy eater, asked if he could have seconds and the Wassersteins said, “of course.” It wasn’t until 1958 when my father returned to England with us that the Wassersteins explained that in one sitting my father had eaten up their entire meat ration for the whole month! He was of course blissfully unaware at the time. In 1946, I was diagnosed with incipient tuberculosis and sent to a sanatorium in the Buda hills. After a few months my lungs were declared clear but I attribute this more to the advice of my grandmother’s cleaner, an uneducated but wise woman from the country, who recommended an ‘olde worlde’ remedy of eating lots of raw onion. This pleased me a lot and to this day I’ll happily eat an onion sandwich, regardless of its effect on my breath! Then in 1947, my father was sent to France to sort out the French and Swiss subsidiaries of his company and was away for quite a long time, 3 months. By then it was already becoming very difficult to travel to the West (“the capitalist West” as the communists called it with a sneer) but my mother and I were allowed to obtain passports and to join him for a few weeks. I remember we had 3 weeks in Paris before my father took us on holiday to the Normandy seaside. I was a good swimmer for my age but only in swimming pools - I had [16]

At age 5 [17] [17]

never seen the sea before because Hungary is a landlocked country. I recall my great shock on swallowing some sea water and how bitter and salty it was. It was during this trip that I acquired an abiding love of the French language. Most Hungarian middle-class parents offer their children private lessons in something, music, a foreign language or ballet. Most parents could afford one of these. Having just returned from Paris I asked to have private lessons in French and that was arranged. Schooling At the time, there was a school in Budapest whose system was to gradually teach more and more of its subjects in French, so my parents enrolled me into this school. Elementary school starts at 6 in Hungary, but by 1949 when I completed my first year in that school the communists were in complete control and, for purely ideological reasons, they stopped schools teaching ‘capitalist languages’ such as French. Instead, my parents found a French teacher - a Francophone Swiss lady married to a Hungarian man and I continued having private lessons with her. Luckily for me, there was enough money to pay her and I studied French non-stop with great enthusiasm, sometimes once, sometimes twice a week; crossing Budapest by myself by tram, three changes, until I was 14, by which time I spoke good French. My teacher taught all the children at the French embassy who were in a kind of political quarantine and couldn’t go to a proper school. My crowning glory came - and I’m jumping ahead to about 1954 at one of my private lessons when either my lesson overran or the next pupil, a French girl of about 12, arrived too early. We met in [18]

At age 9 [19]

the hall, me on my way out and she on her way in, and we exchanged a few words of politeness. Apparently, afterwards she asked my teacher, “Who is this French boy? I thought I knew everybody who was French in Budapest because there are so few of us.” So, I had been mistaken for a French boy and I glow to this day! The girl’s name, Chantal, is one of my favourite French female names – after the names of my later-acquired French family, of course! Where We Lived A few words about Budapest at that time. We lived in one of several blocks of modern middle-class apartments built just before the outbreak WWll, surrounded a park in the middle. For me as a young boy, mad about all kinds of ball games, one of my favourite memories of my school years was to finish homework rapidly in order to go down to the park to play football with all the other children there. Football has remained a lifelong love. Our flat on the first floor didn’t exactly overlook the park but it was very close and when it was time for me to come home for supper, my mother would stand on the balcony and whistle a certain tune that was my ‘come home’ tune: the Rákóczi March. (After I came to England, I read and kept an article about the many people who left Hungary after the 1956 uprising which mentioned that ‘a whistle is missing from our streets’). Initially, our flat was tiny. It was not uncommon in Hungary to have a sofa-bed as the centrepiece. During the day it served as a sofa for people to sit on and when all the visitors departed, my parents would pull out the rest of the bed. There was a main room and a tiny alcove where my bed was, but it was essentially one open room. There was also a small kitchen and bathroom with a flushing toilet, so in many ways it was quite modern. (Having a proper flushing toilet is [20]

another element of a story that happened in 1960). It was also double-glazed - so it was quite a shock when I came to England and found that our house was so draughty. There was continuous hot water and central heating from the natural springs of Budapest and to us, this seemed perfectly normal but the flat was small and I was growing up fast. Life by then was becoming very hard, so my mother got a job as a clerk in a Hungarian trading import/export company trading in electrical goods. My grandparents lived in the same block of flats and they were absolutely lovely, gentle and loving people. I adored them. Because both my parents were out at work, I would come back from school and go straight to my grandparents’ place. My grandmother was a brilliant old-fashioned homemaker, a marvellous cook and baker. I am an only child which was the norm in Hungary by the time I was born, in contrast to previous generations. It’s something else that many British people are surprised to hear. There have been many sociological studies done on this one-child phenomenon and there is even a special word for it in Hungarian, “egyke” meaning “little one, little singleton”. Why did the Hungarian population decrease between the World Wars and why was the “egyke” phenomenon so widespread? It has often been attributed to innate pessimism as a Hungarian national characteristic. The way I like to put it is that one of my friends had a sibling and that was the exception, a rarity. People just didn’t think it was good to bring more children into such a terrible world. My parents’ entire generation mostly had just one child. The other thing is contraception: abortion was the main method and it was easily available. My mother told me much later that she had an abortion when I was five. [21]

A few words about my mother. She was unusual in that she had what I can only describe as a love, almost beyond reason, for her parents. She was terribly attached to them and I think in her universe her parents were the most important people. I can kind of understand it because I also loved my grandparents very much. I think sometimes my father grumbled that he wasn’t as important to her as her parents, or me for that matter. She did not seem to me to be unhappy about her interrupted stage career, but under communism, which was firmly established by 1950, life had become hard for her. Salaries were very meagre and you couldn’t buy anything. Shops were half empty; apart from the basic foodstuffs there was nothing you could buy and money was scarce. So, in order to make more money for the household, my mother went out and got a job as a clerk. She was very intelligent and good at maths as well as having good manual skills, e.g. mending things. After the French-oriented school I attended was closed down, I went to the local school because it was obligatory to go to the nearest one. By then, the personality cult of Stalin and Råkosi, the Hungarian communist leader, was firmly established and the all-pervasive communist propaganda machine rigidly controlled all the media outlets. As a young, impressionable and, dare I say, bright boy, I uncritically absorbed it all. The political system under Stalin (and in Stalin-dominated countries) was that the ruling classes were the workers and the farmers, In the communist jargon, it was a workerfarmer dictatorship. The intelligentsia - people with University degrees, doctors, lawyers and especially those who obtained their qualifications before the arrival of the communist regime and therefore owed no gratitude to the Party - were tolerated with suspicion and my father was one of those people. He held a very [22]

high position at work but was, in some respects, a third-class citizen in his own country. And that classification/stratification also applied to his descendants. So, there I was, happily going to school and doing very well, when in 1956, I was made head boy only to be told within a week that, “no, you can’t be a head boy.” The Party line was that this was ‘because your father is from the intelligentsia.” Under the prevailing doctrine, you could only be promoted if you had the right kind of background. But as far as I was concerned, school was great. What was I like at school? “Naughty but nice!” In other words, I got top marks in every academic subject but was often marked down for behaviour, gymnastics and art (yes, there were even marks and reports for those things!) I enjoyed every subject at school, even the compulsory Russian lessons which were, to me, unladen with any kind of emotion about Russia as an oppressor or that we must learn this language and all this propaganda about how you must be grateful to our Father Stalin who liberated us from the Nazis and how the Soviet Union is the greatest and every good invention ever made came from Russia and all that sort of stuff. I was just a happy kid, playing football or basketball in the park with my mates or swimming and fencing. All in all, I was fairly oblivious to the political situation except that I was always taught by the family to be careful what I said to anyone we didn’t know because denunciations were rife. People were so eager to gain advantage or favour of some sort from the regime that they would readily denounce other people. There is a very acute example in my family. In 1953, when I was eleven, the news that Stalin died came while I was still at school. I went home to my grandparents’ flat one floor up from ours and said to my grandmother, crying, “terrible news, our wonderful father, our great Stalin, has died.” In response, my [23]

grandmother, who obviously knew about his terrible deeds, said something - to me – profoundly startling about him: “if only he had trickled down his mother’s leg when he was born.” In other words, if only he’d been aborted. Perhaps she didn’t realize how shocked I’d be by this or that there might be a danger in my repeating it to somebody outside the family. Either way, that evening I had a lengthy sermon from my parents: “Never ever repeat that to anybody else because it could endanger the whole family.” At the time, I was in the young Pioneers which was the communist version of the Scouts and did all the usual things like camping, singing and dancing. My being a Pioneer was instrumental in our family getting a bigger flat - an unheard-of event. To explain the background, we lived in an apartment block where each floor had four flats; two of them were small and two were a bit bigger. Ours was one of the smaller ones and next door, in one of the bigger ones, an elderly couple lived. In 1952 when I was 10, they died one after the other very quickly. I don't know what the system was for reallocating a vacant flat but my ever-resourceful mother dressed me up in my young Pioneer uniform with the characteristic red neckerchief and said, “now you go to the ‘surgery’ of the Mayor of Budapest.” My mother knew he was a very nasty communist but hoped I would be received as a keen Pioneer. I remember that he sat me on his knee and said, “What do you want? Why did you come and see me? Are you a good Pioneer? Do you speak Russian?” I replied in Russian, “well, I have top marks in Russian, I’m growing up fast and our flat is getting very small for the three of us. Could we possibly move into this vacant flat? It’s so convenient. Just ten feet from our front door.” Remarkably, he said, “I’ll see to it,” and was as good as his word. We moved into the slightly bigger flat which had a balcony from which my mother could whistle for me [24]

to come home from the park! During this time, my father continued in his job, where, despite his intelligentsia background, he was well regarded because of his technical and managerial expertise. He worked very, very long hours and was always very stressed. He wasn’t the kind of father who would romp with you on the floor, but he was very loving; it’s just that he got very stressed. The thing that is hard to put across is how much danger people were in all the time. He was in charge of production in his factory and the communist planners would say, “this factory must produce ‘X’ every year.” If you didn’t manage to do X for whatever perfectly good reason, you were accused of being a saboteur and an enemy of the ‘People.’ This happened to my father. In the middle of the night, he was taken away by the notorious, famously cruel secret police and accused of sabotage. My mother and I had no idea when, if ever, he would return but luckily, he was released very quickly. He said he’d been given a few slaps but otherwise hadn’t been tortured. Many people simply disappeared for years. It was entirely arbitrary. I don’t know what he said or who, perhaps, spoke up for him but he kind of pretended that nothing had happened and just carried on with his job. Occasionally he would beat me, sometimes quite hard but I put it down to two things - my mother would occasionally wind him up a bit about me if I did something wrong and also because he was just so stressed. I never held it against him. What did I get punished for? Fear of punishment made me lie a lot. For example, if I did something bad, the school would send a report which my parents would have to countersign. One day, I brought home one such report - I honestly don’t remember what I’d done and I was so scared that my father might beat me that I tried to forge [25]

his signature. It was a horribly clumsy attempt and when I took the report back to school the next day, they looked at it and said, “come on, that’s not your father.” Then there was another report which, this time, I couldn’t disguise. I really got punished for that. Sometimes I managed to escape punishment by rushing up to my grandparents’ flat until my father’s anger had subsided. I was often sheltered by my grandparents in this way. Sometimes I fled upward by another floor to my mother’s wonderful sister’s flat. Aunt Klári was a much-loved person, quite different from my mother. She had her own “egyke”, a girl called Vera. Vera was once the indirect cause of one of my punishments. She could draw and paint beautifully while I was completely hopeless at it, so one day I persuaded her to do my art homework. At school, I presented it as my own work but it was so beautiful that I wasn’t believed and got punished for lying. Tragically she contracted an illness, rheumatic fever, for which there was a cure, a Swiss drug, but that was unobtainable in Hungary. She died in 1954 aged 14. The word ‘naughty’ comes to mind but basically, I was often quite bored at school. I was a voracious reader including my favourite world atlas which was one of the few books I brought with me when I left Hungary. This atlas contained a brief description of the geography and potted history of every country in the world and included all the many 20th century boundary changes in Europe and Africa. This was an enormous help to my stamp collection and I had the ambition of having at least one stamp issued by every country. What I am about to say is not very ‘English’ but in truth, I was intelligent; very knowledgeable for my age and well-read. I was also quick on the uptake so didn’t need any repetition. This is why I got bored at lessons and got up to mischief. [26]

About homework, I often stayed behind at school and did it there and then so that it could be done even before lunch. Homework didn’t figure highly in my life! There are even a few things that my children and grandchildren have never heard of. The road from our house to the school went through a derelict part of Budapest where there were many stones lying about. Once, I picked up a stone and chucked it at a lamp-post, managing to hit the lamp, which broke. Immediately, I was reported and a policeman came to our door. In those days, when a policeman came to your door it was very bad news because there was no judicial process to speak of; the police just did what they wanted. I was very severely told off by my parents for that - not so much because of what I did but because it endangered the whole family. I didn’t fully appreciate this until much later. Life in general out of school Most of all, I remember lovely long summers, riding my bike, going swimming and playing and watching football. Between 1951 and 1954, Hungary had the world’s best football team. They beat everybody they played out of sight. The communist philosophy was that everything should be accessible to the people at an affordable price. Cultural things and sporting events were almost free or completely free. As such, we could enrol at any club and get all the kit we wanted without it costing a penny. Nearly every weekend, my parents and I would go to watch this glorious football being played. It was truly an amazing standard of wonderful football and I was completely besotted with it. I even had a trial with one of the leading Budapest teams aged thirteen or fourteen, but I didn’t get very far and came home only for my mother to spot that I had chicken pox. Naturally, she attributed this to the football club and so I wasn’t [27]

allowed to go back again. When I was told suddenly that I couldn’t be Head Boy after all, I wasn’t even that upset. It didn’t bother me that much. It was not like an English school where being a Head Boy carried significant functions. Being Head Boy wasn’t something I ever aspired to. When I was given it, it was great but when it was taken away from me because my father was of the ‘wrong’ class and therefor his son could not be appointed to that position. I just shrugged my shoulders. A few words about my parents’ relationship. On the whole, they got on well but I was brought up in a very stressful political environment and did overhear quite a lot of bickering between them. We had a lot of friends and relatives, those that had survived. They played bridge with them or gathered for suppers. My father’s parents had perished in a concentration camp, so my maternal grandparents were very much the centre of the family. It’s very hard to find the right words to describe how very, very loving and lovable they were. Not only towards me and Vera but also to everyone they met. My mother’s parents were just universally very gentle and very kind. My grandfather was one of eight siblings and my grandmother was one of five. Only two or three of each of their siblings survived the 1944-1945 deportations. The family was actually quite large if you ignored the fact that so many more were lost. Many of them lived in a different suburb (Ujpest, where my mother was born and whose football team we supported) from where we lived but they would often come to my grandparents’ small flat. One of the curiosities was that my grandparents were born on exactly the same day; in very different locations but on the same [28]

date, same month, same year. In recognition of this, they got married on their birthdays so there would a sort of triple celebration every 25th May. Grandmother’s birthday, my grandfather’s birthday and their wedding anniversary. The whole family would get together and it was just amazing. I loved those occasions. My granny would make the most beautiful cakes. At the time, theatre was dirt cheap and sport facilities were readily available. The Party would send season tickets to the opera Budapest opera was of a high standard - to the factory for the workers. The ordinary factory employees did not care for opera, so my father was able to pick up three season tickets for nothing and we would pick and choose which of the propaganda-free classical operas (e.g. Mozart or Verdi) we’d go and see. By the age of fourteen, I had seen pretty much the entire classical repertoire and I enjoyed every moment. So there were these sorts of compensations. Theatre, cinema and sport were either free or affordable even on the very restricted wages that people were getting. A few more words about my mother. It was universally agreed that she was beautiful and graceful. There are some studio photos taken when she was still acting/dancing that attest to this. Throughout her life, my mother retained her beauty and she could always be very charming with good manners. People really liked her a lot but inside her family it was slightly different. I don’t think she was always very nice to me. She was a kind of person who just wanted to be adored and I wasn’t good at that. I had other priorities than sitting at her feet and adoring her. She didn’t always see me as an independent person and sometimes treated me as an adornment to herself. She would even prevail on me to say that I was actually her little brother and [29]

not her son at all. When I was about 8, she used to say, “I’m now 29 and I’ll stay this way for ten years” and joke that 29 to 30 are the ten best years of a woman’s life. She didn’t have a high level of education but she had tremendous natural intelligence and was very good at maths. She became a good cook and a good housewife but being elegant was always important to her and she pulled it off with aplomb. Physically, I most resembled my father, apart from my nose which is not as crooked as his was. But I have exactly the same shaped head as he did and you can see it in the shape of my son’s head and my grandson’s head too - we are all Golds! My father was not very tall - probably about 5’7” - but physically he was very strong. He was a very heavy smoker and when I was about eight he had a heart attack. He would have been smoking about sixty cigarettes a day and I remember the scene perfectly. He was white as a sheet lying in bed, smoking, when the doctor arrived and examined him, me lurking nearby. He asked my father, “Do you love your son?” My father said, “Stupid question! Of course!” “Well, if you love him, that cigarette you’re just stubbing out is your very last one if you want to live and bring him up.” Such was my father’s moral strength that he managed it! In those days we didn’t have the vocabulary of withdrawal symptoms or cold turkey, but he did it. My mother, who also smoked, did not stop even in his presence. I just remember this strong man who I looked up to so much, trembling with cravings as my mother smoked. But after about three months, that passed and he never smoked again. Everybody in Hungary smoked at the time. In my parents’ wedding photos, everyone seems to have a cigarette in their hand. Tobacco was so cheap and such a convenient escape from the misery of life that everyone smoked.


Hungary has always produced good quality wine. After the war, the Soviet Union demanded reparations that included wine. Hence, the wine that was left over for sale in Hungary tended to be of inferior quality. But it was generally available and children like me were given it, diluted with lots of water. This happened most often when I had a meal with my grandparents. My grandfather had an acidity deficiency in his stomach and was advised to drink wine with water, so when I came home from school I would sit down for a meal with them and he’d drink diluted wine and give me one centimetre in a glass and then top it all the way up with water. So I got to drink the weakest possible spritzers that you could imagine. But it was second nature to have wine; a bit like in France. Let me tell you about some of the Hungarian dishes that both my mother and grandmother made. There are no direct equivalents in England. There would be some sort of meat with potatoes cooked in various ways and with sauces often including paprika and soured cream. There were dishes based on cabbage or stuffed cabbage and because meat wasn’t always available, we would have what we called ‘the poor man’s wiener schnitzel.’ This is made exactly the same way but with slices of aubergine instead of meat; dipped in breadcrumbs and eggs and then fried. The bread was always very good quality. As Hungary was still essentially an agricultural country, it did not import fruit or food. Besides, there wasn’t any currency for imports, so everything was very seasonal. I remember having absolutely wonderful apricots for two or three weeks and absolutely amazing cherries while the season lasted. The same goes for peaches and grapes. To this day I can still taste them. I haven’t eaten anything like that in sixty years in this country. My wife teases me terribly about hankering after these and other Hungarian flavours. [31]

We never went without decent food really, even in the worst possible times. Occasionally, you wouldn’t be able to get eggs for a day or two so people went shopping with an empty bag and bought whatever happened to be in the shop that day because they didn’t know when it would be available again. My dad had a very good sense of humour and I love this anecdote of his resourcefulness, as he too kept his eye on what was available. One day on his way home from work with his leather briefcase he went past a butcher’s shop and saw they had “szalonna”, which is like fatty smoked bacon. He rushed into the shop and bought a piece but such was the shortage of paper that when the assistant gave it to my father it was wrapped in such a small piece of paper that the bacon was less than half-covered. So, my father said, “look, if I put this in my briefcase it will mess it all up so can I please have some more paper?” And the reply came, “no, that’s the rule, you’re only allowed one piece of paper.” Now, the Party had a pretence of consumer friendliness, one of the Party’s rules was that every shop had to have a complaints book. This was a mockery because you could get into trouble simply for making a complaint, especially if you signed your name. Despite this, my father said “I want the complaints book.” The shocked assistant said, “Really?” and gave it to him. Then my father tore out about five or six sheets from the complaints book, wrapped his purchase in them and walked out! But everyone had to be careful. Mostly, you had to do exactly as you were told. There was just not much messing around. Your pay was predetermined and you couldn’t go up and ask for a rise. Everything was prescribed; there was a rule on everything and all the while, the media, newspapers and radio (because there was no television then) [32]

showed relentless propaganda, absolutely relentless. As I mentioned before, the main room of our flat had this amazing contraption; a huge piece of furniture which had two tall cupboards with doors on either side of a sofa which could be opened up. When people came they would sit on that and there were also a few chairs and a table. All our clothes were stored in those cupboards and everything could be shoved in there along with the bed linen. Before my parents could go to bed, there would be a certain amount of manipulation of the furniture to make it suitable to sleep on the double sofa bed. Today this furniture would probably be very expensive because it was very ‘art deco.’ I slept in a small alcove, so I imagine they waited until I was asleep for whatever they wanted to do! There was not much privacy in the small flat but they had a bit more when we got the slightly bigger flat because I think there was a door between us. Things continued in a very settled and normal way until about 1955 when it became clear that the population in Hungary was very unhappy indeed with all the deprivations, the disappearance of political prisoners and the terror of the secret police. A few years after Stalin’s death, Mr. Khrushchev came to power in the Soviet Union and he denounced what were the worst excesses of Stalin’s era. That meant that the Hungarian puppet communist leader also had to start making noises about reform and the relaxation of political freedoms. In Hungary this did not work out too well because the people were not satisfied with the amount of reform. But it did mean there were more freedoms. Until then, the West had been hermetically sealed off. No-one was allowed to leave but now travel to the West was relaxed for a few selected people. [33]

The Trip to (Western) Germany, Summer 1956 One of the things that happened was that my ever-resourceful mother persuaded her cousin - the son of the man who sheltered us for a while in 1944 - who lived in West Germany to send me an invitation to visit him. On the strength of that, aged fourteen, somewhat unexpectedly I was given a passport and a visa to travel to West Germany, alone. I spent a month in Pforzheim at his house but he and I didn’t get on terribly well. He had no children of his own. I don’t quite know what it was about me that he didn’t particularly take to but he was a very strange man. Not many people liked him so the fact that he didn’t like me and I didn’t like him was by no means unique. It wasn’t a great trip. I didn’t particularly enjoy the time without my parents with a man who had no idea how to relate to teenage boys. He was a successful businessman but he couldn’t really be bothered with me. This was a great opportunity for me in many people’s eyes because it was quite exceptional to be allowed to travel to the West. What happened next was really quite determinative of later events because on returning to Hungary, just at the beginning of the school year in 1956, I was not asked to surrender my passport. This would have been most unusual at the time. I’ve absolutely no idea how or why but my passport was not taken away and, crucially, the original German visa was still valid for another five months. October 1956 So there I was, back in Hungary at a new school, a so-called gimnázium (in France that would be a lycée and in England the nearest would be a non-fee-paying grammar school) when in October 1956, the popular discontent with the communist regime [34]

boiled over and there was an armed uprising. When it started, my father was on a trade trip in Albania and was stuck there with no means of communicating with us while the fighting was going on, some of it very near our street. Shops, of course, were all shut. Food was once again very difficult to get because shops were closed and nothing was coming up from the country. For about a week or so, things were really quite dire and we worried about my father who was no doubt worrying about us. Much of this time, I spent playing a game called ‘Gombfoci’ - a kind of table football with buttons - with a friend who lived in the same block of flats. Obviously, there was no school, so we were just sitting at home while the fighting was raging all around us. At one point, there was a lull in the fighting and I was sent out to forage for some bread. That was when I saw my first dead body: a young man lying under a shop front with bits of glass under his eyes and his stomach completely open where he was shot up. I remember thinking to myself, “this is my first dead body and don’t internal organs look a funny browny-red colour?” The Soviet tanks crushed the uprising by the fifth of November and things took a time to return to normal, so my father still couldn’t get back from Albania. It wasn’t until the end of that month that he was finally able to return. When the fighting had broken out, my aunt Klári, who worked for one of the biggest banks in Hungary, had been in commercial negotiation for a trade deal with a Dutchman who had come to Budapest in his own car and got temporarily stuck while the shootings were going on. Fearing for my safety, my mother and father persuaded this man to take me out of Hungary in this car, [35]

assuring him that I had a valid passport with a current German visa. My mother even went to the Soviet army headquarters and said, “here’s this boy, he needs to go to Germany, he’s got his passport and visa but can you put a stamp on his passport to make sure that he can really go through your checkpoints?” I suspect the Russians had more important things to focus on with all the fighting and pursuing people who fought against them, so they just said to her in effect, “oh, go away!” and put a stamp in my passport. That persuaded the Dutchman that it was safe to take me. Nobody asked me if I actually wanted to go and, in truth, I didn’t. First of all, I would be going back to my mother’s cousin who didn’t particularly like me and secondly, it would mean leaving without my parents and not knowing when I would see them again. But I was fourteen years old and at that age, you more or less do as you’re told. The Dutchman safely delivered me to Vienna, and from there I took a train directly to my ‘wicked uncle’ in Pforzheim. My mother’s thinking was that she and my father would try to follow me and anyway if all else failed I could come back because I hadn’t done anything illegal. Meanwhile, they would find a way of joining me. During this time, some 200,000 Hungarians left the country illegally but because my father was 51 by then, they decided that instead of trying to flee illegally, they would apply for permission to emigrate. This would have been utterly unheard-of in the pre-uprising years but it was becoming known that in addition to prosecuting all those who had fought against them, the newly re-installed puppet communist Hungarian Government were planning to get rid of people who were of a certain age and no longer of huge economic value to them. My parents therefore applied for leave to emigrate [36]

and although the grant to leave did not come through for another eight months, eventually they got out.



Chapter Three 'An Unhappy German and Austrian Interlude' December 1956 – January 1958

By December 1956, I was living with this German uncle who called me a cuckoo in his nest. He made no secret of the fact that I was most unwelcome and he certainly wasn’t going to send me to school even though I was obviously of compulsory school age. Instead, he made me work for him as an apprentice in his watch factory. He made me live in the basement of his house which was a cold stone room in which they did their washing and where I slept on a mattress. I did not tell my parents what was going on because I knew if I told them about how this man was treating me, they’d make me come home immediately and I knew that would have scuppered their plans to leave. So I endured it. After all, I was being fed properly and ate at the same table as my rich uncle. But during the days I worked as an apprentice in his watch factory. I honestly don’t remember much of how my evenings were spent because, in those early days, my German was still almost non-existent. I have real gaps in my memory from this period and cannot say - on a day to day, hour to hour basis - how I lived when I wasn’t working. There were some other Hungarian refugee boys taken on by my uncle so there was a little bit of company, but they were all much older than me and more interested in beer and ladies than in me: I was only fifteen and they were in their twenties. This went on for about eight months. There were occasional phone calls and letters from my parents but I didn’t let on what was really happening because I was quite sure they would have said, “no, no, this isn’t working, come home.” Occasionally, they managed to [39]

send me some special postage stamps under plain cover. I found a philatelist shop in the town and sold them for some pocket money. I learned German fairly quickly from the other apprentices because I seem to have a flair for languages, having spent seven years learning both Russian and French. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the German I spoke was a kind of street German that was not grammatically correct. It wasn’t until I came to England and did O-level (now GCSE) German that the full horrors of true German grammar hit me! There came a time towards the end of those eight months in Germany when I found it quite difficult to remember what my parents looked like. I had one single photo of my dad and not many of my mum. That was hard. How to describe my daily life as an apprentice? Apparently, I was not very good at my work because I was often told off for making too many mistakes. In my defence, I was by far the youngest person working there. I’m not even sure it was legal for a fifteen-year old to work as an apprentice in Germany. I recall that at lunch times, I was often sent to a nearby department store which had a canteen to bring food for five of six workers in great heavy containers. I remember a lot of potato salad and a kind of south German speciality pasta called spätzle. That’s a sort of noodle with eggs; not great but edible! My uncle had a big dog which became my friend and I would often take it for walks. Gradually, I got to know Pforzheim. It was mainly newly built housing because it was heavily bombed by the Allies during the Second World War. Pforzheim always called itself ‘the City of Watches’ and the Nazis had converted the watch factories to [40]

manufacture precision instruments for rocket motors which was why it got bombed so heavily. There wasn’t much to see. The one thing that gave me a little bit of relief from my hard work was to watch the town football team. My uncle, who liked to play the role of the local big shot, had reserved seats at the stadium and he took me with him to watch the football. Thankfully, in the summer of 1957, I got the news that my parents were coming out of Hungary and would be arriving in Vienna. My uncle responded by saying, “Ah! Good riddance!” He put me on the train to Vienna and, gratefully, I rejoined my parents, who had rented a tiny shared flat in Vienna from an extremely eccentric lady. She claimed to be a princess, was vegan and worshipped an American boy aged fourteen as a God. My mother wasn’t allowed to wear anything leather in her presence. Meanwhile, quite a lot of my other family had also left Hungary, albeit illegally. They were living in a refugee camp in a suburb of Vienna. Partly to alleviate the drain that my appetite represented to my parents’ purse and partly just for company, I’d get on the tram to this suburb and spend several days with my uncle and aunt called Pali (Paul) and Maca Kallós (originally Klein…), who ended up eventually in Scotland. Their daughter Jutka (Judy) and son Peter remain very good friends to this day. They both have a lovely family. My uncle was phenomenally clever and mathematically very able. One of the ways in which he put that to good use was as a very successful card player. I would sit by his side and learn how to play the Hungarian card game of Ulti, a bit like whist. I became quite an accomplished player for a fifteen-year old boy. But I never did it for [41]

money. He just taught me how to improve my strategic play. It will be recalled that my father had worked for an enterprise which in the pre-Communist era was quite international, with subsidiaries outside Hungary. He still had quite a lot of contacts from his job in England, Greece, Germany and Spain. Sitting in Vienna, he wrote job applications to these contacts and eventually, he was offered jobs in about three or four countries. But he was in a dilemma, “where should we, as a family, settle down?” Above all, what would be best for me, his son? My parents had been horrified that my uncle wouldn’t let me go to school and they felt a sense of urgency about my schooling. My father had a pipe-dream that one day I would go university either at Oxford or Cambridge. He knew relatively little about the English way of life or about the English educational system but, like any well-educated Central European person, he had heard good things about the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He accepted the least well-paid job offered, which was the English one, and in November of 1957 my parents went off to England. Notice, ‘they’ went off, because I didn’t go with them. Again! Their plan was to maximise my father’s initially small salary and take advantage of the fact that a Dutch charity had established a boarding school for Hungarian refugee children in the Austrian mountains of Tirol. The plan was that I would spend one school year there and then join them once they had settled in. This would have the dual purpose of resuming my education while giving them a bit of financial breathing space to furnish a flat and acquire all the usual things one needs when one arrives in a new country with nothing but a suitcase. Off I went off to this school which turned on to be a very unpleasant experience. Although the school was run with Dutch money, it was [42]

managed by Hungarian Catholic priest-teachers who (unknown to the Dutch) turned out to be profoundly anti-semitic. One of the ironies of my name was that by the time I was born in 1942, my parents already knew that being Jewish, whether secular (in my family’s case) or practising, was potentially dangerous. With this in mind, as I have already mentioned but it bears repetition, they gave me two resoundingly Hungarian first names, had me baptized Lutheran and I was not circumcised. It was already known that the German Nazis would detect males who tried to disguise themselves as Gentiles (who, in general, were not circumcised in Central Europe) by forcing them to show their penis. Hungarian names and baptismal certificates were of no use during the war. Yet they did not change our surname which, at least in Central Europe, was very obviously Jewish. My grandparents changed Hoffmann to Hámor, my aunt Klári and her husband Imre (Tomi’s parents) changed from Stein to Simonyi. My ace card-playing uncle went from Klein to Kallós and so on; but Gold was not changed. Most odd. I have often pondered why there is so much antisemitism in Hungary. Perhaps it was the fervent Catholicism of the lessereducated rural people who were encouraged to think of Jews as the killers of Jesus. Maybe it was jealousy: because the Jews were excluded from many positions in society and they prospered in the ones they were allowed to take up. Another factor was Communism. It just so happens that the Communist leaders most closely associated with “red terror” were fierce Jews; in 1919, Béla Kun during the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, then in the Stalinist years the dreaded and hated triumvirate of Rákosi, Gerő and Farkas.


In Austria, my surname was immediately recognized as Jewish which laid me open to many snide remarks from the priests. In the dormitories, I was regularly taunted and even physically attacked by the other boys. I honestly don’t know what my parents were thinking. They were such intelligent people who had given me Hungarian names, omitted to circumcise me and even secured a birth certificate for me that said I was a Lutheran and yet they didn’t change our surname! Initially, I put up with this persecution but in the mountains there was no means of escape and I couldn’t tell my parents what was happening because, as in Germany, I did not want them to take me out of this school and thereby to become a burden to them. But I was indignant because I was not feeling particularly Jewish and soon it became intolerable. Then came the Christmas holidays and in January 1958, 10 days before my 16th birthday, I travelled to England, told my parents what had been happening and informed them that I would refuse to go back to the school. My parents understood and accepted my decision instantly. And that was how I came to live in a suburb of London, Surbiton, with absolutely no English, having lost 5 terms of school but speaking fluent French, Russian, (ungrammatical) German and Hungarian.


Chapter Four ‘New Beginnings in England?’ 1958 - 1961 My father’s job was in a place called Weybridge in Surrey and his English company rented a nice little maisonette for us in Surbiton, a typical Surrey suburb of London. My parents found a college in Hammersmith for me that specialised in teaching English to foreigners, mainly young women from the Continent who wanted to be bilingual secretaries. From Surbiton, I travelled to up to Hammersmith every day to learn English and that was good fun. I loved learning English and made such rapid progress that within two or three months I was correcting my parents’ English grammar. It was time for me to resume attending a proper school, so my father went to the education department of Surrey County Council and said, “He’s of compulsory school age. What can you do with him?” They referred me to Surbiton County Grammar School, a few minutes’ walk from our house, and we had an interview with the headteacher who asked my father, “what’s Tibor good at?” My father said, “maths.” This man started drawing a right-angled triangle and I knew enough about geometry to know that this would be about Pythagoras’ Theorem; but in Hungarian the name is pronounced Peetagorass, so that’s how I said it even before he finished his drawing. The headteacher smiled, “Ah, Pythagoras! Ok, we will enrol him in the fifth form.” By the beginning of the next school year, in September, I was doing eight O-Levels and within 18 months of arriving in England I had passed all of them, first time, even English language in which I had the highest mark in my class! It was a boys-only school and sadly did not ‘do’ football, rugby was [45]


the winter sport. Since I loved to play all ball games, I threw myself into learning the rules of the oval ball game and rose to the dizzying heights of the 3rd XV! (p.46) One thing that became quite important later on which I didn’t realize at the time was that I decided to put my knowledge of languages to good use. I was doing English, R.E., Physics, Chemistry, Pure and Applied Maths (counted as one) and Geography but to make my complement of subjects up to eight I chose to do French and German as well as Hungarian which was my ninth but I took it ahead of the rest. Then I started doing A-Levels in the Lower Sixth science stream, Pure and Applied Maths, Chemistry and Physics. At that point I had absolutely no idea about a career but those were my strongest subjects and they were obviously useful in terms of jobs. My father had a doctorate in Physics and he reasoned that a degree in physics or maths would be good for my future career. He was ambitious for me to follow him without ever insisting. If, which I doubt, the hallmark of a good school is in terms of the number of pupils getting into Oxbridge, then my school was undistinguished. In fact, in its then 30-year existence, only one boy had ever gone to Oxford. But again, serendipity, chance - call it what you like - intervened because a nearby, fee-paying school, Tiffin School, decided to retire a senior maths teacher who wasn't quite ready to stop working. Luckily for me, he popped up at my school and offered to do a few hours’ coaching for sixth formers. He asked the Head which students he could usefully improve the grades of, and I was picked. This teacher, an old English Jewish gentleman called Mr. Meshenberg seemed to like me and he said, “Come to my house a few times a week at 6 am in the morning, because I’m one of those people that gets up at four and then starts to work; so 6 am [47]

is fine. I’ll help you with your A-Level and S-Level (as it used to be called) maths.” And I enjoyed it. I hated getting up so early but we compromised on 7, early enough for me. I liked the subject and I liked him. I don’t think my parents paid for him, so maybe the school did. One day, towards the end of my lower sixth year, we were just chatting and he said, “Well, I think you could get into Oxford or Cambridge. I don’t have that many contacts there but if you do want to apply, I have one person I know at each, would you like me to write to them about you?” I said, “I’d be very pleased.” He wrote about me and something encouraging must have come back - that I never saw - that convinced me to apply to Keble College, Oxford and to Downing College, Cambridge. At Downing, they interviewed me for a place to study Maths but they suggested my maths wasn’t quite good enough and that I should spend a third year at school to improve it. I accepted their judgement but I really didn’t want to stay a third year in the sixth form. I was very conscious of the fact that (at that time) I was 19 and so a year older than most students but more importantly, I was acutely aware of the fact my father was 56 years old and he would not have much time to save enough money for his retirement and leave enough for my mother. I imagined that as an only child I would have to support my mother after his death as she was 15 years younger and had only a badly paid menial job and no formal qualifications, so I decided I needed to “get on with it” and not to pursue Cambridge. Rome Olympics 1960 Before getting on to the story of how I applied to Oxford, I must [48]

insert an anecdote from 1960. My family tease me a lot that I am too preoccupied with my bodily functions. Perhaps it’s true. Compared to Western countries such as the UK and Italy, Hungary was considered backward in many ways and yet our flat in Budapest had central heating, double glazing and a proper ‘sit-down’ flushing toilet. Our flat in Surbiton, however, had single glazing and bar heaters. In 1960, my school organised a trip to the Rome Olympics and my parents and I (from summer jobs) scraped together the necessary funds. It was as cheap as possible: we went by train which took 36 hours and were accommodated in some army barracks evacuated by the soldiers for the duration of the Games. There, I encountered the horror of a loo which was just a hole in the ground with two footshaped islands upon which to squat. I just couldn’t do it. It was a crisis for someone as regular as me! Luckily, our trip included two afternoons at the Olympic Stadium which had the kind of facilities I was more used to. I had to miss seeing some of the races while I, ahem, made up for lost time. Apart from that, I had a wonderful time in Rome. We were given the opportunity to go to an open-air performance of Verdi’s Aida, one of my favourite operas, at the Roman ruins of the Caracalla baths. During the Triumphal March in Act II, pairs of animals, presumably from the zoo, were brought to the stage as part of the victorious procession. To huge laughter and whistling, the camels started to ‘spray’ the stage in what seemed like perfect synchronism with the music. Then, during the next interval a drinks seller appeared near my seat shouting something I couldn’t understand except for the price which I was able to afford. The drink turned out to be coffee deliciously laced with brandy. Sipping that in the [49]

amphitheatre on a balmy Roman summer night with the sublime music in my ears, aged 18 and still only recently out of Hungary, I felt incredibly grown-up and sophisticated. A truly memorable event for the right and the wrong reasons. Oxford – on a Scholarship Anyway, I was invited to an interview at Keble College and I met the Warden, a clergyman who thought I was a Christian – I did not contradict him for reasons explained later. After a chat, he said “We have already had a Hungarian refugee boy at this college and he did really well.” It was now five years since the uprising of 1956 but he said, ‘This college would like to help another Hungarian refugee. So long as you don’t mess up your A-level exams, you can come up here.” I didn’t do terrifically well at my A-Levels but I did just about well enough to get into Keble. I was rather disappointed in myself, if I’m being honest. By then, I had a girlfriend so that might have been a bit of a distraction! By an amazing coincidence, Oxford changed the admission rules for science subjects: instead of requiring Latin OLevel as they did until then and which I did not have, it now accepted two modern language O-Levels instead. Lucky me, having three – German, French and Hungarian! Meanwhile, there was another twist. My father, who was still not quite ‘au fait’ with how things were in England, believed that Surrey County Council would give me a grant to pay for my accommodation and teaching at Oxford. What he did not realize was that the maximum grant would be means-tested and therefore quite a lot of money would be subtracted because on paper he was beginning to earn quite well. In those early years, he was not in a [50]

good enough financial position to be able to top me up to the level which was considered the amount necessary to live on. However, because I was to study Physics, there were scholarships available. These were offered to science students by their potential future employers, the major industrial companies, among them ICI. To relieve my parents of any worries about money, I applied to two or three of these scholarships and was offered two. This may have been due not so much to merit as to the backwash of the tide of sentiment towards Hungarian refugees. Either way, the one that ended up being most important to me was ICI’s. (p.52) ICI no longer exists but was then one of the giants of English chemical and pharmaceutical industry. I was called to an interview. On entering the interview room, I found a single man who clearly hadn’t bothered to read my file in advance. He opened it and asked, “Tibor, that’s a Hungarian name, isn’t it?” I said, “Yes.” “Ah Hungary!” he said and went into a sort reverie about how he was sent there by ICI on a trade mission before WWII. He told me how at the end of the trade mission, they were treated to a gala dinner in the Hungarian State Wine Cellars and described in minute detail all the wonderful things they ate and all the delicious wines they drank. Having finished his story, he looked at his watch and said, ‘My goodness! The next person is coming in in five minutes. I haven’t really asked you anything. Sorry, I’ve been doing all the talking but I’m sure ICI would want to support and help a Hungarian boy.” The upshot to this was that I was given an extremely generous scholarship which included a huge, separate book allowance. I was treated as if I was an employee and amazingly, that also meant that I’d get some shares every year. The implication was that I would [51]

Age 18 going to interviews [52]

join ICI once I’d graduated and that I would spend a part of two summer vacations doing projects with them. As a result of my scholarship, I lived very comfortably at Oxford. I bought all my own books, never had to use any of the libraries and could afford as much beer and cinema tickets as I wanted! So my father’s fears about financial support were allayed and his dream came true: in 1961 I went to Oxford to read Physics. There I am in the photo on page 54, second row, third from the right, so proudly wearing my blazer with the Keble crest.



Chapter Five ‘At Oxford: much fun, not much studying’ 1961 - 1964 By the end of my first year at Oxford, things had started to go a little downhill academically. After all my unbroken exam successes with a bit of a hiccup during my A-Level Chemistry - I suddenly found myself a very unguided and undisciplined student. I didn’t study and I didn’t ask for help when I didn’t understand. I had loads of friends of both sexes, did lots of drinking and lots of nonacademic good works instead. For instance, I joined an organization called International Voluntary Service through which I spent many weekends decorating old age pensioners’ homes (and not studying). Instead of the good food already paid for in Keble’s Hall, I ran bread and cheese lunches in aid of Oxfam and also chaired the University’s Refugee Week, a major fundraising event. All in all, I had a wonderful time with my many English friends and imperceptibly I became quite acculturated, but not in the Physics lab. It turned out that it was a subject I liked more from a sort of helicopter view. When it came to the gritty detail, I just either couldn’t remember it or just didn’t like it. At the end of my first year there was an exam and I did poorly. I didn’t fail but I did poorly, a third-class result. I felt unsupported by my tutors who were not particularly empathetic people and I was stupid enough not to ask for help. In hindsight, I really should have asked for help. So I struggled and all the time inside I felt a bit of a failure because I didn’t really understand and the detail was too much. On the one hand, there I was at Oxford having a wonderful time in a very beautiful environment, with great friends, learning all sorts [55]

of very exciting and interesting things about life, culture, English institutions and politics, also literature; on the other hand, I was doing poorly as a physicist. It was at this time that I developed a liking for punning, inspired by listening to the Goons and Round the Horne. To me, it was all part of the joy of mastering English. But what I hadn’t entirely grasped was that my studies were suffering and that was a problem because in the summer I was obliged to go ICI in Middlesbrough as part of my scholarship deal and I just knew that I wouldn’t come up to ICI’s expectations of me. I realised that fundamentally the issue was that the continental way of learning which I was used to, relied heavily on memory and an accumulation of facts but it was different at Oxford. I was presented as a very clever boy because I had a phenomenal memory (if I may be allowed to say that) and was good at general knowledge but what I wasn’t so good was problem-solving for which you needed a deeper understanding of the subject. In England, you cannot just rely on something you read somewhere retained for a short time. There is one little episode about my Oxford friends I want to relate which happened at the beginning of 1962. In my first term, I made three particularly close friends, one of whom came from a Quaker family resident in Rugby and who had attended the rather posh Rugby School as a day boy. After we broke up for Christmas in 1961 and reassembled in January for the new term, he told me that he’d been some party where he was asked who his university friends were and he mentioned me by name, whereupon this other person said, “oh, he must be Jewish, it’s such a Jewish name.” As he related it to me, my friend had replied, “That can’t be right, he’s so nice.” He didn’t even challenge me, “Is it true that you’re Jewish?” He just assumed that he was right and I said nothing but the implications [56]

were horrendous. In truth, I kept quiet because of what happened to our family in ’44/’45, namely the slaughter of Hungarian Jews. Throughout my life, my mother and father had brought me up to keep very quiet about being Jewish. Many times, they had impressed upon me that it was not clever to talk about it or to announce it and the memory of being beaten up in that boarding school in Austria for being Jewish was also still fresh in my mind. In Oxford, I still had a huge sense that my being Jewish was something embarrassing and shameful, best kept quiet. My very, very good friend who had decided I was a very nice person somehow had acquired the notion that there was a contradiction between being Jewish and being nice. Perhaps, he hadn’t met a single Jew before in the little town like Rugby but it caused me quite a lot of internal agonies. I still couldn’t ‘come out’ as a Jew and his remark rankled for many years. I scraped through my first year with a poor academic result and went off to Middlesbrough to be assigned a project that I didn’t even know how to begin. The man who was my line manager asked me, “well, what do you do at Oxford all day?” And like an arrogant idiot, I said, “Just having a good time, drinking a few beers and chasing girls.” He said, “What? On my company’s money?” I realised that I had spoken to him as if he was one of my mates and that this was a major mistake. The scholarship imposed a moral rather than a contractual obligation on me to join ICI after graduation and when I realised that this man was going to be my future boss, I got even more worried. ICI even very kindly paid for me to go to Strasbourg University in the summer of 1962 to do a bilingual (French and German) language and philosophy course.


When I returned for my second year at Oxford, history just repeated itself. I struggled with my studies but enjoyed life very much. In that year, I had a new girlfriend who studied mathematics at a (then women’s only) college called Lady Margaret Hall. Looking at the stuff that she was doing I thought, “there by the grace of God go I, I would have struggled even more with maths than I am with physics.” One slightly disreputable story which I still joke about is that I may not have been a very good Physics student but I acquired an enormous amount of data on the comparative hot water systems of Keble College and Lady Margaret Hall. To explain: Keble College was noted for sport and in particular for rowing. The oarsmen would come back from the river after training to have their baths -there were no showers - and leave the baths filthy. We poor scientists who had to do laboratory practice in the afternoon would return to College to find the bathrooms in a disgusting state. But once I realised that Lady Margaret Hall had lashings of hot water and clean bathrooms, I would help myself to my girlfriend’s College’s facilities. Had I been found out we both could have been in serious trouble. So my little joke is that I was doing poorly in Physics but was working on a PhD thesis on the comparative merits of the plumbing systems of the two colleges. Talking of rowing, a sport taken far too seriously in Oxford still, Keble won the Head of River races in 1963 for the first time in its history and a very special dinner was laid on in Keble Hall (photo page 59). Becoming British – by a heir’s breadth? A major event of 1963 was that I became eligible for UK [58]

[59] [59]

Outrageous posing: special dinner in Keble Hall to celebrate the 1st VIII becoming Head of River

citizenship. I applied and was accepted and as part of that I had to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. The actual text I had to recite included the phrase “the Queen and all her heirs and successors.” Although my English was practically perfect by then I had never heard anyone pronounce the word ”heir” and so under the watchful eye of an elderly solicitor I pronounced that word as “hairs”. Initially, I did not understand why this got such a stern look from the solicitor but he signed the certificate and then explained it to me. I was very embarrassed but I think he knew it was an innocent mistake. The day when my naturalization certificate (p.61) arrived was a proud moment for me and my parents. Brilliant careers advice By my third year when I had to take the final exam, I just knew I’d do badly. I was well aware that my father would be very disappointed because he was a scientist but, of course, the inevitable happened and there was just nothing I felt I could do about it. And that’s when something very important happened. The university had a careers advisory service and everyone was encouraged to go. If you had a rich daddy and you were going straight into the City or a family business you didn’t have to do that, but I decided I’d go. I spoke very openly to the careers advisor about my fears and embarrassment of my imminent poor degree and said, “look, this is me, I need advice. I speak all these languages, I have a good general knowledge, I’m intelligent but I’m just a terrible physicist and I’ve got this moral, if not legal, obligation toward ICI where I blotted my copy book with my future boss.” And he said, “I’ll get you out of the ICI business, I’ll write to them.” Immediately, I felt relieved and he then said, “I think that a good career for you would be to become a patent agent (now called a patent attorney)”. I had absolutely no idea what a patent agent was and he, himself, knew very little really [60]


except that Oxford and Cambridge graduates are very welcome in the profession - it was at that time, one of those posh-ish professions aping the more prestigious profession of solicitors that recruited mainly from Oxbridge. He explained that the job required a hybrid knowledge of technology and law and that whilst one needed to have a basic understanding of technology, it was up to the inventor - the person who’s come up with a new idea - to explain the science to you. The attorney then prepares a legal document to protect the new science from being copied. Drafting such legal documents requires excellent verbal skills, so I thought potentially I felt it was worth a try. I went home and I asked my dad about it and he said he knew somebody who sometimes came to his office and pestered him for details about an idea that he, my father, had come up with. In other words, my father was slightly dismissive of the profession. He was regretful but not in a discouraging way. What I did learn in Oxford (not physics) Looking back on my life in Oxford, my social and intellectual life were hugely enriched. I had a large social circle and my friend who did not believe Jews could be nice was actually a very decent Quaker boy. One day, his father sent him £5, a lot of money then. He told me that he could buy yet another sweater with it but instead gave it away to Oxfam and I was very impressed. Another of my friends was allowed to keep her car at Oxford which was very rare. The relevance of this is that I started doing voluntary work rather than study. I mentioned IVS/decorating, bread-and-cheese lunches for Oxfam already but I also went with my friend in her car to a place called Huntercombe near Henley which was a Borstal - what would now be called a young offenders’ institution, a prison in all but name. There, we would pick up a few of the inmates who were just pre-release (so they could be trusted not to scarper because it wasn’t [62]

worth their while) and take them back to Oxford where we would set them up to help us paint and decorate for old people. There was Second World War Nissen hut in the middle of Oxford which became a centre for senior citizens and this needed decorating. We would do that at weekends with paint and materials that were donated by sympathetic shopkeepers. I also started to give blood because I had a sense that I was highly privileged and needed to share my good fortune. It helped that my friends were doing it too and I wanted to be with them. Because I was living such a full life, I often forgot to communicate with my parents and my mother became a bit upset with me. She could not phone me in the college and of course all this was before the era of e-mails and mobile phones. One day, I found a postcard in my pigeonhole from her and it had just three words in Hungarian. Translated into English they read, “Are you still alive? Your mother.” My final night in Oxford in June 1964 is worth recording. With all my friends we attended a special, so-called “commemoration” ball at Magdalen College. The gig was headlined by The Rolling Stones, blues singer John Lee Hooker and The Hollies. The Stones were raw and angry (they had to come back from a US tour just to fulfil a contract with a heavy penal clause they had entered into before their first big hit) and now they had to play for a bunch of dinner-jacketed toffee-nosed kids – as they must have seen it. But they could not help themselves and played magnificently, as did all the other acts. A night not to forget.


Graduation day 1964, proud parents

Freshly minted graduate [64]

Chapter Six 'Embarking on a career; finding my own place to live' 1964-1969

In 1964, after graduating with the “distinction” of a double thirdclass degree – call it passing but only just - I applied to about 7 or 8 patent attorney firms and, to my surprise, they all offered me jobs despite my degree results. Luckily for me, the profession was then experiencing a boom, mainly because of a huge expansion of overseas work. Companies abroad wanted people who could provide patent protection for their new technologies within the UK market. Evidently, my success at getting job offers was not really down to me but to the general shortage of people wanting to train. After graduating I went back to Surbiton to live with my parents and started as a patent agent trainee with the firm of J Miller and Co. I know of course that inflation since 1964 makes a mockery of earnings figures, but for the record my first job offers ranged between £750 - £825 per annum! Actually, that was then a decent salary for a fresh graduate. The firm had some very prestigious clients such as Rolls-Royce whose technology I got to familiarise myself with, chiefly jet engine technology. The dents to my ego through my poor academic results began to be rectified by the first set of patent attorney exams at the end of my first year of training, which I passed well. These exams were about the law and practice of being a patent attorney; how to draft a document, how to interpret documents and so on. So it’s not primarily technical, it’s mostly law and I found that I had an aptitude for it. After that exam, two more years of training followed before the final exams which had a formidably low pass rate of only 50% - for science graduates after [65]

3-4 years of training. With my exam record, that seemed very daunting but my boss was a good trainer and had a very good record with his previous trainees. I thought, “Ok, I’ll get there eventually.” I actually had to take two goes at one of the 5 papers in the Final patent attorney exam but on the whole I did well and this was important for me ego-wise. Getting a Third, though fully deserved, was a big kick to my ego and I spent the years following that debacle trying to prove that I wasn’t an idiot. Those patent exams were one of the ways in which the healing process started. But the patent attorney profession requires sound scientific knowledge and my scientific knowledge was not sound, I felt a slight unease all the time when I was dealing with clients who would bring me their technical inventions. I wasn’t always confident that I fully understood the technical issues and therefore was worried that I may not provide them with the best legal protection for their innovation. Even though I had managed to get through all the professional exams, I felt a slightly hollow man throughout those early years and even later, in 1978, this theme of insecurity at my own knowledge and competence will recur. Buying my first flat Back in 1965/6, living at home was a problem, partly because I’m an only child and my mother was very anxious about me. All the friends that I had made seemed to live in London and I was stuck in Surbiton. I would borrow my mother’s car and zoom up to London - probably exceeding the speed limit a number of times - and she had the habit of refusing to go to sleep until I (and the car) were safely returned. This became uncomfortable for me because the drive home took about an hour and I did not want to end the evening earlier than my friends. [66]

By 1967, I was earning the princely sum of £2000 a year and I wanted to live on my own. I was looking for somewhere to buy near my friends who were mainly in Hampstead and one of my friends had an uncle who was a West Hampstead surveyor/estate agent. He recommended a particular flat in the next street from where live now, in Lymington Road. It turned out that a beautiful, spacious two-bedroom, first floor flat in a Victorian house was for sale for £5800, just under three times my salary. The vendors were Eric Thompson, who did the voiceover for the Magic Roundabout, and his wife Phyllida Law, an established actor. Their two young children Emma Thompson and Sophie Thompson are both very famous now! Camden Council gave me a mortgage for the full amount – yes, there were such things as Council mortgages then! Moving in was bliss as it meant, of course, that I now lived a good hour’s drive away from my parents, neither too far nor too close. Gradually, I furnished it and put in central heating and soon it looked quite decent. Eric Thompson had enjoyed doing woodwork and the flat had a lovely inbuilt stuff such as a wooden kitchen, living room shelving and bedroom furniture. I didn’t really need to buy very much. I’ve always loved football and the other advantage of living in London was that I could more easily go to watch games. My parents used to take me to football matches at a time when Hungarian football was at its zenith and I decided that, now that I lived in London, I needed to find myself a London team to support - but which one? I had no geographical or historical affiliations so I decided to do some research and visited nearly all of them. But when I got to West Ham - which was more than an hour’s travel away I found that their team was going through a particularly successful phase and had a style of play which, compared to the others, most [67]

resembled that fine style of football that the Hungarian team had played. I became a West Ham supporter. Later, I also “infected” my son and grandson with a fanatical love of West Ham United. There’s even a tablet at the new stadium saying, under the Hammers sign, ‘Tibor Gold, fan since 1967.’ That was something that our son surprised me with. I used to have a season ticket which - jumping ahead a bit - I gave up when our son Ben went to live in France.

I got to like my job and life in London more and more but my circle

Left to right, Mike Goodman (a nephew) with his son Oliver, my grandson Sam, son Ben and me & Mike's daughter, Lucy. Only nephew Peter Goodman is missing from the line-up of Hammers fans


of friends was in need of perking up. Eventually, I heard of a social club for single people called Samovar Club. The club would invite interesting speakers, organise suppers or go to a theatre together. I did not neglect volunteer work either and joined an informal group called Contact. Westminster Council would give us the names of old age pensioners living in council flats who were lonely. Two young people from Contact would visit the old person, pack him or her into a car and take them away from their drab surroundings to a leafy suburb where their posh parents of the volunteers lived and who would treat them to a posh tea in a posh house and garden. However patronizing this may sound, the old people really enjoyed their outing and tea in a garden. In the Spring of 1968, the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia and a lot of young refugees fled to England. There is a Czech Centre in West Hampstead and I decided to go there and offer to accommodate a young Czech refugee boy because I had a spare room in my flat. It was quite interesting to learn to live with somebody again, even though he was not very demanding. He stayed with me for about a year, then he emigrated to the US. In 1969 I finally passed all my exams and became a fully qualified Chartered Patent Attorney which meant that I was entitled to run my own practice. I was also made the honorary secretary of the student body of the profession which entailed attending more social events, meeting people and getting to know my fellow professionals. I realised that I was quite a good networker and later on that stood me in enormously good stead. By the time I had been the profession about five years, I had become well-known, partly because of my unusual – to the English - first name and also because I’m quite an extrovert. I would organise parties, speak at meetings and give [69]

tutorials, all free (pro bono). Setting up my own practice – the Hungarian connection (1969 -1970) Once I’d qualified, I thought to myself, “What now? Is Mr. Miller going to take me into partnership, what’s he going to do? And do we really like each other enough?” I had my doubts because although he was a very conscientious trainer, he was a bit of a nitpicker. He set enormously high standards for himself and I think he’d realised that I wasn’t quite in the mould of his two previous two trainees who had not only not struggled with the exams but each got the top prize. Yes, I’d got through but I didn’t excel and maybe I wasn’t quite what he wanted. But then something else unexpected happened. At that time, the Hungarian government used a variety of different UK patent firms to protect Hungarian inventions in the UK but they were unhappy with the quality of the work and attention they received. Part of the problem was that, owing to years of neglect of the “capitalist” English language, the translations into idiomatic technical English which were made in Hungary were very poor. This gave rise to difficulties with the Patent Office examiners of their patent applications. The Hungarian State patent agency got to hear of me. I hadn’t yet fully qualified when a delegation came to Mr. Miller’s firm and said, “We hear you’ve got a Hungarian-born, bilingual technical assistant and we would like your firm to take our work and use him to do it.” Now normally, you’d bite somebody’s hand off if they say they’re going to send you lots of work but Mr. Miller had a very high opinion of himself and answered, “Anybody who wants to use my firm should do so because of our excellent quality and reputation, [70]

not because a particular employee happens to speak a particular language.” The Hungarian delegation felt rejected but I surreptitiously contacted them to indicate that as soon as I was fully qualified, I would love to work with them. I was having doubts about whether my future lay with working with Mr. Miller and thought to myself, “This is good and well-paying work that I’d be happy to do.” A few months after I finally qualified, I decided to leave Mr. Miller’s firm and in February 1970, initially in my spare bedroom, I started my own little practice. I had no capital, no clients and relied on overflow work from other firms and the somewhat vague promise from the Hungarians that I should let them know if I become available. Then fate intervened! In those days, I had a female friend (not a girlfriend) from Strasbourg days whom I’d met at Oxford and for some reason, she needed somewhere to stay. The Czech boy had already moved on by then and so I said, “you can stay in the spare bedroom.” She was a striking looking woman and was looking for a clean break in her life, so she decided she would put a lonely hearts advertisement in a newspaper. She got about 70 replies and ended up getting engaged to one of the applicants which, as it happens, didn’t end well. But it gave me an idea. I’d never thought of putting an ad in the paper but felt, “This could be fun, I’ll have a go.” I’m a person of left-wing convictions and would read the New Statesman every week which, in those days, used to carry a small number of lonely hearts ads. On the one hand, I was still hedging my bets about being ‘out’ about my Jewishness and didn’t feel particularly committed to marrying a Jewish woman but on the other, I also thought that to be Jewish is obviously very important. As a compromise, I put in two versions of my ad; one where I didn’t [71]

mention that I was Jewish and one where I did. (p.73)



Chapter Seven Anne; marriage and children 1970 It is a story in itself as to how Anne, née Zadik, a proud Jewish name, came to see my ad. At the time, she lived in London and worked as a teacher but between September and December 1969, she contracted glandular fever and went home to her parents in Lancashire. Whilst she was recuperating there, she started reading her father’s New Statesman and promised to herself that she would reply to an ad that had appealed to her. As it happened, one weekend in January 1970, she went back home for a weekend to nurse her parents who had both fallen ill and that was the weekend my ad appeared; the ‘Jewish’ version. The front page of that edition of the New Statesman was all about the civil war in Biafra and in the personal column, my advertisement read: ‘Graduate, Jewish continental background - seeks open-minded, intelligent, warm girl in her 20s. London area. Box 7341.’ Anne decided to answer it on her return to London. Meanwhile, I had had about 20 replies and felt obliged to meet everybody who had bothered to write to me. One of the things that I uncovered in the course of meeting these women was that they were usually lonely, having been divorced or deserted and/or house-bound with a child. I hope it’s not pompous to say that I came to think of this as an unexpected, sociologically thought-provoking phenomenon. Sometimes I travelled a couple of hours to meet people because it was the right thing to do. I still have Anne’s response letter. She wrote, stroppily (her word!), “I’m not going to tell you much about myself, I’m not [74]

applying for a job because I don’t quite know what the job description is.” She told me what she did for a living - which was in those days was called a remedial teacher but would nowadays be a special needs teacher - and she gave me her phone number. It transpired we only lived a mile away from each other. We had a lengthy phone conversation which seemed to go well and we set up a meeting. I went to her third-floor flat to take her out for a drink but what I didn’t realize was that she and her flatmates had set up an inspection on the different flights of the stairs. One of them let me in and another (Meg, who married Anne’s brother four years later), stood one floor up. They inspected me as I walked upstairs to call on Anne. I had no idea that I was running a gauntlet. We were quite open with each other from the start. I think Anne liked the fact that I came from a continental Jewish background because so did her parents and older relatives. She’d grown up in a small Lancashire town where there were virtually no foreign people, let alone Jews, and where it was the greatest sin to stand out or to be foreign, so we quickly found that we shared some of the same values. All this happened at Jack Straw’s Castle, which in those days was a pub. We just had a drink and talked about everything and I was smitten. I thought she was completely lovely and very attractive. At one point I asked her, “what’s a remedial teacher?” having not come across that expression before. She explained that it was children with behavioural and academic challenges and then out of the blue, she said “the sort of kids with behavioural problems who call you a ‘f***ing cow.” “Well,” I thought to myself, “here’s a girl who’s very liberal-minded and doesn’t mind using swearwords.” [75]

I come from a background where my parents and I were certainly quite liberal-minded. ‘Pottymouth’ is the current expression. I thought, this is the girl for me. I like her style. We just started dating and I wrote to about 10 of my other respondents to say, “I’ve found somebody and I’m not, afraid, going to follow up.” The most embarrassing thing was that when Anne first came to visit me, a friend of mine who was very good with techie stuff, had agreed to rewire my first floor flat in Lymington Road because the electrics were rather antiquated. He came on the Sunday and rewired the flat, while I cooked lunch and I asked him, “do you mind if I invite my new girlfriend?” And he said, “yeah, fine.” But of course, in order to do the electrics, you have to disconnect the power and if you disconnect the power, how can anybody ring the bell to ask to come in? That’s when I discovered that I’d got an ingenious girlfriend because she tried the bell, realised that there would be no answer but still wanted her lunch and so went to the nearby station telephone and said, “Err, what’s going on? You’re not letting me in!” I was impressed with her determination not to turn back but her subsequent explanation was that it was nothing to do with me (huh!), it was that she was hungry. The rewiring accomplished and lunch having been eaten, three weeks had passed since we’d first met and we saw each other a lot. Apparently out of the blue I just said, “Let’s get married.” Anne was rather taken aback by the sheer effrontery after such a short time – but did not reject the idea out of hand! I was due to go to Hungary looking for work at Easter and, coincidentally, Anne was going to take a school party there at the same time. So I decided to be very economical and said, “I’ve got [76]

to go anyway. Let’s have our wedding just before and our honeymoon in Hungary.” And that’s what we did. My mum was very unhappy. I was an only son and she felt it was all too quick - yada, yada - although she approved of the fact that Anne was Jewish. But the thing that she held most against me - not against Anne although it may have come out that way - was the fact that her mother had died in early January, about 2 weeks before Anne and I met and she was dismayed that instead of my being very bereaved as she was, I was pursuing happiness. It wasn’t a good start to our marriage. My mother was a difficult woman, occasionally downright unpleasant, but my father was more accepting. He told me, “this is great. From now on you will always have someone to tell you what to do and how and when to do it." My dad was prescient. (Anne, I am only joking!) By contrast, Anne’s parents seemed to approve of me. They liked that I was prudent; that I spent my money on installing central heating in my flat and that my car was an old banger. But I did have to overcome one apparent obstacle or ‘condition precedent.’ Anne had been in East Africa for two years with a group of people who were doing various kinds of teaching jobs. One of them was a very nice chap called Alastair who became a close friend of Anne and met her parents. Then I came along and Anne told him that she was going to marry me. Somewhat mischievously, Alastair told me that there would be a condition - not from him - but from Anne’s father who was a very keen amateur chess player. He said, “the only way you can marry Anne is if you can beat her father at chess.” Now my granddad had taught me to play chess and I was captain of chess at school, so I felt I could rise to the challenge. With [77]

Alistair’s words ringing in my ears, I went on my first visit to Leigh in Lancashire and after dinner, I was duly challenged to a game of chess. In the middle of this intensely concentrated game - with so much at stake - there was suddenly an extremely unpleasant smell. I looked up and I thought to myself, “Is my future father-in-law 'letting off' without saying anything?” And then I noticed that he was looking at me in exactly the same way and I thought, “Surely he doesn’t think it was me. I wouldn’t do a thing like that.” Then he looked under the table: there was the family dog, a giant black poodle called Ben. He shouted, “Ben, get out!” That explained the smell and also the dog’s quick disappearance. Fortunately, I did win both the game of chess and Anne - although I joke that I don’t know whether he let me win to get rid of her! We got married in Old Hampstead Town Hall Registry Office on 28th March 1970, a “mere” 8 ½ weeks after we first met. I was 28 and Anne was 25. The only guests were our two sets of parents, Anne’s three siblings and my Uncle Pali and Aunt Maca. In the lower one, left to right, are Tom (sadly no longer with us), sister Sue, Anne's mum Elena, my mum, my aunt Maca and uncle Pali Kallós, myself and Anne, brother Paul, my dad and Anne's dad, Frank. (p.79) Having the sort of weird sense of humour I do, I had intended to march into the waiting area of the registry office, look around and announce: “Who am I supposed to be marrying?” Mercifully, at the last minute, I desisted. Instead, I invented a story that Frank, my father-in-law, was so glad to have one of his daughters off his hands that he offered me five pounds every time we met. This stupid story went on for some time until it got to his ear, 7 or 8 years into our marriage, and he solemnly reached inside his jacket, took out his [78]


wallet and offered me five pounds. He was a lovely man, with a quiet sense of humour. There is much I could write about the entire Zadik clan, I was and am very fond of them but I guess this is my story. Anne often says she married me because of the parallels with her mother, Elena, who was an excellent GP and very bright indeed. Indeed, there are some interesting similarities between us. She and I were both only children - implying we are not so good at sharing and always want to have our own way - we both lost close family in Auschwitz, we both came to England at 16 with no English and both have/had rather driven personalities. We both did very well in our respective careers and Anne would say we are both a bit impatient. Also, we both had/have a short fuse and on the whole don’t tolerate fools much. Oddly enough, after a short initial hiccup Elena and I got on very well. I always hugely respected and loved both her and Frank. In return, I never had anything other than kindness and loving support from them. Anne and I went off to Hungary and had our honeymoon in a lovely old-fashioned hotel called the Astoria, which is still standing - all plush, marble and chandeliers. One day, I had to leave Anne because I was also trying to meet and get business from the people who were turned away by my old boss and who had promised that if I came to Hungary to discuss it, would employ me and send me work. The hotel was very beautiful but had some plumbing problems. On the day I was away, the loo got blocked in our ensuite bathroom and Anne was unable to communicate this to anybody because there was no common language. Nobody in their staff spoke English which was the case in those days. German was the first foreign language in Hungary. [80]

When we came back from our honeymoon, one of the things that worried us was that everybody would think that the reason for such haste in our marriage was that Anne was pregnant - we knew that she wasn’t. That summer, a scattering of my relatives living in North America came through London. Not specifically to see us but they wanted to meet me because I was the only boy of my generation in the family. I was kind of everybody’s pet and they were interested in me. When they met Anne and shook hands, their eyes slid straight down from her face to her belly to see if she was ‘showing’. Hilarious. We decided we were going to show the world that it was not true. We wanted a family but not immediately. We also wanted to get to know each other even better. Money was initially quite scarce. As a teacher, Anne earned £1000 a year and to begin with, we lived mainly on that. I worked from the spare bedroom at home – when I had actual work to do! It was hard but we didn’t really care too much. I had no salary coming in and subsisted on freelance work (overflow work). Sometimes I had to wait quite a long time before getting paid. I used practically to snatch the letters out of the postman’s hands to see if there was a cheque in there. Because I’d only just started my practice, I wasn’t hugely committed to any particular client. One day, I heard of a vacancy for a patent specialist in Geneva and because Anne and I both speak French, I thought that could be quite interesting. We had no children, I had no clients and we had no money! And this was a well-paid job. Also, I thought it would be interesting to live in Geneva for a while. I therefore applied for the job and I got it. Anne even left her work but, in the end,, I didn’t get a work permit. In [81]

those days, there was an Enoch Powell-type politician who agitated about there being too many foreigners in Geneva because of all the international bodies that have HQs there. My future employers didn’t seem to do a good job of telling the authorities that I was special; that only I could do that job. In the end, after quite a bit of waiting and hanging about - we even ordered a car to take with us -they said, “no, sorry, the work permit was refused.” We said, “Ok, well, we’ll just carry on then as we are.” The work from Hungary began to trickle in and the overflow work was ticking over, so gradually things got a bit better. That was when we ‘started’ a child: Ben, who was born in April 1972. With Anne 6 months pregnant in January 1972, we decided to visit her granny Nelly in Berkeley, California, to be introduced to her. Anne’s grandparents went there during the war but her granddad, Manfred, had died by the time we arrived there. A trip to California - "he drinks a bit too much?" The weather was wonderful for January and I was very smitten by the beauty of California and Granny’s house which overlooked San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. We would wear short sleeves sitting outside eating and that was very seductive compared with the usual January weather in the UK. Anne had lived with her grandparents for nearly year some years before and with her guidance we did all the sight-seeing things that people do in San Francisco. I really liked it. One of the (for me) forever amusing things about meeting Granny was to do with alcohol. The Zadik family doesn’t drink much alcohol but on my side, I quite like wine and beer. Anne’s Granny was given the information that I’d want a drink with every meal and [82]

so when we sat down for the first dinner, next to the plate, was a sort of liqueur glass or sherry glass. It was tiny. Granny produced some wine, poured some for me and the same amount for herself. One gulp later, my wine disappeared and so did hers. She refilled our glasses two or three more times and after dinner, went off to the bedroom to make a call, reporting back to Anne’s father, in German. She said that that I was “very nice but actually drink a little bit too much.” In all the briefings she had received about me, people had omitted to tell her that I speak German and had understood every word. I thought that was very funny as she drank exactly the same – moderate – amount as me! She was a very nice, well-read German lady with a well-to-do background and I liked her. Later, she came to London to visit us, by which time Ben, our little boy was born, 18th April 1972. Ben I was an absolutely delighted father. I thought Ben was a miracle, a thing of the utmost beauty. I used to just stand there and watch him sleep. I couldn’t quite believe that Anne and I had created this amazing gorgeous being who was just perfect in my eyes. But I was quite an anxious dad. I remember once bathing him and he was slipping under my arm and into the bath and I frantically had to yank him out. Things had got a little easier financially but it was still a case of depending on Anne’s income as well as mine. Anne could only work three mornings a week after Ben was born and that just about paid the baby-sitter. The biggest row we ever had was when Anne bought me a five pound sweater that I ungraciously said I didn’t need. Neither of our parents were used to being very well-off. They had all come to England as refugees and didn’t have any money. [83]

My parents hadn’t been in the UK long and Anne’s parents, though doctors, worked very honourably in the NHS and didn’t have wellpaid private practices. We actually lived quite frugally, I think. People did in those days. It wasn’t like it is now, where you get married and have huge weddings and things. Work was getting better for me but one thing that became clear was that it was hard to live in a first floor flat with a baby, pram and heavy shopping, especially for Anne. Also, I had decided that I was too undisciplined to work at home because I’d end up reading the newspaper rather than get on with such work as I had. Happily, a colleague, the same chap who did the rewiring in the flat, had a rather large office with extra rooms he didn’t need so I did a deal with him and I sublet an office from him. That meant I had to get out of the house and get on with my work. It was in Staple Inn, High Holborn. It was beautiful with those black and white stripe effects that are on the Old Holborn tobacco tins. Miriam Because having Ben was such a wonderful experience, and because neither of us wanted him to be an only child, Anne and I decided to have another child. On 18th February 1974, Miriam was born and I was absolutely delighted with her because I did want a girl. Anne’s parents - who were both doctors and had great experience with children and pregnancies - developed a sort of semi-believed ability to predict the gender of the child. They more or less convinced us that the second child would also be a boy and whilst I was perfectly happy with that too, in my heart, I wanted a girl. Consequently, when Miriam was born I was just so very happy. The story goes that at the birth, I was wearing a green hospital gown and [84]

it apparently took about four or five hours to get it off me again because I was going round the ward where Anne had made friends with the other expectant mothers, just talking excitedly to everybody, making lots of phone calls and generally behaving like a child who’s just had a wonderful present. That was very wonderful and she turned out to be very special and very lovely child. 2 Fawley Road Eight weeks after Miriam was born, we managed to buy a ground floor flat in the next street, with a large garden, much to Anne’s delight as she is a keen gardener. I recall trundling our few belongings over in Miriam’s pram, we didn’t even need a removals van. From a very early age, Miriam had a mind of her own. When she was about 18 months old, we were in France on holiday in a rented house on a fairly steep hillside. Miriam and I went out for a walk and I reached down to hold her hand but she didn’t want to hold my hand, she wanted to forge ahead on her own. To me, that absolutely typifies Miriam. She’s a person with a strong will who demarcates herself from the rest of the world. Very carefully and very positively, she has always been real; a real mensch, a real person. And she had to be, to stand up to her brother who from time to time did naughty things to her. Our two children were equally lovely but different. One was very blond and blue-eyed, the other was very dark brown-eyed which was funny! Before Miriam was born, we went on holiday in Italy and the [85]

One of my favourite pictures


Italians cooed over Ben because of his mass of blond curls and blue eyes. But I think he was just a fairly normal boy. He liked being out in the garden and playing football and he was very bright at school. So was Miriam, who had more of a flair for art and crafts, she liked drawing and making things. One of the early amusing stories about Ben occurred when he was two and he was taken for a developmental check-up. The nurse asked him, “what’s your name?” And he said, “Ben.” “Ok, what’s you other name?” And he said, “Captain Pugwash.” We were now a family of four which was great and, needless to say, the two children had doting grandparents. Anne’s parents had a weekend house in North Wales with a big garden and lovely views. As we didn’t have a lot of money in those days, it was a wonderful thing to be able to go up to North Wales to a place called Aberloyw where the children could have a great sort of semi-outdoorsy holiday there. Anne’s other siblings and their families came as well, so sometimes it was quite a full house. They are all very lovely people and we got on well. We were there by ourselves sometimes in the summer too. The August bank holiday tended to coincide with Anne’s father’s birthday so that always made it a special family party. I hope the children would say they had a happy childhood at least until the realities of school hit them! While all that was going on, Anne and I were working hard. She was a part-time teacher and not earning very much but it was enough to pay for Gaby, our cleaning lady. Initially, was a readily available baby-sitter and eventually, she became almost like a member of the family. She was with us thirty years or so.


It was a calm existence. Our only real anxieties were about money. Without going into the technical details, the work that I was doing sometimes required me to lay out cash up-front for my clients and that required capital. Then, if clients didn’t pay back on time, I had to borrow money from the bank to bridge the cash flow gap. All my life I have hated being in debt, even when it made financial sense to borrow. Every time I got paid a relatively substantial amount by a client it felt good but in between it sometimes felt quite tense. We were always modest in our spending and went on holidays to France to stay in gîtes with friends, if we went abroad at all. I am not quite sure what Ben and Miriam remember from those summers early on in their lives, but I do know they often complained about the ratio of time spent visiting cathedrals, ancient churches and museums versus ice creams, swimming pools and general playing. Of the many happy memories, I fondly remember a time when we had a Saab estate car which the children named Fred. One time, I made a wrong turn and we found ourselves on a very rough road. I was worried that we’d get a puncture and in the middle of the intense concentration it took to try to find a way back, Miriam, aged 2, piped up from the back “This must be hurting Fred’s feet!” I recall many little things like Miriam singing, dancing and playing the piano or Ben doing pottery and playing the recorder. Saturday morning swimming at Swiss Cottage and that kind of thing. They both joined the Woodcraft Folk, a left-wing alternative movement to the Scouts, including a lot of discussion, singing and outdoor camps. Anne’s sister Sue had got married to a lovely man, Anthony Goodman, and they lived in Forest Gate with children of their own. [88]

Our two loved Sue and Anthony and we asked them to be their guardians in case anything awful happened to Anne and me. There was a good train connection to Forest Gate and we would pack them off to go over for a visit which they enjoyed. Ben used to say that he loved it there, in part because Sue gave him white bread instead of the healthy bread we had at home. My practice was growing slowly and I remember that in 1978, a particular client who had owed me a fair bit of money for a long time, suddenly paid up. I looked at all the creditors I needed to pay and suddenly realised that actually there was a good amount of money left over for us. It was the first time - eight years into my practice - that I felt, apart from the odd hitch, the venture would be profit-making from now on and I could start saving. I’ve always been very prudent with saving and insurance policies and things of that sort. A bit of a bore really. I used to read the financial press and take advice from things I read. If I heard about a new kind of insurance my first thought was, “Do I/we need it? I think so, I’d better get it.” If you want to psychoanalyse me, my prudence may or may not have been traceable back to the uncertainties of life in Hungary, especially the mega-inflation in 1946. One story I found very telling was when my mother went to the Post Office in Budapest to buy a particular tax stamp the face value of which was 23,000 pengő, the Hungarian currency in 1946. She then handed the clerk a banknote of 1,000 million (!) and told the clerk to keep the change, such was the worthlessness of the currency.


I’m a bit of a safety-first person; I don’t mind taking a bit of a risk but only after securing a safe base.


Chapter Eight The restless years; building works, a law degree, partnership and magistracy 1978-1987 By 1978, a kind of restlessness began to overtake me about work. I felt I had got the measure of the laws I needed directly for my work but those laws were only a small part of The Law and I wanted to know more. With a sudden rush of blood to the head and (I am ashamed to admit) without consulting Anne, I enrolled myself into a 4-year external degree evening course in law. This involved all the things I normally feared; studying and hard exams. The course entailed lectures two evenings a week and after my day’s work I used to wait until the children were in bed before starting to study at 9pm or 10pm, sometimes going on till 1am or 2am. During this time, I was not popular with Anne or the kids, but I persevered. In 1979, we started thinking about moving because we wanted the children to have their own rooms and a guest bedroom. We were keen to stay in West Hampstead but there wasn’t much choice. We wanted something bigger that still had a decent garden and most gardens in West Hampstead were smaller than the one we already had. In the end, in 1980, we took advice from one of our good friends, Ron, who is a distinguished architect. Back in 1974, he had been instrumental in persuading us that our flat was a good buy because it could be enlarged without too much planning hassle. So that’s what we did, embarking on an enlargement that was miserable for six months while the builders were digging all around us. I remember one particular morning, the children sitting in the middle of an empty space, each on a little stool with their breakfast cereal and only one cold water tap working. [91]

Eventually – 6 months later – the work was finished. We had gained a bedroom, a study, a bathroom, a bigger kitchen and the children had their own bedrooms. Meanwhile, Anne was working to set up a special-needs department in a state school that had formerly been a grammar school, Camden Schools for Girls. She already had advanced diplomas and in 1987, did an MA. Harking back to my sense of academic under-achievement, and aside from my genuine interest in the subject, I hoped that a good law degree would compensate for my poor physics degree. In 1978, I was 36, had two children and had become quite active locally. I was a governor at a couple of schools, was active in the Labour Party and became involved with the local community centre. In retrospect, it was not the cleverest thing to do because it took up a lot of my time. This was highlighted by Miriam: this is how it happened. After about two years of my studies, half way through the four-year course - which seemed to be going really well and which I was enjoying intellectually - the extension building was at last finished, and all the builders were gone. Once we’d settled down again, I happened to ask Miriam aged 6 what she thought of the extension and she said, “It’s all right, except for one thing.” I asked, “What’s that one thing?” She said, “The study, you’re always in the study.” That hit me hard, I have to say. It was very perceptive of her. In 1981, one of the compulsory subjects in the third year of my course was Land Law. I was trying to study as economically as possible by studying all the past papers. One particular college of law published model solutions and I studied those intensively. I [92]

noticed that in Land Law since about 1945 the underlying pattern of questions hadn’t changed much at all; they always had the same approach and structure. Going into the exam, I was absolutely confident that I knew exactly what to do and that it would be a doddle. But suddenly I was confronted with a completely different, ground-breaking paper. I thought to myself, “I’m in the deep doodoo and 3 years work is going down the plug-hole.” Then I remembered the techniques I’d learnt during my patent exams and how I’d needed to work it all out from first principles. I sat down and structured all my answers according to what I thought were the logical things to do. Then we went on holiday and I really, really didn’t know whether I passed or failed – honest! Amazingly, when we came home, I found an envelope on the doorstep from London University saying I’d won second prize in Land Law! Obviously by then I had “regained my mojo” and was able to do problem-solving in a way that actually worked, not just the continental way of mugging up a lot of facts. When it came to problem-solving, I came unstuck during my A-Levels and this continued with my physics degree. But there I was; finally able to be confident in my ability to problem-solve after all, at least where the law was concerned. So that was good - a balm to my wounded soul - and the upshot of it was that, in 1982, I got a 2:1. I was told I missed a First by a small margin but it didn’t matter. I believed in myself again. My prize was a £70 book token. A lot of money in 1982! The tradition had always been that winners would buy law books with their tokens because such books are very expensive. You were asked to send in your choices and the university would then buy them for you, sticking a posh label on the books to show you’d won [93]

a prize. But I dared to be different and sent them a list of about twenty paper-backs that I wanted to read! The problem for them was that they had to put a prize label on each one. So when I came to collect my prize, the professor made much hay with the fact, announcing to everyone at the ceremony, “What normal people do is to buy a textbook on the law of Equity or similar but Mr. Gold, instead, wanted to read about…” and the poor man had to read out my quirky list. He was particularly pleased to read out a title by the late Tom Wolfe - ‘The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby’ which was a very modish book at the time! While all this was going on, I was also progressing well with the networking aspect my profession. Like any professional body, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys has its committees - a student body, external/internal relations and all that. I became very active in the affairs of the Institute and quite early on the ‘elders’ of the Institute started noticing me. Only 3 years into my status as a qualified patent attorney, I was honoured by being made Secretary of the so-called Pratt Committee which was tasked with reforming the teaching and training methods of the Institute. Early on, I had volunteered to help others who were struggling with their exams by giving tutorials and lectures, all pro bono. My involvement with Institute matters gave rise to the idea of joining some of the Institute’s Council committees by being elected to the Council and I started chairing committees, taking particular interest in education and training. Things were going well. I had a happy marriage with lovely children thriving in State schools and a growing practice. But I never wholly stopped worrying. Every January, Anne noticed a kind of seasonal [94]

depression or worry about money in me. The background to this is that the patent attorney profession is a very cash hungry business. It involves paying Government fees on behalf of clients who would be subsequently billed for it but you had to wait to be paid back. Around 1978, my practice depended on work from Hungary for about two thirds of its business. At the time, Hungary was still a communist/socialist regime where convertible foreign currency was highly controlled. To compound matters, the patent attorney who sent me the work did not actually work for the firm that would pay my invoices, they would have to ask the Hungarian National Bank to pay me because only they had control of convertible currency going out of the country. Furthermore, Hungary itself had got into very serious financial trouble and had to be bailed out by the International Monetary Fund. For about ten months, I wasn’t getting paid at all - which is a heck of a big difference between the usual 2-3 months’ delay. During that time, these clients told me, “Just because we can’t pay you just now, we still need you to pay all the Government fees to keep all our rights alive.” Which meant paying loads of fees to the UK patent office on their behalf. After 10 months of no money, things got a bit dire and I had to borrow from the bank, something I had never done before. I hated the feeling of being in debt. Then suddenly, with the IMF loan, the Hungarian National Bank were able to authorise the payment of all my bills. It was a huge relief. Nick Hedley arrives Because there is a lot of typing involved in my work and a fair bit of admin, I had always had a secretary to help with what we now call data inputting and outputting. My background was in physics and I was competent to deal with mechanical and electrical inventions [95]

but the Hungarians - for reasons best known to themselves - also sent me lot of patents relating to pharmaceuticals and chemistry about which I knew nothing. I quickly realised that this part of the practice would grow and that I needed to make sure the clients’ work was being handled competently. It was not viable to buy in chemical expertise for a few hours at a time and I decided that the practice was strong enough to accommodate a second patent attorney. The funny thing about recruiting Nick Hedley who ended up becoming my business partner is that he didn’t actually fit the requirements of my advertisement! Some of the work that was coming in to my practice required not only a high level of competence in chemistry but also technical German, so that was what I asked for in my ad. When I interviewed Nick, he said, “well actually, I did chemistry at University but since then, I’ve been exclusively working in alloys and metallurgical inventions and I don’t speak German. But otherwise, I think I am what you need!” He was exactly ten years younger than me and I took an immediate shine to him. I offered him the job and after an initial probation period, he became exactly what I, myself, had always wanted to be: a competent and diligent scientist comfortable with all branches of technology. Nick was as much at home with mechanical and electrical inventions as he was with chemical and metallurgical inventions. He’s a sort of renaissance man when it comes to science and his German also improved. He still lives in Hackney and his wife is a patent translator, from German and Russian, which was very helpful. Even though he hadn’t matched my initial criteria, Nick fitted like a glove and we took on an extra secretary to handle his work. The practice grew, and it was the beginning of a great friendship and understanding between us that has lasted 25 years. Not only was Nick Hedley a great colleague but he is also a really [96]


lovely person. About three years later, I decided that we should no longer be employer/employee and should be partners instead. Being partners worked very well and I also started teaching patent law at Queen Mary, University of London. It was only about one or two seminars a term but it bought me certain advantages and recognition as well. We were both very pleased with the partnership announcement with picture of Staple Inn (p.97). Becoming a Justice of the Peace (magistrate) In the mid-80’s, I took another bold step - in part due to my general restlessness but also because I wanted to contribute more to society. At one of the Labour Party meetings I regularly attended, someone mentioned that “the magistrates’ bench doesn’t have enough Labour people on it.” The organisations that administer justice prefer a politically balanced Bench, so I asked to be nominated and was sent on some observation visits. During one such visit, one of the magistrates told me that the selection meeting would be really tough. “Your psyche will be turned inside out and you will be asked why you think you are entitled to judge your fellow citizens. You’re going to be tormented.” I took note of that and on the morning of interview, lovely Anne said to me very quietly, “they’d be complete fools not to have you – it would be their loss….” So off I went with those lovely words in my ears. The selection meeting actually turned out to be a farce because the selection panel asked me a question and then began arguing among themselves about the answer I gave. Anyway, I was appointed and after one year in an adult criminal court, I was allowed to choose which panel to join. Because of my interest in young people, I decided that I would like to be assigned to a youth court. At the time, in Inner London, a [98]

magistrate would sit one day a fortnight and hear one or other of two kinds of cases. One was youth criminal work. The other was much more heart-breaking and emotional, things to do with child welfare. This might include anything from determining who a child should live with or if they are to be put in care, to children who have been rescued from physical and mental abuse. In those cases, I would have to help determine things like the amount of contact traumatised children were allowed with their parents. Sometimes, I would come home very wrung out; thinking about my own children and comparing them to the way that those children were being treated. I had chosen three of the most deprived London Boroughs - Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington - and it was hard work emotionally. My work as a magistrate started in 1985 and continued until 2001. I decided not to apply to become a chairperson because I didn’t really want to control the proceedings that much; I felt I was more useful helping the chairperson to evaluate the evidence and observe people’s demeanour in court. I found that I had a more socially orientated sense of justice than some of my more right-wing colleagues and my legal training certainly helped me press my more liberal views. My thinking was influenced by my reading about youth crime, especially a book called ‘Growing Out of Crime’ by Andrew Rutherford, which led me to propose more constructive and less punitive sentences. My brother-in-law, Anthony Goodman, then a probation officer and ultimately a professor of criminology, was also a good sounding board. I felt that I was doing something useful but by having one day out a fortnight I was, in the end, putting burdens on other people, particularly Nick Hedley who had to carry on with the practice and [99]

look after it while I was serving on the Bench. Another way in which I imposed on him was that I discovered a talent I had for “schmoozing� people. I would meet with potential clients and go to conferences abroad, talking our practice up and getting them to send us work. Every year, I would spend at least a week in Hungary and a week in the United States during which time I would attend conferences and talk to clients. Almost always I succeeded in attracting new work. But while I was away, Nick had to hold the fort.


Chapter Nine Overcoming anti-Jewish prejudice at work 1987 The next story I’m about to tell is quite controversial. Some people don’t believe it. But I certainly believe it. Many patent attorneys were Freemasons belonging to the Inventions Lodge which would bar Jewish attorneys from joining. The roots for this are supposed to lie in the 1930s when most work came from Germany which was a heavily industrialised country and therefore had the most patents to be protected in the UK. During Hitler’s time, it was said - none of this is provable but I know about it from an older person in my parents’ synagogue because it happened to him - there was a kind of unspoken rule that German firms would not send work to British firms if they had Jewish employees. Most firms abjectly complied. This “rule” may have been the reason that the Inventions Lodge did not admit Jews. My first boss, who was Jewish, experienced this first-hand when he put himself up for the Council of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys and was not elected, unlike a person known to be a Freemason who was. Most years there was no need for a ballot for Council elections. It was ‘arranged’ so that the number of vacancies was exactly the same as the number of candidates, usually Freemasons. There came a time when I was beginning to be known as a young man going somewhere, when a very kindly and innocent President of the Institute came up to me and said, “You should stand for Council, you’re doing all this work, you’re on committees, you chaired the student body and you have a bright future in the profession.” Quite unaware of the Masonic subtext, I stood for Council innocently expecting to be recognised for all my hard work. [101]

For years and years there had never been a contested election but suddenly in my year, two other people stood as well. One vacancy, three candidates. The other two were known to be Freemasons and one of them got in, while I didn’t. It was very strange to me - not because I’m so conceited that I think I’m wonderful and should have been elected - but because I had done much more for the Institute than either of those other two. I started digging into it a little bit and discovered - from the person whom I’d originally sublet my office from and who was a Freemason -that there was a very influential Master of the Lodge who had laid down the rule that there should be no Jews in that Lodge and certainly not on Council. Behind the scenes, the Lodge would run a “slate” as to who should be elected. When I found this out, mainly from my parents’ synagogue friend, I was smarting a little bit but I nevertheless carried on with my Institute activities and served on many committees as a nonCouncil member. Then about two years after that, the aforementioned chap from whom I had sublet my office arrived with another colleague and said, “Run for Council again.” And I said, “Chaps” - they were kind of friends of mine - “I’ve been wised up as to what is going on and I’m not going to expose myself to another round of humiliation, thank you very much.” And they said, “Well, yes, but Mr X [a certain well-known patent attorney] died last year, he’s the one who ruled the roost and organised the slate.” I said, “ohhhh” and I stood again and I got the third highest vote out of 22 candidates. So ‘miraculously’ I went from 23rd to 3rd in just 2 years!


Chapter Ten

My family - and other animals 1985 -

Outside work, I was a regular attendee at Labour Party meetings in West Hampstead. I became a member of the board and eventually the Chair of the West Hampstead Community Association, a local charity which served the local community by running a youth club, classes and providing premises for community groups. While all this was going on Anne wasn’t standing idly by because in 1987 she decided to do an MA, so she took leave without pay and did an MA in her specialist education subject. This turned out to be a turning point in her life because while she was doing the course, the people at King’s College London who taught her decided that her experience was so valuable that she should join the academic staff. From there, she eventually joined the Institute for Education where she developed a very successful career with a specialism in gender and leadership issues in higher education. Her writings took her all over the world in various networks. One was a European network which enabled her to travel not only all over Europe - Poland, Hungary and Spain - but also to places such as Papua New Guinea and eventually Bangladesh to which she made, I think altogether, about 14 visits. She worked a lot with the Association of Commonwealth Universities who took her to almost every African and Asian Commonwealth country. So we were both travelling a lot; me to drum up more business and her with her very valuable development work. I mentioned that Miriam had a strong character and an iron will. There are many examples of this; her decision to become a vegetarian at the age of 9 (she still is!) and to support Liverpool FC [103]


in a 'West Ham' household. Another significant way she demonstrated her single mindedness is over choosing to have a batmitzvah at the age of 13. We as parents stressed that we are Jewish but secular. Miriam decided for herself that she would like to be "more Jewish." We engaged a Reform rabbi to teach her Hebrew and to prepare her for the ceremony. Needless to say, she sailed through it all faultlessly. The rabbi told us later that Miriam shattered his theories about the time it takes for people to learn Hebrew so as to recite the requisite "portion"; he thought she should have started two years earlier. On page 104 is a picture of the four of us on Miriam's bat-mitzvah day, 1987. The next big thing I want to mention (out of chronological sequence) is about my father, who was an extremely nice man who absolutely adored his grandchildren. He was known as Dapoo and my mother as Dana: this was the nearest Ben, as a 2-year old, could get to saying the Hungarian words Nagyapu and Nagyanyu! My father was a man who in his 70’s looked as though he was 50. He was very fit even though he had a heart valve replacement in 1974 which seemed to give him renewed life. He was in good health and full of vim and vigour right up until 1987, when he contracted pneumonia and was taken to the local hospital in Chertsey, near Weybridge, which didn’t have a very good reputation. He was getting better and was about to be discharged, when he contracted one of those horrible bugs that only exist in hospitals - Klebsiella and it finished him off in two days. He died around midnight on the 31st December1987/1st of January 1988. The extra poignancy of that of this was that it was the very day/anniversary of the day in 1944 when he was captured by the Nazis and was about to shot [105]

before escaping or being rescued (whichever version is correct). My father’s birthday was actually in November but he had always said that he had two birthdays, the November one and New Year’s Eve, when he escaped death. He died on the anniversary of his ‘second birthday’, on New Year’s Day, aged 82. Had it not been for the Klebsiella, I believe he had had many more years to live. It was a huge unexpected blow to all four of us and particularly to my mum. It was the first death in the close family that the children had experienced and it hit them quite hard. So that was probably the first significant bad event of the 80’s and my mother was much bereaved. She was only 67 and had a long period of living on her own ahead of her. University Ben and Miriam both got good GCSEs but when Ben had just started his sixth form, he contracted glandular fever. That laid him very low indeed for a year and left him quite depressed. But he insisted that he would not take an extra year of sixth form and carried on with his studies despite the illness. His results were just good enough for him to gain entrance to Manchester Metropolitan University to read French and German. Like me, Ben definitely had a gift for languages and before going off to University, he took a gap year which he spent doing odd jobs here and also in France. During his first term, he managed to persuade the authorities to let him switch from German to Spanish and he revelled in that. As part of his course, it was arranged that he should spend a term at Bordeaux University and there he met a fellow student, a lovely French woman called Réjane. That, as they say, was that and they are now happily married. Miriam did very well at A-levels and had a choice of universities. [106]

Having decided to study history and politics (and at my urging) she looked into Oxford University but found the syllabus too oldfashioned for her taste. Like her parents, she’s a left-wing person and wanted to do liberation politics and modern history. But the curriculum at Oxford, as she said to me, “she stopped at 1914” and she decided to accept a place at Liverpool University instead. She had a great time in Liverpool and that year, met her future husband, Jason. Another happy marriage! Both our children got very respectable 2:1 degrees and a stand-out week in our lives, was going to their graduation ceremonies, occurring within a day of each other.



Chapter Eleven Change of profession and its reversal; a marriage and the first grandchild 1991-2007 In 1989, I got involved with a very significant piece of patent litigation. The way these things work is that the litigation team needs three professionals; a barrister, a solicitor and a patent attorney. I was the patent attorney. The solicitor I worked most closely with was Mr Ludi Lochner, a partner of a big City law firm, Stephenson Harwood. Ludi decided it would be a good idea if Nick and I, along with our entire practice, joined the law firm so that we could set up a ‘one stop shop’ which could carry on the patent attorney work and learn to do Intellectual Property solicitor’s litigation work. At the time, this was revolutionary! The picture on page 108 is a publicity shot of Nick, Ludi and me. The Times newspaper carried an article about our experiment of a mixed practice sometimes called a one-stop shop, and which even had a cartoon attached to it. Having been a proprietor and partner of my own firm it was obviously a big change to become an employee. It was temporarily quite a loss of status but the idea was that under the solicitor’s tutelage, Nick and I would re-qualify as solicitors so that we could eventually become partners in the firm. The system in those days was that by getting certain exemptions and having already completed my law degree, I was eligible within 3 months of joining the law firm to sit the solicitors’ Final exam. I am told I was not expected to pass but I did! Whilst I enjoyed having the qualification of solicitor, the firm’s [109]

ethos was not really to my liking. It seemed to me to be underpinned by greed, fleecing clients and charging excessive fees. It wasn’t how we patent attorneys were brought up and trained. Our job was always to settle disputes as quickly and as cheaply as possible, whereas lawyers - although few would admit this - tend to prolong matters in order to earn more fees. But I stuck it out and became a full equity partner in a City law firm, possibly the first-ever practising patent attorney to achieve that. It was about that time (1995) that Anne’s father Frank - a lovely man with a quiet sense of humour who was much loved by all - and my erstwhile chess adversary, passed away from kidney disease. We felt that keenly, Anne particularly. Nick Hedley and I had a lot of issues with the law firm. We both felt ill at ease as the culture was alien to us and we never really felt that the rest of the firm understood the nature of our work as patent attorneys. There was a fair bit of sniping because our practice had more overheads than other parts of the business. Patent attorney work requires an awful lot of routine letters and correspondence that a big litigation practice doesn’t, so management were always grumbling that we each had our own secretary as opposed to relying the pool of support workers the solicitors did. And because our bills were many and small as opposed large and infrequent, we occupied an awful lot of the accounts department’s time. We were constantly reminded of the cost of all our files in terms of the floor space the file cabinets took up. A typical litigation solicitor might have maybe 100 live files. In contrast, at one time, I had about 15,000 small ones. Then, there was the cost of the accounts department servicing what the Principal Partner, ahem, charmingly put as “your blizzard of small bills.” This went on and on and on, despite the fact that we [110]


were billing extremely highly. Meanwhile, the firm itself was not doing so well and there was a process with the rather inelegant name of ‘de-equitisation,’ which really meant that the older equity partners were asked if they would surrender some of their share so that the younger and hungrier partners could get more. In other words, they wanted to keep the young talents at the firm at the expense of the older partners. President Gold! In 1998, there was another thing that made me happy with myself but with my firm I was unhappy. In that year, I was elected President of the Chartered Institute which was a great honour. Was I the first Jew? Was I the first dual-qualified patent attorney solicitor? I was certainly the first Hungarian in 110 years. But the news was treated with complete indifference by the leadership of the law firm. Very grudgingly, I was given a small budget for my representational functions but I felt humiliated by the episode. I had a lovely Presidential year, especially in the ambassadorial role on foreign trips and wearing a rather precious Presidential badge (see a beaming me with the badge on page 111) but it always rankled that my fellow solicitor partners failed to recognize my achievement. As far as I know, to this day, I’m the only President who at the end of his presidential year was presented by the Council with a gift; an engraved silver tankard. "Un mariage en France"; grandchildren There was a major family event in 1997 when Ben and Réjane were married in France. They were obviously deeply in love and so happy with each other. Most of the family from England attended the wedding which was an exceedingly joyful affair with lots of postwedding funny turns. The French family and friends were [112]

incredibly hospitable and would not hear a word of thanks. Anne had to dance with Jean-Yves, Réjane’s father, an excellent dancer. This went well but by contrast, I did rather poorly when it was my turn to dance with Marylène, Réjane’s mother, also a good dancer. How to describe my performance? A dancing bear? I’ve never been much of a dancer. In 1999 Emma was born to Ben and Réjane – a beautiful girl with her mother’s huge blue eyes and a very sweet temperament. Two years later, a gorgeous boy Sam was born. A conspicuously goodnatured boy, destined to become a West Ham fan and a wonderful rugby player. Returning to our professional roots By 1999, when I was 57, I felt the cold wind of de-equitisation (meaning getting rid of partners who are deemed to earn too much) around my neck. Should I wait to be pushed or should I jump? Nick and I had a memorable meeting when we planned to do an exhaustive ‘SWOT analysis’ of our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. I don’t think I’d written as much as three lines when Nick turned to me and said, “Let’s just leave.” We left with our heads held high and our clientele intact, despite the fact that the firm's finance director said, “I can see a million and half pounds of fees per annum walking out of the door and I’m very unhappy that you’re leaving.” With my networks in the profession and our good reputation, we were confident in our future. Nick asked me to look for a new perch for us and so we went to a firm called Kilburn & Strode. Ironically, it was a firm whose offer of a traineeship I had turned down in 1964. Nick was very pleased that we decided to go to Kilburn & Strode. [113]


I remember him smiling discreetly, not letting on at first that his wife Sally worked as a patent translator for a firm two floors up in the same building. It meant they could settle their domestic shopping, childcare and evening arrangements on the staircase! Being an Editor and getting a “gong” The transition went well and after a two-year transitional period for mutual protection, we became full partners and prospered at Kilburn & Strode. I am proud that I was able to contribute significant chunks to successive editions of the patent practitioners’ “bible”; The CIPA Guide to the Patents Acts, a.k.a .the Black Book. I also initiated, co-edited and contributed to about 34 successive half-yearly updates of The Trade Mark Handbook, from which the Community Trade Mark Handbook (“CTMH”) was spun out. I coedited 18 editions of the CTMH and just before my retirement in 2007 (age 65), I was given a Lifetime Achievement award by an intellectual property magazine. A few weeks later I learned that I would be appointed an M.B.E. for contributions to intellectual property. As a left-wing person, it did cross my mind to refuse it but - call it vanity, call it a sense of achievement for a non-Englishspeaking refugee boy - I accepted. When I went to my Council meeting following the announcement, the whole Council stood and applauded. Even more importantly, I was toasted with champagne! The Queen herself pinned the medal to my chest - it felt odd wearing a ‘morning suit’ at the Palace - while Anne, Ben and Miriam looked on. The only thing that slightly marred the happy day was the announcer’s mispronouncing my name ‘Tibor’ as ‘Tie-bor' before being presented to the Queen – the first and I hope last time that I have worn a ‘morning’ (a.k.a. the penguin) suit. Before retirement, I became editor of the monthly Journal of the [115]

Chartered Institute. I did that altogether for 12 years and strove to make it both learned and amusing. From what I am told, I did a good job and in 2012, the then President gave me a farewell dinner and a silver and crystal decanter. Losing mothers Family life continued to be really good, save for the passing of our mothers in their mid-80s, in successive years. For years, my mother struggled with severe emphysema due to smoking. Anne’s mother Elena died of heart failure. She had found retirement from being a busy and highly-respected GP, very difficult. She had a delightful sense of humour and bought a stuffed, almost life-size, gorilla called Gus. Gus sat in the front seat of her car and no doubt earned a few double-takes as she drove past people. Our grown-up children and their families Ben and Réjane live on the outskirts of Paris, in Orly. He works for Casino, a supermarket chain, negotiating deals for them with his many languages. Réjane gave up being an occupational therapist a while ago and devotes herself to painting, teaching French to immigrants and art. She has had a number of successful exhibitions and has done some lovely projects with children in the locality. Ben is a friendly, charming man and a devoted husband and father. He loves all sports and suffers, along with me, from being a West Ham fan. He works to live rather than lives for work. Their two children Emma, 18, and Sam, 16, are great young people, good students and above all, extremely nice; an over-used word but apt. Emma has just started “prépa” – a kind of pre-university institution for high flyers. She has a student flat on the 5th floor of a typical central Parisian building and enjoys student life to the full.


Miriam, when she finished her degree with her 2:1, wasn’t quite sure what she really wanted to do. Then one day, she said to us dramatically, “the one thing I would regret on my death bed is if I didn’t try acting.” The “Bank of Mum and Dad” paid – gladly - for a course in a Drama School and when she finished, she started looking for jobs as an actor. But that wasn’t easy, it’s so competitive. We thought she was very good. She had good presence and whenever we’ve seen her in things, we were always very impressed. I am trying to be objective! All her life, Miriam has always been very good with her hands; she loves making things. For a while, she made a living as a ceramic/ mosaic artist and there are bits of her work all over London. She always loved the family place in North Wales and when she was there, aged 11, her grandfather asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up. She replied, “I would just like to sit here in this garden and make things.” She’s a very lovely person with a huge number of longstanding friends. She and I share a great love of Janis Joplin (she made a mosaic picture of her that hangs in our dining room) and Frida Kahlo. For my 60th birthday, she made a gorgeous mosaic of the Plough constellation. It’s still up there on the wall with some very touching verse on the back. I am very proud that Miriam credits me with teaching her about red wine. Nowadays, she is a mum of 3; Eva, 10, Rosa, 8, and Nat who is 5. She and Jason, a solicitor working for the Government, are a happy couple living in Hackney in a house on four levels. She is a part-time art and photography teacher in a big comprehensive in Stoke Newington. Jason is also a talented DJ, a great cook and superb baker of bread, a great football coach at the same time as being (at the time of writing this) seriously over-worked with all the issues surrounding Brexit. Having a bad back which stops him from playing his [117]

My five grandchildren as newborns [118]

beloved football (coaching is just about OK) is a further burden. Anne and I are very happy that our grown-up children and their partners are also our friends and that we are allowed to be so involved in the lives of their five amazing children. We know that this is not a common experience and we do feel very privileged. A stint of teaching in Singapore In 2008 Queen Mary, University of London recognized my continuing teaching IP to students there by appointing me Visiting Professorial Fellow, an honour that was renewed repeatedly until 2017. Another little honour came my way in 2010, when I was asked to teach intellectual property in Singapore at their IP Academy. Singapore had just instituted its own patent attorney exams and there was no tradition of training for it. The exams were modelled on the British ones and the young trainees found it quite hard. For some years before I arrived, nobody passed. The students were very bright and their science education was in English, but the lack of support from their employers staggered me. In Singapore, I used the tried and tested UK training formula in two consecutive years. I would be out there for two weeks at a time, teaching 9 - 5, literally full-blast. Then I would come home to the UK and the students would send me their written assignments, mimicking the exams every two weeks which I marked and returned to them electronically. Then I went back in the autumn of that year to do a revision course immediately before the real professional exams. I reversed the trend of no passes and, to my great satisfaction, a quarter of my class got through the exam. Better than no-one! To be honest, the ones that failed never stood a chance but this was more to do with the nature of their employment rather than their lack of aptitude. The three that I helped to get through are still in touch with [119]

me through LinkedIn® and they tell me all the subsequent milestones of their careers. They remember me as a good teacher which pleases me no end. After two years, the authorities offered to renew my teaching in a very unpleasant, restrictive way which I wasn’t able to accept but I had two lovely years and in between the teaching, there were weekends free which I exploited by exploring Singapore itself which is a most fascinating, multicultural place. I even managed to hop over to Vietnam and Malaysia for one or two enjoyable weekends. Growing interest in diversity What to do next? I was no longer a magistrate, I was getting less and less enchanted with being politically active because of Tony Blair and the Iraq war, so I looked around for other things to get involved in. One of the things that I realised as I progressed towards my presidency and was looking round at the profession more generally, was how un-diverse it was. It was, to use Greg Dyke’s phrase about the BBC, ‘horribly white.’ Through my recruitment work as a partner for the firm, I realised that there were a lot of young black and Asian young graduates who were not really getting a fair crack of the whip. I was the first partner in my last firm to employ a person of colour as a professional trainee (as opposed to support staff). So, when somebody mentioned a charity called Generating Genius (GG) to me, I thought this was something I could get behind. The key word really is ‘generating’ and their objective was to take young students from state secondary schools and from very underprivileged and mainly BAME backgrounds (eligible for free school meals and with no-one else in the family ever having gone to University) who had an aptitude for science and support them to get into a good University to study STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). My work with GG [120]

brought everything beautifully together for me because the patent attorney profession recruits exclusively from science and engineering graduates. I realised that in terms of both gender and ethnicity, science faculties all around the country were horrendously under-represented in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students. Generating Genius has various enrichment and aspiration-raising programmes and I remain an active trustee at the time of writing. But I plan to stand down in a few months when I will have served 10 years. I will look for something else I am sure!


Coda I have nearly reached the end of my story. Where did the years go? As I look back, a few days after our 48th wedding anniversary, what have I learnt? My life has been studded with an extraordinary set of coincidences and lucky turns. My very existence is the first: remember how my parents met! My survival aged 2 to 3 in Budapest 1944/45 was a series of miracles. It was strange that in 1956 my passport was not taken away by the authorities on my return from Germany and that my aunt was able to persuade a Dutchman who just happened to be in Budapest in October 1956 to take me out of Hungary and put me on a train to my ‘wicked’ uncle. Later, I was very fortunate that Mr. Meshenberg came along to help me to get into Oxford and there was a further coincidence that at that time the requirement for O-level Latin was abolished. More by luck than by my effort, ICI gave me a scholarship and being Hungarian was instrumental both in that and in Keble College accepting me. When I graduated, the small profession of patent attorney was little-known among university career advisers but the one I went to see happened to know of it and thought (rightly) that it would suit me. Lastly, the biggest and happiest coincidences were the circumstances which brought Anne and me together. Professionally, I have been very successful, way beyond what I think I deserve. Nobody has ever accused me of being modest, but I have often felt that the praise and recognition I have been given is far more than I deserved, and I mean that quite genuinely. Perhaps I am the embodiment of the fable of the Emperor’s clothes also [122]

known as the “impostor syndrome”. Sometimes, I don’t always know if people are really talking about me at all because I’m just simply not as clever, or whatever it is, that they say I am. I have had more than my fair share of awards - including things like my Presidency of CIPA, my lifetime achievement award and my MBE - but they don’t matter to me that much, they really don’t. I obviously would be a hypocrite to say I didn’t enjoy them at the time - but really what gives me happiness and enjoyment is my family. Family first and last For me, the greatest achievements of my life are my wife, my children and my grandchildren. I absolutely treasure a photo taken in Corfu in the summer of 2016 that shows all 11 of us – my tribe! (p.124) They are all absolutely amazing people. I’m just delighted to be amongst them and humbled that I receive their affection and love. Above all, they fill me with enormous love and affection and I’m very proud of every one of them. Quite apart from the fact that they’re all gorgeous-looking and very intelligent, I think they’re all excellent citizens! So I’m a very proud husband, father and grandfather. Which in turn leads me to talk about my identity. Who am I exactly? What dominates? Am I Hungarian? Am I British? Am I a West Ham United supporter? Am I a Jew? Am I a family man? There is a posh word - deracinated - meaning ‘removed from one’s roots’ and I think that’s me even after 60 years in the UK and all that has happened to me in that time. I suppose I am all of these things but not one of them quite sums me up as a whole. For me, when I say the word ‘we’ (which Anne often finds ambiguous) whether it’s the family, or being Jewish or being a West Ham supporter or being a West Hampsteader or being Hungarian, I am taking pride and enjoyment in belonging, but they don’t quite add [123]


up to a whole. There’s a bit more to it, I think. I don’t quite know what that extra bit is but that extra bit is really me. I don’t think many people appreciate what a huge thing it is to change countries. Having been for nearly 15 years a Hungarian boy living in Hungary and then having to slowly, gradually, by absorption of British values and language and culture and literature, become British but not quite English, I always have this slight sense of distancing myself from all these associations. I’m not wholly a West Ham United supporter because I love football more than West Ham, I’m (at last) proudly and openly Jewish but I’m not religious: there is a cultural and historical background I feel strongly but I don’t actually like the dietary rules and other regulations of religious Jews. My family is the closest to being completely all-encompassing but I always have a sense - perhaps because I was an only child - that I’m looking at the world from a helicopter, in a slightly detached way. And that doesn’t actually make me happy. I’d rather be totally absorbed even though there’s a little part of me which is quite happy to be on my own and able to form my own perspective of things. I know I’m not quite making sense but I just sort of feel that I’m not one complete thing or another. I’m just bits which don’t always gel together. But of course what really is at the root of it all and what really gives me a sense of wholeness is my marriage. After a very brief acquaintance, Anne and I have been married 48 years, so it’s a miracle that it has lasted so well. I pay enormous tribute for that to Anne. She is much more tolerant than I am, much more sophisticated in her love and in her understanding of me and of putting up with my foibles. Apart from being super-clever, one of [125]

the most wonderful things about Anne is that she has got enormous emotional intelligence and that’s something that I personally lack; or if I do have it, it’s a very great deal less than hers. Anne really is way ahead of me there and she was able to cope with my stress and my unkind words or with my being impatient much better than I was myself. Her unswerving love, support and affectionate (amused?) tolerance of me has been endlessly nourishing for my sanity. Nobody has ever called me easy! Underneath it all, what we both really wanted was this marriage to work. Anne nowadays calls it her ‘life project’ and it is a life project for me too. I cannot imagine life without her, it’s impossible. I sometimes tease her and remind her of what my father said when I announced, at very short notice, that we were getting married. “Oh,” he said, “good news, from now on there will always be somebody to tell you what to do and how and when to do it.” In a way, it came true because Anne has a better instinct, nearly all the time, of what was the best thing to do and say. I might be better than she is at doing crosswords or maths but she understands people and the world much, much better and more quickly than me. She’s also is the anchor of the whole family. I hope my children would agree she is an excellent mother, more patient and gentle and loving than I could ever be, especially when things got on top of me at work (which they often did in the early years). Anne has an inherent gentle empathy for all and everybody who has ever met her really likes her. Even while she was in hospital recently with her hip replacement, the nurses and the other patients on the ward, all called her “the lovely Anne.” I love my family and my friends but I don’t necessarily like too many other people. By contrast, Anne does. Our marriage has lasted so well and three quarters of that is down to her. I’d be totally lost without her, so I hope it will never happen. By the [126]

way, it would be entirely in character for her to dislike reading this eulogy of her! Looking back on my life and being, as I say, deracinated while I studied science at University, what I really, really, loved were reading and languages. I liked learning Russian at school, loved learning French privately and even enjoyed learning German when I was in Germany and Austria. But most of all, I loved learning English and later on - as a hobby - I dabbled happily with Spanish. In one or two of these languages, I managed to achieve a high level of fluency, a source of venal pride. It has made me very happy to be able to speak to complete strangers and be well understood among them. The other thing that I really wanted to talk about are my values. One can sound very pompous - and I’m trying not to be pompous -but I learnt the value of helping people from an early stage, whether that was doing Oxfam bread-and-cheese lunches instead of eating the nice food in Keble Hall while I was still an undergraduate or going to decorate at weekends for old age pensioners or donating blood or campaigning for refugees. I have always believed in what is sometimes mockingly called ‘doing good works.’ Perhaps fuelled by the tribulations and deprivations of life in Hungary, I’ve always wanted to help other people and always tried not to be selfish. Perhaps, you might say this was counter-intuitive for an only child but throughout my professional career, the thing that I enjoyed most - apart from the actual praise and awards - was the voluntary and unpaid teaching and mentoring I did. Today, there are probably dozens and dozens of people in my profession who would say I’ve been very helpful to them over the years and I’ve never said “no” when they’ve asked me for my time and help to advance their career [127]

or understanding of something. I have many people from the next generation who want to keep in touch with me and who want to enjoy my company because of how I’ve helped them. On my retirement, I was able to up-scale my ‘good works’ when I received a substantial windfall. Once I’d helped our children - who were reasonably well set up by then - I decided that I wouldn’t keep the money for ourselves. Instead, I flattered myself as a miniphilanthropist and the money continues, to this day, to be given away to - there’s that phrase again - ‘good causes.’ Anne and I decided to ‘pump-prime’ a very good project she ‘invented’ to improve doctoral work in Asian and African universities. Later, I became very interested in the politics of gender and ethnic diversity and worked as a trustee of a couple of charities, one of which is aimed at alleviating poverty, the other, which I mentioned before, at trying to get underprivileged children, usually from black and Asian minority backgrounds, to study science at good Universities. I’m very proud of my 10-year association with these charities; both in terms fund-raising and by contributing to policy formulation. I’ve not been averse to sorting dusty books at our local Scope shop and recently, I’ve passed an electrical testing course so that I can check the small instruments donated to Scope for electrical safety. I’ve got all sorts of certificates for passing exams and I enjoy each new one as much as the ones before! As the family knows well, I’m a left-wing person and I don’t like the selfishness of people who are out-and-out capitalists and rightwingers. I believe in justice and fairness and that everyone, so far as possible, should get their fair share of the total good that society has. This has informed me all my life and I’m delighted to say that Anne is even more so inclined. Not once have we had any problem [128]

my giving money away or that I take part in activities such as, I don’t know, being a school governor or going to a Labour Party meeting. I think the only disagreement we ever had was that she was more astute in spotting that Blair was not the real thing. She disapproved of Tony Blair much sooner than I ever did. I enjoy retirement. I think people know that I am a voracious reader, alternating serious books with detective stories, classical music with pop, mainly from the 60s and 70s. I loved Buddy Holly, the Everlys, the Beatles, the Stones, the Animals, all the black ‘girl band singers’, Motown, the Phil Spector sound, the Beach Boys, Tina Turner, Dusty Springfield – the list is endless. I would not have been able to go on Desert Island Discs, I would not have been able to reduce my favourites of pop and classical to just 8. Just as well I haven’t been asked… I am not a gambler but I regularly 'gamble' small sums away by investing in theatrical productions. Let me be pompous and call it supporting the arts... I love the visual arts and regularly go to see art exhibitions and galleries. I’m a bit of an ‘oldie worldie’ European culture-vulture; I’m not completely ‘au fait’ with modern art and I’d far rather look at a Rembrandt than a Jasper Johns (sorry, Miriam!) In terms of what moves me emotionally, I’m unrepentantly enamoured of 19th century music and European classical paintings; up to and including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and even such Hungarian composers as Bartók. I can intellectually appreciate and admire later art and music but they're not the things that move me. I think I have finished with everything I wanted to say. I didn’t say [129]

them in the right order or the best way but my final, final, comment would be to say thank you to my family who have been of such importance to me and such a support and source of affection and love. I just want to add, even if you think it very sentimental: if anybody in my close family reads this, they need to know that whatever I said or did or however I may have behaved, I’ve loved them very profoundly and that I’m very proud of them because ultimately, it is they who gave my life any lasting meaning. And that’s all folks! Tibor Gold March/April 2018


Acknowledgements This work would not have been created without the encouragement of my two sisters-in-law, Megan Zadik and Susan Goodman; they felt there was value in recording the story, the early life especially, of a Hungarian Jewish boy. It is a common story but perhaps not well-known in the UK. Many thanks to Susan for finding me the Audio Biographer Barbara Altounyan, who patiently recorded my reminiscences over many hours and skilfully prompted me with her questions. I am also grateful to Ben Clough for transcribing the voice recordings, helping me to edit the text into greater coherence, selecting the images and producing the final version. Special thanks to my daughter Miriam for creating such a beautiful cover design, symbolising my 'two parts' in a Hungarian motif and an English one. Above all, utmost gratitude to my wife for her constant support and conviction that this effort was worth doing and not just an illusion of grandeur.