When you are focusing on London and going down Memory Lane it is not so easy to bring back memories of things that have vanished. That is because England has a strong preserving and conservative view as far as heritage is concerned.
When you come from another country and visit London, which I will soon do again, it is interesting to see what has changed and what is left. In my opinion little has changed. London has its curiosities and they’re just like the buildings- there to stay.
Distinctively there are uniforms that make London recognizable. I am thinking of the London policeman with his unique helmet, the Coldstream guards and other foot guard regiments on duty at Buckingham Palace, on their red coats and bearskin caps. The beefeaters looking after the Crown Jewels
Other details that will catch David’s and Daniel’s attention during their visit in April, will be the red pillar boxes and the telephone booths, if they are still there… Myself I have been remembering the double-decker bus that will have changed from the heavy bus where you could jump in and go upstairs through a narrow staircase. They are still red and though they were just like the green ones we had in Lisbon they felt somehow different.
The bus conductor was in charge of selling you the fare. I suppose that’s gone! The particularity that most caught my attention as a young boy was the machine used to produce the tickets. After you said what your destination was the conductor fiddled with his machine and a slip of paper would roll out, as your ticket.
I have learned after some research that this machine was a Gibson ticket machine. There were also “Push once” buttons- for the driver to make a stop.
In that autumn of 1971 my life was very much divided between 10, Nevern Square and 14, Leicester square. The Piccadilly line united my flat in Earl’s Court and my work place, Maximus Discotheque. Almost every week we paid a visit to the Ginger group’s hairdressing school in Knightsbridge where our hair dos were created and developed. And all at reduced prices! Maximus manager Jay had fixed us up with his brother who taught hairdressing at this school.
Two blue eyed girls with long blond hair in hot pants did come in one evening after pub hours. These were Mona and Åsa. They were in my opinion the two most beautiful girls that ever came into Maximus. They were childhood friends and they did not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. It was as if they were from another planet, these two nineteen year olds…
Quim and I decided that we should invite them for a date to get to learn some more about the two Nordic angels from the mysterious country of Sweden.
I was at this point completely unaware that one year later I would have married one of these girls and that this particular event would mean that my life would soon change so drastically. It was as Mona would have liked to describe it a real paradigm shift, if those words would have been put together in 1971.
Unfortunately I have not been able to find one single picture showing the entrance of maximius as it was in those days, where at one time a blond American called Mike would stand outside as a barbarian gladiator.
Comecei muito cedo a ir ao Estádio Alvalade. Talvez lá para 1960. Ía com o meu pai que era sócio e ficávamos quase sempre num lugar cativo que ele tinha na bancada central. Do lado oposto era o peão. Gradulamente fui passando a minha atenção de andar a apanhar caricas, para ver o que se passava dentro do campo! Às vezes ao intervalo mudávamos de lugar para acompanhar melhor o ataque do Sporting.
O momento alto dos jogos era a entrada dos jogadores em campo. Naquela altura os jogadores não faziam aquecimento dentro do campo. Primeiro entrava a equipa visitante, quase sempre acompanhada duma série de assobios. E ficava-se à espera do nosso querido Sporting. Levantava-se um burburinho quando se topavam as cabeças dos jogadores à entrada do túnel que tinha umas escadas que conduziam ao campo e que os jogadores tinham que subir.
De repente entravam, sempre a correr e em fila indiana. Era uma emoção fora do vulgar que se apoderava do publico. Se estava cheio o campo ( se a casa estava boa) era um barulho infernal!
Via quase todos os jogos em casa e algumas vezes, Restelo, Atlético ou Setúbal, íamos fora.
Adoro o meu clube mas não menosprezo os outros. O clubismo em Portugal desviava e desvia ainda a atenção às questões politicas e sociais. Prefiro recordar-me com nostalgia a Maria José Valério a inspirar-nos com a sua “Rapaziada ouçam bem o que lhes digo e gritem todos comigo- Viva o Sporting!”
Tinha para com o Luis Lacerda uma afinidade muito especial. Nunca falávamos daquilo que nos ía na alma. Penso que ambos tínhamos uma série de feridas para sarar. Tinhamos nascido práticamente no mesmo dia. O que tinhamos passado estava cá metido dentro. Parece que não precisávamos de falar sobre isso. Mas levávamos connosco as feridas de relações mal tratadas e carencias psicológicas. Disso não tenho dúvidas.
Naquele ano de 1968 sem sabermos bem porquê, estávamos como que a dizer adeus ao tempo de criança. Não sabiamos o que vinha mas penso que já havia uma nostalgia e uma tristeza que se apoderava de nós à medida que essa despedida se aproximava.
Fumávamos cigarros da marca Porto e bebiamos cafés, que o dinheiro não dava para muito mais. A mim nunca me caíram bem as cafeínas e quanto à nicotina tambem o meu corpo quis rechaçar. Senti-me mal uma vez e o Luis comecou a destruir os cigarros que levava. Era sensível…
Quando não procurávamos a Rota do Sol naquele inverno que abria 1968 íamos para a praia e sentávamo-nos no Veleiro.
Geralmente só lá estávamos nós . Púnhamos a Jukebox a funcionar. Invariávelmente era o “Dock of the bay” do Otis Redding que girava. Essa canção sintetizava sem o sabermos o que estávamos a passar.
Look like nothing’s gone change
Sitting here resting my bones/ And this loneliness won’t leave me alone/ It’s two thousand miles I roamed/ Just to make this dock my home.
Now I’m just gonna sit at the dock of the bay/ Watching the tide roll away/ Oooo-weee, sittin’ on the dock of the bay/ Wastin’ time…
There’s a lot to be said about my time at Maximus. I have already written on how it all started- inviting people in, with cards designed for the purpose. I would put my signature at the back and at the end of the evening collect the cash! I would make some money at weekends and very little on week days. But sometimes the job was the opposite. Keeping people out! At any rate some memories crop up of a period in my life I do not regret but knew, deep down, was not to be my future!
When I started at Maximus the Disc Jockey was John, an African American, and I suppose we have to thank him for the choice of music played then, with lots of soul and Motown. It was there I heard and enjoyed James Brown for the first time.
The dance floor was often crowded with black people carrying heavy gold chains, expensive clothes and watches to match. They would come in on long fur or leather coats. They were cool, man!
They also all came in on VIP cards. Mr Nat was beginning to wonder how many of these cards there were in circulation. Something was wrong! Mr Nat had had enough and gave John the sack.
Things had to change! I do not know if we were part of the strategy but there was a strategic Portuguese line up with me in the reception area, Mané at the bottom of the stairs in the cloakroom and Quim in the first bar. Like this we could keep an eye on the girls as they rolled in.
How Quim became a barman, I really haven’t got a clue but there was much more nobody understood.
To be continued…..
It is just as one thing leads to the next! As I started to work nights the question of residence was important to fix.
Earl’s Court was an ideal place for anyone without a car and no money to put down on mortgages and the like. The underground was practical and took me wherever I needed to go in the Greater London area. The place was full of restaurants and their numbers were increasing. As I moved into this area the fast food chains seemed to be doing the same. Pizza Hut, Kentucky fried chicken and a hamburger restaurant called “The hungry years” appeared.
As I recall the hamburger restaurant had the tastiest hamburgers ever and even the fried chicken tasted much better than it does today!
There were plenty of digs around so when Quim Semião and his neighbour from Lisbon, Mané Fernandes turned up in the London night scene, we had enough people to rent an apartment. This was a step forward and together with Gilinho we advanced.
My new address became 10, Nevern Square. The furnished flat had two rooms, a bathroom, a dining room and a kitchen. I do not remember anyone ever making any food there. It suited us perfectly!
Even though the rent was high we always managed to pay it. We ate out, left our clothes to the dry cleaners and turned the dining room into card playing premises. In the dining room there was a record player and some LPs to go with it.
As we all worked until 3 o’clock in the morning it’s easy to understand that day was night and night was day. In the photo, above Quim Semião and Gilberto Matos on the roof in Nevern square.
Como aqui fica provado foi o triciclo o meu primeiro meio de comunicação. Esta atividade terá começado na Urgeiriça onde passámos os primeiros anos da minha vida.
Não havia nenhuma relação familiar com a Beira Alta mas depois dos estudos de engenharia, em Inglaterra, o meu pai foi trabalhar para as minas da Urgeiriça que eram ricas em úranio. Este mineral passou a ser muito importante depois da guerra mundial e do avanço da tecnologia de fazer bombas atómicas.
Teria eu uns tres anos quando nos mudámos definitivamente para Lisboa. Nós, erámos eu, o meu irmão Pedro e os meus pais. Teríamos ido para casa da minha avó na Rua Sampaio e Pina mesmo à frente da artilharia 1 e com vista para o Liceu de meninas Maria Amália.
A minha avó já vivia nessa casa há muitos anos. Era um rés do chão enorme com um corredor compridissimo e umas traseiras que davam para um pátio interior que cheirava a galinhas e a hortaliça. A porteira era a Sra Zulmira.
Mas o que era mesmo bom era ter o Parque Eduardo VII como jardim mais próximo. Ía para lá de triciclo e lá andava de triciclo. O meu irmão andaria de carrinho de puxar. A volta era quase sempre a mesma. Viam-se as galinhas da India e os pavões, depois seguia-se para o lago para ver os patos.
Havia um senhor africano que tomava conta do Parque e lembro-me que eu indagava porque é que lhe faltava uma orelha. Penso que havia uma qualquer explicacão que tinha que ver com ele a ter perdido num elevador. Isto são factos não confirmados. Mas que era agradável ir para o Parque, lá isso era!
Entrei para o Liceu Nacional de Oeiras no ano lectivo de 1965/66. Deram-me o numero17, da turma P do 3º ano, primeiro do segundo ciclo.
Cada aluno tinha um número para simplificar a identificação individual até porque cada turma teria até 40 alunos. Era gente a mais para que os professores conseguissem distinguir os alunos que não sobressaísem por qualquer motivo. Como o meu nome começa por jota ficava geralmente a meio da tabela. Puseram-nos num barracão, provávelmente porque a escola estava a abarrotar. À tarde eram os rapazes e de manhã as raparigas. Às vezes e se chegávamos mais cedo ficávamos a vê-las saír. Era uma industria de conhecimentos a entrar e a saír.
Das 5 disciplinas que tinhamos tido no primeiro ciclo passámos a ter 9. As lições comeavam com a chamada a que os alunos respondiam “pronto” sabe-se lá porquê… Os professores “sôtores” davam as suas matérias, faziam provas orais e escritas, davam trabalhos de casa. Anotavam tudo nos seus pequenos cadernos. No espaço da sala de aula eram soberanos. A nossa vida estavava-lhes entregue.
Uma das novas disciplinas para nós era o inglês. Esta disciplina era por mim há muito ansiada…é que eu falava inglês…
Após a primeira prova em que terei respondido a tudo corretamente fiz logo uma série de amigos. O que estava imediatamente atrás de mim tinha a particularidade de lhe crescer o pescoço alguns centimetros quando faziamos provas escritas.
Hei-de contar mais episódios sobre os meus três anos no Liceu de Oeiras em que fica provado como o sentido de humor e a enorme fantasia para dar nomes aos professores e ver a parte mais cómica das coisas tão forte está enraizada no nosso povo!
When I entered working life I realized that something was in the making. My first job at Lloyd’s consisted on reading and registering information from punctured cards. We were slowly entering the computer age! When working at Leslie & Godwin’s nothing had changed as far as dress code was concerned. Working in the city meant suit and tie.
As we were an international company we had close relationship with customers from different parts of the world. There were for example Japanese gentlemen working at our offices. They would salute you with -Moshi moshi, and at least once that I can recall invited us out for a night in the town which included eating out and visiting clubs in Soho of their preference. In other words posh Strip clubs!
One day some longed haired guys in casual dress turned up to take over some of the premises. I was obviously curious as to who they were and what made them so special that they alone could break the dress code. They were computer experts! Their job was to install data bases and for that they needed space. No one then could ever imagine how dependent on computers we would all get and what a fantastic development leap they would represent in all we do. This blog for example is all based on computers and internet!
Anyhow, I never hanged around long enough to find out how fast the computer revolution took to establish itself at L& G’s. I had been moving out of Insurance for a long time. I earned too little and was already combining activities at Maximus in the West End. It seems that all that was needed was a slight push to make me take a decision. It came connected with Judy. She was a trainee at the office. I started to go out with her but my superiors had already understood it so they decided to have some fun at my expense. As we were preparing to go home the boss gave me an errand to run so I couldn’t leave with her as planned. I heard how they giggled away. When I came back I was through with them and gave my notice. Sayonara reinsurance and City of London!
My father decided we would go to London and visit my mother’s family there! This trip would be made by car! In the front sat my parents and my unborn sister Joana. In the back my brother Pedro, my grandmother Bua and me! Something went wrong with the automobile crossing the Pyrenees…We could however continue after reparations and eventually took the ferry to Dover. Seeing the cliffs I did exclaim- “My country at last!” This well-chosen comment was quoted in years to come, as everybody was very amused by it! Another interesting fact on this trip was that no one could really make out how my grandmother didn’t need to use any of the toilets along the road.
Some highlights on this visit to London in what would have been 1957 or 58 (this is important as to assert my unborn sister’s participation or not) are the following:
Visit to Madame Tussaud’s in Baker Street where I recall my father jokingly talking to a wax policeman standing at the entrance.
Visit to Trafalgar Square where we fed the pigeons and one of them landed on my head and subsequently watching the guards outside Buckingham Palace standing still.
Visit to the London Zoo where we met a friendly and hairy old chimp whose name I have forgotten.
Considering my early age during this event some of these facts might need to be reconsidered even though I take full responsibility for my own memories!