About João Pinheiro

I was born in England but grew up in Portugal. I am now 60 years old. This blog will be dedicated to subjects that are connected with my personal life and experiences. I will try to keep party politics out of it and concentrate on other matters. Wish me luck!

Bernard’s travels (2)

In November 2018 I was at Bellapais Abbey, near Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus. It was my third visit. My first had been 61 years ago. My year in Cyprus (1957-8) in the British Army had been unlike any other of my life. I kept a diary and filled a photographic album. I was tanned and had learned to swim. I had my own Sten-gun and was licensed to use it to kill people in certain circumstances. All the time I was myself in danger of being killed.Cyprus at the time was a dangerous place for everyone. EOKA, a terrorist organisation dedicated to union with Greece, had started killing, and the army had retaliated. The Turks, who made up 20 percent of the population, were understandably not impressed. The two populations had never mingled on any scale. Very few Cypriots spoke both Greek and Turkish. Opinions and actions quickly polarised. Like most Mediterranean islands, Cyprus had a history of occupation by outside forces: Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, everyone had come and conquered. The British were the latest, given Cyprus as part of a deal at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. So my role was in the army of occupation, at a time when the British Empire was well into its dissolution. At the other end of the Med, the French were hanging on (at an even greater cost) to Algeria. The violent deaths in Cyprus raised its profile from a sleepy backwater to world news.At this time the British Army was incredibly naive in its standing on the global stage. It had yet to learn the lessons of the 30-year-long “struggle” in Northern Ireland. It not only failed to understand what was going on, but had no appropriate language to describe the events. Its response was a largely brutal one of facing violence with violence, with a far greater force of men, but out of its depth facing guerrilla operations. Back in the UK, politicians had to deal with a largely unsophisticated and uninformed electorate which resented the loss of colony after colony. In the words of US Secretary of State Foster Dulles, Britain had “lost an empire and failed to find a role”.My tiny place in these events was largely as a helpless, ignorant spectator. When I was sent to Cyprus, I received no political briefing on the reason for my presence there. Those in charge of us knew little better. In the words of the officer commanding a road block I manned “Use your common sense”.Let me return now to Kyrenia and introduce Lawrence Durrell. His brilliant book, _Bitter Lemons_ for the first time revealed to the English-speaking world the subtlety of the emotions behind the conflict, as well as the political pressures that had brought it about. He was recruited in a master stroke by the British government as their Information Officer; effectively head of their PR. _Bitter Lemons_ is his account of how he set about this job. Durrell was Irish and didn’t like the Brits very much. He did like the Greeks and one of a handful of Greek speakers in the service of the British government during its 80-year occupation of the island.He bought a house in Kyrenia and made local friends in including Kollis, the Custodian of Bellapais Abbey, whose photo is included in the early editions of the book. I met Kollis and the man who took over Durrell’s job, whose marvellous conversation I have sadly forgotten – but it was a wonderful contrast to the unremitting coarseness and obscenities of everyday army language.Bellapais Abbey is enjoying good times. The main room has been restored and at the time of my last visit was hosting a month-long music festival. Heaven only knows how they cope with the parking!Bellapais’ happiness and prosperity is reflected across Cyprus as a whole, both in my last visit, taking in Larnaca and Paphos, and in the previous one to the north. One new dimension is the development alongside tourism of archaeology, which has expanded rapidly in recent decades. The Cyprus Museum in Nicosia is clearly worth a visit.A more recent development still is the growing influence of Russia: one of the newest hotels is named ‘Odessa’, presumably as it is marketed largely in Russia. Russians and the Russian language pop up everywhere. How many poorly paid Cypriot employees are there working in the British bases? The security issues must be a nightmare.The division of the island following the Turkish invasion in 1974 is held on all sides to be a disaster, and many personal accounts concern genuine loss of homes and property. But the two groups of Greeks and Turks have never enjoyed much real integration, and now both appear at peace within their borders. A further happy dimension is the apparent peaceful relations they enjoy in Britain.—

This text is by Bernard Ineichen

Reporting on visit to Sundsvall 25/11- 30/11 2018


Mild winter days awaited our guests arriving in Sundsvall on Sunday 25th.
The November darkness took a grip but our friends knew they would soon be back in their sunny island so it was never a big issue. As usual they stayed at the Baltic Hotel. This time the Makunduchi delegation was small. New to Sweden and Sundsvall, only Madame Zainab Fadhil. Together with coordinator Mohamed Muombwa, Doctor Suleiman Selele and Makame Mbanja the delegation was complete. The aim this time was to get a grip on how to work with young people that do not complete their studies, lack skills and are consequently unemployed.
Soon after arriving we met at my home for food and talk. We gathered the opportunity to initiate the launching of an association which we named” Friends of Makunduchi”. We will see where it will take us, but the aim is to keep up the many contacts established through the years even prior to the project being launched. Trevor Fisher, Linda Strandfjäll and I will answer for the first steps to be taken.
On Monday we had the Municipal Assembly gathered and it gave the opportunity to present to the 81 elected members some information about the ICLD financed project so far. Mohamed and I showed some pictures to illustrate some of the activities. This presentation is available. After the assembly the delegation met group leaders for the political parties as a means to exchange more information and get to know each other..
The following days were filled with contacts and visits in several of the municipality’s activities and responsibilities. I just like to mention visit to Museum of Sundsvall where Mrs. Leyla Porovic explained how the museum works when producing exhibitions. The program as mentioned before was very much directed to unemployed young people and what the community can do to improve chances for further education and self-employment. In this line the group met students at the secondary level of education coming from different countries, how to work with dropouts and also got information on how the school system can work to bring forth enterprising skills.
All in all a useful stay that I believe can lead to some initiatives in the beautiful community of Makunduchi. I think our friends also will remember the traditional Christmas Show from the Estetic program in Hedbergska secondary school. Kwa heri!

Kuwakaribisha marafiki zangu kwa Sundsvall

Welcome to Sundsvall, Makunduchi friends. Next Sunday you are expected to arrive after a long and tiring trip. From the sunshine of Zanzibar to a Sundsvall profoundly immersed in the November cold and darkness. A dramatic contrast, but we will do what we can to ease up for you. I want to take the opportunity to fill you in on the events here since your last visit.

We have had a general election which means that Swedish voters chose their representatives on all three levels of government. As far as the national level is concerned there is a situation unique in Swedish modern history and after 10 weeks since the election there is still no government. What has mainly upset Sweden’s democratic set up has been the growing support for the Sweden Democrats a party with immigration issues at the center but where many experts widen the explanation to insecurity on some parts of the population about undefined future, brought about by modern technology, globalization and desertification of rural areas. We could safely say that this party thrives on people’s worries and fear. Somehow it has shifted Swedish  political map and we are experiencing now three main ideological fields, Conservative Nationalism, Liberalism and Democratic Socialism. The Green Party was practically wiped out despite awareness of climate change and pollution issues.

As far as the local Sundsvall government is concerned we are continuing with same partners, (Social Democrats, Center party and Left party).

On Monday Mohamed and I will give our local parliament a short presentation of our cooperation so far. I will share it here for your benefit.

I am leaving the chairmanship of the School Board but carry on with focus on Culture and Sport plus an elected seat on our Municipal Parliament.

I look forward to seeing you Mbanja Makame, Mohamed Muombwa, Suleiman Selele and Zainab Fadhil on Sunday, when we will try to start the “Friends of Makunduchi association” that I already have mentioned before.

I also expect that you will share with us the main questions affecting your beautiful island of Unguja with challenges facing Zanzibar and ideas to solve them.

Note: Swahili texts are also welcome here!

Why friends of Makunduchi?

It’s Friday. When I write something on my blog it generally happens on Fridays. The reason for that is that we generally have fewer meetings booked on Fridays. As I partially retire after the New Year I will probably write more often on my blogs. Promise or threat? You decide!

Today I am sharing thoughts about the reason to start in Sundsvall an association for friendship with the community of Makunduchi, southeast area of Zanzibar.

For three years now, the municipality of Sundsvall has been carrying out a project financed by ICLD ( International Center for Local Democracy) together with Makunduchi leaders. During this time and even before, people from Sundsvall have visited Makunduchi and many contacts have been established.

My experience is that when a project finishes the contacts generally die out. We would like to avoid that. What is then the purpose of the association?

Anyone that has been to Zanzibar and left the all-inclusive closed up hotels by the Indian Ocean can understand that the standard of living for people is low. The purpose of the ICLD project is the exchange of views and experiences aiming at developing democracy at local level. Even though we do not come with cash to make improvements our friends in Makunduchi have valued this cooperation and stuck to it. This is for me a sign of strength about the understanding that development happens when we put the effort and seldom does it end well if the aim is charity. Charity is the opposite of what our association should be about.

Most of us in the Sundsvall community are not mildly aware of the real deep issues that face Zanzibarians. It’s my hope that we can reach a better understanding of these issues. At the local level, we can see things happening in Makunduchi with the support of local elected people and other representatives. The needs for better education, healthcare, sanitation, jobs, electricity, running water are evident going into any village.

The purpose of our association, if it finds legs to walk, that is to say if there is a sufficient interest, is to find ways to support these needs without falling into the trap of charity. I am confident that with the help of this association a contribution can be made to create better conditions for development in Makunduchi.

Cruising to Russia

This text is written by Bernard Ineichen as my guest blogger. Enjoy!
I’ve just returned from my third visit to Russia; this time cruising to the remote (not so remote if you are in Sweden) north coast ports of Archangel and Murmansk. For a tourist it has been a rather sad experience.
For a start, the Russians seem unaware of the increasing age, frailty and girth of those who visit them. Not nearly enough public toilets, and those that exist not well signposted. Are pensioners a political force? Recent attempts to raise the age for female pensioners was defeated. This is a hopeful sign.
I did tourist excursions in both cities: mostly a litany of museums and monuments, though the guides (all untrained as there is no professional association of guides) did provide some information on social matters, particularly housing. I fancy the situation in Russia is even worse than in the UK. Not too bad if you can get a flat, but grim for those who can’t. Does anyone keep (and quantify) a waiting list? Decades ago, Shostakovich wrote a hilarious musical, Chereomushiki, where the hapless newly married couple were reduced to meeting in the zoo. The area around the port of Archangel was particularly depressing, with more dwellings falling down than standing up.
What I particularly missed was any idea of what we were NOT shown. No military bases, obviously, but it would have been nice to have seen some industrial areas close up to get an impression of Russia’s industrial health. Some attitudes have not changed since Soviet days. At Archangel our departure was delayed by almost half an hour as no one turned up to cast off the ropes.
What would I have given for a local map! Another leftover from the Soviet period is the fear of spying. There were only rudimentary ideas of, in capitalist terms exploiting the tourist market; or in consumerist terms, providing the material for an enjoyable and informative visit to a foreign country. Not a single postcard in sight, or the brilliant (and cheap – generally produced in China) glossy books about places that tourists want to visit. In one museum you had to ask for the shop to be opened.
The only beautiful buildings were churches and the only thing worth buying was a calendar illustrating places associated with the Russian Orthodox Church. Priests were on hand to help and add solemnity to the visit.

Vida e morte no Rosmaninhal

No dia 16 de outubro de 1796 morre Maria Gonçalves Molineira no Rosmaninhal, de idanha-a -Nova. Dois meses antes tinha sido sepultado o marido, João Tonelho. Faz testamento no qual estipula que 140 missas serão dadas em seu nome. O testamento é longo e detalhado. Passo a a transcrever alguns dados. No próprio dia do falecimento é sua vontade que como esmola aos pobres  se cozam 3 alqueires de pão. Tambem no dia de todos os Santos pão de centeio para ser distribuido assim como na quinta feira de páscoa e nos tres dias seguintes. À tia Maria Ladoeira 1 alqueire de trigo e à sobrinha Teodora 2 alqueires para comprar umas roupinhas, assim como à filha Maria Faustina 2 alqueires de centeio tambem com o mesmo fim. Quanto ao manto de Saragoça vai para a prima Ana Torres. Passa a enumerar diversas roupas tingidas para familiares e para os pobres. Quanto às missas terão destinos diversos. “ 3 missas pelas penitencias bondades mal cumpridas, 3 pelas almas do fogo purgatório, São Camilo, Senhor da Boa Morte, S. Miguel, anjo da guarda e Virgem Santissima uma cada”. Tambem não esquece os santos da igreja e da capela aos quais dedica uma missa. Aos antepassados já falecidos e à sua sogra.

Ao filho deixa res ou besta da sua escolha assim como o cão que lhe der mais jeito. À neta uma colmeia já escolhida. E mais ou menos assim se tresladou a vontade de  Maria Molineira. A neta da sua neta Joana Tonelha será a minha bisavó Maria Rija.

Não teve uma vida longa a Maria Molineira pois faleceu aos 50 anos. Reinava em Portugal Dona Maria I se bem que já era o seu filho o futuro D. João VI quem reinava desde 1792, por doença mental da mãe. Nesse mesmo ano de 1796 a Espanha uniu-se com a França revolucionária, tendo como inimigo principal a Inglaterra que eficientemente fazia um bloqueio maritimo ao comércio naval.

A vida mais ou menos pacata do Rosmaninhal viria certamente a sentir com as invasões francesas dos tempos que se aproximavam.


Vai-se reeditar o O’Neill?


Voltámos a falar este verão eu e a Maria Antónia Oliveira. Fiquei a saber que  vai reeditar a biografia de Alexandre O’Neill. Não deixo de ficar impressionado com o fenónemo que deve atingir a biógrafa. Por esta altura a Maria Antónia já deve saber mais sobre o poeta do que ele próprio já saberia de si próprio.

Voltámos ao tema dos tempos em que viviamos sob o mesmo tecto, eu, a minha mãe e o Alexandre.

Não sei se terei contribuido com mais informações que possam ter alguma utilidade para a reedição da biografia. Mas para me reeditar um pouco serviu bem este encontro. Ao O’Neill devo uma vivencia curta mas desenvolvente de experiencias. Poucos poderão dizer que em tão novos pudessem ter tido essa proximidade de imortais da literatura como o Luis de Sttau Monteiro e do própio Alexandre. Além do sentido de humor e do dominio da lingua portuguesa com trocadilhos bem dirigidos, devo-lhe concerteza ter escutado Yves Montand e a musica poética francesa que tanto apreciava.

Tambem o conhecimento e afinidade com que fiquei daquele espaço restrito que é a freguesia de S. Sebastião da Pedreira e mais própriamente aquelas terriveis e ingremes encostas que ascendem à Escola Politécnica e onde ficava situado o Instituto Britanico que me roubava a mãe e o apendice logo ao lado, que era a a tasca do Sr. Serafim.

Quero desejar à Maria Antónia boa sorte para o novo livro. Com humor e rigor O’Neill deixou-nos mais pobrezinhos, (mais de plástico por ser mais barato). Com o teu trabaho  fizeste reviver o homem e a obra. Um rato e um anjo da guarda para cada um em Portugal. Estamos bem entregues!

O escritório de Salazar


Corria o boato em 1968. A informação corria da clandestinidade. Salazar teria caído duma cadeira no seu escritório da casa de verão. Muito mais não se sabia. Era uma notícia que esperançava o fim da ditadura do Estado Novo. Salazar nacionalista tinha a ideologia que estava na moda. Os portugueses tinham interesses comuns e basta. Só que a ideologia acabou na segunda guerra mundial na Alemanha e na Itália com a derrota.

Continuou em Portugal. Com consequências nefastas para o desenvolvimento do país. Sem alternativas democráticas o país estagnou nas guerras coloniais, na emigração, na pobreza e ignorância dos portugueses. Salazar era homem de brandos costumes. Escolheu como casa de verão em 1950 o forte de Santo Antônio da Barra, forte mandado construir no reinado de Filipe I para essencialmente proteger a costa de Lisboa.

Salazar caiu mesmo da cadeira e o que eram os seus aposentos até 1968 estão agora abertos ao público. O mobiliário já lá não está mas uma fotografia mostra como era o seu escritório. A câmara de Cascais tratou por cedência do ministério da Defesa que se recuperasse o forte, e ainda bem. .. Espero que continue a ser possível aos cidadãos de hoje e do futuro o poderem visitar.

Foto de Salazar lendo um jornal que deveria saber estava debaixo das garras da censura.

Memorias do Portugal-Uruguai

Foi a 26 de junho de 1966. A seleção nacional fazia o jogo de despedida antes de viajar para Inglaterra para participar no nosso primeiro mundial. O meu pai arranjou bilhetes e o Estádio Nacional estava cheio. Seria a primeira vez que ao vivo veria a seleção. Tinha 14 anos. Também pela primeira e única vez estava a minha avó Rogéria. Tinha 80 anos. A minha avó lia muito e seguia com interesse o fenómeno Eusébio.

O adversário para este encontro era uma seleção com pergaminhos mas que Portugal nunca tinha defrontado, o Uruguai.

O Torres marcou três golos e o resultado final foi mesmo 3-0. A minha avó achou mal que tivessem convidado cá os Uruguaios para sofrer derrota tão pesada e se não seria simpático deixá-los marcar um golo.

Mais logo é mesmo a sério. Cristiano Ronaldo e equipa terão que encontrar maneira de desfeitear o Uruguai 52 anos depois. Não vai ser fácil.

Falta-me o Pedro

É a segunda vez na minha vida que vou para Portugal sem lá estar o Pedro. A primeira foi quando me embarcaram no “Alcantara” no dia 11 de outubro de 1952 com destino a Lisboa. A 23 de fevereiro de 1954 nascia o Pedro. Desde então fomos irmãos. Passámos 14 anos como irmãos primeiro crianças e depois adolescentes. Passam- me muitas imagens desses tempos pela cabeça. Tivemos como todos momentos bons e maus. Coisas que me marcaram talvez não o tenham marcado tanto. Nunca o saberemos. O Pedro não se abria muito. Quando os nossos pais se separaram foi um rude golpe. Estávamos em idade difícil. Não entendíamos muito bem o que se passava, mas as brigas dos nossos pais eram difícil de lidar.
Fomos parar ao colégio Valsassina como alunos internos e no verão fomos para a colônia de férias na Praia das Maçãs. Para mim esse tempo foi dramático. Como irmão mais velho sentia que tinha que proteger o Pedro.
As coisas acalmaram quando fomos para Carcavelos viver com a nossa mãe, irmã Joana e avó Bua. O Pedro era muito generoso. Sempre nos lembrávamos quando íamos à Feira Popular e ele sempre tinha uns tostões para fazermos qualquer coisa extra. Na Praceta de Carcavelos o Pedro adoptou cães abandonados e fez comércio com bichos da seda.
A qualquer jogo de mesa que participasse tacitamente e irremediavelmente ganhava. Não havia hipótese. A escola no entanto não era para ele e nunca percebeu muito bem o que lá andava a fazer. Preocupava todos quando desaparecia para pescar ou fazer campismo. Nunca deu nenhuma importância aos confortos caseiros. Preferia mesmo era uma vida simples e sem complicações. Mais tarde aderiu à vida de praia e gostava de dar mergulhos no nosso mar Atlântico.
Quando era pequeno lembro-me de o ver jogar ao berlinde com grande entusiasmo e de cócoras. Da varanda a minha avó preocupava-se com o Pedro e seu futuro. Talvez pudesse ser relojoeiro?
Não foi para muito longe. Foi para a montagem de filmes. Gostava daquele ambiente que requeria paciência e ambientes fechados . Foi nos filmes que conheceu a Maria João e com ela teve as duas maravilhosas filhas Marta e Catarina.
 O Pedro integrou-se na nova família. Cumpriu o seu papel de pai acompanhando as filhas quando cresciam. Penso que foi um bom pai para as meninas e que se esforçou por fazer o melhor. Sempre mostrou orgulho por elas sem precisar de o dizer diretamente.
A vida do trabalhador da área do cinema não é fácil. É um ramo para entusiastas sempre com pouco dinheiro. O Pedro nunca ganhou grande coisa no cinema e quando as montagens passaram para a digitalização não sei se acompanhou as mudanças. Para dizer a verdade nunca percebia grande coisa quando falava da sua vida profissional. Sei que tinha alguns amigos nos filmes. Estava sempre disposto a ir com eles por esse Portugal fora fazendo diversos trabalhos ligados às produções cinematográficas.
Mais tarde na vida quando se separou da Maria João conheceu a Sara e com ela teve o Miguel. Este filho passou a ser o motivo principal da sua vida. Andava sempre com o Miguel e ajudava a Sara. Teve um amigo no Andy que apoiou a família nos momentos difíceis. Faleceu no passado dia 12 de maio após prolongada e dolorosa doença que enfrentou à maneira da sua personalidade tentando envolver outros o mínimo possível. Era o meu irmão e sinto a sua falta.