Bernard’s travels (3): Alexandria

Corniche Avenue

Some places are so beautiful they need no publicity: Venice, Siena, Amsterdam.

Some are so awful even tourist campaigns cannot win over visitors. Some years ago I visited the Faroe Islands. Soon after I returned, there was a publicity campaign, promoting them as ‘Europe’s newest tourist destination.’ I was amazed: I had found them dark, cold, wet, the very opposite of appealing, with a population practicing a narrow-minded Calvinism.

There are places whose appeal has fluctuated. One such is Tipasa, on the Algerian coast. It appealed to the Phoenicians, then the Romans, then after almost two millennia of obscurity, to the French. I visited it in 1963, shortly after the war of independence. It was exhausted, drawing breath for the next round of savagery that followed the brief peace. Now I hear it has the makings (again) of a Mediterranean resort, with a new museum to house the Roman artefacts.

Alexandria is like that. It was home to two of the seven wonders of the ancient world: its lighthouse and its library. The lighthouse went centuries ago, but in recent years the library has been re-born. It has also been home for limited but significant period, to two of English literature’s major figures: EM Forster and Lawrence Durrell.

Forster arrived in Alexandria during the First World War, at the age of 36, working for the Red Cross by attempting to put soldiers involved in the conflict in touch with their relatives. He stayed three years. He had a love affair with Mohammed el Adl, a tram conductor, and wrote a curious book, Alexandria: a History and Guide, not published until 1922, and not always particularly easy to find subsequently. However, its value is still recognised; Tauris Parke published it in paperback in 2014. It includes an invaluable introduction which Lawrence Durrell added in 1982.

Durrell himself arrived penniless in the city in 1941, having narrowly avoided capture by the German army in Greece. He became the British Government’s Information Officer and started work on what was to become his masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea. Durrell’s Alexandria’s population included a heady mix of nationalities, ethnicities, sexual and religious identities, producing a colourful narrative. They are to some extent drawn from real life and the Alexandria of Durrell’s time must have been an exciting place to inhabit.

Durrell’s return to the city in 1977 was a dispiriting experience. Arabic was spoken universally: previously speaking four languages was not uncommon for businessmen. Posters and advertisements were similarly universally in Arabic. Cafes were dull and the harbour, ‘a mere cemetery.’ Once again Alexandria has sunk into oblivion.

My own experience some forty years after Durrell’s return confirmed these impressions. The magnificent corniche road, several miles long, around the sensational bay, is in effect skin deep: a few yards behind, the buildings universally shoddy, with featureless design. The city lacks sparkle. Historical monuments look scruffy. The new library’s splendid modern exterior is not matched, according to a recent informant, by its content. The English section is dominated by books you would find in an airport shop. All is not lost: for those who choose not to visit, Michael Haag has written a marvellous book, Alexandria: City of Memory (Yale University Press 2004) which combines history (including literature), the city’s present state, and many rare and brilliant illustrations. Save the airfare and pop into your local bookshop!

Becoming Portuguese

I have now taken decisive steps to recover my Portuguese nationality. At the registration office I was told I needed a criminal record for both the UK and Sweden and some type of proof that I could speak or understand the Portuguese language.

As to whether I could speak Portuguese or not it was easy enough for the the officer at the local agency to decide in that but we agreed that it would be necessary to contact my old school and acquire a certificate of education ( habititações). This is what I did this morning.

The school where I completed my studies in Portugal was the Liceu de Oeiras. It was great fun to go into the premises and see that many things still looked the same.

At the school office I showed my school book that people at the office had not seen for a long time. This “caderneta escolar” followed the student throughout secondary school. This photo shows my marks at the 7 th year of schooling or 3rd of secondary school.

In those days the school had about 2000 students with girls in the morning and boys in the afternoon. We went from Monday to Saturday, Sunday was free.

The entrance to the school still looks very much the same. Here we can see how it looks like today.

Entrance to old Liceu de Oeiras.

In about one week I will return to get my certificate of education. Another small step for man, and another small step for mankind.

I thought

In S. Sebastian

Before my partial retirement on 1st of January I had the ambition of starting to regularly write on this blog. Well, it didn’t happen. When I tell people that I do not know how I found the time to work it always gets a good laugh, but it has been the truth, honest.

In these six months we have sold our house in Furubergsgatan and bought a flat in Luleåvägen. We went on holiday to Cala Millor- Mallorca and I was also in Makunduchi – Zanzibar in February.

In Cala Millor we were fortunate also to join an international group of other holiday makers whose company we truly enjoyed.

I am writing from the flat in S. Pedro Estoril where we plan to make some improvements. Our trip to Portugal, this time, was made by car. It is a long stretch of 4000 kilometers. We crossed over in Gothenburg and spent a few hours there feeling the pulse of a very pleasant city center. After that we made two more hotel stops and slept two nights in the car.

The first stop was in Cologne with its impressive cathedral. Even there there was a very pleasant atmosphere of eating and drinking. The mind boggles when we think how utterly destroyed this city was left after bombing in the Second World War. Something for present and coming generations to think about as populism and nationalism grow again in our midst.

I put our stop in S. Sebastian at the top of the line. It is indeed a beautiful city with an atmosphere that just makes you feel dizzy which I will admit was helped by the Tapas dinner at the Baztan in the old town. Highly recommended as far as I am concerned.

Yesterday was crowned by meeting my new cousin Pedro Magalhães and his wife Teresa. More about this on coming texts.

The new family ties

António Branco Cabral as a child on the right with family in Santarem.

If you are happy with your family tree and perfectly comfortable with your ancestry maybe you should not do a DNA test. In my case, not being specially interested, in coats of arms or any of those motives connected to finding nobility and the likes I am happy to find out as much facts as possible and the DNA path is extraordinary. Anyhow I did the DNA test with Myheritage and met with sensational findings.

As I have, on this blog, previously written about my research on the Henriques Pinheiro connection it feels necessary to put things right. My paternal grandfather was António Branco Cabral (Santarem 1893- Lisbon 1983). My genetical grandfather was not a figure unknown to us in the family, but indeed someone that I met and that was present in the life of my father and of my grandmother Rogéria with whom they secretly shared a son. I am convinced that my grandmother would not be unhappy with this turn of events (it now being known) as she had up to her death in 1977 kept a relation to the man who had another family but was the father of her only surviving child.

Who was then António Branco Cabral?

According to the “Grande Enciclopédia Portuguesa e Brasileira, Vol.2”  he completed is studies as a Civilian Engineer at the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon in 1915. He was then called up for the army and served in the first world war from where he was evacuated in 1919 after being subject to gas. After returning he then started to work for the ministry of Public Works and in 1923, he oversaw the Roads department for his native District. He went on to work for the Portuguese Railway (CP) and placed on the Paris Committee for that company. In 1932 he returned from Paris and became General Secretary for the Portuguese Railway Company in which post he remained until his retirement in 1963. During those 32 years he was involved in the development of many enterprises and in the administration boards of several companies including the Uranium mines in Urgeiriça. It is mentioned that he published texts and poetry in different newspapers and magazines under cover of pseudonyms. A renowned personality in the Lisbon society he received several medals such as St Gregory order, of Civil Merit of Spain, and several commendations for orders such as the British Empire.

This finding om Myheritage was only possible because another grandson to António Branco Cabral namely Pedro Cabral Magalhães, also had done his DNA test there. As far as my dealings with Pedro are concerned, I only have positive experiences since this news were also unknown to him and I really feel that I have gained a cousin that three months ago I did not know existed. I am looking forward to meeting him soon.

I have, in other words, no genetical connection with the Pinheiros from the province of Beira Baixa and that is that. It does not mean that there are no emotional or other ties as my father always considered that his father was João Henriques Pinheiro and he spent time as a child mainly in the region of Rosmaninhal.  

 My extensive research on the family Pinheiro/ Rija in the municipality of Idanha a Nova in the district of Castelo Branco is available ad hopefully useful to anyone wanting to access it.

PS: Please feel free to add to this story on the blog.

António Branco Cabral on the right. First World War

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 overheard more obscenities in that one year than in all the others of my life. 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. In Cyprus 492 Cypriots and 142 British people were murdered between 1954 and 1958. These 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 role 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.

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.