Goodbye Forskarbacken, hello Mornington Avenue

pass sl

Passport stamps do not lie! Because of them we know that the newlywed couple Mona and João, did not stay long in Stockholm in that cold and windy autumn of 1972. Something made Mona decide she wanted to quit University and digs at 5,Forskarbacken. She suggested we should go back to England. I did not feel that our situation was worth defending, so I agreed.

London was, after all, our hometown, together… According to the stamp, we left on the 2nd December on what I recall was a charter flight with hotel. The hotel was somewhere in the Elephant and Castle area. We got about looking for a room or flat as soon as we arrived. Eventually we moved in to Mornington Avenue. It was a small basement room, furnished and clean. There were some green bushes and grass outside the window. We were quite comfortable and even grandfather Dadda glasses and Pat came to visit.

We both went about looking for employment and we had contact with Rodolfo and Luisa just down the road.

Twenty year olds could get work those days. I registered at an employment agency and was sent to different places like a big publicity company and a council office where boring work had to be done! A new life was evolving where an old one had just been left behind!

mornington

Highly confidential police matters!

passport

To me it was all pretty straight forward. We had got married; I had my job at the Sheraton and in order to keep it, I needed to show them a permit. If memory does not fail me we went to the police station that same day, the 17th November 1972. There we were told that it was necessary to present ourselves for an interview. Swedish authorities were instructed to make sure that no marriages of convenience with the purpose of staying in the country were accepted. I learnt later that Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme had in 1949 married to help a Czechoslovakian girl escape dictatorship in her country. It wasn’t our case, but still…

We were summoned for an interview on upcoming Tuesday the 21th November. We were asked separately a number of questions, some of more intimate character. When did we meet, how, where and had we slept with each other.

My interview was held in English and I wasn’t a bit nervous, but instead rather amused at the whole procedure. For Mona it was different. She was rather upset that her country acted suspiciously and I think she took it rather personally. Eventually the whole thing was over, we were reunited and they chatted something that I didn’t understand. Suddenly I found us out in the street, facing the cold and dark Stockholm afternoon. I was not only curious but decided to claim my right. Where was the stamp I needed? We went back in again and after some more talk I was given a stamp on my passport. It’s validity was for four days when the decision was supposed to come from the authority in charge! That did me fine! I had my stamp, so I was happy! I had also for the first time encountered Swedish bureaucracy.

Ding dong the bells that didn´t chime

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The whole thing seemed almost surreal. Here I was in Stockholm living with Mona. We were engaged since that trip to Spain in the summer. There, I believe in Seville, we had bought our engagement rings. We had talked about getting married, but it was never a big issue.

Life in Stockholm was beginning to function in that autumn of 1972…at least for me. People struck me as unfriendly almost rude but Mona explained, in a matter of fact way, that they were Stockholmers!  We had our room near the University; I had my job at the Sheraton.  The condition put by the hotel for keeping me on was that my papers were in order! But they weren’t.

We had to get married to get my stamp on the passport. A date was set. The seventeenth of November. We were to go to the Stockholm City Hall- Rådhuset -at a given time, bring our rings and a couple of witnesses and a paper from the UK that showed I was free to marry. A certificate of no impediment!

It was a cold day, like November days in Stockholm are. It darkened early. Not the best month to get married…But we did get married that day, even if the only thing to prove it is this certificate of marriage. There are no photos of the event as witnesses, Åsa Ahlberg and Anders Hult, simply had forgotten the camera!

Well never mind…now to the police station. But that is another story.

vigselbevis

 

 

 

The Stockholm Sheraton

sheraton

Sometime in October 1972 I entered the Swedish labour market for the first time! I had recently arrived from England to join my fiancée Mona!She had started to study English at the Stockholm University. I lived with her at the student’s room she rented at Amanuensvägen.
The kitchen facilities were shared by other students. It was at this time that I was introduced to certain food that apart from being Swedish suited the purse of poor students. Blood pudding with lingonberry jam, fruit soup and bilberry(blåbär) and even rosebud(nypon) soup were among the novelties. We held a tight food budget, at a culinary price!
Some readers might recall that my father had from Portugal, seen to it, that a letter of recommendation was sent to the director of the Sheraton Hotel in Stockholm. It was with some great expectations that this young man, though not believing he would become a gentleman, something he already considered himself to be, but rather obtain a position where language knowledge could come of use! I will not lie by admitting that I was hoping for some work at reception. Inspired perhaps on Candide’s experiences a hotel job could lead somewhere!
It was with some mixed feelings and disappointment that, on temporary and conditional basis, I was offered a position as a houseman. Provided that I would regulate my situation as far as labour permits were concerned, the job was mine.
What did this houseman work consist of? Very simply taking from the basement and up to the floors, the bed clothing and other stuff that were the very essence of making up the rooms and without which, chamber maids would sit idle! I would soon advance on my short Sheraton career! Most positive in leaving the houseman chores was to skip listening to and seeing ,the unsympathetic and bitchy woman, in charge of these important hotel activities!

Die Fledermaus or London’s disco life

Die Fledermaus

As we approached the north of Europe things began to get serious again. Holidays were over and that Interrail trip in 1972 would soon be, but memories! Mona had to go back to Sweden as she had enrolled at the Stockholm University to study English.

As for me, I was unemployed and homeless. I needed to go back to London and get my stuff together before returning to Sweden. I think I crossed over at Hoek van Holland or wherever the train connection between the continent and England was made.

Once in London I must have looked up some of my friends to get somewhere to live! I finished not far from Nevern Square and my new address was Nevern Road. I am sure I stayed with Quim Semião and slept somewhere on the floor at the same time as he gave me a hand at this place he was now managing, Die Fledermaus!

Recalling the London scene that was ours it was evidently a limited section of the world of entertainment that London offered. To us it definetly was, the centre of the world. In retrospective these discos that we knew, were all most probably struggling to survive. I recall la Poubelle and Le kilt that had French influence, La Valbonne, Ad Lib and that place we went to sometimes after work, created, as it were, for those that worked in discos and had the strength to go out and enjoy themselves, now as customers. This place was called Candy Box.

These discos are dead and buried. Nobody remembers them and looking for them on Google and other search motors will certainly draw a blank! Die Fledermaus was also struggling to survive and Quim was making the effort for someone, who still believed in it!

Please, turn on the light!

paris

This is, after all, the most appropriate date to recall the events of 1972 on our entrance to France after leaving Madrid. Appropriate as the 14th of July is the day of national celebration. Our Interrail course touched Paris in August. We were not celebrating as we arrived in Paris, that much I can tell you!

Part of the adventure of travelling by train on long stretches was the innumerable encounters of which I already mentioned some! This was particularly interesting in the south as people are more open for new contacts and readily become more familiar. In France we were offered some fruit, I believe it was apples. Of these we ate.

Shortly after arrival in the “City of Light”, the most acute colic pains set in. After that the respective diarrhoea! Paris became a place where the necessity to find toilets became central. The sharp pains gave short notice of what would follow. The strategy was to go in to cafés, restaurants and the like.

On one occasion I did get into the toilet, but could not find the light switch. And it was as dark as could be! Eventually I had to implore to someone in the staff to explain how the light was switched on. The French have always been very technical and ingenuous. The light turned on as the door switch locked. What a relief.

We learned after this not to trust fruit not washed! Paris deserved better so we came back years later.

Our holiday was soon over. Mona would carry on to Sweden and I would find my way back to London. New separations and more problems to solve, before any definition about a lifetime’s future would clear through a foggy dim!

The bed in Madrid

calle Velazquez

The return train trip towards northern Europe started in Mérida and headed towards Madrid.

The Interrail tickets that Mona had fixed, in that summer of 1972, were bought by someone she knew in Finland. In those days the route between Sundsvall and Waasa in Finland was quite busy. The ferry boat crossed the Bothnia Sea daily and many people just went across for the cheap booze.

As far as Interrail was concerned it worked this way… You could not use the low fees in the country of purchase. Buying the passes in Finland meant that we could travel in Sweden without any extra fees. After completion more precisely after 30 days, the tickets had to be left in in order to receive a refund.

Our goal on this leg was to hit Madrid and meet my father’s cousin Martinho. Martinho was my age had been to Portugal and stayed with us in the Praceta in Carcavelos, just a few years before. I do not recall where we met but he invited us to for dinner which was most appreciated.

We were invited to his flat which was his parent’s home in the heart of Madrid, more precisely at the Calle Velazquez. We stayed there and even though we did not see his mother I do recall sitting at table and being served by a maid at a most ceremonial manner.

Later some of his sisters did turn up but I cannot today recall which ones of the three sisters Fatima, Maria Amélia or Soledad that we met on this occasion. We were invited to stay and curiously Mona considered that the bed she slept on was the most comfortable she had ever experienced. This particular fact was many times mentioned by her and many years after it happened!

O ditador visto do andar de cima

autocarro

Fiquei na criação de textos no meu blogue, até ao momento, estacionado nos primeiros 20 anos da minha vida ou seja entre os anos de 1952 e 1972. Tenho tentado captar e descrever memórias que tenham um interesse mais amplo e abrangente do que aquilo que tenha apenas que ver com as minhas mais íntimas e limitadas experiencias!

A internet permite entrar em contacto com muita gente e os média sociais são um importante complemento para intercambio de ideias e informação! No Facebook por exemplo coloco os meus textos em diferentes grupos se houver algo que possa interessar os participantes. Um desses grupos para nostálgicos como eu, é o “Recordar as décadas de 60 / 70”.

Foi aí que alguem colocou a foto que publico aqui que relembra os nossos autocarros da Carris de dois andares à londrina. Eram verdes e se bem que não fossem em grande quantidade faziam parte das características do transito da minha querida Lisboa dessa época!

Foi assim que me recordei de um episódio relacionado com um “Double decker”. Teria saído da Praceta de Carcavelos para apanhar o comboio da Sociedade do Estoril num domingo de 1967! A viagem era quase de certeza para a bola e para o Estádio de Alvalade!

Logo ali nos Restauradores e bem instalado no piso de cima vi aglomerado de gente e policia à saída do que era o SNI instalado no Palácio Foz. O SNI ou Secretariado Nacional de Informação  – era o organismo público responsável pela propaganda políticainformação pública,comunicação socialturismo e ação cultural, durante o regime do Estado Novo em Portugal.

Ora a alta personalidade não era outra senão o ditador de Portugal e chefe vitalicio do governo- O Salazar. Foi a única vez que lhe pus a vista em cima mas observei que não houve dentro do autocarro nenhuma manisfestação de alguma espécie.

Era naquele edificio que funcionava a censura que mantinha os portugueses condicionados e desconhecedores de tudo o que o Estado Novo queria omitir do conhecimento publico ou como o próprio Salazar na inauguração  expressou “Politicamente, só existe aquilo que o público sabe que existe.”

Em 1944 o organismo de censura passa a estar na dependência do Secretariado Nacional de Informação, que, por sua vez, estava sob a alçada do próprio Presidente do Conselho (Salazar).

Munidos com o célebre “lápis azul”, com que se cortava todo texto considerado impróprio, os censores de cada distrito ou cidade, apesar de receberem instruções genéricas quanto aos temas mais sensíveis a censurar, variavam muito no grau de severidade. De facto, verifica-se que houve regiões do país onde estes eram mais permissivos e outras onde eram exageradamente repressivos. Isto devia-se ao facto de constituírem um grupo muito heterogéneo a nível intelectual. Muitos reconheciam rapidamente qualquer texto mais ou menos “perigoso” ou revolucionário, enquanto que outros deixavam facilmente passar conteúdos abertamente subversivos.” Wikipédia

The spectators in Mérida

mérida

It was as hot as it generally gets in the town of Mérida that august of 1972. It was on this old capital of the Romans- Lusitania province- that we spent some time and met some of my family having reached the nearest point to the Portuguese border we would get to, on the Interrail stretch.

Mérida is an interesting place: founded in 25 BC by order of Emperor Augustus it preserves to our time the longest remaining bridge from the Roman times, the one over the Guadiana River. Some of its remaining monuments are the amphitheater, triumph arch and theatre.

“In 713 it was conquered by the Muslim army under Musa bin Nusair, and became the capital of the Cora of Mérida; the Arabs re-used most of the old Roman buildings and expanded some, such as the Alcazaba.The city returned to Christian rule in 1230, when it was conquered by Alfonso IX of Léon and subsequently became the seat of the priory of San Marcos de León of the Order of Santiago. A period of recovery started for Mérida after the unification of the crowns of Aragon and Castile (15th century), thanks to the support of Alonso Cardenas, Grand Master of the Order. In 1720 the city became the capital of the Intendencia of Mérida.” Wikipedia.

It was sitting on the seats of the ancient theatre that we chose to immortalize our family gathering in the Spanish Extremadura. My sister Joana, a 14 year old teenager, by brother Pedro 18 and my mother Pamela 43 can be seen in the picture together with me João, at 20.Mona, 20 holding the camera!

Nobody could tell when we would be able to see Portugal and being so near was a special feeling for me at any rate.

From now on our return trip was on and our holiday beginning to end. We got in touch with our Spanish cousin Martinho and it was decided we would pay him a call when we arrived in Madrid!

puente

 

Lack of respect for authority

manguito

The stamp clearly indicates that at Port Bou near Perpignan the passport control was made before entering Spain. Someone was telling us that it no longer was España we were entering but rather Espain due to the fact that there were so many tourists there. The date was 6 of august 1972. We were well conscious that we were entering a country ruled by the ageing dictator Franco. It was with some mixed feelings that we headed to our destination- Barcelona!

When travelling by train it is easy to meet new people and establish relationships. It happened on our way to the Catalan capital. We shared compatment with a couple where he was from Spain.That meant that once there, we were guided by our Spanish new friend who knew where the best paella could be eaten. Our stay in Barcelona was not long as our goal was to hit the frontier regions of southwestern Spain where my parents could turn up to meet us.

Meeting the Spanish railway system and operating company RENFE took us back a few decades in relation to our transport experience so far.

Getting to Valencia from Barcelona was a slow and hot experience that took 14 hours. People could get edgy and the conditions concerning toilets were a big problem. People carried wine on skin bottles and passed around.

We were rather amused and impressed by a young German co passenger that tried to dodge the ticket inspector on a cat and mouse game. Apparently he had no ticket or just like us was expected to pay extra for the ride. We were often told that he Interrail did not fully apply and that an extra fee was necessary. The mustached controller was getting livid but committed to getting hold of the missing passenger. When he finally got him he was told what he could do with his fee. When asked to hand in the passport he refused. When threatened with the police he made what in Portugal is known as “manguito”. I was impressed and surprised that anybody could show so little reverence to authority in a dictatorship country!

We finally got to Valencia and looked for a hotel!

barcelona