A new profession

 vibacke

My first text for September 2013 will take up some of my experiences as a newly arrived immigrant to the city of Sundsvall in central Sweden. For most people well placed in the north of the northern hemisphere. I am hoping at the same time that this month will see my 10 000 viewing on this blog.

 Arriving in Sundsvall was a chock for me. I settled in a flat that was fixed by Mona and her parents in the area of Skönsberg. Soon after that I became a father. I cut down on smoking as a consequence of the baby and the cold weather. I had no work and even though I was looking I could not really see what I would be doing. I was new page in a new book. Not only for me but apparently for the whole society that I was now trying to be a part of. If the word depression was used then, I believe I had, at least, a spell of itin that year of 1974.

 I did land a few jobs here and there. One of these jobs influenced the rest of my life so I will briefly explain how it happened that I finished up teaching kids in a regular school.

Åsa Ahlberg was Mona’s best childhood friend. They had kept up their friendship into adult age and Åsa was with Mona in London when we first met. Åsa’s father was a school master on the island of Alnö where the girls had grown up.  It was also to this school of Vibacke that they went to up to the age of 16. Ali Ahlberg, was Åsa’s father. He had to find replacement teachers for his two language teachers that had recently, themselves become parents. One was Märta Starringer and the other Bertil Olsson. Both of these teachers taught languages. More specifically they taught English and French. Because I had considerable knowledge of the languages in question though absolutely none of teaching I accepted the challenge. I took on the teenage kids that saw this 22 year old, with hardly any Swedish as an interesting novelty in their school day.

 Even though I had not dealt with teenage kids before I found that I had enough experience in my social luggage to cope with this new situation and did step in for what eventually became my profession.

The Christening

Batizado

When I arrived in Sundsvall in 1973 it is safe to say that I didn’t know anyone. It is also true that nobody knew me! I felt when walking down the main street Storgatan that people looked at me and wondered who this new stranger was.

Mona’s relatives knew nothing of me. As we had got married in Stockholm one year previously it was felt that a christening would make some amends. The new family consisted very much of my mother in law’s relatives. Aime had then five older brothers still alive. They all had names ending in the letter E. The one that hadn’t was Allan and he was dead. Another peculiarity was that they all had only one child, except for Allan who had two.

Obviously the choice for the christening fell on Alnö. This is the island where all the family related to. Mona’s grandparents had worked in the sawmills like so many other men of that Sundsvall’s generation. Here everybody was at home Cedervalls and Hillmans.

The church of Alnö was built very near the medieval one. From it, the christening font was moved, and this would be used for the service that was to be directed by the old priest Mr. Bertil Wågström.

There was the small matter of getting Godparents for the occasion. The choice was simple. Best friends Åsa and Quim. I asked Quim, not very hopeful that he would say yes, considering travelling distances involved. He said yes and the date was set to the 16th December and the toddler would be given the name John Olof.

This event in the church was followed by coffee and cake and if nothing else gave everyone the possibility to get a glimpse of this new import somewhere from the south with the unpronounceable name. How would it go?

Ding dong the bells that didn´t chime

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 brown velvet jacket

Saga     Vistos

I can only tell you that leaving Nevern Square was not easy. There were bills to pay, no right to the deposit and no new tenants to take over. Pepe was meant to look for new digs, even temporarily, but did not succeed. I finished up in Neil’s apartment near Earl’s Court’s Olympia in a sleeping bag on the floor! Neil was a working colleague from Tramp’s!

This was my situation as I awaited embarkation on Wednesday the July the 5th 1972 on MS Saga with arrival two days later in Gothenburg, Sweden! One of my most valuable possessions was a brown velvet jacket that I had bought from António, a Portuguese from the Porto area! This smart jacket would do fine for my trip and meeting Mona!

Finally the day came. I went on board and we sailed off to the new country. I was impressed to hear the Swedish language being trumpeted off the loud speakers. They were sounds, I already liked, having heard Swedish spoken innumerable times first by Åsa and Mona and later by Jannike and Ulla!

I was also impressed by the blonde kids on board that threw themselves on the pool without any measure of uncertainty! What confidence and well-being did they not express?

After arrival at about 6.30 on the 7th I had to get to the train station! The connection was done by a bus leaving the Skandia harbour at 6.50 and 7.45 to Central Railway station. The fare was 4 Swedish Crowns.

I got on the train and started my trip to Stockholm. The heat was unbearable and I could not for my life get it into my head that Sweden could be warmer than Britain. So I kept my jacket on!

 

 

The list

Sussie

So it was settled. After weeks of unbearable separation and innumerable telephone calls and exchange of letters a decision was taken!

I would travel to Sweden! The means of transportation it was decided, would be taking the boat from Tilbury to Gothenburg on M/S Saga! It was a new adventure as just half a year before Sweden was not on my map, all together!

Our letters should be revealing, but were they? On my mind I was trying to create a picture on my head where the people and the places could become visible! From Mona’s letters I understood that her father got up early (6 o’clock) so I should avoid ringing too late at night. Two things became also evident as they were a big worry for Mona! Drinking alcohol is very bad and only alcoholics drink and it is important not to be perceived as lazy!

Mona’s mother sent greetings and a kitten called Sussie was on every letter being Mona’s company as she wrote her letters!

Our love could not be questioned. It was strong and could not bare separations any longer! Mona worked as a telephone operator, a job she took in the summers. On her free time she went with Åsa to the Marina disco or a place called “Sommarnöje”! She complained that nothing was fun and that was also my state of mind as I wrapped up my time at Tramp’s.

I gathered some of my belongings and booked my trip with Swedish Lloyd for Wednesday the 5th of July 1972 arriving in Sweden on the 7th. From Gothenburg I would take a train to Stockholm where Mona would pick me up by car!

I got a shopping list containing the following items.

1/1 bottle of Whisky “Long John” for uncle Folke! (The reader will now wonder, as I did!)

Nailpolish (Mary Quandt) dark red

Wine gums and one Kit-kat!

That’s’ all folks…next stop Sweden!

The message to love

jimi

If any among you, dear readers, is 20 years old and love stricken, avoid at all costs long separations. It happened to Mona and me in May- June of 1972. Why Mona and her best friend Åsa had to leave London I do not remember. There were two things that could have prompted the decision. Tourist regulations in England and a telephone operator’s summer job with the Swedish National Telephone Company Televerket for both!

During those months and through intensive mail exchange the dialogue concentrated on how fast we could be together. Being in love is like an illness. You’re weak and not fully in control of your reasoning. What would be the best way to travel and how would we get the time off for a holiday? I was  informed that a charter to Stockholm would cost about £ 40.50, with the cheapest hotel included, whereas the m/s Saga would take me to Gothemburg  for £ 30. Then there was the train and all in all I would expect to pay between £ 55 and £ 60, for the chance of being together for a few Days. I have not mentioned it but there was still the small matter of a car trip from Stockholm and back to Sundsvall, a distance of about 400 kms.

Mona was already into cars and for her it was a minor problem to travel by car providing she was driving. At this time I did not have a driver’s license and it had not even occurred to me that I might ever need one.

Telephone calls and many letters kept us in touch and then there was that “ Message to love” with Jimi Hendrix to deepen memories!

Memory lapses

coronation--a

Memory is tricky. Some things you remember others you don’t and these, can be forever lost, if not registered. I am going through the letters between Mona and I, in May and June of 1972.

I have discovered that I have no memory of a certain Pepe that shared the flat in 1972 when Mona and Åsa went back to Sweden. I had also forgotten that many people owed me money and that this caused difficulties for me as I needed it. Perhaps that is the reason even today, that it upsets me, to have to remind people that they need to pay their debts. Accordingly I try to settle any debts to others as soon as possible.

Someone wisely once said,” never borrow, never lend and you’ll never lose a friend”

In our letters we expressed the longing and the uncertainties of any couple in love but torn by distance and insecurity. As the weeks passed and the longing grew, it was decided that I would leave my job at Tramp’s to come to Sweden. By this time I was beginning to get tired of some customers at the club who in drunkenness had little manners or consideration for the staff.

I reported to Mona from the royal table at Tramp’s and could tell that the Prince had heard that I was connected to Sundsvall and I became known as Sundsvall without having been there. As to his bachelor situation it was evident that the chase for women or potential wives was there.

As you are not, dear reader, all alone in perusing through this blog pages I can now leave you some data concerning the blog. Number of viewings is today 5,186. 124 comments have been left and I have written over 100 texts in English and in Portuguese. People in 46 countries have visited the blog and visits top 5, are as follows. Sweden 1971, Portugal 1882, UK 460, USA 306 and Luxembourg 90. Thank you for your interest.

 

El Gay Sombrero

 

sombrero

My blog really appreciates comments! Åsa has shared some memories from our time in London in 1972 and it gave me a flashback or two. Still very dim it touches on the subject of gayclubs in London. What I remember is that I went there once with one of my waiter colleagues at Tramp’s. He was Spanish and perhaps called José. I really do not remember. I do recall that he had on a very flashy and glittering top when we walked in to this cellar place at 142 ,Kensington High Street. It was the basement underneath a restaurant called El Sombrero.

This was a disco and it did not take me long to realize that it was meant for rather expressive homosexuals!

 Åsa recalls that together with her boyfriend Desmond we had decided to meet there and that the couple tried to get in but was denied entrance. They stood there and couldn’t really understand why they couldn’t’ get in! I honestly do not recall playing this prank on Åsa and Desmond, but she does, and consequently I have but to admit that we must have done it to have some fun! Åsa has googled and found out that this joint was really called “Yours or mine”.

One of its particularities was that in order to spend a night there consuming drinks and to comply with the law everyone was served a thin slice of pork and some coleslaw on a paper plate!

Reading on it was visited by well known people in the London music scene such as Mick and Bianca Jagger, Angie and David Bowie, etc.

Sorry Åsa!

La Pergola

Pergola

In the autumn of 1971 the Swedish girls came into my life. They had walked in to Maximus. I knew very little about Sweden. Absolutely nothing about the town they came from or the island they said they lived in.

What I knew was that it was a Scandinavian country and the women had the reputation of being blond, blue eyed and liberal. Meeting Mona and Åsa was the next step and follow up from a few pen friends I had been in contact with through the IYS “International Youth Service” of Turku in Finland.

They shared a basement room and worked in a hotel. At this time Mona was mourning the death of her grandmother mormor Helga. This was in October 1971. I recall the two friends went back to Sweden to celebrate Christmas but came back in January.

They moved into Nevern Square. Mané had returned to Portugal and Gilberto’s Swiss girlfriend was in with him.

In the course of a few weeks we started to fall in love. Glances were exchanged and in those glances a passion was growing. No one can really explain why people fall in love… It happens and I felt it was reciprocal but still a bit unsure. I invited Mona to eat out at a restaurant called La Pergola in Cromwell Rd. It was a Monday evening more precisely the 24th of January 1972. At the back of the card I wrote I love you and signed my name…nor James Bond, but João Pinheiro…from then on we were a couple!

The paradigm shift

Maximus

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.