According to Barata…

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João Barata is a student of photojournalism at Mid Sweden University in Sundsvall. He has as part of his work interviewed me in 2013. I have with his pernission decided to post his own version of myself here and share it with you.

“The Marginal road gave a good view of the Lisbon coast. When will I ever see it again, he thought while being driven by his dad to the airport. Joao Pinheiro decided to leave Portugal and move to the country where he was born, England. A war was going on between the Portuguese regime and the colonies. Angola, Guine-Bissau and Mozambique were the destination of several young men that had to fight for a regime that many, like Joao, did not support.

 

The arrival in the UK on the 11th of September 1968 was a turning point in his life. Many times the 16-year-old felt alone and displaced from a culture he had left behind at the age of three. To adapt and to integrate in the British society was extremely difficult during that first year. It would take time to make friends and to fully understand his new being. Fortunately he had the help from his uncle, who owned a chain of Patisseries spread all over south London. Joao was delighted that Uncle Dennis was prepared to give him employment and a living wage of 6 guineas a week. During those first months, his grandfather Joseph was also an extremely important person in the integration process. He helped him finding a job in the City (London’s’ financial district), and bought him his first tie. He even taught him to make a knot with it. In addition, he sent an envelope with a pound every Friday that many times kept Joao going.

 

On a cold, sunny autumn day I meet Joao for an interview. We gather outside the local library, near the Council offices where he works as a politician. We are not in Portugal or England but in Sundsvall, Sweden. It’s a small city halfway the coastline of the country. Joao’s job with the Department of Education is to improve learning standards in schools; “Education is my passion,” he points out. The politician seems to know almost everyone that passes by and even enquires the Polish workforce, restoring the pavement outside the main building, about their lives in Sweden. Before we go inside, Joao says to me, “Immigrants have value”.

We find some available seats in the library’s café and order coffee. Joao moved to Sweden in 1973 with is first wife Mona. Her parents were loyal to the workers and cooperative movement led by the Swedish Social Democratic Party. He tells me, “Mona’s father did volunteer work (…) we would not fill the car with petrol anywhere else but at the cooperative”. Everyone in the family was a member of the trade union. It was practice every day of the month, every month of the year. “It was a powerful religion”, Joao recalls. They had a great influence on him and within months of his arrival he went on to join the Party.

A few years later he volunteered to work with the GIF’s program, ‘Back to Basics’. Sundsvall’s biggest football club had the youth department underdeveloped and was missing the basic services that could help the local communities to enroll on sports activities. “I wanted to assist this communities in helping young people to feel integrated socially”, he says. “People that had money could do two or three sports but the immigrant communities were left out.” So, in 2001, he became President for the youth department of the club and by 2009 they had one of the best academies in the country.

Near the end of the interview, Joao opens up about the recent difficult times he’s been going through. In 2011 he lost two extremely important people during his existence, Mona and his mother. Their death made the 60-year-old look back at his life. It was difficult for him to cope with the loss, “it made me think about what and who I am”, he reveals. Shortly after, he started a blog on his earliest memories, “I write to publish some of the thoughts that passed through my mind in those days. Maybe I can make sense of it now”, he adds.

 

Some people that walk by our table recognize Joao and interrupt the interview. They talk in Swedish and I can’t understand what they are saying but these people are very willing to approach the Portuguese politician. He takes time to listen to what they have to say to him and is actually interested in knowing what is going on with them. There is honesty in Joao’s interaction with other people and they seem to appreciate that. Everyone is at ease.

While they speak, I think to myself that Joao’s life has been shaped by sturdy decisions that caused him to have a great sense of reverence for others. He’s a man that both respects and is respected. He’s a good man.”

The National Team (2)

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I decided that I would go to some of the matches in the 2004 European Championship. I bought 3 tickets in advance but did not know which matches I would see. One was for the quarter finals and it would be in Lisbon’s Estádio da Luz. It turned out to be the jewel in the crown for the matches I saw live with the Portuguese selecção. The date was the 24th June 2004 and the opponent was England.

England scored first a in the 3rd minute by Owen. Portugal worked hard for an equalizer that finally came by Postiga in the 83rd minute. The match had to go to extra time. A hard shot by Rui Costa in the 110th minute put Portugal ahead for the first time. It would not last though, as five minutes later and five from finish saw an equalizer by Lampard. After extra time the quarterfinal had to be decided from the penalty spot. My brother Pedro smoked non stop throughout the whole match. Ricardo the goal keeper became the hero for that eventful match. First he saved a penalty and then scored the winner. A night I will never forget!

My latest match with the National Team was in Coimbra on the 15th November 2006. For some reason that I have now forgotten I was in Portugal at this time. I asked my father to get us tickets for the match that was part of the qualification for the 2008 European Championships. The opponents were Kazakhstan and as the match was in Coimbra I had booked a hotel room. My father had not bought the tickets but was confident that there would be plenty – After all who wants to see Borat’s country in a football match? When we arrived in Coimbra it was pouring with rain. Frustration grew as we could not find the hotel. Eventually we got there and I went off to the stadium with the purpose of getting tickets. I was informed at the ticket office that it was sold out. Someone said I could go and speak to some students standing nearby. They asked me if I needed tickets which of course I did. They said that they didn’t sell tickets but if I bought some Portugal scarves they would give away the tickets. Said and done.   What was the alternative? The tickets were good and it allowed us to see Portugal win by 3-0 with goals scored by Simão (2) and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Going to matches with the Portuguese National Team have been events well worth remembering.

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Maxwell’s arrival

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You might live a whole life and still not understand events that took place in it even if you, yourself, were the main male actor.

I do not pretend to claim that I have been aware of all  things that have happened in my life but I am sure that my actions would have been different if I had the experience I have today. When you are young, say 20 years old, you have your life in front of you and happiness does not need too many analyses. I have been lucky in my life to have known so many interesting people and to have experienced so much together.

When we went back to England Mona and me, as a married couple we were supposed to be a family. But we were not. Looking back I am certain that Mona’s biological clock had been ticking away for some time. Our small room in Mornington Avenue needed a little one.  The solution found, was a kitten.

We took the train to Hounslow to get Maxwell, whose name was inspired by a coffee brand.

He was a little loud and nervous baby of the Siamese race. He came with a pedigree, cost £15 and would be our pet for many years to come.

At this time I was working in the publicity firm of Masius Wynne-Williams and that same year of 1973 they merged to become D’Arcy Masius MacManus. My job was, as I recall, doing errands and dealing with the post to the many sophisticated art workers, of this reputed and pioneering advertising firm.

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Goodbye Forskarbacken, hello Mornington Avenue

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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!

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