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!
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 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!
The summer of 1972 had but one purpose! Meet the families and spend time together. Mona had heard me enough times talking about Portugal and the speculations about when getting back could become a reality. Her own curiosity was also there…If we bought an Interrail ticket in Finland we could use it from Sundsvall to very close to the Portuguese frontier. This would be an opportunity to meet my grandmother Bua, my parents, brother Pedro and sister Joana!
It was settled. The Inter rail ticket meant that we could travel throughout Europe without extra cost if travelling in second class and on ordinary trains. We left Scandinavia via Rödby in Denmark on the ferry to Germany on the 3rd august. Our first stop in Germany was in Hamburg. We did not stay in hotels if we could avoid them. But we had to eat.
Areas around central stations are unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. We looked for a place to eat not far from the station. This was before the times of fast food chains as we know them today. As we were eating and from nowhere a gang of thugs (young men, acting aggressively) approached our table and started to provoke me by taking chips off Mona’s plate and putting them near her mouth. I honestly did not know what to do, but felt I could not resolve the situation by any other means than getting beaten up. I chose not to and it bothered me for some time to think what a coward I was. Mona never mentioned and did not seem to think I should have acted in any other way! My first German experience was not very positive.
That night the trip continued towards Switzerland and the impecable city of Geneve. Even there my new leather jacket came to good use!