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?

Find them, fuck them, forget them.

padrãoRight now I am expecting to get an answer and some news, from Gilberto, one of the three musketeers on the London mission! As everyone knows the musketeers were in fact four. Gilinho, Quim. Mané and I would perhaps rather be seen as conquerors. What sort of mission or conquest were we on, in those very first years of the seventies?

Pretty much looking for a future… All worked from early age and just as kids of any generation, meeting females was part of the essence that kept us going through thick and thin. Girls were in fact present in our lives and there was always some type of relationship going on. The teenage male image of the day, was to show that you were not really in love . The measurement of your success was rather down to how many conquests you managed to make! Or as a representative from the previous generation once said to me after being introduced to my girlfriend of the time!

– You want to follow the three F rule. – Ok, and what is that? Find them, Fuck them and Forget them! I will admit that that rule never really applied very much to me as I was more of the kind that Found, Fucked and Fell in love!

But going back to the topic in hand. Mané lives in Macau where he is in the business of selling Portuguese wines to the Chinese. Quim probably lives in Houston, Texas, but his restless spirit does not leave him put too often in any place. . Gilberto or Gilinho as we called him resides in Watertown Massachusetts. What he does I do not know as yet. As for myself I have been faithful to the small town of Sundsvall right in the middle of Sweden where I have committed myself to work for the town’s development, now in politics and previously teaching teenagers.

None of us stayed or returned to live in Portugal. In that sense we are like the millions that throughout history left Portugal following a good Portuguese tradition of “giving new worlds to the world”.  

Time for a reunion, chaps?

Frozen Brazilian in Stockholm

Lappis
Looking back, and after consulting material from the period, I can share some data on what happened in the month of September 1972.
When the Interrail adventure, that took Mona and I to Spain ended, I returned to London in order to get a certificate, that we thought we needed, to get married!
As I had nowhere to stay two people gave me a hand. Quim Semião who was trying to save Die Fledermaus from bankruptcy and a Brazilian called Guilherme who lived at 2, Nevern Rd. Flat 1.
Quim and I tried to keep the club afloat. We were hardly earning any money and eventually, within the month, we were both out of there.
As to Guilherme… I believe this guy had some money. His rent was £16 a week. I could not afford to pay half so he agreed I would pay £6 and teach him English for the remaining £4. I really cannot recall, what his line of business was, but at one time I was helping him get a lease for premises in Beauchamp Place, where he would open a Brazilian restaurant!
He wanted to come with me to Sweden, as he was keen to know new places. We decided to go and booked the crossing with the Saga for the 24th September. Once in Stockholm we would meet Mona at the central station. As we arrived all focus was concentrated on each other. I think Guilherme said it was too cold in Stockholm and went back to London! Well, did he? I completely lost track of him.
My Stockholm life could however start. Engaged to get married, sharing student room 119 at Amanuensvägen 14 and with a letter of reference, fixed by my father from a Mr. Oppacher, GM of the Lisbon Sheraton, to the director of the Sheraton in Stockholm a Mr. Schuack should be waiting for me. It was meant they would offer me a position at this fashionable hotel. Things could be worse.

Jorginho in London

mane

The human memory works this way… You remember mostly the good times and forget the unpleasant ones. After the Hippie surge in the sixties it became rather popular and romantic to live together and share as much as you could. Some youngsters went off to the Kibbutz in Israel, but many tried to make it work near home. When four Portuguese decided to share a flat, it was mostly for practical reasons.

Gilberto worked in a restaurant, Mané, Quim and I worked in the same disco, The Maximus, in Leicester square. We worked at night and it was a good solution to change individual digs for a larger accommodation. I do not know, who found the flat in Nevern Square, but I was responsible for the contract, most probably, because I was the only one carrying a British passport!

Living together was fun most of the times. But it seldom lasts too long. Conflicting personalities, economic issues, standards of tidiness, sense of responsibility, love of privacy, female contacts. All these aspects could and did contribute to animosity and bad feelings. But who cares about this, some 40 years passed?

I was, unlike my flat mates, in the unique situation of having family nearby. Now and then, when not working, I could visit my grandfather in Croydon and stay with him over night and even for a few days. This is most obviously what happened at Christmas in 1971 when Jorginho came to stay!

Jorge Paixão da Costa was a Lisbon neighbour to Mané and Quim from the Avenida dos Estados Unidos! At the age of sixteen, this youngster came over and was left at their responsibility. Whatever prompted Jorge’s parents to put him in Quim’s and Mané’s hands I do not know, but I recall how worried Quim was that everything would go alright with “the kid”.The picture I am publishing here shows Mané’s farewell party with Jorginho and Tony Carolo present… This took place on the 1st january 1972.

Jorge went on to study cinema in Sweden and became a successful film director in Portugal, after surviving the London experience.

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!

My friend Mané!

Mané2

So I managed to find one of my friends from the London days, Mané Fernandes. He now lives in Macau and I last saw him in Lisbon, 25 years ago! Internet and Skype put us in touch! Mané took Gilberto’s place in the cloakroom at Maximus!

Maximus at Leicester Square was meant to attract the passer by. There were a few regulars but not enough to justify an economic stable situation for the club. The members of the staff at this point were mainly Portuguese as Quim Semião was in the bar and I was at reception!

There is a lot to be said about the cloakroom. There is also a lot to be said about London and nightlife’s employment and working conditions. What was above board and what was not, is unclear! As far as I remember there was hardly any salary to talk about! According to Mané, who seems to have a better memory than mine, we earned about £2 a night. Somehow the owners expected the staff to work for peanuts or maybe they accepted that the staff would find their own incomes in way of tips and the like! We could really say, illicit incomes for which no taxes were paid and everybody was happy!

 

The cloakroom gave enough to survive but still not enough for Gilberto who moved on to the restaurant business! Mané took his place and got another guy to replace him when he had to go somewhere. This guy seemingly “spilled the beans” to the manager, on the way things were run among coats and umbrellas and by doing this tipped the plates of the silent agreement! Mané had to go!

 

As young immigrants we lived in a world of eat or get eaten up. It was all a question of survival. Imaginative power was a main ingredient! Mané recalls for example how at one time we had run out of English money to put on the meter for the boiler! Someone discovered that some of the Portuguese coins of a lower value fitted exactly on these meters so they were used as long as possible! Later the bill had however to be paid!

Glad to have gotten in touch with you again, Mané!

Portuguese out, Swedes in!

Martini

Life in a sort of exile is not for everyone… It prompted Mané Fernandes to go back that Christmas in 1971/72. It took him to an army spell in Africa! It was different for Quim Semião. He wanted to make it and one time he even began to be known as Mr. King. He met a Swedish girl called Yvonne around this time and they were a couple for some time. Gilberto had his Swiss girlfriend and eventually they moved to her country on the Alps. I believe that both Gilberto and Quim later moved across the Atlantic to the USA. Quim did, for sure!

It all meant that that very eventful year of my 20th birthday started with the need to get new tenants for Nevern Square. Two school colleagues of Mona’s and Åsa’s needed a place, so they swiftly moved in.

These girls were wild, and I look forward to having them share some of their memories on this blog. One of the first things they did was getting a huge dog that they named Martini! This was an Afghan hound of some sort that spent most of its life hidden under a bed terrified of everything and everyone.

Ulla Hjertstedt and Jannike Beijer were our two new flat mates.  Like so many other Swedish girls they came to London for the adventure and who can blame them? I have as a teacher often given advice to my students- Take a year in another country to develop and grow on the personal level.

The way of getting to London for many of the Swedish female army was with arrival at Tillbury with start in Gothenburg aboard the MS Saga.

The Hungry Years?

hungry yearsLife in Earl’s Court was good. We had our own apartment. Four guys ( Quim, Mané, Gilberto and I) shared two rooms, bathroom, living room and I am quite sure there was a kitchen. Like all other type of sharing it had its inconveniences. These were related to having hardly any privacy and being constantly dependent on what everybody else felt like doing.

It is easy to understand how one could easily fasten in this make believe life. Fortunately none of us were doing drugs. I think everyone smoked and there was no special relation to alcohol.

During a period of time it all circulated round long nightly card games to the continuous sound of Santana’s “Abraxas” or Deep Purple’s  “Fireball” albums. The card game in question is for four players known to most Portuguese as King. This game consists of two parts where the first is to avoid winning different things and the second to make points. When the counting was done there were losers and winners. These games were played for money. Generally we would sit after 3 in morning returned from our nightly jobs and went on for a couple of hours. Sometimes there was more company sometimes not…How I ever had the stamina to live this kind of life I really do not know today.

When we eventually got up it would be about midday and time to deal with the strenuous daily tasks of looking for somewhere to eat and to pick up any clothes left at the dry cleaners.

My favorite restaurant was “The Hungry years” right on Earl’s Court Rd. Their hamburgers were the best I have ever eaten and besides choosing the weight you had to choose between some twenty odd different delicious sauces!

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.

The VIP’ s

VIP

There’s a lot to be said about my time at Maximus. I have already written on how it all started- inviting people in, with cards designed for the purpose. I would put my signature at the back and at the end of the evening collect the cash! I would make some money at weekends and very little on week days. But sometimes the job was the opposite. Keeping people out! At any rate some memories crop up of a period in my life I do not regret but knew, deep down, was not to be my future!

When I started at Maximus the Disc Jockey was John, an African American, and I suppose we have to thank him for the choice of music played then, with lots of soul and Motown. It was there I heard and enjoyed James Brown for the first time.

The dance floor was often crowded with black people carrying heavy gold chains, expensive clothes and watches to match. They would come in on long fur or leather coats. They were cool, man!

They also all came in on VIP cards. Mr Nat was beginning to wonder how many of these cards there were in circulation. Something was wrong! Mr Nat had had enough and gave John the sack.

Things had to change! I do not know if we were part of the strategy but there was a strategic Portuguese line up with me in the reception area, Mané at the bottom of the stairs in the cloakroom and Quim in the first bar. Like this we could keep an eye on the girls as they rolled in.

How Quim became a barman, I really haven’t got a clue but there was much more nobody understood.

To be continued…..