Welcomed home

AXO

After a long wait of nearly six years, conditions had been  created for a return to Portugal without risking being accused of escaping the army. In that summer of 1974 it was decided we would take the trip and fly to Lisbon. With us the new baby that we would introduce to great grandparents, Joseph and Pat in London and Bua in Lisbon. Great-grandfather quickly gave the baby a nick name. He became “Barbershop” as he sang himself to sleep.

It would also be the opportunity for grandparents João and Pamela in Lisbon to meet their first grandchild John.

Besides all this, a return to a country that was still celebrating and where everything seemed to be possible. The revolution was on its way and nobody would stop it! Mistakes were made and consequences were laid on those who most  probably  were innocent. But the fear of things going back was there, as were the demands for nationalizations of all types of production. Like all other revolutions things tended to go to extremes. Many people that had businesses were seen as supporters of the recent regime. It was obviously not so.

We were met by my father at the airport, who said- This cannot go back!!!!

But before that landing, the pilot gave us the grand view, which is standard when coming from the north and landing from the south. The plane turns over Lisbon and gives the passenger the opportunity to see this beautiful city across the Tejo’s majestic estuary, the long Caparica coastline to the south and then across the whole city for a landing practically spot on it.

For the first time there was no fear from passport agents, instead a smiling welcome. Benvindos! Suddenly a uniform was something positive. Things had indeed changed. The emotion of this return was strong and I am not capable of putting into words the extension of these feelings.

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The main event

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The main event of 1974 was on the 25th April. After years of resignation something out of the ordinary hit my country of Portugal and  enthusiasm grew on what future would lay ahead. Would the country become a democracy and would we end the war and pull out of the colonies?

Reports came in but they did not tell you much. The armed forces had made a coup and ousted the 48 year-old regime. This was done almost without casualties. There was an enormous expectation. I sensed it from far away and listened as often as I could to the radio, on a short wave wireless that had belonged to my father in law. Newspapers were welcome and delivered by my father. It was strange to see those places in Lisbon full of people expressing their joy while being part of history.

I could see pictures from the Carmo barracks where the prime minister Caetano negotiated his escape to Brazil. This place that I had been to so often as a kid and not far from where I lived. Then there was the gigantic marches of 1st May. Freedom had to be breath in and people were almost suffocating with the new breaths of fresh air.

Carnations were everywhere where simple soldiers became heroes of peace. I learned that a singer and songwriter had given the signal for the beginning of operations .  His name Zeca Afonso and the song Grandola. It was chosen by the military to be played as a signal that things were going well and according to plan. Who were these men in uniform? What was going to happen? Did they have a plan?

A Junta was formed to front the first anxieties and the call for information. A provisional government and President with monocle were appointed. Dates were set for general elections aiming at making a new constitution. Things happened fast and for my liking I would have been there myself to help on whatever was needed. So was not to be, but my return was now a clear possibility even if it would only be for a holiday.

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Travels with Grandpa 2010 (12)

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Day before last in Lisbon… We played cards the whole day and ordered dinner from a restaurant across the road. This restaurant is owned by a man from Bangladesh.
Helena isn’t feeling so well so she stays in as Uncle Pedro, Grandpa
and Patricia travelled to S. Pedro to meet Great grandma Pamela. In the evening the grownups went to the Fado in Rua da Rosa. Fado, we were told is typical Portuguese singing. It was not of the best quality according to Grandpa but the food was OK at the Forcado restaurant.
After that they still had time to sit in the Chinese Pavilion and recover with a drink. -Cheers, Grandpa!

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Last day in Portugal… Andrea arrives in the evening and Grandpa invites everybody back to the nice Nepalese restaurant. Grandpa opens a bank account in a bank in Portugal. We spend most of the day packing and planning on how to get to the airport and if we will get there on time.

Getting to the airport was a piece a cake thanks to Grandpas meticulous planning. We arrived at the airport in good time after catching two separate cabs. After the usual waiting periods we could at last go on board. This plane was called Alexandre O’Neill. When we thought we were about to take off, the plane turned back. The explanation was that the luggage hatch had not been properly closed. O’Neill had decided to pull one on us”-Ó Portugal se fosses só tres silabas, de plástico que era
mais barato”. We left Portugal as always with mixed feelings and already with some melancholy and longing to this country where only the unexpected can be expected. –”Onde só o imprevisto é previsivel e onde um
Portugal desconhecido sempre espera por si”. In Stockholm we were met by floods of rain.

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Travels with Grandpa 2010 (9)

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Portugal is a fantastic country where unexpected things happen all the time! One needs to experience it in order to understand. Patricia believes it is all about holding on to high levels of adrenalin and that people get addicted. For Swedes who do not want everything organized and predictable (if there are any?) it might be seen as relaxing. Grandpa can cope, but gets irritated at times, like when they went to buy train tickets to Viseu and there were no people waiting- but the internet suddenly died. It all eventually started to work again but a lot of time was wasted…

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Time is something that we cannot administer very well in Portugal because of the high rate of improbabilities. We were invited by Great grandpa to eat at the “El Corte Ingles”. We were there at the agreed time. Even Great grandpa was there on time but was waiting at another place and had forgotten his cell phone. Grandpa solved the whole thing by contacting Uncle Pedro who in turn rang Leonor. In any case, Jonatan and Liv were given each a check for 30€ by Greatgrandpa and his wife Leonor. Jonatan bought a pair of football shoes
and Liv a schoolbag. We travelled as fast as we could to S. Pedro and Great Grandma Pamela. She was irritated about several things, which had to do with her health. Everyone went off to the beach, as Grandpa stayed with Pedro to go through some papers with a Notary. Great grandma gave a flat to Grandpa. Maybe we will be able to stay there when we come to Portugal next time. So, thank you Great Grandma!

Travels with Grandpa 2010 (2)

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On Friday we went to Lisbon. Patricia took the lead on organizing and acquiring, the purchase of many tickets, for a combined travel experience, where the children could try different underground lines. To everyone’s amazement we saw greatgrandpa driving the train to Oriente. Once there, everybody charged to the restaurant area, with all the different fast foods and chose a meal of our preference.
Daniel got a dragon and  David a donkey and as far as we all could tell everything tasted delicious including Liv’s doll! The group could now concentrate on the next stage which was the Oceanarium- an enormous aquarium where one could learn about the meaning and importance of the oceans, and why they need to be looked after and preserved.  After being intervewed we agreed we liked the pinguins and other diving birds that could swim under the water. Nobody really bothered when Grandpa jumped in to fight a giant shark.
After eating a few ice creams David wanted to go on a tricycle that cost 13 € for 30 minutes. Earlier on Daniel had vomited but got soon better. Jonatan and Liv spent some of their capital and bought a T-shirt and a cuddly turtle at the Oceanarium.
After a visit to Greatgrandma’s flat in Lisbon we ate at a restaurant in a square called Rato where Daniel broke down crying because the people on the table behind us had eaten the last snails

Grandpa hasn’t brushed his hair for a week, but what does it matter, when everyone is on holiday? We started our day by the pool. David wanted some diving gear so he got the others to follow him to to Estoril station where these things were sold. Luncheon was taken outdoors and everyone got something to eat and one more ice cream! Then off again to Algés to meet Vótetta and aunt Gracinda and her daughter Rita. We sat at a café by a park and Grandpa showed everyone how to go on a slide. When we finally came to the flat we discovered a very scared but preety dog-Lady. Grandpa gave some advice on how to train the dog, but realized that he did not have the time to train the dog himself. After that the trip back to the hotel started.. Jonatan and Grandpa wanted to see the match and the others wanted to bathe on the pool. Even Vótetta was there but it did not influence the result. Germany won as we had predicted. We visited the handycraft fair- Feira do Artesanato. Unfortunately David did not come. He stayed behind with Vótetta after another huge meal at the hotel.
The others had great fun and we particularly liked the sleeping dogs that could breathe. Jonatan bought a candleholder for his mum and Daniel got a key ring that one could whistle to. We decided to come back, so Liv could make up her mind on what she wanted. Grandpa talked a lot with a gentleman that owned a company in the entertainment branch. Grandpa could have taken a job there, as he is so funny!!!!

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Travels with Grandpa 2010 (1)

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We left Sweden spot on time, on a plane called Florbela Espanca!
This because grandpa drove at a record time from Sundsvall. The newly updated GPS functioned to perfection and for the first time, correctly showed the new road north of Uppsala. The trip went well and we were lucky, to get Jonatan a vegetarian meal, on board. Grandpa offered to land the plane but the captain declined politely but firmly.
In Lisbon there was a huge crowd waiting, in what must be described, as a sort of welcome committee.People ran around on different directions in great excitement as Grandpa held welcome speeches and gave out some information on Lisbon’s history and geography! The group then split up into three different vehicles. Grandpa and Jonatan went off with Greatgrandpa and Leonor (Greatgrandpa’s wife). This was also the first car to arrive at the hotel after a speedy trip with Leonor as co-pilot and Greatgrandpa holding the wheel, in what made us think of the Lisbon rally in WRC. We arrived at the Londres hotel on time to see the second half of the match between Spain and Germany. We saw this, surrounded by loud Spaniards, screaming for joy. The goal scored by David Villa was enough to put Spain on the finals for the first time ever. As the brothers D&D had disappeared for a few hours, Patricia could fulfill a much awaited dream and shared 4 sardines with Grandpa.

Next day Jonatan and Liv went off with Grandpa to visit Greatgrandma. Pamela. Before that, they picked up uncle Pedro, at the beach so he could guide the whole expedition. Pamela was well and stayed at a luxurious home for elderly. Grandpa later invited all for pizzas which was very well appreciated by all concerned. All, were also, very thankful to Grandpa who had managed to acquire tickets for the local train, which seemed to be very complicated in Portugal. Then it was decided that everybody should eat dinner at Vótetta’s. We travelled speedily to Algés. During this trip we all listened to scenes and tales being told from Grandpa’s life to everyone’s overwhelming interest.
Arrived in Algés we got a message that Vótetta was waiting for us at another station. Nothing to worry about…After a while she appeared and all could get into a small car. Grandpa who got to seat in the front offered to push the car on a steep hill but it was not necessary. Everyone was very satisfied with Vótettas wonderful cooking.

Resan2  At Arlanda Airport- Daniel Meneses

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.

Nine eleven!

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The time was ripe and I certainly was prepared. I had passed my exams of Portugal’s comprehensive 9 year school system sometime in July/August. I should carry on with my studies in England. Awaiting all boys at that time was the obligatory military service. Due to lack of officers and soldiers for the enormous colonial territory in Africa, Portugal was meant to defend from ever growing independent movements, these periods were getting longer. That argument helped my father come to terms with my departure.

I spent part of my holiday fixing the necessary documents. I needed a passport, a military licence and a student’s flight. I am convinced some degree of lying was needed to get the three months license to travel abroad.

The day arrived. My father, who owned and drove a car, came to get me. Hardest was to depart of my grandmother Bua, already in her eighties. I looked for my cat Silvestre that had been with us since I could remember. We looked under the cars parked in the Praceta but never found him for a last farewell.

The Marginal road gave a good view of the Lisbon coast. When would I ever see it again? We drove under the Salazar Bridge that my father helped to build. He told me about his own immigration plans. That did not increase my wish to stay!