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?

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.

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.

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 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 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…..

Nevern Square SW5

Gilinho

It is just as one thing leads to the next! As I started to work nights the question of residence was important to fix.

Earl’s Court was an ideal place for anyone without a car and no money to put down on mortgages and the like. The underground was practical and took me wherever I needed to go in the Greater London area. The place was full of restaurants and their numbers were increasing. As I moved into this area the fast food chains seemed to be doing the same. Pizza Hut, Kentucky fried chicken and a hamburger restaurant called “The hungry years” appeared.

As I recall the hamburger restaurant had the tastiest hamburgers ever and even the fried chicken tasted much better than it does today!

There were plenty of digs around so when Quim Semião and his neighbour from Lisbon, Mané Fernandes turned up in the London night scene, we had enough people to rent an apartment. This was a step forward and together with Gilinho we advanced.

My new address became 10, Nevern Square. The furnished flat had two rooms, a bathroom, a dining room and a kitchen. I do not remember anyone ever making any food there. It suited us perfectly!

Even though the rent was high we always managed to pay it. We ate out, left our clothes to the dry cleaners and turned the dining room into card playing premises. In the dining room there was a record player and some LPs to go with it.

As we all worked until 3 o’clock in the morning it’s easy to understand that day was night and night was day. In the photo, above Quim Semião and Gilberto Matos on the roof in Nevern square.

nevern

The Portuguese connection

Portugal

What would you say, occupies the minds of most boys and young men? Exactly, it didn’t take you long to work that one out! Girls!!!! During my first years in London I had a normal hunting spell and did one or another conquest. I probably could say that I was in love almost at all times. I do not recall when that state of mind started, only that the objects of my attention varied on who I was in love with. Is this normal? I really couldn’t tell but we will come back to that theme…Be so sure!

 After leaving Mrs. Meltzer I had to look for new digs. I remember I answered a few ads around the Hammersmith area but without great success. Eventually I found out about Mr. and Mrs. Whyte, a Scottish couple in Kitson Rd. Barnes. They rented a room with access to a kitchen pantry and there was a gas heater that worked if you put in some coins. The arrangement worked for me and there was a launderette nearby, which also was useful.

 In the course of 1970 new things started to happen and it meant the beginning of the Portuguese connection. I cannot right now recall what came first and how one encounter led to the next but at least following people need to be mentioned. Mário Soveral, Gilberto Matos and Rodolfo Fonseca. Later Joaquim Semião and  Mané Fernandes. I am quite sure that these were an important part for the development of the connection and the events that followed in coming years. I am now trying to trace down some of these London friends and hopefully they’ll turn up to help make this story more complete.