Jorginho in London

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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!

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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!

Sexual entertainment soon on these premises?

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Back from London I have some news of little if any importance to the reader.

I told you about the Maximus, where I worked after leaving City business life, and whose owner Mr. Nat also was in charge of the Concorde Club which was the first disco I went to on more regular basis.

The Maximus is gone and all shut up according to the notice boards on the door. Whoever owned the Club Concorde since 1999 and ran the premises had now and after action from the landlord lost the lease. Simowa Limited has the 28th February applied to open a new sexual entertainment venue at what is called the Koru basement, at Victory house, 14 Leicester Square! Anyone opposing this application is required to contact the Westminster City Hall and its Licensing Service.

Leicester Square like most of London has changed but very much remains the same! The big difference after all is that it is today free of traffic contrary to what it looked like back in 1971. In those days you could park your car outside the club and I remember getting invited by manager john to listen to a cassette player on his Jaguar. It was the very first type of cassette music player and the cassettes were enormous if anyone ever saw those short lived models as they were soon replaced by the smaller and more practical variety.

We stayed very near the East End (where many of my ancestors lived) by the Southwark Bridge Rd. very close to London Bridge and all the Elizabethan theater history which really spells Shakespeare and the Globe Theater.  An area that once upon a time saw an industrious river related activity has been transformed and today invites millions of visitors to see contemporary art at the Tate Modern and go to the rebuilt theaters!

Picture taken from a fast food restaurant opposite old Maximus, lately Metra!

Humpty Dumpty at the Hudson Bay Company

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Obviously I was not prepared when I got the sack from Maximus in Leicester Square. But I always knew it would come so new life was eminent. Just as when I left the City I looked forward to what life would bring. I did not have a great fall like Humpty Dumpty , just a small one. ..

 

As I had not been unemployed up to then I immediately set out to look for a new job or jobs. I never bothered to go on any unemployment benefit. There was in Earl’s Court at least one employment agency. I was informed that you came early and if  needed you would get work immediately. I looked for this place early in the morning and that is how I managed to experience in the course of a few months several different jobs which gave me a new important perspective on life. At this time the Asians from Uganda had been coming over before finally expelled by Idi Amin in August and many of those queuing up for jobs were refugees from that group.

We were transported to a large building in the centre of London, near Bishopsgate- The Beaver Hall, I think it was. This institution dated back to 1760 when British interests wanted to get control of the french fur trade. I was shown to a large room with packed carts containing Swakara- South African lamb. The furs were completely black and shiny, short and wavy. My job consisted on getting carts and showing them to potential buyers that after inspection would participate in the auctions.

I must have been there for some weeks as I remember the mink and the beaver auctions. This place was huge and lived on for a few years more before closing down and seeing all operations transferred to Canada.

Being tough in Paris

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Two things became clear to me after visiting Paris in 1971.There was family history there and I was capable of taking brave decisions in a strange environment.

It was in 1971 and I hadn’t seen my father since leaving Portugal. He came over and headed to Maximus where we met. He also visited and approved my apartment in Nevern Square. He met a girl I was going out with called Silvia. He was given the opportunity to deliver some advice and see how I was doing!

 

It was decided that I could follow to Paris and stay there for a couple of days and then return back to London. I guess we went by car and I returned by plane.

We found a hotel with Metro connection. We went about trying to find my father’s sister’s grave near the Trocadero. We did not find it! My father had lived in Paris after the war and held very positive memories from this time. My aunt had died later and was buried there.

In the evening I decided to “do the town”. I took the underground to the centre (somewhere around the Champs Elisées) and looked for anything resembling my London world- a disco or night Club. I did find a place went in and took a drink and talked to some of the other youngsters before making my way back to the hotel. Everybody knows that socializing takes some time but I am today rather proud of myself that I could do this all on my own!

Pretty little policemen in a row

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Working in the West End of London and more specifically at Maximus had obviously a great impact in my life. It was there I met the people that helped me decide to live my life in the City and also the place I met Mona the girl that I would marry.

There was a silent understanding that was never explained on the terms of employment, salaries and such between the management and the staff.  In other words, much of what was going on was illegal. We knew that every day at work could be the last!  As a British citizen I was allowed to work but I am not sure if my Portuguese colleagues possessed any kind of work permit.

Much speculation was going on about the risk of getting raided by the police. We were warned that something might be in process. If the owners had someone on the pay role I do not know. At any rate one evening a long queue of agents in civilian dress and others in uniform did charge in and went downstairs ordering all lights to be turned on. They then sat around and interviewed people on their membership and alcohol consumption on the premises.  I managed to make myself invisible and was not questioned.

Sometime around the beginnings of 1972 most of the staff was sacked. Mr. Nat probably thought that it was about time to get a reshuffle among the staff and at least the reception people were out. It was easy to get the sack…Nobody had any working contract so we didn’t actually exist in terms of employees. So goodbye Maximus and hello new life.

Brigid at reception

brigidIt was around the reception that most revolved at Maximus. There sat the beautiful Irish blonde Brigid with long legs and deep decolletage giving evidence to a pair of well formed breasts. Besides her, a male receptionist with a thick black moustache whose name I do not recall but that I thought of as Yugoslav, today I would have said, Slovenian. He later disappeared and was replaced by John who owned a Jaguar with a giant casset reader.

The manager was Jay, an easy going Scotsman, that we sometimes saw around the reception. My job during normal days and at peak hours was to watch the entrance, leading downstairs, so that no unwanted guest or unpaid customer would sneak in.

The licensing laws were very clear. In order to purchase and consume alcohol, after pub hours, you needed a membership, acquired and paid for, some time earlier. Did the clubs follow these rules? Well I leave that to each and every one to make their own judgement.

As I recounted earlier my first job was to chat people in, but sometimes I even had to do the opposite. Especially on cup final days when hordes of people from the north would come down on London. Well refreshed after the pubs had closed they would desperately look for new joints in which to carry on their drinking. The bouncer was a tough looking Yugoslav, today I would have said Croat. His sole appearance having discussions with these mobs were seen, by himself, as far too provocative and in order not to create fights he would asked me to chat with them and in a mild form let them know that it would cost them £5  just to get membership and still they would not be able to drink anything. Bad idea, mates!

They generally bought my arguments without argument.

It still did not save me from getting a black eye or “shiner” after some guy run in.I managed to get him back to the reception. As he was discussing the matter with John and Brigid he suddenly hit me and left me seeing small stars.  It did not help a bit that John run after him because that bird had flown…

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…..

Moshi moshi computer freaks

computers

When I entered working life I realized that something was in the making. My first job at Lloyd’s consisted on reading and registering information from punctured cards. We were slowly entering the computer age! When working at Leslie & Godwin’s nothing had changed as far as dress code was concerned. Working in the city meant suit and tie.

As we were an international company we had close relationship with customers from different parts of the world. There were for example Japanese gentlemen working at our offices. They would salute you with -Moshi moshi, and at least once that I can recall invited us out for a night in the town which included eating out and visiting clubs in Soho of their preference. In other words posh Strip clubs!

One day some longed haired guys in casual dress turned up to take over some of the premises. I was obviously curious as to who they were and what made them so special that they alone could break the dress code. They were computer experts! Their job was to install data bases and for that they needed space. No one then could ever imagine how dependent on computers we would all get and what a fantastic development leap they would represent in all we do. This blog for example is all based on computers and internet!

Anyhow, I never hanged around long enough to find out how fast the computer revolution took to establish itself at L& G’s. I had been moving out of Insurance for a long time. I earned too little and was already combining activities at Maximus in the West End. It seems that all that was needed was a slight push to make me take a decision. It came connected with Judy. She was a trainee at the office. I started to go out with her but my superiors had already understood it so they decided to have some fun at my expense. As we were preparing to go home the boss gave me an errand to run so I couldn’t leave with her as planned. I heard how they giggled away. When I came back I was through with them and gave my notice. Sayonara reinsurance and City of London!