Lagos y Cerros

Lagos

On the 9th of December 1989, a Saturday, the Swedish labour movement delegation where I was included sat on a bus to take us to Valparaiso. The morning had been spent, learning about the forthcoming elections and the PPD’s plan to regain democratic power in Chile after Pinochet’s dictatorship. This election was, after all, the main reason for our visit and this election was the result of a victory by the democratic voters in the referendum of 1988.

We joined up with Senate candidate Ricardo Lagos and could in the middle of the crowd listen to many complaints about the appalling conditions residents chose to take up with us. Lagos would later become president of the Republic of Chile. Together with us you can spot José Goñi that accompanied this delegation and is presently ambassador in Stockholm. This I was actually not aware of until yesterday when I received his Christmas greetings.

Visiting Valparaiso had a special importance to me. I had met many Chilean immigrants in my hometown of Sundsvall the previous couple of years and many came from this hilly coastal town. In Sundsvall they found a hilly town too even if the Cerros of Valparaiso were not easily compared to Sundsvall’s own Norra and Södra berg. Even the huge Pacific Ocean at this coastal city’s feet would have to compare to the even calmer Baltic Sea. I remember that we arrived from the 100 km bus trip and went to a restaurant where many sea food dishes were presented and many of these were exciting novelties to practically all of us.

The afternoon was spent visiting our Folkets Hus (Cenpros) project and learning about the hard toll on youth and women that the dictatorship had burdened on so many. Problems with unemployment, crime, lack of education opportunities, violence, abortions and other social problems had been allowed to grow by a regime that cared little for the people and their well-being.

We saw also another side of the society, away from the Cerros and through fashionable Viña del Mar a few miles away where the wealthy rather spent their time.

 

Valparaiso 1989

Highly confidential police matters!

passport

To me it was all pretty straight forward. We had got married; I had my job at the Sheraton and in order to keep it, I needed to show them a permit. If memory does not fail me we went to the police station that same day, the 17th November 1972. There we were told that it was necessary to present ourselves for an interview. Swedish authorities were instructed to make sure that no marriages of convenience with the purpose of staying in the country were accepted. I learnt later that Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme had in 1949 married to help a Czechoslovakian girl escape dictatorship in her country. It wasn’t our case, but still…

We were summoned for an interview on upcoming Tuesday the 21th November. We were asked separately a number of questions, some of more intimate character. When did we meet, how, where and had we slept with each other.

My interview was held in English and I wasn’t a bit nervous, but instead rather amused at the whole procedure. For Mona it was different. She was rather upset that her country acted suspiciously and I think she took it rather personally. Eventually the whole thing was over, we were reunited and they chatted something that I didn’t understand. Suddenly I found us out in the street, facing the cold and dark Stockholm afternoon. I was not only curious but decided to claim my right. Where was the stamp I needed? We went back in again and after some more talk I was given a stamp on my passport. It’s validity was for four days when the decision was supposed to come from the authority in charge! That did me fine! I had my stamp, so I was happy! I had also for the first time encountered Swedish bureaucracy.

Travels with Grandpa 2010 (12)

resan 24

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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Ding dong the bells that didn´t chime

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole thing seemed almost surreal. Here I was in Stockholm living with Mona. We were engaged since that trip to Spain in the summer. There, I believe in Seville, we had bought our engagement rings. We had talked about getting married, but it was never a big issue.

Life in Stockholm was beginning to function in that autumn of 1972…at least for me. People struck me as unfriendly almost rude but Mona explained, in a matter of fact way, that they were Stockholmers!  We had our room near the University; I had my job at the Sheraton.  The condition put by the hotel for keeping me on was that my papers were in order! But they weren’t.

We had to get married to get my stamp on the passport. A date was set. The seventeenth of November. We were to go to the Stockholm City Hall- Rådhuset -at a given time, bring our rings and a couple of witnesses and a paper from the UK that showed I was free to marry. A certificate of no impediment!

It was a cold day, like November days in Stockholm are. It darkened early. Not the best month to get married…But we did get married that day, even if the only thing to prove it is this certificate of marriage. There are no photos of the event as witnesses, Åsa Ahlberg and Anders Hult, simply had forgotten the camera!

Well never mind…now to the police station. But that is another story.

vigselbevis

 

 

 

The Stockholm Sheraton

sheraton

Sometime in October 1972 I entered the Swedish labour market for the first time! I had recently arrived from England to join my fiancée Mona!She had started to study English at the Stockholm University. I lived with her at the student’s room she rented at Amanuensvägen.
The kitchen facilities were shared by other students. It was at this time that I was introduced to certain food that apart from being Swedish suited the purse of poor students. Blood pudding with lingonberry jam, fruit soup and bilberry(blåbär) and even rosebud(nypon) soup were among the novelties. We held a tight food budget, at a culinary price!
Some readers might recall that my father had from Portugal, seen to it, that a letter of recommendation was sent to the director of the Sheraton Hotel in Stockholm. It was with some great expectations that this young man, though not believing he would become a gentleman, something he already considered himself to be, but rather obtain a position where language knowledge could come of use! I will not lie by admitting that I was hoping for some work at reception. Inspired perhaps on Candide’s experiences a hotel job could lead somewhere!
It was with some mixed feelings and disappointment that, on temporary and conditional basis, I was offered a position as a houseman. Provided that I would regulate my situation as far as labour permits were concerned, the job was mine.
What did this houseman work consist of? Very simply taking from the basement and up to the floors, the bed clothing and other stuff that were the very essence of making up the rooms and without which, chamber maids would sit idle! I would soon advance on my short Sheraton career! Most positive in leaving the houseman chores was to skip listening to and seeing ,the unsympathetic and bitchy woman, in charge of these important hotel activities!

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.

London-Alnö

CrossingLanding in Gothenburg meant stepping into a new country! Sweden! Regardless to say but worth repeating it was the follow up and direct consequence of blind and true love. It just wouldn’t hold, to be apart any longer.

After travelling on the train between the two most important cities of the country I can but recall how I just could not understand and take in that the heat I found there was so intense that transpiration was taking the best of me and that this feeling g was shared by my fellow travellers despite open windows in all compartments!

Mona was there at the Central Station eagerly waiting for our reunion! The painful wait was over and we could look forward to a few weeks sharing each other’s company! We took ourselves to the next means of transport- a VW light blue 1300 commonly known as” beetle”! Mona sat at the driver’s seat and even if I would have wanted to help drive, I couldn’t, as I did not know how!

Our long north bound journey started, taking us out of Stockholm and passing through a number of towns on the way! There were many miles in front of us and I learnt they were about 40 Swedish ones! A Swedish mile, Mona explained was quite simply 10 kms. It did not matter, we were together and the towns of Uppsala, Gävle, Söderhamn and Hudiksvall had to be driven through before arrival at the destiny of our trip- Mona’s Sundsvall and her home on the island of Alnö!

My eyes tried to take in as much as possible especially when it wasn’t endless forests that met them. The road signs showing danger of wild elks crossing the road was if anything exotic. So was also the fact that night never dawned properly on us…

We crossed the much awaited bridge taking us to Alnö. This one I had seen on postcards and looked familiar. When we arrived on the island it was late. We had to keep quiet as I was shown my quarters in the basement where I shared my sleeping hours with a bath tub and a boiler!

Next day we would meet the parent’s. First mother Aime and about half an hour past 4 o’clock the father that made his way upstairs to the kitchen where dinner awaited and firmly shook my hand with the words- OLLE!

The brown velvet jacket

Saga     Vistos

I can only tell you that leaving Nevern Square was not easy. There were bills to pay, no right to the deposit and no new tenants to take over. Pepe was meant to look for new digs, even temporarily, but did not succeed. I finished up in Neil’s apartment near Earl’s Court’s Olympia in a sleeping bag on the floor! Neil was a working colleague from Tramp’s!

This was my situation as I awaited embarkation on Wednesday the July the 5th 1972 on MS Saga with arrival two days later in Gothenburg, Sweden! One of my most valuable possessions was a brown velvet jacket that I had bought from António, a Portuguese from the Porto area! This smart jacket would do fine for my trip and meeting Mona!

Finally the day came. I went on board and we sailed off to the new country. I was impressed to hear the Swedish language being trumpeted off the loud speakers. They were sounds, I already liked, having heard Swedish spoken innumerable times first by Åsa and Mona and later by Jannike and Ulla!

I was also impressed by the blonde kids on board that threw themselves on the pool without any measure of uncertainty! What confidence and well-being did they not express?

After arrival at about 6.30 on the 7th I had to get to the train station! The connection was done by a bus leaving the Skandia harbour at 6.50 and 7.45 to Central Railway station. The fare was 4 Swedish Crowns.

I got on the train and started my trip to Stockholm. The heat was unbearable and I could not for my life get it into my head that Sweden could be warmer than Britain. So I kept my jacket on!

 

 

The list

Sussie

So it was settled. After weeks of unbearable separation and innumerable telephone calls and exchange of letters a decision was taken!

I would travel to Sweden! The means of transportation it was decided, would be taking the boat from Tilbury to Gothenburg on M/S Saga! It was a new adventure as just half a year before Sweden was not on my map, all together!

Our letters should be revealing, but were they? On my mind I was trying to create a picture on my head where the people and the places could become visible! From Mona’s letters I understood that her father got up early (6 o’clock) so I should avoid ringing too late at night. Two things became also evident as they were a big worry for Mona! Drinking alcohol is very bad and only alcoholics drink and it is important not to be perceived as lazy!

Mona’s mother sent greetings and a kitten called Sussie was on every letter being Mona’s company as she wrote her letters!

Our love could not be questioned. It was strong and could not bare separations any longer! Mona worked as a telephone operator, a job she took in the summers. On her free time she went with Åsa to the Marina disco or a place called “Sommarnöje”! She complained that nothing was fun and that was also my state of mind as I wrapped up my time at Tramp’s.

I gathered some of my belongings and booked my trip with Swedish Lloyd for Wednesday the 5th of July 1972 arriving in Sweden on the 7th. From Gothenburg I would take a train to Stockholm where Mona would pick me up by car!

I got a shopping list containing the following items.

1/1 bottle of Whisky “Long John” for uncle Folke! (The reader will now wonder, as I did!)

Nailpolish (Mary Quandt) dark red

Wine gums and one Kit-kat!

That’s’ all folks…next stop Sweden!