Bernard’s Travels (2)

In November 2018 I was at Bellapais Abbey, near Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus. It was my third visit. My first had been 61 years ago. My year in Cyprus (1957-8) in the British Army had been unlike any other of my life. I kept a diary and filled a photographic album. I was tanned and had learned to swim. I overheard more obscenities in that one year than in all the others of my life. I had my own Sten-gun and was licensed to use it to kill people in certain circumstances. All the time I was myself in danger of being killed.
Cyprus at the time was a dangerous place for everyone. EOKA, a terrorist organisation dedicated to union with Greece, had started killing, and the army had retaliated. The Turks, who made up 20 percent of the population, were understandably not impressed. The two populations had never mingled on any scale. Very few Cypriots spoke both Greek and Turkish. Opinions and actions quickly polarised. 
Like most Mediterranean islands, Cyprus had a history of occupation by outside forces: Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, everyone had come and conquered. The British were the latest, given Cyprus as part of a deal at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. So my role was in the army of occupation, at a time when the British Empire was well into its dissolution. At the other end of the Med, the French were hanging on (at an even greater cost) to Algeria. In Cyprus 492 Cypriots and 142 British people were murdered between 1954 and 1958. These deaths in Cyprus raised its profile from a sleepy backwater to world news.
At this time the British Army was incredibly naive in its standing on the global stage. It had yet to learn the lessons of the 30-year-long “struggle” in Northern Ireland. It not only failed to understand what was going on, but had no appropriate language to describe the events. Its response was a largely brutal one of facing violence with violence, with a far greater force of men, but out of its depth facing guerrilla operations. Back in the UK, politicians had to deal with a largely unsophisticated and uninformed electorate which resented the loss of colony after colony. In the words of US Secretary of State Foster Dulles, Britain had “lost an empire and failed to find a role”.
My tiny role in these events was largely as a helpless, ignorant spectator. When I was sent to Cyprus, I received no political briefing on the reason for my presence there. Those in charge of us knew little better. In the words of the officer commanding a road block I manned “Use your common sense”.
Let me return now to Kyrenia and introduce Lawrence Durrell. His brilliant book, _Bitter Lemons_ for the first time revealed to the English-speaking world the subtlety of the emotions behind the conflict, as well as the political pressures that had brought it about. He was recruited in a master stroke by the British government as their Information Officer; effectively head of their PR. _Bitter Lemons_ is his account of how he set about this job. Durrell was Irish and didn’t like the Brits very much. He did like the Greeks and one of a handful of Greek speakers in the service of the British government during its 80-year occupation of the island.
He bought a house in Kyrenia and made local friends in including Kollis, the Custodian of Bellapais Abbey, whose photo is included in the early editions of the book. I met Kollis and the man who took over Durrell’s job, whose marvellous conversation I have sadly forgotten – but it was a wonderful contrast to the unremitting coarseness and obscenities of everyday army language.
Bellapais Abbey is enjoying good times. The main room has been restored and at the time of my last visit was hosting a month-long music festival. Heaven only knows how they cope with the parking!
Bellapais’ happiness and prosperity is reflected across Cyprus as a whole, both in my last visit, taking in Larnaca and Paphos, and in the previous one to the north. One new dimension is the development alongside tourism of archaeology, which has expanded rapidly in recent decades. The Cyprus Museum in Nicosia is clearly worth a visit.
A more recent development still is the growing influence of Russia: one of the newest hotels is named ‘Odessa’, presumably as it is marketed largely in Russia. Russians and the Russian language pop up everywhere. How many poorly paid Cypriot employees are there working in the British bases? The security issues must be a nightmare.
The division of the island following the Turkish invasion in 1974 is held on all sides to be a disaster, and many personal accounts concern genuine loss of homes and property. But the two groups of Greeks and Turks have never enjoyed much real integration, and now both appear at peace within their borders. A further happy dimension is the apparent peaceful relations they enjoy in Britain.

Praceta revisitada


Foi concerteza em agosto de 1974 depois de quase 6 anos de saudade que voltei a Portugal. Já tinha um filho de 9 meses, o John, e como não podia deixar de ser queria que conhecessem a Praceta de Carcavelos. Tinha sido a partir de lá que tinha iniciado a minha vida de emigrante no dia 11 de setembro de 1968.

Chegámos de carro e dirigimo-nos ao Café Atlantico. Não foi nenhuma chegada apotetótica. Muito simplesmente começaram a juntar-se uma série de jovens que não eram da minha “geração. Puxámos da camera de super 8 e ficou para a posteridade esta curtissima metragem de 10 segundos. Reconhecem-se no grupo o João Paulo Henriques, ainda hoje residente na Praceta e o António Pedro Veloso cujo contacto reatei agora através do facebook. O que está ao meu lado… poderá ser o Zé Borsatti?

A vossa missão( se decidirem aceitar) é de nomearam o maior número de participantes dessa  tarde na Praceta há quase 40 anos! Quem ajuda? Será mesmo uma Missão Impossivel que era aquela série que passava na nossa televisão lá por 1967/68?

Uusitalo and Berthelard

Helge Helge Uusitalo

Where would I have been without adult education (Komvux)? When I realized that nobody was really very interested on what I had done, previously to moving to Sundsvall in 1973, it seemed that studying was one of the only paths open. I finished my Swedish course after the planned 9 weeks and decided to further my studies. As I already been to the schools as a substitute teacher, and survived, it seemed like the fastest way to get a job was to become a teacher. In that category, language teaching was down my alley.

I decided to contact the responsible director for adult education. I felt I was quite old to study at 22 years of age, but it was worth a try. I met a director called Helge Uusitalo. This gentleman backed me up and I enrolled for Spanish, French and English sometime in 1974.

I particularly enjoyed the French classes that were held in the evenings. The teacher was Monsieur Robert Berthelard. This Frenchman from the Lyon area was well established in the town and I was to become his friend and colleague some years later. He worked as did his wife Britt at the Åkersvik School.

Mr. Uusitalo encouraged me to study and later on I enrolled for History lessons with him. Mr. Berthelard was an older colleague that inspired with his pedagogical skills. These two men were important in the setup of the Swedish system of adult education. The system aims at  giving new opportunities to those who need to complete their studies. It is free of charge and has seen many in Sweden achieve higher goals thanks to it. Without it I would not have gone further.

After I completed the subjects I mentioned, plus language science ad psychology, did Swedish and some Russian I could and did apply to get into University in the autumn of 1976.


Montijo e Sundsvall encontram-se brevemente



Já aqui tive ocasião de referir o que foram os meus primeiros contactos com  os partidos Socialistas da Suécia e de Portugal. Logo após o 25 de abril de 1974 decidiu-se que uma germinação entre distritos de cá e lá se efectuaria. O partido Social Democrata da Suécia já era antigo enquanto que o PS de Portugal tinha práticamente acabado de nascer. Calhou-nos o distrito de Setúbal. Calhou-me a mim ajudar nas traduções e fazer de intérprete já que era o unico portugues falante em Sundsvall.

Terá sido em 1976 que recebemos cá a segunda visita. Veio o José Resina Bastos autarca do Montijo. Como tinha sido descrito que Montijo era uma vila com muita criação de suíno, visitámos uma unidade de produção de cá. Tambem visitámos a fábrica de peixe fermentado (surströmming) onde fomos recebidos pelo dono o Sr Oskar Söderström.

Mais tarde fomos excelentemente recebidos pela familia Bastos no seu próprio ambiente. Fomos lá a um sábado ou domingo, mas não me recordo já o ano, e após termos visto alguma coisa das actividades importantes do Montijo como a da cortiça foi-nos oferecido um  excelente almoço em familia.

Como era dia de tourada e o Vice-Presidente da Câmara, o José Bastos, seria o presidente do feito tauromático, fomos convidados para a tribuna de honra. Foi um evento muito caracteristico da região e muito especialmente as provas de valentia dos forcados ficaram-nos bem vincadas na retina.

Socialist Sundsvall encounters


My first encounter with the Swedish Social-democratic party was in November 1974. A few months had passed since the military action that put an end to the dictatorship in Portugal. The political parties needed to build up their organizations and the Swedish party prompted itself to help the very young Socialist party of Portugal. Somehow it was known that there was someone in Sundsvall that spoke Portuguese. That someone was me. I had then been in Sweden for roughly one year.

I accepted to help out, on what turned out to be, cooperation between the Setubal District and our own of Medelpad. Sent on this first mission from the Setubal side was Mr Antonio Valente. He was an insurance man living in the parish of Corroios, Seixal.

My job was in fact to accompany Mr Valente to different study visits. My most difficult and nervous moment was to address a large number of members on their monthly gathering where the PS member, greeted the Swedish party and thanked for the solidarity shown, at the same time as he briefly explained what was going on at this time in the country.

Chairing the Swedish district was Mr Bo Forslund newly appointed Member of Parliament that can be seen on the picture below.

It was an opportunity for me to learn something of Swedish politics and at the same time grasp some understanding of the importance of the municipalities in Sweden. In a few years’ time I would become a member of the Social Democratic party.



Welcomed home


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.


The main event


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.


A new profession


My first text for September 2013 will take up some of my experiences as a newly arrived immigrant to the city of Sundsvall in central Sweden. For most people well placed in the north of the northern hemisphere. I am hoping at the same time that this month will see my 10 000 viewing on this blog.

 Arriving in Sundsvall was a chock for me. I settled in a flat that was fixed by Mona and her parents in the area of Skönsberg. Soon after that I became a father. I cut down on smoking as a consequence of the baby and the cold weather. I had no work and even though I was looking I could not really see what I would be doing. I was new page in a new book. Not only for me but apparently for the whole society that I was now trying to be a part of. If the word depression was used then, I believe I had, at least, a spell of itin that year of 1974.

 I did land a few jobs here and there. One of these jobs influenced the rest of my life so I will briefly explain how it happened that I finished up teaching kids in a regular school.

Åsa Ahlberg was Mona’s best childhood friend. They had kept up their friendship into adult age and Åsa was with Mona in London when we first met. Åsa’s father was a school master on the island of Alnö where the girls had grown up.  It was also to this school of Vibacke that they went to up to the age of 16. Ali Ahlberg, was Åsa’s father. He had to find replacement teachers for his two language teachers that had recently, themselves become parents. One was Märta Starringer and the other Bertil Olsson. Both of these teachers taught languages. More specifically they taught English and French. Because I had considerable knowledge of the languages in question though absolutely none of teaching I accepted the challenge. I took on the teenage kids that saw this 22 year old, with hardly any Swedish as an interesting novelty in their school day.

 Even though I had not dealt with teenage kids before I found that I had enough experience in my social luggage to cope with this new situation and did step in for what eventually became my profession.

O 25 de abril de1974


Todos guardamos memórias daquelas em que se pergunta: O que estavas a fazer quando aconteceu tal e tal?

Essas memórias costumam ser negativas, associadas a alguma calamidade ou a algum atentado que nos marcou por tambem nos afetar direta ou indiretamente. O primeiro evento de que me recordo foi no dia 22 de novembro de 1963. Tinha 11 anos e vivia na Politécnica em Lisboa. Recordo-me dessa noticia e exactamente onde estava, que era no apartamento na Eng. Miguel Pais. Senti a apreensão e preocupação dos adultos à minha volta.Havia uma insegurança em fazer grandes alaridos pois o assassinato do presidente Kennedy era do foro das politicas.

Do mesmo tipo foi o assassinato a Olof Palme, primeiro ministro em exercicio, no dia 28 de fevereiro de 1986. Vivia já na Suécia e foi um amigo chileno que me acordou ao telefone na manhã seguinte para informar do sucedido. Pensei que fosse uma brincadeira de mau gosto, mas nesse mesmo dia organizaram-se e participámos numa manifestação de solidariedade e pesar no centro de Sundsvall.

No dia 11 de setembro de 2003 estava com a Mona em Oslo para ver a seleção nacional de futebol jogar um amigável com a Noruega. Por telemóvel chegou-nos a noticia que a nossa ministra de Negócios Estrangeiros Anna Lindh havia sido vitimada em atentado com faca numa loja de Estocolmo. Ficámos apreensivos e só no dia seguinte depois de muitas notícias contraditórias ficámos a saber que Anna não tinha podido sobreviver aos ataques  do dia anterior.

A informação que recebi dos ataques ao World Trade Centre de Nova Iorque no dia 11 de setembro de 2001 foram dados numa reunião de pais duma nova classe na escola de Katrinelund onde trabalhava na altura. Recordo-me de ter comentado se não teria sido um filme ou piada de mau gosto o que me estavam a contar.

Estas noticias, todas de cariz negativo e calamitoso só podem ser acompanhadas de uma noticia positiva. Foi de manhã no dia 25 de abril de 1974 que a minha sogra informou que estavam a correr algumas noticias sobre acontecimentos em Lisboa. Terei encolhido os ombros e recordo-me ter pensado que não devia ter sido nada de mais. Mas foi ,e terei ocasião em futuros textos de repartir convosco como os eventos foram seguidos por uma pessoa, das muitas, que não estando lá, muito gostariam de ter estado. Nascia um novo Portugal!

O 24 de abril de 1974


O que teria eu feito no dia 24 de abril? A primavera começava a ganhar terreno após um longo e rigoroso inverno. Teria começado os meus estudos na escola municipal para adultos com o intuito de seguir para alguma coisa. Como o meu sueco ainda era um tanto rudimentar, inscrevi-me nos cursos de linguas. Para ter nota em ingles penso que nem precisei de frequentar classes . Fiz logo o exame. Tambem não faltava mais nada… Tinha saudades de Portugal. Já só podia sonhar com o mar e a praia de Carcavelos e toda a nossa costa. A comidinha de que se está sempre a falar. As nossas imperiais. Tinha saudades…Mas ao mesmo tempo já  quase tinha deixado de sonhar.

Dava quase vergonha dizer às pessoas de onde vinha. Então há 48 anos debaixo da mais antiga ditadura da Europa e ninguem se mexe? Já com um filho e a tentar construir uma vida nova pela segunda vez. O meu foco não estava voltado para Portugal. O meu pai lá me enviava uns jornais da Bola para me ir inteirando de como ía o nosso Sporting.

As pessoas em Sundsvall mal sabiam o que era Portugal. Era mesmo quase só o futebol, os vinhos do Porto e as sardinhas em lata que eram a nossa referencia universal. O país estava mergulhado em silencio. O “orgulhosamente sós” de Salazar não nos dava nehum orgulho. Mas que estávamos sós ,estávamos…

O dia 24 de abril não me deixa memória nenhuma. Foi um dia como outro qualquer mas pode muito bem servir para sintetizar como um Estado pode abafar tanta creatividade,tanta força para trabalhar, tanto amor e tanta dedicação daqueles que estavam e dos que já não estavam.