The Quest for Vinyls

Owning a vinyl record player used to be a future dream for us, something that we would get when, at some distant point in the future, we got a permanent living place. Well, in May we realised that we indeed had acquired such living conditions where a vinyl record player and vinyls could be owned and stored. Bear with me, we’re getting to the motorbike-related part soon. Following the purchase of the actual player, we swiftly bought a few key records as new pressings, New Model Army’s From Here, Enya’s Watermark, Killing Joke’s Pandemonium, Penfriend’s Exotic Monsters, The Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland and Mishima’s Ara i Res. I already had the vinyl for Winnerbäck’s Tänk om jag ångrar mig och sen ångrar mig igen as it was part of the collector’s pack that my ex-boyfriend gifted me 13 years ago. This made for a good start, but we needed more.

Vinyl player and Kallax storage shelf
Vinyl player and Kallax storage shelf

During the last year my partner and I have been listening to the Audible version of the Vinyl Detective series by Andrew Cartmel and this could very well have been the catalyst for the realisation of the purchase of our vinyl player, but more specifically it made me want to try out crate-digging for records. The Vinyl Detective’s cases are always a quest for one or several rare records and he travels around London going to record fairs and charity shops for crate-digging. In Sweden, flea markets – Loppis, in local lingo – have become very trendy and during summer they pop up in great numbers all over the country. In addition, the market for used vinyl is also rather good and there are several record shops dedicated almost exclusively to it. This is where the motorbike comes into the picture.

Dad helped me prep a special backpack for crate-digging, naturally large enough to fit one or several vinyls and with a sheet of plywood in for stability and strength. This backpack was then permanently stored in one of my panniers as, in Sweden, there can be flea markets in the most unexpected places. My first, and as it turned out, most economically successful crate-digging excursion was in and around Motala. With the help of friends, I could find several flea markets where they had vinyl – mostly it was old Swedish bands but I could find some others that I liked and I picked up a couple of Simon and Garfunkel records for only 40sek each (roughly 4 euros) that was on our wish-list, as well as Never mind the bollocks here’s the Sex Pistols and Deep Purple’s Made in Japan. These last two I acquired in an unconventional manner. I usually never haggle for prices, and it wasn’t my intention to do so this time either but as it happened the shop owner aked me if I found something. I bluntly told him that the records were in too poor condition and not worth what he was asking and that was how I accidentally negotiated the price down to 50sek for both, rather than 80 and it was only much later, when I deep cleaned them, I noticed that they actually play quite ok and were actually worth their initial price.

A typical loppis sells a bit of everything and might have a few crates of vinyls too
A typical loppis sells a bit of everything and might have a few crates of vinyls too

On a later occasion, I made a dedicated vinyl-tour to Uddevalla and Trollhättan and it was in Evolution records in Uddevalla I learned that vinyls don’t get their price based on their quality only, availability is a great part of it. Therefore, I had been able to buy great quality records with popular Swedish artists for only 10 sek (1 euro). This is also when I learned about Discogs, where you can see how much records are bought and sold for at the moment and learn about special editions, etc. I bought Winnerbäck’s live album Vi var där which was not cheap at all, as it was now sold out on vinyl and only available second hand (it was 400sek, i.e. 40 euros for a triple vinyl).

Parked outside Vinylskrubben in Trollhattan
Parked outside Vinylskrubben in Trollhattan

After Udevalla, I made my way to the neighbouring town Trollhättan and the record shop Vinylskrubben. There, I found several albums that were on our wish-list, such as U2, Enya and Leonard Cohen. The record playing in the shop was Deep Purple and it was bloody good. I wasn’t familiar with that particular record, but I decided to ask if I could buy it when I had finished the crate-digging and was ready to pay. But there I learned a lesson, while I was happily flipping records and enjoying the music a guy just simply strolled in and asked to buy the record playing. Aaargh! After this it became my quest to find this record and, luckily, I was later able to find it. I bought, in total, 10 records on that trip, so the backpack was rather heavy on the return journey and I still had about 150km to go when my motorcycle just died. My first thought was that I was glad that I had chosen to include recovery in my insurance. It is actually dad who insists that I have recovery, as he thinks my bike is old and therefore unreliable and that he is too old to come and get me. Or perhaps that I’m old enough to take care of myself. Or all of those!  Anyway, on this occasion I didn’t need to use the recovery option, I could fix the problem quite easily myself. It was a cable that had come loose, probably when I was riding that amazing gravel road near Svanskog on my way down to Uddevalla. I was pretty pleased that I had all the tools with me to be able to unmount the fairings and access the battery and the cables so that I could fix it and continue swiftly. I thoroughly enjoyed some of my favourite small roads, slowly making my way towards home and halfway there I pulled in to a petrol station to fill up. It was by habit more than necessity, as I always used to fill up in Mellerud with a shade over 100km to go. This was when I became aware that the electrical problem was a bit bigger than just a loose cable. I had to do some more fixing and either Swedes don’t care to ask if someone needs help when they are taking apart their vehicle, or everyone around thought I knew what I was doing. Anyhow, no-one asked to help me and luckily, definitely more luck than skill, I got the bike going and didn’t even dare to turn it off again to replace the fairings but rather put it all together provisionally and rode without stopping straight home. A more thorough examination showed that there was a bit of rust on the battery connector and after scaping that off as well as some other cleaning and adjusting of cables, I nearly didn’t have any more motorbike-related problems.

I've pryed the middle pannel loose to access the battery
I’ve pried the middle pannel loose to access the battery

Another fantastic day trip I made was up to Östanbjörke near Sunne. It was a great day on many accounts as I had started off with visiting a friend on the way – not only was I treated to homemade raspberry crumble, I was also promised that I could come over next time I needed to change oil and he would help me open the plug so that I could empty the engine entirely of the old oil. Hurray! I shall make sure I bring the crumble on that occasion. At Östanbjörke vinyl and flea market, I made several lucky digs. Firstly, I found the Deep Purple record, Who do we think we are? that I lost out on at Vinylskrubben, and then I found an Enya maxi-single with a rare B-side that isn’t available on any album so there were a couple of treats for both me and Christopher. Unfortunately, I later found out that the Deep Purple record has a scratch that makes the needle jump in Tokyo Woman, but to be honest, if I had known I might had bought it anyway but perhaps haggled for the price?! After all, I paid 140sek for it (14 euro) and it was marked G+, which implies that the record should play well. While it is annoying that one of the best songs doesn’t play perfectly, this record had an unexpected perk. When I examined the record’s pressing codes on the run-out groove, I discovered that it had PORKY etched on the A-side and PURPLE PECKY on the B-side, which means that it is pressed by renowned mastering engineer George Peckham and these pressings are very good quality and highly regarded. To conclude this paragraph, I must also mention that on my way home I stopped in Sunne and had a big soft ice-cream in the harbour. Why? Life is too short for small ice-creams, that is why.

On my last crate-digging run, I found the first pressing of Magnus Uggla’s cover album Allting som ni gör kan jag göra bättre at Askers in Grums (translates as “Everything you do I can do better” reflecting the artist’s lack of humbleness). It contains a later banned version of Vem kan man lita på and, in addition, on the back of the sleeve there is a reproduction of the infamous artwork of Carl Johan de Geer which was banned (and all the printed posters burned by the police) in 1967 for violating the flag and being anti-Swedish. Such an iconic album by one of my favourite artists had to be included in my collection. I also found a very good edition of the Smurfs story album that I bought for my sister. When I was visiting, she complained that our brother had lent (or gave away, at least we never got it back) our Smurf record when we were kids, so I think it will make for a very unexpected Christmas present. It was great to finish on a high, and it was also great that this was the last day riding before flying home as I noticed that the right front fork was leaking oil from the seal, here we can probably blame the gravel riding. Another thing to deal with next summer – there will be a long list, I’m afraid.

While I wasn’t able to go on a proper holiday last summer, this continuous quest for vinyls filled my summer in Sweden with fantastic excursions and when it was time to fly home I had a rather heavy backpack that I jauntily carried on one shoulder trying to pretend that it wasn’t heavy at all – the well-tested trick to not get checked by the Ryanair staff.

PS. in these videos you can see how I deep-cleaned the dirty Sex Pistols record and Deep Purple’s Made in Japan with wood glue. It effectively removes all ingrained dirt that has accumulated in the grooves. It is easier than you would first think so don’t be afraid to try it!





Global Friendship

We don’t have one language in common, instead we speak three languages in between the three of us, Japanese, English and Spanish, as we take shelter in a local Spanish restaurant in Gracia. I had wanted to show my international friends the area in Barcelona where I used to live, before moving to Calafell. My plan for this evening included our normally pleasant weather – not a steady downpour. But the food is excellent and the company better still, despite some occasional confusion when we speak the wrong language to the wrong recipient. The bartender is amused by our group and absolutely thrilled when he learns that Selma is originally from Argentina and they even have a common home town. He brings us strawberry gazpacho to celebrate this. Selma orders Argentinian meat, Sono is excited by the idea of Spanish tapas and we share three little plates followed by three rather large cakes for desert. It’s been a busy week for them, when you come from Japan to spend a week in Catalunya then you must make the most of it. They have been riding in the Pyrenees together with Sue from WIMA GB and, in addition, managed to see some of what Barcelona has to offer in the culture department: Gaudi’s architecture and Picasso’s art. To complete the list, we managed some shopping for Spanish goods before dinner.

Dinner in three languages. photo Courtesy Selma Rosa Perez
Dinner in three languages. Photo Courtesy Selma Roza Peres

On my behalf, it’s been a couple of eventful weeks, moving houses, starting a new teaching position and in the midst of it all my WIMA friends from England and Japan basically arrived on my doorstep. Sue had rented a house up in the Pyrenees and I joined her for some amazing riding. We were lucky to be recommended a brilliant route by fellow bikers. It was 200 kilometres filled with twists and turns, it kept us busy until evening in fact, with various coffee and photo stops along the route. We started off in Col de Nargo and headed to Berga along route L-401, in the morning the road was quiet, but we soon met lots and lots of bikers, it was evident that the road was popular and we could see groups of bikers on different viewpoints along the route, as well as bikes passing us when we stopped for photos. Our return route took us up north approx. 20k and then back through the villages Saldes, Gosol, Tuixent and Sorribes. This road was not accepted by my GPS, possibly because some of the roads were tiny – my TomTom app does that sometimes, it overrules my choice of road. A small part of the route was on gravel, which reminded me that my bike isn’t suitable for gravel and I had better stay off it. Well, there are smooth gravel roads like the one to my parents’ house in Sweden (which is a piece of cake to ride), and this looked like that to begin with, but soon got loose and my road tyres were sliding. Arriving on tarmac made me both praise civilisation and wish I had a smaller, lighter bike with offroad tyres so I could do it all again. I can definitely see myself on a smaller bike in the future.

Sue and I in the Pyrinees. Photo Courtesy Sue Barnes
Sue and I in the Pyrinees. Photo Courtesy Sue Barnes

After the weekend, while I had to return to work, Sue was expecting our Japanese friends for a few days riding. However, our planned ride out to meet them as part of my return had to be drastically changed due to some very expected events. While lifting my very sleepy head to check the time early Monday morning (public holiday here so I wasn’t going to go to work anyway) I found out that it was 4:30am. I also found out that Sono had ended up on Mallorca instead of Barcelona and that Selma, who had arrived in Barcelona on a different flight, had been pickpocketed and lost all her money. They were on a tight schedule, since Japanese people hardly ever get more than a week off work consecutively, and their hire bikes were waiting for them. The decision was easy, I would await sunrise and head down from the mountains and try to help. I’m spoiled, being used to a completely different work culture. I would personally never even consider flying to another continent during a week’s holiday, but they must make do. I absolutely admire their ability to make the most of it and I would do whatever I could to make things easier for them.
So, I met with Selma and we tried to locate the rental place. Firstly, I feared that the place didn’t exist and that their booking offer was fraudulent. Luckily, it turned out that the company had not announced that they had moved place and changed phone number and we did track them down in the end. When we finally arrived, and explained Sono’s predicament, the owner kindly offered to keep the place open until 4pm. I had already offered Sono to take my bike up to the Pyrenees if she wouldn’t make it, but since her booking couldn’t be cancelled we were still hoping she would be able to make it – and she did – literally in the last minute her taxi arrived. I was very happy to contribute to making their arrival in Barcelona a little less stressful and be able to escort them out of Barcelona and on their way up to the Pyrenees, no doubt they were tired after their long flight to Europe and their respective mishaps, and I wanted them to have a smooth start to their riding at least.

While they enjoyed the mountains, I returned to work. We had scheduled to meet up again on Friday, Sono’s last day in Europe and in the restaurant in Gracia we closed the circle. Selma’s flight was a couple of days later so we made plans for the weekend – we learned that we both have a passion for books so we spent Saturday morning in bookshops. I was amazed to learn that she was named after a Swedish author, Selma Lagerlöf and I secretly sought out a Spanish edition of one of her books as a present. Selma, the author, is native to my region in Sweden and her house Mårbacka is now an impressive museum and celebration of the author’s life. She was also the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not a bad character to be named after, I must say!

Dream dinner by the sea, Barcelona harbour. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa Perez
Dream dinner by the sea, Barcelona harbour. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa Perez

Since Selma had dreamed about having dinner next to the sea, we had to make this happen for Saturday night, and then we did the same for Sunday lunch but here in Calafell. I was happy to welcome her as my fist visitor to my village and we were both quite surprised as we stumbled upon a local charity ride in support of children with Dravet Syndrome here in Calafell harbour, “Rolling for Kids”, it was called. We had an interesting chat with the organisers and showed our support before continuing our Sunday stroll along the beach, our feet in the water and the sun in our faces. We shared a typical Spanish three course Sunday lunch before Selma had to return to Barcelona.
Supporting local charity ride "Rodando por los niños"" in Calafell by buying their cool T-shirt. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa
Supporting local charity ride “Rodando por los niños”” in Calafell by buying their cool T-shirt. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa

Later the same day, while reflecting on the recent events during my evening tea on my balcony, I felt a sincere happiness to be part of WIMA. There are a lot of barriers and discord in the world, that is for sure, but I’ve had the time of my life together with people I wouldn’t have met without WIMA – considering the four of us come from four different countries and three different continents – to me this is amazing networking and great WIMA spirit.

L’Amistat – not really

I felt a great sense of achievement being able to screw my Spanish registration back on to my bike, something that not only means that I can ride legally here, since I pay road tax and insurance in Spain, but also makes my bike blend better with local bikes and therefore is less of a target for thieves. (I had three break-ins in my top case within two weeks when I first came in January – then I started bringing it in with me.)

Now I’m pondering another conundrum, that of racism and the fact that we live in a region of Spain with very strong nationalism. We also happen to live in Gracia, a part of Barcelona which used to be its own town, before Barcelona grew and swallowed it up. It’s now a district within the city. The locals here don’t like foreigners, they think we destroy their Gracia and the signs of this are evident on banners, stickers, signs and loud protests. When we first came to Gracia we knew nothing about this, we simply fell in love with the quirky streets, cosy bars and lovely squares. Then it started to dawn on us, along with the multitude of local festivities celebrated within districts we also noticed the signs saying that foreigners we’re not welcome, and the stickers stating “Tourists go home”.

Tourists go home, you're destroying our neigbourhood.
Tourists go home, you’re destroying our neigbourhood.


Because summer is so hot and I want my bike to be parked in the shade as much as possible, I’ve parked it outside the building where we live. It is a narrow street and there the bike only gets a couple of hours scorching sun per day. This is how locals park as well, in Barcelona there are plenty of designated motorbike parking but still there are more bikes than parking spaces so people park their scooters and motorbikes on the side of the streets as well and it’s legal to do so. Next to where my bike is parked is a bar, it is called L’Amistat – which means friendship in Catalan – I find this ironic considering how I was met when approaching them.

It was San Juan, one of many celebrations that involve firecrackers and rowdy partying on the streets. The owners of L’Amistat were preparing a communal dinner, setting up a table on the street outside the bar, and I kindly approached them intending to ask if my bike was in their way and if so I would move it for them. Before even opening my mouth, I was told that the bar was closed, this was followed by the clear message that they didn’t want me or my bike in their neighbourhood and in fact if I left it where it was parked it would be burnt by their fire crackers and they wouldn’t care.

My bike - I hope the spanish registration plate protects it from racism
My bike parked to the left – I hope its spanish registration plate protects it from racism

This was shocking, I’ve never personally been exposed to racism and their hostility made me rather upset. This is the street where I live, I pay tax and I contribute to the society just as much as everyone else. I moved my bike for safety – we’ve seen a car burn during another festivity so wasn’t willing to risk it and judging from the loud bangs during the night and the debris on the street the following morning it was fortunate that I had.

You can see these stickers everywhere in the neighbourhood
You can see these stickers everywhere in the neighbourhood

Both in English and Catalan
Both in English and Catalan

And with tourists the locals mean everyone who isn't originally form here and it is a common belief that we foreginers corupt the market because we can pay higher rent.
And with tourists the locals mean everyone who isn’t originally from the area and it is a common belief that foreginers corupt the market because we can pay higher rent.

Please note that I’m not writing this for people to take pity on me, this is merely a reflection on everyday racism and people who think they have a greater right than others to be somewhere. This was one racist incident and I can only imagine what it does do to people who gets exposed to it every day.