Summer, at last!

Here we go, it’s been over a year since my last post and, frankly, 2020 was a rubbish year for me, both my partner and I got sick, he so much worse than me – he’s still recovering. On top of that and all the lockdown restrictions, we had to move as usual, a normal year that would have meant motorcycle vagabonding for 3 months or so but that wasn’t an option – my partner was too unwell for travelling and hostels weren’t keeping public spaces open so there would be nowhere to cook.  According to the pandemic protection law, tenants couldn’t be forced to move during the pandemic. Our landlord pretended to want to help us by offering us a new contract covering the summer, but also tying us into a more expensive rent for a longer period. Helping us, yeah, right – rather helping himself. We said thanks but no thanks to that shitty offer and with 3 days to spare I found a rental room in Barcelona where we could hunker down for a while. So we did the usual boxing of things and then I loaded up the bike for the move to Barcelona.

I spent my summer studying Halliday’s functional grammar to get some extra university credits and trying to solve our housing situation permanently. Having achieved these objectives, I found a new job and started studying for a masters in Linguistics and was extremely busy. Living in very limiting restrictions made riding for pleasure impossible. The only rides I did last year were for moving houses, commuting for work when working on site was permitted, and riding to charge my already faulty battery. For me, this was very depressing because it had been a year full of plans.

2020 was the year I had great plans. It started off great with the celebrations of WRWR in London (yeah, that feels like a lifetime away). In February, we saw New Model Army in Barcelona, which would have been the first of 3 concerts by our favourite British bands. In addition, we had tickets to 3 other concerts – we’d never had a concert line up that great. I also had 4 motorbike rallies to look forward to, the March Moto Madness organised by Miss Moto Maroc WIMA Morocco, the yearly events with Mujeres en Moto in Spain, and our 70th year anniversary with WIMA in Germany. All of these were cancelled, of course. In addition, I couldn’t go to Sweden to see my dad and my friends and naturally not attend the riding events and training days I had intended to.

Commuting to work

While just about everything I had planned was cancelled, I did achieve quite a few things, some of which were not planned. I solved our housing problem with a long-term solution, and because of this we could finally have our boxes sent over (the boxes from when we left Madrid 7 years ago) and rediscover possessions we had forgotten we had. I got myself some more university points and a new job. I learned how to teach online. I started enjoying running short distances slowly, and I bought a lemon tree. I wrapped up my work internationally for WIMA. It was bittersweet to hand over to Zara, our new international president, I knew I would miss it but I also knew that she had more time and energy than me and would be able to take the organisation forward.

This summer is the first in many years when we’re not packing and moving, and it is such a great relief. I’d never thought I would appreciate having my own permanent home this much as there were certain things of the vagabond style life that I found very appealing too – although I will not miss having to sleep on the floor of my classroom every autumn in search of a flat to rent.  And an extra perk with having my own flat is that I can now have a special motorbike gear station, this is my own biker-tidy solution, built from IKEA’s Ivar shelf system. It is just that the hanger for trousers and jackets that is missing – it was, of course, suddenly discontinued due to the pandemic. Well, you can’t have everything at once. Fortunately, they had some in stock in Sweden so my dad could pick one up for me, so I will be able to complete my shelf system eventually.

Since August last year, my main objectives have been to sleep, eat and work. I was mighty pleased that I could get a new job during the pandemic, then, in January, when restrictions eased off, I was offered a contract with my old company and was suddenly up to my ears in teaching hours. And of course, I was still studying for the Master. End of term was very welcome, I was very braintired.

During summer, I’ll be finishing off my work with the 70th anniversary book for WIMA. A project Sheonagh (former international president of WIMA) and I are collaborating on. This project has grown from booklet to book as there is so much to document in this fantastic organisation, over 40 divisions and nearly 60 rallies for a start. In addition, I’ve just had the privilege to be asked by WIMA Sweden to be responsible for foreign communications and, as I can’t resist the temptation to do extra work, I agreed to do it. It’s a similar set up to WIMA Curaçao and reduces the workload of the national president, who can then dedicate more time at a national level. I think it’s a great way of supporting a growing WIMA and I’m always happy to help – and while things are a bit quieter during summer, there’ll be some quality time with my motorbike, finally!

I am a marathon runner – it is my super power

The world is changing and we have to change with it. If my job is the only thing I will lose during the coronavirus crisis I will indeed be happy. I’m more worried for friends and family – stay safe, please! This post is a tad bit personal and not so much about motorcycles, however motorcycles were what made me pack up and leave a secure and settled life in Sweden for the greater uncertainty of being an immigrant in a country where I could ride my bike every day throughout the year. We all make our choices and I live with mine, this is not to complain, rather to share my experience of two different crises, the Brexit vote and the coronavirus, on a personal level.

Our bikes outside our last house share in London, just before we left for good.

In June 2016 we left London. After spending nearly two years there, we packed and stored away our five boxes and went camping in Wales. Summer was going to be spent travelling and seeing friends and family and then we had our goal set for Japan. With my new English teaching certificate in hand, we were going to spend a few years there teaching and travelling. That did not happen. In our tent in Wales we read about the Brexit referendum and the horrible – and for us, totally unexpected – outcome. How would that affect us as a Swedish-British couple with plans of living and teaching in different countries both outside and within the EU? Impossible to foresee of course, but we needed time to think, some breathing space.

We were very excited when we finally reached the border to Scotland.
Up north we go, to contemplate our future.

When summer ended we were still travelling. I had covered large parts of Europe including the WIMA rally in Hungary. I had been camping and staying with friends and family but now it was time for us to reunite. As we went north up to Scotland, we were accepting that Japan was not going to happen this time. The future seemed too unsure and we aimed to go back to Spain instead, fearing that if we waited Christopher would not be able to. With Brexit done, he would not be able to benefit from European free movement. We had always imagined that Spain would be the place where we would settle, after living and experiencing other countries, it was going to be our place to grow old. Now we needed a change in mindset and a plan. We were fortunate to be able to housesit in England during autumn and halfway through winter, as Christopher took his driving licence for motorcycle with a local driving school. In January 2017 I took the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander and rode to Barcelona. Christopher followed by plane. The first month we stayed in hostels, renting bunkbeds to keep things cheap and looked for jobs. When I got my first teaching position we rented a room through AirBnB – the atmosphere in cheap hostels isn’t great if you want to be able to plan lessons and need good solid sleep. I was equally happy getting my first job as leaving it, I learned the hard way how horrible the working conditions can be in English academies and how poorly the teachers are sometimes treated. I moved on, found some different jobs, teaching at 3-4 different places trying to make ends meet on a very saturated market.

Out riding in Catalunya, there is so much to explore around here, all year round.

From this, I learned what I like and what I want and then I found a job which would allow me to take own responsibility in my classroom and grow as a teacher. I learned new skills and adapted my English teaching methods with my preschool teaching pedagogics – I am now teaching Swedish to all ages, which is so cool!

A month ago, we were literally on the verge of buying a flat here in our little village, feeling that we had finally come to a point when we both felt like we had found a place we want to call home and feel that we are well enough sustained to go ahead. We were looking at possible flats, and even a garage, hoping to be able to send for our 11 boxes that we had stored away five years ago when we left Madrid. The following week, Spain went into full lockdown and we were not able to even go out for a walk.

While I still have my job, but with reduced hours, the state of the global economy will hit businesses hard, especially companies that deal with the movement of people in Europe, and I have to be prepared for the worst. I need a Plan B and this time travelling is not an option.

This beach is 2 minutes from our flat and I walk along it everyday on my way to work.

How should I go on from this? The possibilities are endless if one wants to see it like that, but the risks are great as well. Should we stay here in this little village with hardly any employment possibilities within my field, or should we try and find another place to settle. I’m honestly tired of living in my bags and I would like to get my stuff; my books, my grandma’s plates, our Murano wine glasses and the quilted bedcover that my mum made for us.  This village is not perfect, but it has a lot of what I ask from a place to live, a friendly community, decent weather all year round and accessibility to culture as both Tarragona and Barcelona are within easy reach. I love running along the beach and going for a swim in the sea every weekend. I love our Friday tapas rounds and our weekly morning coffee reading poetry. My heart wants to stay but my mind says it might not be practical. I’m exploring possibilities for work and studies online. The options are many, should I educate myself further as a teacher of Swedish as a second language, although the market here is very small here for Swedish teachers, or should I continue my studies in English linguistics and enrol for a masters course. Should I start teaching English online? There seems to be a constant demand for online-teachers in China, but the paperwork is complicated in Spain. Or should I consider a permanent change or a temporary fixture? I work until mid-June, at the end of June our rental contract runs out – then we need to move on, both physically and mentally.

Pintxo Pote – the local Friday tapas event.

Nothing is ever impossible, but it might take longer than one would think, or even like. I’m a marathon runner and I have learned that half of the effort is mental, and that the strategy is to take things in small steps and create partial goals. When 42km is divided into legs of 5km, then it is only 8 parkruns and a bit to go until the finish line – and a parkrun is no problem to complete, right? My body might not be able to run marathons anymore, but my marathon mind-set is with me every day. As soon as I have decided my goal I will work towards it in small steps.

Finishing the Lisbon Marathon with Anneli.

Gloria

We were hit badly by the storm Gloria last week. There was massive material and natural destruction and people were killed, so I shouldn’t complain really as my only damage was a broken footpeg when my bike fell over. I was being a bit stupid as I had covered the bike for the rain, I thought it would be okay if I strapped the cover tightly around the bike, but alas, no. On Sunday night it blew over. Due to the rain and storm I had to wait until Saturday before I could open up the bike to check that the battery hadn’t leaked and that cooling water and oil levels were unchanged. And for the remaining days of the storm, I left the bike uncovered and hoped that the heavy rains wouldn’t cause problems with the electrics or anything else.

It is always interesting doing these kinds of chores on a busy street, I did get some strange looks and, in addition, an offer of help from a fellow biker living nearby. The new footpeg was ordered from Motor Works England – I couldn’t find a secondhand one in Spain. It arrived quickly and I love the treats that they added to the parcel.