The 7 Commandments of Youth Hostelling

May 8, 2010
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1. Thy Parents Shalt Be Forever Optimists
Your heart always skips a beat when your parents suggest the dreaded family weekend away. It just spells arguments and misery. Perhaps it would not be so awful if you….actually no. They just don’t work. When one parent suggests it, the other will instantly look up, stop scowling, say what a great idea it was and grin like they have just won the lottery. They both tell you that ‘to go away to somewhere nice for a few days is just what you need.’ This is probably true. But the reality is that the nice places in Britain are expensive, therefore you never go to the nice places. That is how you end up in a Youth Hostel. Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine. Just why? Why would anyone want to spend a weekend in a place which reeks of others people’s sweaty socks, that has cobwebs and spiders everywhere and where your room is essentially a box. Which smells.
2. Thou Shalt Suffer Purgatory While Journeying
The journey to the Youth Hostel is almost as bad as the place itself. You always set off later than when you had planned, which means that you get stuck in all of the motorway queues, which means you spend even longer in the car than you were told in the first place. This means arguments, and lots of them, making sure that everyone in a rotten mood. So it is an awful start to a terrible day. It is made worse by at least one person (often me, I will admit) not wanting to go on the trip and not concealing this fact at all, so the parents get offended that some one may not possibly be enjoying themselves.
3. Thou Shalt Always Be Lost
Finally, after braving the motorway for what seems like years, and having yet another argument, sorry ‘discussion’, you may reach the tiny and obscure village, often called something ridiculous like Dimmingsdale or Mankinholes, where you should be staying for the weekend. At this point everybody calms down a bit, dreaming that soon they will be eating and then sleeping. Wrong. First you have to find the place. In such a pitiful excuse for even a hamlet, you would think that this will be easy. I am afraid you are wrong again. It usually takes another hour to find the stupid place, and in the end you go on a highly repetitive sight seeing tour before you do find it. And you probably went past it about five times, but the sign pointing to it was behind a bush; this has happened several times.
4. Thou Shalt Not Be Comfortable
‘Oh my god!’ are pretty much always the first words that come out of a teenager’s mouth when they get a glimpse their room, and it’s not an expression of joy and wonder. Everybody is in the same room, which, as mentioned earlier, is miniscule. I sometimes wonder how they got the two bunk beds and a sink inside the room in the first place– your mind does wonder endlessly during your visit. You have to walk up a very narrow and steep staircase and turn several corners to reach any room at all. Then there are the spider’s webs, dangling ominously from every corner possible, swaying in the slight breeze coming from the window that won’t quite close properly and casting disturbing shadows against the lemon yellow walls. They always are lemon yellow and I am never quite sure why. Why yellow? I will never understand. It’s a very garish lemon yellow as well. It you are going for the haunted house effect, surely a grey would be much more suitable?
5. Thou Shalt Enjoy The Company Of Mankind
Dinner is always a dreadful affair because of course the Youth Hostels are self catering. So it is one kitchen that seems to have been fitted and equipped in about 1970, shared between three - five families or in the worst cases, more. It just spells chaos. Especially because some of the people that stay at Youth Hostels are very, well strange. Yes you do have to be slightly mad to come in the first place but there are always some families that everyone else avoids and/or hates, such as the Korean Christians who played music on their guitars until 3am for 4 nights in a row, taking over the whole kitchen at a time and making the place smell even worse than it already did; a very difficult art as not much is worse than others sweat. Or perhaps it’s just the people who never wash up after themselves; there is always one family that the ‘serious walkers’ disapprove of. Yes the other mad people are the ones who take it way too seriously. They have big, chunky walking boots and camouflage everything, and to be honest, are always retired. They think this gives them the right to glare at people because they burnt the toast so it gives off yet another vile odour into the air (well it did already, what’s your problem?) and glare at you again because your wellies are not a muddy green sludge colour, but bright pink. Apparently the bright colour will scare away the birds. I know this because I was once told off by a ‘serious walker’ for doing exactly that. I didn’t see the problem; I was in a hide, so were the birds hiding in there too?
6. Thou Shalt Be Condemned To Twitching
Bird watching is one of the only things that you can do when staying at a Youth Hostel. They are in the middle of absolutely nowhere and the list of things to do is as small as the room you’re staying in. The only reasonable directions you can give to where you are staying is that you are ‘by the cows. If you reach the sheep you have gone too far!’ This sums up your location in a nutshell.
So it’s walking or bird watching (there are generally some bird places near by to wander around as well). Although if you wish to ‘fit in’ and not be glared at, I would recommend buying waterproof and camouflaged everything, including your socks. And also remember to forget your voice. Speaking scares the birds see. When you wish to converse with the ‘serious walkers’, or in this case ‘twitchers’ (you call them twitchers because they travel around the country looking for all the rare birds that never turn up. Well this is the official reason but really they just seem to be retarded and twitch), you should probably go into a binoculars and camera shop beforehand, and memorise the qualities, prices, makes and specifications of all the best pieces currently available. This is because they like to know if you are ‘serious’ like them. So a typical question they may ask you is: ‘what kind of binoculars are you using?’ to this you must reply, ‘oh today I only have my old pair, I often use the Carl Zeiss Victory 10x56 T* FL’. This is one of the most expensive binoculars you can get by the way. It makes them very impressed, and they may start talking to you about them, so when it gets too complex and you have no idea what they are on about, you simply say ‘be quiet or you will scare the birds’. They will then look very insulted and leave you alone, but they have some respect for you as you know their language and the best thing is you get some peace.
7. Thou Shalt Be Prepared When The Flood Comes
Now these activities are alright to do when it is not raining. But what do you do when it is hurling it down with rain? Stay at the Youth Hostel? Nope. You have to be out by 10am and not return until 4pm. That is 6 hours of doing nothing. You could sit in your car but that’s not much fun really is it? Your options are very limited, so you end up having to visit a local museum. I call it that of want of a better word as they are not nearly big enough to call it that. When you come from the cities, you are used to museums being huge buildings stacked full of ancient treasures and masterpieces but in the tiny place of Mankyholes or what ever it was called, this simply does not happen. They usually consist of about 3 rooms, each with about 3 items in that used to belong to somebody that you have never heard you before, but according to the elderly pensioner who sold you your tickets, was ‘very famous’ and used to come from the area. As you can imagine this does not take long. So what to do? Well you simply do the things you would do if it were not raining, but in the rain. So sometimes the ‘serious walkers’ have it right; waterproof stuff is quite useful. You can even go bird watching. But guess what? There will be no birds as they are laughing at you while hiding from the rain in bushes where you can’t see them.

I personally think that Youth Hostels are one of the worst forms of accommodation in Britain. They smell, they have spiders everywhere, the beds, well lets just say you are not always in there alone, there may be some small beasties in with you, they are in the middle of nowhere so there is not much to do when it rains (unless you get soaked) and they generally mean that your family will not speak for a few days as you have had so many arguments. But I am thankful to them; if they were not here then I wouldn’t have had anything to do my English Coursework on now would I?

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