The Angry Corrie 6: Mar-Apr 1992

Hoovering the TV lounge:
A user's guide to the SYHA

Of all hill-related magazines, the Scottish Youth Hostel Association's quarterly The Scottish Hosteller is, for all its recent glossification, undoubtedly one of the most bland. Sad really, but symptomatic of how the genuinely radical roots of the organisation back in the 1930s have, in many people's eyes gone badly to seed.

Gone are the days when cyclists, let alone motorists, were turned away from the hostels. Gone the days when a late arrival to an already-full Balquhidder was led outside to the barn and told to make a bed out of straw. And gone too the days when TAC could leave the subject well alone...

Part 1: Hostel occupants

There are two main methods of identifying and categorising hostellers: by character type and by nationality. In this issue we look at the former.

  • Life members: Miserable bunch of old gits who organise themselves such that there is invariably one per hostel at any given time. Much prone to pedantry and self-righteous nitpicking, as in one known case where a first-time hosteller was chided by a lifer for not having washed his saucepan - even before he had finished cooking what it contained. An albatross round the neck of the organisation. Should perhaps be renamed "death members".
  • Avid conservationists: Easily spotted by dint of their Intermediate Technology or Heathcote Williams T-shirts, these constitute a relatively harmless bunch. Most annoying tendency? Leaving washing-up bowls filled with water for others to re-use, even though said water is turgid with detergent and unpleasantly floating bits of vegetarian ratatouille.
  • Road freaks: The kind of people - usually from the north of England - with whom you attempt to make polite conversation by asking as to their day's journey, only to be met with a meticulous, longwinded log of the roadworks on the A63, the snarlups on the B7418 and a nasty contraflow on the Cumbernauld section of the A80. Before Dr Beeching had his day, these people all came under the broader classification "trainspotter".
  • Crumb pedants: Worse than life members, these. So much as read a newspaper at a dining room table and they pounce, with allegations of untidiness and mess-leaving. Ever vigilant, no-one is safe from them.
  • Dookit raiders: The ghosts of the hostel - never seen but always there. After all, someone must have stolen those three missing teabags or the half-dozen slices of vanished bread. It couldn't possibly be that you had a now-forgotten attack of the late-night munchies, could it now?
  • Grease-leavers: Possibly overlapping with the above (assuming ghosts exist), but more readily pin-downable. Most active at breakfast-time, when they dutifully top-up grillpans with bacon and sausage fat. Also identifiable by invariably eating white bread.
  • Friends of the warden: Unpleasant, sycophantic types who fail even to pass the time of day with mere mortal hostellers, but who spring into backslapping bonhomie the moment one of the hierarchy appears. Tediously boring and usually unfit-looking. Do they get special rates? Sexual favours? Free tins of beans? Don't know and don't care.
  • Butterfielders & Bennetonians: Only to be found in hostels where Munros - or, increasingly, Corbetts - are to hand. A decade ago they would have been labelled map-studiers due to preternatural pre-, during- and post-prandial preoccupations. Nowadays, though, who needs ungainly, difficult-to-fold maps when customised coffeetable books tell you which hills to climb without having to invoke any of those tricky thought processes? 1992 model made ubiquitous not so much by fleecy jacket or Reebok trainers, but by Ron Hill running strides. Here there and everywhere.
  • Snorers: Along with farters and phlegm-inhalers, the scourge of the night. Note how wardens cleverly arrange things such that there is invariably one and one only in each dorm. At least now that springy mattresses are on the wane we don't have the 3 a.m. fidgeters to worry about.
  • Eager bastards: Just when you've finally managed to sleep despite the excesses detailed above, on go the lights, bangbang go the doors and various jaunty tunes are badly whistled. Why, it's 6.30 a.m. and up get all the mountainbikers, Munrobaggers and unable-to-sleep pensioners, all blissfully ignorant of the fact that everyone else considers themselves to be on holiday and therefore deserving of a lie-in until 8 o'clock at least. If one was forced to generalise, religiously they'd all be zealots, politically: fascists.

Next issue: Wardens

TAC 6 Index