When Alan desperately pitched the TV idea Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank to the commissioning editor of the BBC in the first episode of I’m Alan Partridge, I genuinely thought that part of the joke was that Chris Eubank was far too old to set foot in one of those mystical places.
Reaching the ripe old age of 36 with a healthy distaste for the concept of ‘roughing it’ and having developed a penchant for spoiling ourselves with stays in boutique hotels – pre-baby of course – I never imagined bunking up in one. And that was fine with me.
However, holidays become a logistical nightmare when children enter the equation, as we found out when chicken pox foiled our last getaway, so when we were offered a free room to review the Youth Hostel at Keswick in the Lake District for another website, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.
That’s not to say there was no trepidation on my behalf – I fearfully envisaged eating cold beans in a drafty barn whilst trying to converse with a load of Jack Wills-bedecked, floppy-haired types who weren’t even born when Pulp’s Different Class came out. Also, we were in a family room – sleeping in the same room as Elsa – what would we do when she went to bed? To say she has proved to be a light sleeper over the course of her 16 months would be like saying Jeremy Clarkson gets a touch tetchy when he’s hungry. Would we have to laminate our books so they didn’t make that swishing noise when you turn the page or would we simply have to call it a night and turn in at 8?
Obviously the latter sounds like bliss, but when would I find the time to educate the Sloanes about mid-90s indie?
In fact, I needn’t have worried – it turns out that by Youth Hostel standards I am still reasonably young. They appear to actually be a Mecca for the retired – that is the section of the retired whose Mecca isn’t Mecca bingo.
There was a fascinating array of characters too; from the man in his late 60s who was determined to chat up the Spanish waitress with absolutely zero success, to the retired shop manager (I know this because she started most sentences with “when I was a shop manager”) who took it upon herself to act as the merchant of doom. She was constantly warning us that usually there’s too much noise at night to sleep, that school kids take over the communal lounge and that you can’t hear the TV for people playing pool (she actually made two middle-aged men sit in silence whilst she finished watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider at ear-splitting volume).
A school party arrived and, despite her Fraser-from-Dad’s–Army prophecy, they were perfectly well behaved and quiet, although I bet none of them had ever heard Disco 2000.
Overall, it was stunningly located – opposite the mighty Skiddaw, Elsa slept through a fire alarm that I swear could be heard from the other side of Windermere and the baby monitor signal stretched to all of the communal areas so we could actually have an evening meal, a drink and a chat – just like real people.
As Alan Partridge would say, “back of the net!”