Friday, 31 March 2017

At the Hostel Door March, 2017

So, it's the Spring Equinox and of course there are snow showers down here and on the high hills above.  Edinburgh's crocus displays around The Meadows were  heralding the change in season over a month ago.  With us they have just come into bloom with early daffodils to follow.  Geese are leaving and the last flock of waxwings fleetingly colonised our rowan tree three weeks ago.  This pattern of relative predictability is what we have grown to expect.  What has taken me and possibly you by surprise is the absolute avalanche of shift in human behaviour all over the world.  Just where are we heading?

As I write this in a window overlooking the pond I am waiting on a call from the hospital in Inverness to tell us we have a fourth grandchild.  His parents might have stayed on in Amman, Jordan, Dad in and out of Syria on humanitarian aid work.  They didn't.  Rather they have opted for a Scotland based post with the same organisation and are living down the road from us.  So here I write, my mind wandering around the reality of a climatically and politically heated up world  and anguishing about just how these grandkids of ours will be faring at our age.

Volunteer Accommodation
The other reason for coupling our son's return with what happens for us here at the hostel is that he is a very usefully 'techie'.  In fact incredibly so in as much as he was flown out three weeks ago by  his organisation to Nairobi to assist Yemenis and their neighbours who had been gathered in the Kenyan capital. His task to help them facilitate their attempts to rescue something tangible from the countries' on going disaster.  He is also a strategist and has for years been a pragmatic on the ground aid worker in some hairy places.  Welcome home son, we need you even if you still have to push off again from time to time.

This hostel has been on the go now for coming up twenty years.  Twenty five years ago I had done no more than look askance at the computer competences of others.  The problem for me now is that while I have gained a number of basic skills and can dabble not unsuccessfully with regard to the communicating of what we need to tell the world about our hostel,  the horizon is not only still way ahead of me but receding at a meteoric rate into the blue, or whatever cosmic colour is out there.  So to have not only our hostel team, one or two of whom are quite techie savvy, but also family input from the 'Young'  - he has an equally smart sister over the river from us - is good news indeed.

Late winter construction project
I am reflecting here quite pointedly on our need to get the message out.  What message?  That in an expanding field of accommodation options and skilled and imaginative marketing by the 'big boys' we smaller operators of a certain age could so easily bite the dust, well nearly.  Step forward Margaret Matthew the marketing guru lady, passionate about independent hostelling in Scotland, who single handedly has for 6 years stood solidly with our independent hostels' organisation and propelled us more and more into the public's consciousness.   So whatever individual hostels have been able to do to wave their own flag and let everyone know they are alive and well, no one should doubt the massive extra 'shove' that Margaret's work, much of it well beyond the call of duty, has provided for the whole sector and to the considerable benefit of would-be hostellers.  With the taste for glamorous camping, branded 'Glamping' now attracting massive investment almost to a point I'm told where, in Scotland, it has now peaked,  the alternative tourism seeking public will likely need ongoing confirmation that well over one hundred independent hostels in Scotland remain a very sound first choice.

Margaret tells us that this week will see her last Scottish Independent Hostels  AGM.  We owe you Margaret big time so thank you, thank you.  As far as we here can see, there remains from throughout the UK and further afield a continuing affection for the diverse offerings made by Scotland's independent hostels.  Positive, well forged ambience worn openly on the sleeve, innovative hospitality, anything but 'plastic' and boringly predictable and a vitality born of ownership.  In our hostel team we encourage everyone, including the long stay volunteer, to 'take ownership'  Where our
Hot tub  - always a winner!
folk can rise to that challenge they too grow.  So no top down disempowering hierarchies here.  That, I guess, is what makes our hostel visitors, time and again commend the 'passion about the place' they have been met with from our team.  I am sure this thinking is much replicated elsewhere. Ask the hostellers; they'll know.

Late winter maintenance and construction is well nigh complete in readiness for an increase in visitors once the wee camping ground comes alive on 1st May. The hot tub is firing,  lambs are expected in late April, waterfowl are laying, the crow is sounding off, hopeful of bagging an egg a day and yes,  we are still waiting on that phone call from the hospital.

Hey, it's just come.  Welcome Maxwell.

Hostel Keeper

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