Open to All: to be opened and read by all hostellers

The adventure begins…

I’ve always felt an affinity with the YHA (Youth Hostels Association) but it wasn’t until I read Duncan M Simpson’s Open to All: How youth hostels changed the world that I understood an underlying reason why that might be. It’s in my Liverpudlian blood.

The first chapter, From Germany to Liverpool, sets the scene. It describes the origins of the organisation on UK soil, modelled on the German equivalent as explored by a group of intrepid young shipping office workers from Liverpool in the late 1920s. I had known of a specific connection with the shipping industry from my experience of visiting Maeshafn Youth Hostel in North Wales in 1980, when I was surprised to find a plaque declaring the building was funded by Alfred Holt & Co in 1931. This was of particular interest to me as my father had been Inward Freight Manager for their Blue Funnel Line. Sadly, he had died the year before my stay at Maeshafn so I didn’t get to talk to him about this apparent coincidence or his firm’s interest in the movement. A recent conversation with my Mum (who met Dad when she too worked in India Buildings) confirmed that the company tended to be philanthropic as well as encouraging life in the outdoors, recalling that Dad was sent on an Outward Bound course in Aberdovey.  My memory of Maeshafn hostel is a happy one, but I wish I’d appreciated then what I know now from Simpson’s book: that it had made history as one of the first to be established.Continue Reading


For years I’ve had a recurring dream.  It’s not the same location every time, but the scenario definitely reflects a theme.  The context varies in fact from places that I recognise to those that I’ve never visited in real life. Often the setting is a mish-mash or an unlikely jumble of incongruous places and faces.Continue ReadingContinue Reading

A smart way to end the year

For someone who claims that a few written words can paint a thousand pictures, I seem to have developed an unhealthy fascination for emojis. Gone are the days of being a borderline technophobe.  Running a writing and proofreading business means I have a well-established professional working relationship with my laptop.  And even before Way BeyondContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Velodrama in the village

It’s not unusual to see cyclists trundling past on Sunday mornings. Generally they’re heading for Kinver Edge, though, on chunky mountain bikes.  Today is something else entirely: some 15,000 lycra-clad bodies speeding through on streamlined road racers with the slimmest of precision wheels.  It’s the first ever Vélo Birmingham, and following a shift in theContinue ReadingContinue Reading

On board in Menorca

With the dawn of a brighter, calmer morning comes the promise of plenty of activity in the bay. Colourful activity. Activity that takes you places. Soon the beach fills up and swimmers clad in various hues dive and splash in the gentle rollers, within the limits of yellow buoys marked out for that purpose. Don’tContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Taking Menorca by storm

Someone turned the volume up on the storm and I wondered if I’d ever get to sleep. You couldn’t check progress visually as by early evening we’d already made good our defences, bringing vulnerable terrace furniture indoors and fastening all the shutters. It sounded as though peeking through the front door wouldn’t be worth theContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Touch and go in Menorca

Of all our senses, how often do we consider ‘touch’? This morning gave me plenty of opportunities to be aware of texture and the sense of feeling. The day dawned bright and clear, with the sea below our apartment terrace like a mirror, so a pre-breakfast dip beckoned. The undisturbed sand was soft and coolContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Respect the sea

The weather forecast gets it wrong and we awake to cloud and strong wind. Yesterday’s pancake sea is replaced by galloping white horses, adding to the general rumpus. After a spell of refreshing rain the sky offers some Mediterranean blue once more and we take the chance to walk down to the shore – thisContinue ReadingContinue Reading

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