Thursday, 18 August 2022

The Things People Leave Behind


It must be a law of nature that things get left behind in hostels - particularly in hostel drying rooms. Odd socks stuffed down the back of a radiator. Walking boots that have fallen apart. Walking poles that have broken in half. And other such items which cannot be classed as lost exactly, it’s just that their owners have not managed to locate the bin. We also find ourselves retrieving a various selection of shower gel and shampoo bottles from the communal showers, and I’ll not mention the considerably less pleasant things left behind. Most of these items go unclaimed. But every now and then we get a phone call or an email, asking if such and such has been found or handed in. Returning these items to their owners is a job which falls to me. Or rather – it is a task actively selected by me. I have a real love of sending letters and parcels by post, plus I’m passing the Post Office in Eskdale Green on my bike most days.


What follows is a description of some of the items which I have returned to guests this year.


The first lost item was a Samsung Galaxy tablet with a blue case. It was found in the self-catering kitchen. It belonged to a woman who was in the middle of a walking tour of the Lake District – going from hostel to hostel across the fells. I wrapped it in bubble-wrap, and then created a nest of balled-up scrap paper within an empty Nestle ‘Big Biscuit Box’. I wrote a note explaining that I’d had to eat all 71 biscuits within to free up the box for postal use. I think she must have believed me. A week later a package arrived for me at the hostel – it contained a vast selection of M&S Swiss chocolates as a thank you present for safely returning the tablet.


The second item was a teddy bear, left behind after a school residential trip. We found it during the clean-up operation, along with the usual mounds of Haribo and chocolate wrappers dropped down the side of bunks. This one took a while to be claimed – sat on a shelf with other bears in the upstairs laundry cupboard. But eventually we had a phone call, and this teddy bear which their son had had from birth could be returned to him.


The next item was a 2012 Olympics towel. Each event from the Games was depicted within its own colourful square. The towel was left in the female dorm. This is the first time since starting work for the YHA in 2016 that I have known a left-behind towel to be claimed. It’s also the only forgotten towel which I’ve hoped wouldn’t be claimed! But that very same day, in the evening time, we received a phone call enquiring after it. And so, I duly parcelled it up in an empty carrier bag and posted it off to an address in Reading. The owner was extremely grateful for its return and explained that while it might seem like a lot of fuss for just a towel – the 2012 Olympic Games was the year and the time that her daughter was born.


After that it was a watch. I found it whilst vacuuming under the beds in Room 1. The rooms here are not only numbered; they are also named. They are named after places along the river Esk – from Sea to Source. Room 1 is named ‘Glannoventa’ – the Roman Fort down at Ravenglass. On this occasion, I already knew who the watch belonged to – the guests who had checked out of the room earlier that day. Upon contacting the person in question, I was informed that the watch was a gift from her sister, and that it lights up in the dark. I created a bespoke box to send it in. The boxes that our jam, honey, and marmalade breakfast portions come in have incredibly robust corners. One box on its own would have been far to big for this watch, though. So, I cut off two of the corners and slotted them together to make a much smaller box. I packaged the watch in enough bubble wrap to fill the space. I covered the exterior of the box in brown paper and wrote the address so that it was small enough to leave room for the postage sticker, but neatly and big enough to read. A few days later I received a card in the post with a note inside to cover the cost of posting the watch. The woman in question had been staying with her husband and their grandson. She wrote to say thank you, and to say how much their grandson enjoyed their stay – and that they hope it will set him off wanting to explore more. Then the card finished with this: “We all loved the hospitality we received – the lovely welcome and meal when we arrived, and the friendliness of all the staff. It’s the stuff of memories shared.”

The most recent item that I’ve posted back was just a few days ago in fact. A small men’s Berghaus down jacket in dark grey. This had been left in the drying room a couple of weeks ago. They didn’t realise that they were missing it because the weather had since become so hot. This was one of three jackets that had been left at more or less the same time – all forgotten for the same reason, I suppose.

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