‘My Antarctic’ Challenge: Sleeping Out! Part 1 documented the preparation Karen, Shackleton Foundation trustee, underwent when embarking on her ‘My Antarctic’ challenge of sleeping on the streets for the night. It’s now time to look at the actual challenge itself!
Confessions of a totally unprepared brat: pre-midnight experience
It’s 1945 and we leave Cassandra’s flat and head out into the street. We walk past some diners sitting outside enjoying a very delicious and relaxed dinner and we feel kind of ‘scuzzy’ in our gear.
We decided to head towards St James’ Park for the start of the evening. Acclimatise, sit on the park bench, chew over the proverbial fat. We quickly tucked into the chocolate and watched the world go by. It was really quite lovely not having an agenda. We listened more, saw and noticed more and generally enjoyed the moment. Cassandra took some fantastic photos of what we saw. We wondered if the homeless would have similar experiences or is this a luxury? We also wondered, what do they do – in the daytime? At night? Where do they go? Do they hang out in groups? Are there turfs?
We quickly reviewed our ‘happiness’ levels and we were both at 8/9 out of 10.
At about 2230 we decided to get up off our proverbial and head for the London Eye. We walked past a fellow entertainer, getting ready for his slumber time by caterwauling himself to sleep. The colour of the sky was glorious. The sounds were much more noticeable, as were the smells – both lovely and not so lovely…. We walked past The Foreign Office and the Treasury. For the first time, we noticed many details which we might not, had it been the daytime and busy. Of note, was a whole row of prams outside the Foreign Office – Mr Hague, do you have something to tell us?? We spot 1 police car.
At 2300, Trafalgar Square was still quite busy. Cassandra’s happiness level was at a strong 8/10. I guess mine was a 7/10. By the time we reached the Royal Festival Hall, the lights on The Eye had been turned off, or had they? They kept coming on and off throughout the night. Cassandra and I decided to lie on some benches and observe some people. There was even a jogger going about his business of getting fit at this hour. There were many skate boarders practising their moves. One guy was working on something on his computer and a couple of other people were finishing off their drinks and ‘partaking in the sacred herb’.
The not so gentle sounds of trains rolling into Charing Cross interrupted the general chattering noises at regular intervals. Up till this point, we had only encountered 3 homeless people. We wondered where they all were. By this stage, Cassandra and I were fast running out of steam and good cheer. I was terribly sleepy (nothing to do with the copious amounts of wine from the night before) and I dosed off for about 10 minutes. The ever watchful and vigilant Cassandra was not quite as lackadaisical.
We wondered about how difficult it was for us to sleep, worrying about what may or may not happen. Imagine what is must be like, day in, day out, especially in worse weather conditions. Cassandra and I decided to pack up and leave the hustle and bustle for St James’ Park again. We chose it because it is not locked up at night. As we dragged our feet that way, we barely noticed any more homeless people. Where are they? Our count up till this point is about 11.