Welcome to Alice Park, Bath – scene of the City’s yearly charity sleep out organised by Julian House, as being as close to a real life homelessness experience as possible? For ten hours or so I had the privilege of tasting what it is like to be homeless and sleeping rough in a Spa town. That is if most homeless people have access to clean loo’s, round the clock warden patrols and a late night snack bar featuring not only almost hot drinks but also a comprehensive range of household confectionary.
Not knowing anyone I dumped my stuff in what later turned out to be mud and went off to explore the darkness. Away from the lights a man in a light coloured hoodie appeared to be hugging a tree – he was probably having a piss, except that I saw him again a few moments later next to another tree. Then it seemed like he might be following me so I turned to face him but he walked past me and off to make the aquaintance of a pretty Beech sapling. Adopting the mantra 'if you can't beat 'em' I relieved myself in a confident manner (it was dark) against the lower trunk of an unassuming Silver Birch before returning to see if my stuff was where I’d left it. It was.
I got ready for bed, this meant putting on more clothes rather than removing any. I inched myself into my bag, pulled the duvet over me and drank the first flask of tomato soup before syncronising my iPhone with my inner clock, time for a couple of selfies before it was lights out.
I lay awake for for an hour or three watching numerous stars and a brilliant half moon beating a leisurely retreat across the Heavens before making two decisions A) that I needed a piss and B) that I couldn’t be arsed to get out of ‘bed’ to do it. Moments later, having unbuttoned and unzipped handfuls of fabric I levered myself onto the edge of the mattress and having checked no one was shining blitz searchlights over my head I proceeded, with less aplomb than previously to pee into the unknown. Soon I was attempting to remove the couple of outer layers that had entered the orbit of my comet like urinary trail. I was actually warmer and more comfortable wearing less layers.
One shooting star and two hours later I awoke to find the duvet very damp (not what you’re thinking) for whilst the night might have been cloudless there was nonetheless a large amount of moisture in the air. I thought this only happened at dawn but this is still winter so it’s damp al the time apparently. I decided to eat my two energy bars but I was unable to undo the wrapper on the one bar so I stowed it away on a corner of my life raft and stared into the black for another couple of hours.
And then it was morning! I hadn’t been too cold or wet. It had been ok. I packed up my kit, nodded all manly like to to some fluorescent wellie wearing Guardian reader types before drifting off to find the motor. I texted Darling #1 to say fire up the Aga and that I’d pick up the papers en route before nosing my way along Bath’s late dawn limestone streets, down Lansdowne, up Southdown towards caffeine and a chance to loose myself in the weekend’s travel supplements.
And that’s pretty much it – except to say a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored a terrific cause: Helen, Jane, Anonymous #1, Sarah & David, Glyn, Deborah, Carolyn, Nancy, Diane, Bev & Mark, Sue, Debs, Liza, Kim, Anonymous #2, Dof, Stephanie, Ann, Nat, Jenny & David – cheers guys! £200+ (and counting) x