Diary of CEO Sleepout Sleeper
(Spoiler alert – this was for one night only and began and ended in a warm car with added heated seat option…) – Paul McFarland 21.11.2022 18:55 – Arrive at Lord’s, enter by the hallowed Grace Gates. 19:15 – Have found the other Borderline fundraisers. Delicious cup of soup and a roll; that could be it until the highly-anticipated bacon butty at dawn. 19:45 – 21:00 – As forecast, outside it’s now about 6C and falling, but not raining and cosy indoors where moving speeches by three formerly homeless people now in various stages of rescuing their lives and being rescued are made. 21:00 – I’m learning from those who work in this area… over 8,000 reported homeless on London’s streets in the last year and numbers rising. Some 140-160 will die each year and have a simple burial or cremation, not a funeral as such. An annual memorial service brings them back to mind, one by one, name by name. More than half die from substance abuse and suicide. I read somewhere that average life expectancy on the streets is 45 for men and 43 for women. 21:30 – Head for our billet in the stands: it’s between point and third man if a right-handed batter is at the pavilion end crease…we choose our slab of concrete between the seats. Just enough dry stretches between the puddles left from the day’s rain. 21:45 – 23:45 – Unroll mats and sleeping bags, clamber into more layers of clothing and socks. There’s tea, coffee (and I’d brought a chocolate bar), and people to chat with, till a silent consensus that it’s time to settle. The lights remain on all night. 01:00 – Think I’ve slept but not entirely sure. It’s cold. My mat is really comfy, far better than a homeless person could hope for, but sleeping bag is too thin. 01:30 – Awake; or awake again? While trying to position my arthritic knees comfortably, have now induced cramp. Invent a new stretching exercise. Works; might keep it in the repertoire! 02:00 – Definitely been asleep and feel quite comfortable now. But not sure what woke me… traffic noise, or is it that I’m still cold? 03:10 – Someone’s snoring has got a lot worse, really worse…. No. That’s a helicopter … circling; usually the other side of doubleglazed windows. Circles for 10 minutes. 04:00 – Must have been asleep but definitely am not now. Too much tea, and the facilities aren’t exactly ensuite. 05:15 – Fell asleep again but now roused by low-grade chatter as people stir ahead of the 06:00 target. Think: the red-eye flights as they approach the western isles, and stewards, bustling and banging, wake you far sooner than you need. Turn over and try to ignore. 05:50 – Now the thrum of people rousing is joined by cooking smells. The promised bacon roll is imminent. Give in…. get up. 06:00 – Glasses on; no point looking for contacts. How do homeless people manage contacts?… No, of course they don’t have such luxuries. 06:10 – Bundle up bedding and clothing and follow the smell of breakfast. 06:30 – Now we can congratulate ourselves and each other; many look like they just came downstairs after a perfect eight hours in a featherbed! Not how I feel; assume not how I look. I do feel smug though. 07:30 – Restored by tea and food … head for the car. 08:00 – Hot shower in my own home; never more welcome! Unlike the 8,000 homeless, I can stagger through the day knowing there’s a warm dry bed for me each night… at least till I meet up with friends old and new at next year’s CEO Sleepout. Paul and the other fundraisers pages are still open for donations, please see our News section on the website for details.