Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Camping without a sleeping bag

Following a mistake by yours truly I ended up wild camping in a tent without a sleeping bag last week and this has got me very thoughtful about how rough sleepers cope. But first I must say ...

It was a fabulous week away with the best weather possible. We spent 2 days in the mountains taking on Snowdon via Crib Goch, and 3 days on the beach all spent with the Wonderful Kellets. The week was finished off with a visit to see the Sturmeys and Colcloughs in Wellington, two families we have met camping in Wales so they know a thing or two about staying warm in a tent. And we just had time to visit Godfirst church in Cheltenham before heading back to Catford. I loved last week; it had everything - adventure, amazing views, spending time with great family and friends, time with my wife and children - and I got back all ready to organise and prepare talks for this weekend's social action conference.

Anyhow, back to the wild camping. I managed to only pack one sleeping bag for our Dads and Lads wild camping trip so I was left with the only option which was to sleep in all my clothes and 2 dressing gowns (donated to me by my son and nephew) and donate my brand new sleeping bag to my son. After putting up the tents and the classic camp fire, we all headed to our beds and I managed to get to sleep OK and for the first 4 hours slept more than I was awake. But by 2am I knew that I was in trouble as the night had suddenly got much colder - obviously the cloud had cleared! Between 2am and 5am I tried everything to stop having cold spots on my body but every time I moved another part of me felt cold. In fact I had a recurring 'nightmare' when I came to, to realise that I did not have a sleeping bag!!

So it made me think that rough sleepers go through a huge amount of pain. I had a shelter over my head so was always going to be dry. And I also know that people sleep rough in far colder weather. But the cold wakes you up, it leaves you feeling vulnerable and helpless. There are some people I know who prefer to sleep rough rather than be 'inside' a house. One man in Bedford always slept rough and I remember finding him one night when there was a layer of frost on his bedding. A few winters ago I found a man in Lewisham centre who was sleeping with snow covering part of him. It seems the body can adjust to the cold but I don't intend to practice this 'skill'. Next time I will double check the number of sleeping bags before setting off to the mountains!

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Beauty of Mountains

One of the times when I know I am most alive is when I escape to the mountains. And because of my Knee injuries and then the operation I haven't been up a mountain since the last day of July when we climbed Maeglase in Mid Wales. Today then signals the start of a new year of mountains and every year my brother-in-law and I take our boys away camping and scrambling. So assuming my leg holds up we will be getting our fill of the beauty that is the British Isles. Each time I climb I realise how untouched the mountains are. Sure there are paths worn by boots but there are many parts of the mountains that simply do not get affected by humans. But a long time ago I realised that I should live in the city but get to the hills as regularly as possible. So here we go ... I'm off to the mountains.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The smell of poverty

When I went to Mumbai I was told to prepare for the smell that would hit me. Well on a number of occasions in London I have smelt far worse than anything I smelt in mumbai. Yesterday was an example of this - sadly in one of the houses I manage!! And because I wanted the causes of the smell out of the house immediately I cleared out the room. It was really foul, so if you are currently eating or feel squimish don't read this! Firstly there were the milk cartoons with various levels of milk in them, including one on the radiator. Next there was the blue bread After that it was the maggots in the ham Then suspicious looking eggs that I have now discovered are cochroach eggs. It was shockingly bad. I don't want to mention the rest. I cleared the floor in order to open the window to get some fresh air - but when I got to the window I was amazed to find it fully open. Ahhh! Late last evening and hours after being in the room I got a smell of it again. How did that smell stay with me? It is the smell of poverty. Of neglect. Reflecting a lack of self worth and ultimately a desperately sad end to this man's opportunity to rebuild his life! The room reflected his own heart!