Sleeping with Simon- My night under the stars.

Louise Lapish Director of Gatewood Consulting committed to spend a night under the stars in support of one of her favourite charity’s Simon on the Streets. She is not used to roughing it and has never even been camping. We found out how she faired in her personal sleep out blog.

Watching the weather forecast

In the days running up to the sleep out it seemed that everyone, including me, became obsessed with the weather forecast around Leeds. I was told I wanted the cloud, it would keep the chill off, although with cloud comes the chance of rain. I wanted it a low enough temperature but not too cold and so on. One friend asked if I’d tested out my sleeping bag…the thought had not even crossed my mind. (I did test it the night before, resulting in a mad dash for thermals from a well known supermarket)

Carrying Cardboard

Arriving at the Royal Armouries, Leeds, the venue for the sleep out, I took a moment to think if this was the only choice I had night after night how would I be feeling? I had a sense of trepidation and I knew that in a few hours I would be returning to the safety of my car and ultimately my bed. When I’d signed in it was time to find my patch of ground. There was a plethora of conversations happening around me, where should people pitch? Near the trees for shelter? Nearer others for a wind break? In the centre for space. I opted for a space near the trees. I looked around and saw the impressive constructions that people had fabricated from simple cardboard. This made me look at my own boxes and have a major re think.

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Bedding down 10pm

It was nearing 10pm and I had arranged my sleeping area, I was feeling slightly warm with the multiple layers of thermals but knew they could be my saviour as the night progressed. All the sleepers were invited to watch two moving videos, if anyone needed a reminder about the amazing achievements the SOTS team make this was it. I’d met with my other Yorkshire Mafia team members and the countdown to morning began…

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In the midnight hour

There was laughter and frivolity from some of the groups around me, the sounds cut through the still night air. I wondered how many times someone has been sleeping in a doorway as my friends and I enjoy nights out. Do they hear the laughter and feel a sense of isolation? The sleep out was never supposed to be about replicating how it really is for rough sleepers. That was never going to be possible; everyone at the event shared the same goal. I had no worries that someone was going to spit at me, beat me up or treat me in some other despicable way. I huddled in my box and felt sleep come.

1 am- fright night

I woke up with a start as the cardboard box surrounding my head shook violently; it took me a second to remember where I was. Was it the wind or the black feral cat I’d spotted through the small slit in my card board box? I felt my heart beating in my chest; somewhat irrationally as I knew that nothing bad could happen. Luckily I was still connected to my real life through the wonders of technology and read the numerous good luck messages I had received. I suppose events like this make you realise just how important friends and family are.

2 and 3 am – the longest hours

Sleep was somewhat absent and I lay there thinking about all kinds of things, my mind was racing. I was cold. The discarded layers that I was using as a pillow soon became clothing and blankets again. I think I had eight layers on in total, but felt like the chill had gone right to my bones. Somehow I drifted off to sleep again.

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4.30 am – then the rain came

The sound of the rain hitting my cardboard shelter woke me up with a start, which coupled with the sound of rustling from my fellow sleepers to pull out waterproofs and shield from the downpour, meant I was very much awake. I was very relieved that my head was hidden in my makeshift home. I remember laughing to myself and thinking that at least I didn’t get off too lightly. Luckily the rain left almost as quickly as it arrived and the sky started to lighten. Sleep came.

5.45 am- the morning comes

Woken by the dulcet tones of Jamie with a megaphone it was time to pack up and go home, not before eating one of the provided sausage sandwiches. I’d done it! I was hugely relieved that the daylight was coming. Rolling up the sleeping bag and dismantling my pitch I was so proud to get through the night. I followed the dishevelled sleepers towards the exit. Davis Israel asked me if camping was the way forward…..that met with a resounding no!

The aftermath of the sleep out

When I arrived home I had a very hot shower and climbed into my bed, it took me a couple of hours to feel warm again. I can’t imagine how rough sleepers feel when they don’t have somewhere warm to head to. That’s when the emotional support really comes in to play; you can pretty much cope with anything when you know someone cares. As for me? I spent the weekend being emotional as my sponsorship rose and rose. When I broke the £500 mark I raised a glass of something fizzy. My amazing support network of friends, family and colleagues have raised enough money to ensure an evening support worker and volunteer can carry on doing their amazing work for six months. I could never have imagined how much emotional and financial support I would receive.

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What about next year?

Would I do it again? If you know me by now, you know I always have to go one step further. I’ve all ready put my hat in the ring to help organise next year’s event! Be afraid be very afraid I’ll be asking you to sign up soon! If you haven’t donated and would like to there is still time. Thanks again to everyone who made it possible.