There’s a funny smell in the spare room. My lovely dad has brought me his sooper-dooper, 5-season, Arctic-weight sleeping bag, which has been living in the garage at their house since my equally lovely mum tactfully pointed out that he was on the wrong side of 60-something for intrepid winter camping expeditions up mountains in the Lake District.
So, in preparation for my sponsored sleep out on Saturday, it’s opened and airing over a drying rack so that asphyxiation from mustiness isn’t added to my list of things to dread.
I’ve never done anything sponsored since I left school. It’s a funny feeling to rattle a (real or virtual) begging bowl under people’s noses, and talk at them about the reason why I’m doing it. I’ve not been aware of Nightstop Teesside for very long, but was drawn to their work from the very start, and when I saw that they were recruiting volunteers to fund raise by sleeping rough, it just seemed like something I could do, and something which I knew people would donate to, if only for the novelty.
The only way to raise money for them is to tell as many people as possible about what I’m doing, but it makes me feel uncomfortable. It seems wrong that friends and family will give money because I’m spending a night outside, when they would be less likely to do it for an abstract cause – no matter how worthwhile it might seem to them. I suppose that this is just the nature of raising money for charity and trying to get extra cash from people who already donate to the things which are most important to them. I just struggle when people use words like “brave” (“stupid” I can live with!) when, after all, it’s a choice – and one night out of a very comfortable life.
In the words of the immortal Pulp, everyone hates a tourist. Even the most vivid imagination doesn’t get me far in trying to picture life without all my advantages, and trying is a bit of an insult.
I am sheltered in every sense of the word. I had the supreme luck to be loved as a child, and to be set on a path in life which still hedges me round with protection. I am lucky enough to have never fallen or strayed too far from that path, and to have been supported and helped whenever that was a risk. I give thanks every day for what I have, both materially and otherwise, and will do all in my power to give the same to my children.
My taste in literature is sufficiently poor that the trite little truism about “roots and wings” being the best things a child can have still appeals to me. I’m not so naive as to think that I can somehow guarantee to raise them in such a way as to keep them safe from all the snares that await. Nor can I protect them from tragedy, illness or accident which – God forbid – would leave them without. That notwithstanding, they are so much more fortunate than far too many children and young people who don’t have those buffers to keep them from facing the world alone too early.
When I’m out in Redcar on Saturday night; cold, possibly wet, and almost certainly uncomfortable, I almost hope that I can still smell a bit of my parent’s garage on the sleeping bag. Even if I can’t, I know that they and lots of other people will be thinking of me and wishing me home.