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Published on Thu, 18 Oct 2012 10:02:25 +0000 Indexed on 2012/10/18 11:10 UTC
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On the 5th of October 2012, a team of nine plucky Red Gaters braved the howling wind and the driving rain to sleep outside. No tents or mattresses were allowed – all we took for protection were sleeping bags, groundsheets, plastic sacks and Colin’s enormous fishing umbrella (a godsend in umbrella-y disguise).
Why would we do such a thing? For Byte Night, an annual tech sector sleepout in support of Action for Children, who tackle the causes as well as the consequences of youth homelessness. Byte Night encourages technology professionals to do for one night a year what thousands of young people have to do every night – sleep rough.
We signed up for Byte Night in the warm, heady midst of the British summer, thinking it couldn’t possibly be all that bad. Even on the night itself – before the rain began to fall, sat in the comfort and warmth of a company canteen, drinking wine and eating chill and preparing to win the pub quiz – we were excited and optimistic about the night that lay ahead of us.
All of that changed as soon as we stepped out into one of the worst rainstorms of the year. Brian, the team’s birthday boy, describes it best:
Picture the scene: it’s 3 am on a Friday. I’m lying outside, fully clothed in a sleeping bag, wearing a raincoat, trussed up inside a large plastic pocket, on a ground sheet beneath a giant umbrella, wedged so tightly between two of my colleagues that I can’t move my arms. I’m wide awake, staring up at the grey sky beyond the edge of the umbrella; a limp, flickering white glow hints at a moon somewhere behind the drifting clouds. I haven’t slept since we first moved outside at 11 pm. Outside. Did I mention we were outside?
I’m hung over. I need the loo. But there is no way on earth that I’m getting out of this sleeping bag.
It’s cold. It’s raining. Not just raining, but chucking it down. It’s been doing this non-stop since 10pm. The rain sounds like a hyperactive drummer on the fishing umbrella, and the noise is loud and relentless. Puddles of water are forming all over the groundsheet, and, despite being ensconced inside the plastic pouch, I am wet. The fishing umbrella is protecting me from the worst of the driving rain, but not all of me is under it, and five hours of rain is no match for it.
Everything is wet. My left side has become horribly damp. My trainers, which I placed next to my sleeping bag, are now completely soaked through. Mmm. That’ll be fun in the morning. My head is next to Colin’s head on one side, and a multi-pack of McCoy’s cheddar and onion crisps on the other. Don’t ask about the tub of hummus. That’s somewhere down by my ankles, abandoned to the night.
Jess, who is lying next to me, rolls over onto her side. A mini waterfall cascades from her rain-pouch onto my face. Bah. I continue to stare into the heavens, willing the dawn to hurry up.
Something lands on my face. It’s a mosquito.
Midnight, when this still seemed like fun – when we opened some champagne and my colleagues presented me with a caterpillar birthday cake, when everyone was drunk and jolly and full of stoic resolve – feels like a long time ago. Did I mention that today is my birthday? The remains of the caterpillar cake endure the same fate as the hummus, left out in the rain like a metaphor for sadness.
It’s getting colder. I can see my breath. Silence has descended on the group, apart from the rustle of plastic. And the rain, obviously. Someone snores, and I envy whoever it is the sweet escape of sleep. I try to wriggle a bit further down inside my sleeping bag, but it doesn’t want to be wriggled into.
Only 3 hours till dawn. 180 minutes. I begin to count them off, one at a time.
All nine of us got to go home in the morning, but thousands of children across the UK don’t have that luxury. If you’d like to sponsor the Red Gate Byte Night team, our JustGiving page can be found here.
Chris, before the outside bit actually happened. More photos from Byte Night Cambridge 2012 can be found here.
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