YMCA Sleep Easy Challenge 2013

One of the most basic human rights is to have somewhere safe and stable to live, yet homelessness continues to be one of the worst social problems in Britain today.

On a personal level, I’ve only had to sleep rough (not by choice) on one occasion. Back in 2002, I was working at a summer camp in New York State. During a night out in Lake George, and on impulse, myself and two colleagues decided to skip our curfew and stay out and party. We assumed we would be able to rent a motel room for the night, but unfortunately we were mistaken. We walked to every hotel and motel we were aware of in the whole town, but nowhere could we find a bed for the night. We got so desperate that, in tears, I begged one hotel manager to let us pay him to sleep on his office floor. I think he almost gave in, but unfortunately said he couldn’t let us stay at his establishment. With no other choice, we slept on the side of the road. Unfortunately, we made a rookie mistake. We chose to wait out the night on a road running alongside a park. It was only when the sun came up the next morning that we realised the whole area was covered in dew and we were soaked. I was lucky, though. I had enough money in my pocket to go and buy some breakfast whilst we waited for our bus, and once we returned to camp I was able to have a hot shower and sleep in a warm bed.

My experience in America is what inspired me to take part in the Cardiff YMCA Sleep Easy Challenge 2013 on Friday night. Over 100 of us slept rough in a city centre car park to raise awareness of homelessness in Wales and to raise much needed money to fund an emergency room at the YMCA hostel.

I was so determined to take part in the Sleep Easy Challenge this year that I would have gone along on my own, but I’m very pleased to say that my good friend Geri volunteered to come with me. We arrived just after 8pm, and joined in the scramble for cardboard to make our beds. This is only the second year that the event has taken place in Cardiff, and the organisers weren’t expecting so many people to turn up. Two of the car park staff were up and down in the lift for over an hour, trying to bring up as much cardboard as possible with one bin between them.

There was a really great atmosphere in the car park, a sense of community as everyone came together to support each other through the night. At around 10pm, the good old Welsh weather demonstrated what it is known for as the wind started to pick up and howled through the car park. Geri and I tried to make our area as comfortable as we could.

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Thirty minutes after this photo was taken, the rain started to pour. It came in horizontally through the wire mesh that you can see behind me, and dripped from the ceiling. Our sleeping bags got wet, and the cardboard that we’d put up behind us in an attempt to protect us from the weather turned into a soggy pile of pulp. I found the driest spot I could, buried myself in my sleeping bag and willed myself to fall asleep. Surprisingly, I did manage to sleep for a few hours. Again, though, I’m one of the lucky ones. At 5am I was able to drive home, put my damp sleeping bag in the washing machine, have a hot shower and get into my warm bed. I can’t imagine having to sleep in that sleeping bag in a wet car park the next night, and the next night, and the next night…

I’m proud to say that I raised £145 for YMCA. I also had the added bonus of sharing a great experience with a bunch of fantastic people. The hope is that the Sleep Easy Challenge will get bigger and bigger every year. How great would it be if they could one day fill the whole car park with fundraisers?

A cultural 100 steps along City Road

scan0006Seeing as I enjoyed my first 100 steps a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d have another go.

Cardiff is a very culturally ecclectic city, and nowhere is a better example of that than City Road, just a short walk from my home. From food shops to hairdressers and pubs to restaurants, City Road has the biggest diversity of businesses that I have ever seen on one street. Here are my first 100 steps along City Road:

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Milgi is one of my favourite local restaurants. It is completely vegetarian, as voted for by their customers, and has a really relaxed atmosphere.

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A shisha cafe, increasingly popular in Cardiff.

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The Baghdad Market, next door to the old bowling alley. The disused building is now a canvas for street art.

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You really can get food from all over the world on City Road.

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As I was walking along City Road, I realised just how long it is, so I took another 100 steps:

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I’d never noticed this shop before. New businesses pop up all the time, and disappear just as quickly. This one seems to sell almost everything!

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From a specialist barbers…

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And a sign of sadder times – one of the many shops that has closed down.

 

Sleep Easy Challenge 2013

It’s very apt that this week’s photo challenge this is home. I’ve been very lucky in my life. Wherever I have been in the world, I have always had a safe, warm place to go home to at the end of the day, even if that has sometimes just been a friend’s sofa. There has only been one night in my life that I have had to sleep out on the streets through no choice of my own. When I was working in Brant Lake, New York for the summer, two friends and I decided to skip curfew and stay out in Lake George for a few extra drinks. We thought we would be able to rent a hotel room for the night where we could crash until we were able to catch the bus back to our camp the next morning. Unfortunately, there were no rooms available in the whole town. We walked EVERYWHERE asking for a room, at one point I even begged a hotel manager to let us sleep on his office floor. But alas, there was nothing anyone could do to help us. As the town shut down for the night, we were left stranded out on the street with nothing but our clothes, which were definitely not suitable for nighttime temperatures. We decided the local park would be the best place to try and rest our heads for the night, but that turned out to be a rookie mistake. As soon as the sun started to rise we realised that the whole park was covered in dew, which had soaked through all our clothes and made us feel even colder. By 5.45am we were waiting outside the doors of the pancake restaurant for it to open. My one night on the streets was horrible, I never want to have to go through anything like it again, and I don’t know how some people do it night after night.

My experience in Lake George is one of the reasons that I have decided to take part in the YMCA Sleep Easy Challenge 2013. Myself and over 100 other people are going to sleep out under the stars in Cardiff for one night to raise awareness of homelessness in the city, and to raise funds for the charity. Last year was the first event of it’s kind held in Cardiff, 49 people took part and raised an average of £100 each. This year, they have space for 150 people. If we can raise the same as they did last year, the YMCA will be able to keep an emergency room open in one of their hostels for another year. We have some terrible weather here in the UK, particularly during the cold winters, and the emergency rooms provide vulnerable people with shelter for the night. For every night we have adverse weather, that room can potentially save a life.

Think of me on Friday 8th March, and send me warm thoughts! I promise I’ll let you know how the event goes as soon as the feeling has returned to my hands and I can type! If you would like to sponsor me, please click here to be redirected to my sponsorship page.

 

100 steps

Last week I discovered yet another fantastic interactive idea whilst exploring other people’s blogs. 100 Steps encourages you to explore your environment, and really notice the details whilst you’re doing it. Pick a starting point, take a photo, count 100 steps and take another photo. What did you notice on the way?

For my first 100 steps, I decided to start from the place I probably know best at the moment – my home.

This is the view from outside my front door. I’m very lucky to live on a beautiful park.

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First of all, I walked 100 steps down my street. It surprised me how short a distance 100 steps is. Below is my photo after 100 steps. As you can see, our street is lined on both sides by big, beautiful trees. As much as we are keen to keep as much natural green areas as we can in the city, these trees are also causing lots of accidents because they are so big that their roots lift up the pavement, sometimes feet away from where the trunk of the tree is. Because of this, some of the trees have been chopped down. This tree stump is a reminder to me of the constant balance we have to achieve between the natural world and modern living.

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Once I’d taken my first 100 steps, I was hooked! This next photo is of 100 steps into the park – our new outdoor swimming pool that I showed you the other day. I promise I will take some photos of the park in the summer so that you can see how great it usually is when it’s not flooded. I love the fact that I live in a city, but within 100 steps of my home I am in the tranquil oasis of the park.

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And finally, 100 steps in another direction, towards the hustle and bustle of the city. This corner shop used to be one of three independent local shops on this street. The other two have since been taken over by big brand chains. Although we shop at chains as well, we are very proud of our independent shops in our neighbourhood, but unfortunately more and more disappear every year. This little corner shop was one of my favourites because the old man who owned it would charge everyone different prices depending on how much he liked you. I was lucky, he liked me. It was probably one of the main reasons they had to close.

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Thanks to Chittle Chattle for introducing me to 100 steps. It’s helped me to see my neighbourhood in a whole new light. Click here if you want to join in and take 100 steps too.

What do you think of our new swimming pool?

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I really wanted to share this photo with you. Since the snow has melted, and the rain has poured down by the bucket load, we’ve had lots of problems with flooding. There are lots of jokes going around about new ‘swimming pools’ suddenly cropping up everywhere. I spotted this one whilst I was out running in my local park. Believe it or not, this is usually a beautiful area of lush green grass where all the locals hang out in the summer.

I also have two pieces of exciting news. This week, my short story ‘The Föhn Wind’ was posted on The Write Travel Blog. Click here to have a read. AND, Nicole over at Thirdeyemom used one of my posts for her Feature Friday. Click here to relive my day out in Lucca. Please feel free to leave comments and tell me what you think of both posts, as always your feedback will be much appreciated.

What do you think?

We’re still snowed in here in South Wales. I tried to go for a run on Sunday, but it turned into more of a hopscotch as I tried to avoid sliding on patches of ice.

Although some things have come to a standstill here, Sasieology has some exciting news. Firstly, a post I wrote about my trip-of-a-lifetime to the Grand Canyon was published on Bucketlist Publications. Click here to read the post, and please feel free to leave comments.

Secondly, Bucketlist Publications are also considering using my design for their new logo. Check out my idea and the competition here – all feedback gratefully received! After reading some of the comments that have already been left, I’m busy working on some changes to my logo so I’d better go and get on with it. I’ll keep you updated…

Cardiff in Snow

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Pretty much everything has come to a stand-still here in South Wales this weekend. It started snowing here at 3am on Friday, and it’s so cold at the moment that the snow hasn’t melted. I thought I’d share some photos of my neighbourhood with you that I took today.

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This was the view from outside my flat this morning.

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The rose garden, blooming and beautiful in the summer, looks a lot different covered in snow.

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The local kids literally wore the snow off the hill with their sledges.

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I found this cute little fellow on a wall outside a neighbour’s house.

The snow is on it’s way

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We found out on Friday that we were due to get snow here in Wales over the weekend. Cue mass hysteria in our office. Us Brits really don’t deal well with snow. To be fair, the snow we get here in the UK isn’t like the nice, soft, fluffy stuff you get in the rest of Europe. Here it falls in big, slushy dollops and then freezes within hours, turning the roads into massive ice cubes.

For most of the weekend, the weather has just been wet, cold and incredibly windy. I braved it yesterday to walk to the market and the gym, but then retreated inside to enjoy a hot bowl of homemade leek and potato soup.

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The first snow flakes, although still very wet and slushy, started to fall here in Cardiff at about 8.30pm tonight. I’ll be up early in the morning to see if it’s settled and find out if we’re snowed in!

2013: Bring It On

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I hope you like my new sketches that I’ve started adding to some of my posts. One of the things I want to do more of this year is draw, as it’s something that I used to do a lot of but I’ve let slip in the past couple of years. I thought my blog would be the perfect opportunity to encourage myself to get drawing again. My idea is to add sketches to my posts that represent what I’ve been up to that week.

This little doodle symbolises how I hope to grow in 2013. But who knows where that growth will take me?

I’m also loving being inspired by other people’s art at the moment. Good street art in particular is really getting me excited, like this great silhouette stencil that I spotted on my way home from the market on Saturday morning.

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