Monday, 28 January 2019

We Spent The Night On The Streets Of London

For our trip to Aalborg at the weekend, we had to get an early flight and we usually just go to the airport to spend the night there before the flight. But this time Matilda asked me to do something different with her and she wanted to spend the night in London and make a YT video with her. I have done this before and spent the night at St Pancras when she was a baby, with her older sisters. But although I had a night all planned out, it never quite went to plan!

We headed to the cinema to watch Aquaman and got a showing as late as possible, this finished just after midnight, everything was going to plan so far. Then we headed towards Liverpool Street. The tube was empty until we got closer to the city and then you could barely move for people. London is so alive with people at night. We got to Liverpool street to find the station locked up, not quite what I had in mind! I had assumed the station would be open because of the coaches leaving so early to Stansted. I was wrong. I took Matilda for a drink in KFC, but couldn't sit down in there because they don't allow it at night, I guess it stops the drunks from sleeping there. We took our drink and went to sit on the steps of the train station. People walked past us, stared at us and then I realised that they aren't used to seeing a kid on the streets of London at that time of night. By now it was just after 1am. One guy came to us and told us there were places that we could go, but I explained we weren't homeless. He told us that he was but we watched him and he was helping all of the party goers get home. He told them what buses they needed and where to get them from. Every time people came to talk to us, the homeless guy was by our side to check we were okay. A drunk man kept rambling on to us, but as I was sober I couldn't understand the drunk talk. Again the homeless guy was by our side. We went for a walk to see where our coach was going from and a homeless guy was laying his sleeping bag out for the night. He stuck some pictures to the wooden surroundings and he said to the passers-by "what do you think of my designer room, come and have a look" even though he was living in the street, he still kept his sense of humour.

We went to the back of Liverpool Street station and sat on some steps. We were chatting amongst ourselves and an employee of the train station walked passed us. He asked us if we were homeless, then as soon as he said he regretted it because you don't normally see any homeless people wrapped up like we are he said. He also said that he would have felt bad if he had walked past and not tried to help. I explained I was waiting for 3 a.m. bus replacement service to Stansted airport and I didn't realise the train station was closed so he got on his phone and rung up someone inside the station to check that the bus would be running on time and ask what time is station would open and then he took a seat next to us and sat with us for a whole hour before he went home.

Eventually, the train station opened just before 3 a.m. and true to their word they opened the back gates first. Tilly and I went through and climbed on the bus replacement service and headed off to Stansted airport.

When we were on the bus I had a little bit of a chat with Tilly that about homelessness and how hard it had been for her to wait in the cold streets for 2 hours and to imagine how hard it must be for people that live on the streets permanently. Would I do this again?  Probably, yes because my daughter learnt a valuable lesson about homelessness and all the bad press homeless people get. But in reality, they are caring human beings like we are. Homeless people made us feel safe on the streets of London through the night. If you're going to do this whilst waiting for an early morning coach or train make sure there is somewhere for you to wait that's warm and dry. Maybe I should have done my homework a little bit better! I should have just checked to see that Liverpool Street station would stay open all night. Make sure you wrap up warm we had t-shirts, jumpers, cardigans, tights, socks, gloves and hats so we were completely warm and the temperature hadn't really dropped that much so it wasn't too bad.

Also if you're going to do this go with your gut instinct and what you know and what you've researched before you do it because I had people telling me that there was no 3:10 replacement bus coming out of Liverpool Street and the first one would be 4:40 in the morning I had checked the train times and know that there was one at 3:10 but if I'd listened to the people that said it was 4:40 am, then I would have ended up paying extra and jumping on National Express bus,  So it did make me panic a little bit.

Our few hours on the streets of London through the night was a real eye-opener. There were so many people who took the time to stop and chat to us, they made sure we were never alone and I sure had to have my wits about me. It's not for everyone.

Thank you, London, for looking after us.

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