Sleeping in a church hall reminded me of a Scout camp I went on once. Actually, it was a Cub camp; I never made it as far as the Scouts, and here’s why:
Some other kid and I were shining our torches onto the ceiling of the hall after lights-out and having a good old laugh about it. The leaders’ threats became more dramatic the more we ignored them, culminating in a choice between going to sleep and having our parents roused from their slumber to come and get us right away. I can’t remember where they’d taken us for this ‘camp’ but it was at least a few hours’ drive from home. Like the others before it, this threat went unheeded, forcing our opponents’ hand. Though it was the middle of the night, we were told that our parents were on their way and we were to pack our things and prepare for their arrival.
I think my partner in crime’s will broke and he started blubbing and grovelling, which no doubt pleased our adversaries no end. I, however, was resolute: not because I was preturnaturally brave, but because the thought of my parents’ passionate fury was nothing compared to the shiteness of the camp. Sleeping bags on the floor of some strange church hall, bad food and, for fun, ritual humiliation in the traditional children’s game, Let’s Rank Our Worth By Athletic Prowess.
Pathetically and crushingly, the Cub leaders had lied. Our parents hadn’t been called and were still, as infuriating as the thought was, lying in REAL beds in REAL houses and no doubt sleeping soundly. I mean, really, where were they planning to go after dropping that whopper? “Your parents are coming. No… wait. No they’re not. We just told you that to make you cry and crush your spirit. We hadn’t realised your contempt for us outweighed your fear of your parents.” I’m still ashamed that I didn’t demand the use of the phone then and there.
I’ve slept on plenty of floors since then, and doing so when discovering drugs and girls led to my becoming fond of it by default – a pavlovian response. So I didn’t mind at all sleeping in the church hall, even opting for my usual bag-for-a-pillow, jacket-for-a-blanket over everyone else’s comfy sleeping bag and camping mat approach.
It’s only the fact that that we were all lined up on the floor of the hall that reminded me of that night. In the morning I would awake and go to battle. The foe this time, the utterly immoral and militarily useless WMDs that we’re continuing to develop though we can’t afford it. Like that childhood memory, I would be brave, but wouldn’t follow through; I’m not there to get arrested, and I’ll back down and do what I’m told. Unlike that Cub-scout skirmish, though, this time I REALLY don’t want them to phone my mum.