Koanimanjaro: it’s ruining Warwick group chats

‘Guys, I’m climbing Kilimanjaro for charity this Easter. It’s like the highest thing in Africa, except for — like — me afterwards. Hah hah hah’.

Koanimanjaro: it’s ruining Warwick group chats

Kilimanjaro is the gap year substitute for those who only discovered how deeply edgy they were after a couple of terms spent rubbing their purple Adidas-jacketed shoulders against the sea of middle-English employability that is the library concourse at 11:58 am.


The plan creeps in slowly. Our philanthropist fails to secure an internship. Our philanthropist discovers — by skipping a lecture, then listening through the kitchen door — that his flatmates have booked a week in Turkey. Our philanthropist discovers that his parents have unwittingly spent this year’s disposable income on their son’s joint habits of taking coke and losing bus passes.

Our philanthropist discovers a deep, internal and inextinguishable need to help his fellow man. A need that cannot be satiated by an evening distributing biscuits and small cups of faintly chocolatey magma outside the Copper Rooms. Not, mind you, so great a need as to necessitate 250 morning drizzle runs and an eventual 26 miles of street-shitting and nipple-chafing.

That would just be silly. That would be inexpensive. That would offer little benefit to our philanthropist, other than fitness, the opportunity to do good and a sense of great personal achievement. Where’s the sun? Where are the culottes? How is anyone supposed to discover his inner self whilst running circuits on Leamington’s residential streets?

The place to be, our philanthropist knows, is Kilimanjaro.

He acknowledges the challenges. Every friend and friend-of-friend must know that he intends to sacrifice several weeks of his life in order to walk up a mountain for entirely unselfish reasons. A Just Giving page must be set up. An unreachable fundraising target must be set. Costumes and coin buckets must be displayed on the Parade. Events must be organised. Self-celebratory drinks, dinners and Kasbah nights must be arranged for his fellow fundraisers.

From Campus, printed 14 November 1969.
From Campus, printed 16 January 1970.

Inevitably, our philanthropist’s efforts will come up short. His parents will foot the bill for airline returns. He will surreptitiously halve his money-raising target. He will tearfully post 1200 words of gratitude to his Facebook ‘Harry is Climbing Kilimanjaro!!!’ page, and share it to the Freshers’ group for good measure. It will finish with those eternally self-delusional words: ‘Don’t worry guys, it’s not too late to donate!’

Oh, how we rejoice.

There will be a blog. Our philanthropist will open the blog after the final hard day spent thrusting a plastic bucket under old women’s noses outside the Pump Rooms. (I once heard of a girl, who’d been feeling pretty ropey, gratefully accepting a coin bucket as a receptacle for the kebab she’d inhaled at 4am that morning.) Even though he only collected £11.76, he will write, he was overjoyed at the generosity of the Leamington locals. He was unperturbed by the driving rain, by the October cold or by the kangaroo costume he had worn. Already, he is a hero.

There will be a packing post. Our philanthropist will complain of anxiety and fear. Our philanthropist’s mother will be reported visibly upset. Our philanthropist is brave. Our philanthropist is stoic. Our philanthropist will step from the family Volvo, rucksack in hand, into the great — albeit recently refurbished — mystery that is Heathrow Terminal 4.

At this point, the social media radio silence begins — broken occasionally with patchy Facebook posts that tend to go along the lines of ‘Found 12 seconds of wifi in local people trafficking hub. Tough going here. Whole body a blister. But everything beautiful. People incredible xxxxx’. Inspirational.

Even before we have fully accounted for the absence of our philanthropist, he is back. Back, chiefly, on Facebook. Fourteen hundred photos of paths, clouds, feet and tourist industry employees are uploaded. A pat-on-the-back blog post (the first since the goodbye) is posted. A still more tearful status publicises it. Our philanthropist’s mother, aunt and great-grandmother comment in the ‘so Proud of youu xxxxxxxxxxxx how is Steve? look forward to seeing you!!! did you get milk? :))’ style. It is touching.

It is touching. It really is touching. It would take a grumpier, more vegetative bastard than I to condemn the physical achievement, the public-spirited generosity and the genuine commitment required to climb a mountain that’s 6000 miles from home, primarily for charity. Who gives a shit if our beloved philanthropist gains something from it too?

No. My complaint lies in the final part of the climbing-Kilimanjaro-for-charity process.

When a respectful time has passed since our philanthropist’s return home, he will change his Facebook profile picture. He will change his profile picture to a familiar image; an image that appears to populate half of my friends list. Set on a clear blue sky, atop a pile of rocks, our philanthropist will pose in front of that crooked sign that says ‘Uhuru Peak Tanzania’.

If Douglas Carswell Climbed Kilimanjaro
For argument’s sake, the UKIP MP represents our philanthropist here. It could equally have been Gandhi.

I don’t care if that makes him more mainstream even than his purple Adidas anorak. I don’t care if it makes him a Warwick do-gooder, rather than a do-careerer or do-fuck-aller. I don’t care if he looks like a smug little fuck.

I care that he, and everyone else who’s stood in front of that sign in the last eighteen months, has made it substantially harder to tell people apart on Facebook. I care that that I can’t tell who’s read what in Messenger group chats. I care that the best efforts of a multi-billion dollar company to maintain a practical user interface have been, at Warwick at least, undermined by the perplexing appeal of a mountain in East Africa.

Call me bitter. Call me petty. I don’t care. Just change your profile picture.

(You’ll find me in Kelsey’s, next to Napoleon.)