Conquering Kilimanjaro at Eighty Two
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
“Just rejoice at this news!” So said Mrs Thatcher outside Downing Street as Prime Minister on news that the Royal Marines had recaptured the uninhabited, ice bound island of South Georgia from Argentina in the early 1980s. I can’t remember rejoicing much, as for me the whole Falklands/Malvinas conflict could be aptly compared to two bald men fighting over a comb.
But rejoice at this news; Mr George Olney of Olney, Northamptonshire, England, has today reached the frozen summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa. George, by the way is a mere eighty two years old – thus making him the oldest person ever to climb to the top. He now earns his place in the Guinness Book of Records, and will probably be smiling now as he raises a glass or two. He says he is going to give all proceeds he has raised to the “Lord Prescott of Hull Home for Distressed Giraffes”, Lord Prescott being our erstwhile former Deputy Prime Minister, who vowed never to go to the House of Lords. Actually, in all seriousness, George is giving monies raised to a local hospice.
But what a truly fantastic, nay crowning moment for George Solt of Olney, whose family fled from Nazi Germany prior to the Second World War, and whose family has not only prospered here, but given so much over the years. I know that George will not stop talking about his amazing achievement on his return – and probably will rib his son Philip for having to descend the mountain before he reached the Summit, but I for one, won’t mind at all.
I met George, I suppose about a year ago, through another mutual friend who shares a passion for natural history. George, you see, for years lived on the edge of an ancient fifty acre wood, which his family own to this day. Hollington Wood was mentioned in the Domesday Book and is a rare gem, a wildwood survivor, where it is possible to stand in the glades and imagine Anglo Saxon armies running through it, North to Scotland and back South again to fight the Normans, the dappled light glinting from their shields and scabbards. Hollington Wood is a remnant of the ancient wildwood that once covered much of lowland England.
Although George – and his son Philip love these woods, as well they should, I never could see George being satisfied by their boundaries. There has always had to be a larger canvass, and the big mountain ranges of Europe provided that for him and his late wife. But now George Solt has conquered Kilimanjaro, what next?
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