‘What are you doing on Sunday evening?’ asked my friend Colin. ‘The usual,’ I said. ‘Feed the horses, drive back into town, have a bath, make cheese on toast, go to bed.’ I’m all about the glamour.
‘Well, come over for dinner. It’s just a few friends hanging out. I’m cooking chilli.’
My friend is a clever man. He managed to make it all sound so innocuous. But as soon as I got to his neat, suburban house I knew I was about to be roped into something. A collection of very fit, very selfless-looking people were sitting in his living room. I could tell from one look at them that they were used to doing voluntary work in the developing world. My fears were confirmed by the presence of a projector.
‘What’s all this?’ I asked Colin, who was wearing an apron and walking in and out of the kitchen with soft drinks.
‘Oh, that. That’s just a little slide show we’re going to have while we eat. Don’t worry about it.’
But I was worrying. There were now 12 people in his living room, all looking suspiciously healthy, intrepid and, above all, philanthropic.
I heaped a stress-sized portion of chilli on to my plate and hid myself at the furthest corner of the dining table. As I ate, a tall man who looked like a natural leader got up and called everyone to attention.
He switched on his laptop, which was hooked up to the projector, and pressed a button. Uh-oh. It appeared that we were going to climb Kilimanjaro. Now I came to think of it, my friend had mentioned this to me a few weeks earlier. To be polite I had said, ‘What a great idea.’
I might even have joked that I was thinking about joining him.