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Kentish Town clown promises a laugh a minute on Mt Kilimanjaro

PUBLISHED: 17:00 19 January 2013

Caroline Ainslie as her alter-ego, Bubbles The Mathematical Clown, in training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on Parliament Hill. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Caroline Ainslie as her alter-ego, Bubbles The Mathematical Clown, in training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on Parliament Hill. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

When Caroline Ainslie climbs Mount Kilimanjaro, sub-zero temperatures, a lack of oxygen and steep rock faces won't be the only thing she will be juggling.

Dressed as her alter-ego, clown Bubbles, Caroline will be making history as the first clown to climb Africa’s highest peak.

But Caroline, who lives in Fortess Road, Kentish Town, is not just any clown – she is Bubbles the Mathematical Clown – with her own travelling show that stops in schools in London to help make everyone’s worst subject more fun.

This Saturday after months of training, Caroline will embark on the harrowing climb to raise money for the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences Schools Enrichment Centre (AIMSSEC), which helps train students and teachers in rural towns and villages in South Africa.

“One of the big problems is that teachers don’t have maths backgrounds, so kids are going to university but are failing because they don’t have the training,” explained Caroline, whose parents grew up in South Africa.

“A great injustice was done with apartheid and this is my contribution to supporting the rainbow nation.”

On Sunday Caroline began a weeklong stint where she will be dressed exclusively as Bubbles to keep the mood light before she embarks on the nerve-wracking expedition. “It is going to be challenging because there will be low oxygen and it will be very cold,” said the 50-year-old.

But her alter ego will help her conquer the climb. “Bubbles is a lot more mentally strong than me,” said Caroline.

“She has more energy than I do, and she has more bounce. When I have the make-up and I’m wearing the clothes I’m Bubbles.”

It was nine years ago that Caroline had the side-splitting epiphany, exchanging her career as an electrical engineer for soap bubbles and animal balloons.

“I remember the news was featuring students not doing maths quite heavily and at around the same time, I just happened to sell something on eBay to a clown.

“I got so excited talking to a real clown – I kept emailing her a million questions and then it came to me – I was a clown!

“I realised I could attract people to maths with my performances.”

Caroline consequently became Bubbles, and went on to meet her fiancé at a clown convention in Copenhagen.

Just a few months ago, she began doubting that she could reach the top of the 6,000 metre (2,000ft) mountain.

But one person was so struck by the unique expedition that he sent her an anonymous cheque for £1,500 – just for the journey to Kenya. “When I got the message, I thought, I have to do this!” said Caroline, who has now raised enough money for the trip and is devoting the next three months to raising £20,000 for the AIMSSEC.

“I definitely feel fear,” said Caroline. “I’ve heard that every step is painful once you get up there.

“But I was told that the anonymous donor wanted me to dress up as a clown because he or she thought it would make a difference to the other people doing the climb.

“Clowns can be very therapeutic and that’s what it’s about. Bubbles is very strong and she is friends with everyone.”

■ To donate, visit Miss Ainslie’s fundraising website at http://bit.ly/ViVsPH

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