Regular readers of this column (if, indeed, there are any) will know I have a fixation with the Guinness World Book of Records, not with the boring stuff like fastest 100m, but the weird stuff like largest collection of airplane sick bags.
Since you didn’t ask, it belongs to Nick Vermeulen from the Netherlands, who has, since the 1970s, accumulated 6,016 sick bags from 1,142 different airlines. I sincerely hope they are empty.
This kind of stuff fascinates me. I mean, why? I daresay Nick doesn’t hold down a steady relationship and if I’ve done him a disservice and he does, she must be one hell of a quirky girl.
I mention world records because a couple of were broken last week by an American chap called Nik Wallenda.
Nik looks unremarkable, the kind of fella who’d serve you at the bank and list his hobbies as caravanning and collecting milk bottle tops.
Yet Mr Wallenda’s occupation is about as unmundane as you can possibly imagine.
He is – wait for it – a daredevil tightrope walker ... which is, I think we can all agree, a tad more exciting than working at the Abbey National.
Last week, Mr Wallenda walked along a piece of rope hung between two skyscrapers in Chicago, 500 feet off the ground. It was windy, he did it without any safety equipment, and – if you hadn’t already thought he was insane, you will now – while wearing a blindfold.
One misplaced step and he would have been a messy blob on the pavement.
The whole thing was screened live on TV (albeit with a 10-second delay, in case he fell) and Wallenda wore a microphone so two news anchors in a TV studio could ask him questions as he walked.
“Chicago sure feels beautiful tonight,” said Mr Wallenda halfway along the tightrope, as calmly as if he were out for an evening stroll with his dog.
As Wallenda (who had previously tightrope-walked over Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon) reached the finish of his mighty trek, he thanked God. This seems to be obligatory in the US; I get the impression Americans thank the Lord every time the kettle finishes boiling.
But fair play to him, it’s a hell of a feat and not a record I’m intending to try and challenge any time soon. At least not until the end of the month anyway; I’ve a slight groin strain.
Yet here’s the thing. Compared to some, Mr Wallenda is quite sane, for many world record holders are bonkers.
Let me give you a few examples..
Georges Christen, a chap from Luxembourg, holds the record for walking the longest distance while holding between his teeth a 12kg table with a person weighing 50 kg sat on it. He walked 38 feet before, I’m guessing, his teeth fell out.
Julia Gunthel, from Germany, holds the fastest time to burst three balloons with the back (12 seconds, but don’t try it at home – she’s a professional contortionist).
There is a woman from Thailand, Kanchana Ketkaew, who holds the record for the longest period living with scorpions.
She stayed in a glass room containing 5,320 scorpions for 33 days and nights and was stung 13 times, but only came out because she was bored – apparently scorpions aren’t the best when it comes to conversation. Then there’s the greatest distance travelled with a pool cue on the chin (5,472 feet); largest collection of different types of traffic cones (137 by a British bloke called David Morgan, who must spend his life hanging around A-roads and the M62); and perhaps the most bizarre of all ... most steps walked down by a dog facing forwards while balancing a glass of water on its head (10, achieved by an Australian Border Collie called Sweet Pea). It is all so utterly, joyfully bonkers that I can’t help but be fascinated by it.
I am currently working on my own record – most times being shouted at by the wife for not making her a cup of tea – which is why I must stop writing now before she begins separation proceedings.
Why we choose to stand out
in the cold
I can only speak for St Annes, where I was on Sunday, but there was a pleasingly large turnout for the Remembrance service.
This year is extra special, of course, 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War and it certainly showed in the amount of people there – the numbers were definitely up.
It was the usual poignant service but one moment did slightly depress me, when a youngish woman holding a child said to her partner in a loud voice: “I’m cold and I can’t hear a thing , what’s the point, I’m going home”.
She was right in one respect. The loudspeakers weren’t working so, unfortunately, many of the folk gathered couldn’t hear much of what was being said. But to say she was missing the point is putting it mildly.
We were there, predominantly, to remember those millions who had no idea what warfare entailed when, in 1914, they rushed to join the army and fight for their country. They spent the next four long, unimaginably horrific years in the trenches of northern France, being shot at, maimed and killed on a daily basis.
Only once every 12 months do we gather to remember them, and all the other servicemen and women since.
Whether you can hear it or not, and whatever the weather’s like, if we can’t manage to spend 15 minutes a year thinking about someone else other than ourselves then this world truly is one hell of a depressing place.