Two of my favourite past-times are doing U-turns in the driveways of people who have ‘No Turning’ signs, and leafing through the Guinness Book of World Records.
The former I tend to do in a car (it doesn’t have the same effect on foot), the latter I usually do on a Sunday morning.
While Mrs Canavan is racing around with a vacuum cleaner, some polish, a cloth and a good deal of sweat on her brow, I like to recline on the chaise longue (well, sofa but I’m trying to create the impression I’m well-to-do) and look up new records.
Mrs Canavan doesn’t seem to appreciate this. Indeed only last weekend she launched a vicious expletive-filled tirade simply because, just as she was halfway through ironing a large pile of my work-shirts and cooking that night’s dinner, I remarked the world record for the largest biceps belongs to an Egyptian chap called Mostafa Ismail whose arm flexed measures in at 64.77cm (25.5 inches) and non-flexed at 62.23cm (24.5inches), and could she please get a wriggle on with the ironing and brew up because I’m a tad thirsty.
World records fascinate me, mainly because they make me marvel at how utterly bonkers some people are.
Take an American lady called Lee Redmond.
Twenty-seven years ago she decided her life was so busy she didn’t have time to file her nails.
She now holds the world record for longest fingernails.
They are 33 inches long and trail on the floor when she walks. “It doesn’t affect being able to cook and clean,” she said.
“But they do terrify children.”
Then there’s Australian Les Stewart, who holds the world record for typing all numbers from one to one million in words.
Yes, you did read that correctly. Starting in 1982 and getting through seven manual typewriters, 1,000 ink ribbons and 19,890 pages, he finished in November 1998 with the lines ‘nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine; one million’.
Les typed an average three pages a day with one finger and reckoned his secret was to type for 20 minutes on the hour, every hour.
Asked why he had done it, he said ‘Well, I had nothing else to do really’.
What? I had a spare couple of hours on Tuesday evening but the thought of typing to one million didn’t cross my mind. I watched The One Show instead.
But how wonderfully zany this all is, and there’s many, many more.
A chap called David Alexander squeezed on 121 T-shirts to break the world record of most T-shirts worn at one time. It took half-an-hour and four guys with scissors to cut Alexander out.
Robert Shields of Washington has the world’s longest diary.
He typed absolutely everything that happened to him, at five minute intervals, from 1972 to 1996. It contains 35 million words.
Longest eyebrow – my what an honour! – belongs to Leonard Traenkenschuh, who has a three-and-a-half inch eyebrow hair.
Speaking to the press, an emotional Mr Traenkenschuh revealed: “I didn’t set out to grow a hair to set a record.
“It just happened. I’ve never been particularly hairy – I just have fertile brows.” As winner’s speeches go, that’s a belter.
I could go on, like the longest distance covered on a unicycle in 24 hours (281 miles, by an English chap called Sam Wakeling, whose bottom is no doubt still recovering); the world’s most body piercings in one sitting (1,016 to the back, arms and legs – that’s got to hurt); or the largest collection of ‘Do Not Disturb’ hotel signs (Jean-François Vernetti of Switzerland has collected 8,888 signs from hotels in 189 countries across the world since 1985).
I’d better stop here though, for you’re getting bored and I need to consume the plate of crumpets and mug of hot chocolate Mrs Canavan has just brought me.
Until next week...
In an attempt to pretend I’m still reasonably active as old age rapidly approaches, I play five-a-side football on a Thursday night.
This usually backfires as after this hour of exercise (I say exercise, I normally spend around half the game in goal and the other half wandering forlornly on the right wing avoiding the ball), I reward myself with a bacon sandwich and a pint or two of bitter, thus destroying any good I may have done by exercising in the first place.
But I digress. A new chap recently started playing with our crowd, a chap who I can only surmise has mistaken Stanley Park for Old Trafford.
He takes things remarkably seriously and spends more time shouting during the match than actually playing. He comes out with some splendid stuff.
“Control the centre lads,” he screamed last week, which, I noted, resulted in Big Bob, a plumber from South Shore, giving the new lad a withering look.
He has several favourite shouts. “Into the channels”, he is particularly fond of screaming, along with “don’t get square”.
The other nine lads on the pitch, whose only interest is to survive the hour without collapsing and get home in time for Top Gear, haven’t the faintest clue what he’s talking about and completely ignore him, yet it doesn’t seem to stop him shouting.
“Bob, Bob, simple lay off round the back”, “Not there Duggie, nice and easy, use the keeps”,
“Dig it out Jimbo, go sideways round the corner”.
It has made the session much more interesting and we await to see what gems he comes up with tonight.