The other day I met a real-life Record Breaker. As opposed to those pictured on the walls of the Children's Library to encourage all 4-11 year olds to have a go at the Summer Reading Challenge.
No, it wasn't the Tallest Man in the World, though a life-size picture of him stands impressively behind the volunteers desk, making me feel small and insignificant by comparison. His name, incidentally, is Sultan - which led me to
wonder in one of the very few quiet moments on Friday afternoon, whether that was the name he was given at birth. Was he, perchance, a truly gigantic baby? Otherwise why would his parents have named him Sultan? Though, on the other hand, why not? I still remember
when my third eldest grandchild, Hazel, was born. "What will you do," a concerned friend enquired of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters, "if she doesn't have hazel eyes?" My daughter's reply was appropriately definite, as I recall.
Anyway, there I was at my desk on Friday afternoon putting all the registration cards in proper alphabetical order. Why is it that so many people struggle with the basic concept of the alphabet? It is true, I must concede, that all
the names beginning with A are generally filed under A, and names beginning with B are filed under B - but with no regard at all for the fact that Adams comes before Allen, and Ball before Bristow. Still, it gives me a worthwhile task to accomplish while awaiting
the expected rush of littl'uns at the end of the school day.
I have reached the letter R (Redford comes before Rogers) when an excitable woman accosts me. She had heard all about our Record Breakers theme
and needs me to know that she has come to visit the Reading Challenge desk on purpose. I take a look to ascertain that she does not fall within the age frame of 4 -11 years, nor does she appear to have any small fry attached to her. However all is about to
It turns out that she was one of a massive troupe of dancers who turned out on Portsmouth Pier in 1985 to break the Guinness Book of Records record for the number of people dancing in one place
at the same time. Lionel Blair was there too, she told me, presumably in the interests of added authenticity.
This was extremely exciting, I told all the children who lined up at my desk to sign on. A real,
live, Record Breaker! They looked at me, awe-struck - it took me a while to suss out that their wonder was mostly due to the fact that this worldwide, record breaking event took place back in the Dim, Dark Ages of 1985. Even the oldest of the participants
in this year's Summer Reading Challenge would have been born after 2004. I decided not to mention Lionel Blair. Sorry, Lionel, but you know it makes sense.
Most of the children who registered on Friday afternoon
had clearly been listening when the library staff visited their schools to explain the Challenge. I took to asking them what they already knew about the Summer Reading Challenge then, when they had finished their explanations, telling them that they should,
to all intents and purposes, be sitting in my place. Some of them seemed ready to take me at my word.
Among those signing up was the little lad who will be moving next door to me once final decorations to
his new home have been completed. His mother, my soon-to-be next door neighbour, didn't recognise next first. We both agreed that it must have been the bright red tee-shirt with "Reading Hack" written on the front.
In case no other world record breakers are motivated to pay me a visit, I have been doing a bit of research on the Guinness Records website. I know that to truly engage my young audience I shall have to come up with examples which are both bizarre and
gruesome in equal measure.
Step forward Wei Schengchu who holds the world record for the most needles inserted in his head. 2188 - in case you are thinking of giving it a go. Bravo to George Christen who holds
the record for travelling the longest distance holding a table in his mouth. It had a person sitting on it too. Obviously.
Few records can beat, however, that of the longest time surviving being trapped underground.
That was the 69 days endured by the "33 of San Jose" in 2010. Hard to forget those days in August 2010 when the whole world listened for news from the collapsed San Jose copper mine in Chile and prayed for the miners' rescue. All 33 survived, the last of the
miners being lifted safely to the surface in October 2010.
I had no idea this amazing feat of endurance was in the Guinness Book of Records but there it is, along with the most piercings in a lifetime and
the Most Hairy Family.
I'm not too bothered about the Most Hairy Family, to be honest - but let's hope that the record held by the "33 of San Jose" is one which is never broken.