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Fordyce Maxwell: I smiled at him running a mile, hula-hooping with a bottle of milk on his head

AT TIMES each of us must wonder whether what we do is worthwhile. Next time that happens, think about Ashrita Furman, holder of 137 world records – one for holding the greatest number of world records – and return to work with renewed conviction.

His records include underwater skipping, underwater juggling, fastest mile pushing an orange with his nose, most grapes caught in the mouth in three minutes and fastest time for eating three pickled eggs.

That’s a man, I thought, putting his time on earth to good use. Then I realised that I was smiling, particularly at the thought of his running a mile while hula-hooping with a bottle of milk on his head.

Ashrita, called Keith before he got religion, says that his record-breaking feats are to encourage people to seek happiness. Given my own reaction, he might have a point.

Whether tempted by his example to try breaking the occasional record myself is another matter. For instance, the record for eating cream crackers, three in 34.78 seconds apparently, seems an easy target. But I have never attempted it.

There is another thought. Guinness World Records might be the definitive annual record of records, but the internet, YouTube, Facebook and many other websites have confused the issue. There is a maze of misleading information out there, and that’s after getting away from “records” involving as many unfortunate freaks as you might see on reality TV shows – hairiest teenager, largest natural breasts, widest tongue and, no doubt, much more if I’d had the stomach for it.

Not much to encourage the pursuit of happiness there, I thought. And, apart from the cream crackers idea – or possibly speed-eating a packet of chocolate digestives – ever since watching Paul Newman tackle 50 boiled eggs in Cool Hand Luke the idea of gluttony as an aid to setting a world record has never appealed.

What else? Well, I once attempted to carry four plates of pasta at the same time with words I’ve never been allowed to forget – “ I used to be a waiter” – and that patch of carpet never recovered.

Wearing a boiler suit and wellingtons I once ran down an escaping Blackface sheep, but might be unable to recapture the temper I was in then for an officially timed attempt. A record for the number of swear words used in a 30-second sprint might also be a possibility. Or, if it had been caught on film, the record speed for clearing a five-bar gate ahead of a Large White boar frothing at the mouth.

Or possibly not. I’ll settle for keeping up to date with Ashrita Furman. Most custard pies in the face in 60 seconds looks promising.

• Last week Fordyce... noted that the south of England is short of water. He has the solution: ban everyone under the age of 30 from taking a shower. He’s sure many youngsters go to sleep in there

 

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