It's No Joke
Under feats of endurance in the book of Guinness World Records (my slightly outdated 2001 edition) there are two balancing acts -- the longest time spent on a tightrope (205 days) and the longest time standing on one foot (76 hours, 40 minutes).
For some reason, reading about these two endeavours brings to mind our current political situation. I'm not sure which one more figuratively resembles the political balancing act being attempted but whichever one it is, we beat them both -- with over a year under our belt.
Or maybe we could be said to be up a tree without a ladder. In which case we have a long long way to go to beat an Indonesian man named Bungkas, who climbed up a palm tree in 1970, before Bangladesh was even born, and has not come down since (or at least was still up there in 2001 when my edition went to print).
As I keep reading, all manner of metaphors and similes spring to mind -- under feats of skill, for example, there are recorded the Most Yo-Yo Tricks and the Most Snakes Milked (of venom).
Under the heading of "Teamwork," there is the Biggest Game of Musical Chairs and the Most People Blowing Bubbles.
But, then as I flip the pages further, I am transported away from the metaphorical to the downright strange: to England in 1980, where the Most Worms Charmed was apparently 511 at the first World Charming Championship. Don't ask how or why, but entrants are given 30 minutes to "charm" as many worms as they can out of a 3-metre square plot of earth.
And then to Canada, where the Fastest Pogo-Stick Up The CN Tower (in Toronto) was 57 minutes and 50 seconds -- hard to visualise, until you realise the record-breaking pogo-sticker used the stairs (cheat!).
Whatever the point of any of these stunts might be, these GWR people can certainly claim to represent the utter weirdness of people. Though I can't quite make my mind up as to whether the various feats described here are inspiring or a bit depressing when it comes to contemplating human nature.
Then again we can simply count our blessings if we choose to, for example, by reading about the worst inflation ever recorded: Hungary, 1946, when a gold pengo was valued at 130 million trillion paper pengos. So, nothing to complain about here, then!
What's more, Bangladesh doesn't rate anywhere in the annals of crime, nor man-made disasters (Worst Joss Stock Disaster: five worshippers died when three giant ceremonial joss stocks collapsed in a temple in Thailand in 1998).
Though sadly, under the heading of natural disasters, Bangladesh is recorded as having the highest death toll due to a cyclone -- between 300,000 and 500,000 killed in 1970.
Bangladesh is also named as the most densely populated country.
Dhaka is not the most crowded city, however, the most populous city in the world being Tokyo. And, believe it or not, Dhaka is not the most polluted city either, that record being held by Mexico City.
And to give ourselves a few more pats on the back, the lowest ever ODI score in cricket is recorded as 43, scored by Pakistan against West Indies in Cape Town, 1993.
And here's another feel good record-breaker especially at this time of year: Most Mosquitoes Killed (at the 1995 World Mosquito Killing Championships, in Finland of all places): 21 in five minutes -- though I reckon I've come close to that record on a few frenzied occasions.
It's a bit of a roller coaster ride (countries with the most roller coasters: US, UK, Japan), flipping through this dusty old book: ups, downs, highs, lows, tragedy and comedy.
In fact, I may have gleaned a few mini-lessons in life between the covers, come to think of it: keep clear of the freaks, pick the bits that make you feel good, and realise that where you are is not so bad after all.
I might just have decided I'm a fan of these Guinness World Records, after all.