A correspondent asks me about my reading tastes. I tell her that the book of Guinness World Records has often kept me amused while idling in my hammock. Where else could you discover that Mr Bernard Clemmens of London managed to sustain a fart for an officially recorded time of 2 minutes 42 seconds? Actually, this particular feat must be documented elsewhere, as it is not in fact mentioned in the Guinness book. But my point remains valid. The almanac reminds us that humans will compete in activities of the utmost futility when the prospect of minor distinction beckons.

There’s nothing very clever about a prolonged emission of flatulence. I recall a chimpanzee who claimed he could fart out a tune.

“Let me hear what you can do,” I replied casually. “If your performance is virtuoso, I may recommend you to the wind section of the Berlin Philharmonic.”

So the chimpanzee bent over and gave me a rendition of Home On The Range. He was pretty much in tune for the first verse, but I detected flat notes in the chorus.

“You have a rare talent,” I said after he had concluded. “I’ll get back to you if we need a musical act for the Hairy Coconut Festival.”

My most memorable observation of human bodily convulsions occurred in my circus days. A Welsh clown was discussing the relative merits of the male and female orgasms with a pair of buxom wenches from the make-up section. I was loitering nearby, oiling the gearwheels of my bicycle.

“When I pull one off it’s like Krakatoa erupting!” he bragged. “Shoots across the room like a squirt from a water pistol!”

“Absolute bollocks!” declared one of the ladies. “I’ve jerked off dozens of blokes and it’s never gone further than a couple of feet. Who are you trying to kid?”

“You’ve only milked a few English oxen!” retorted the clown. “Try working the Valleys if you want to see what real men are capable of.”

“You’re on!” exclaimed the woman. “Let’s go back to my trailer. If it goes more than a yard I won’t charge you for the hand job. Otherwise you owe me twenty quid.”

“Oh no, Miss!” chuckled the clown, shaking his head in amusement. “With all due respect to your supple fingers, only my tried-and-tested methods are capable of producing a performance of Olympic dimensions. You can watch from the window of my trailer while Mr Bananas here can be the referee with the measuring tape.”

“The hell I will!” I interjected heatedly. “I have no expertise in officiating such events and no wish to get your mucky yoghurt on my fingers!”

Both ladies then used their considerable powers of persuasion to make me change my mind. They cajoled; they flattered; they pouted; they petted. No male primate likes to disappoint begging females, and I relented when they offered me a free grooming session with blow-dryer and tweezers.

We watched the clown make his preparations from outside. He tried to ignore us and concentrate on a picture in a magazine. After a few minutes, he flung off his clothes and knelt on his bed with the magazine lying open in front of him. He began to stimulate himself while staring furiously at the picture, his face moving ever closer to the image that so excited him. Straining my eyes, I saw that it was a photograph of the singer Bonnie Tyler. His eyes swivelled madly at the moment of release as he thrust his abdomen upwards.

“WHO’S YOUR DADDY NOW, MY LITTLE NEATH VIXEN?” he cried, the intensity of the experience not impairing his mastery of English grammar.

I was impressed by the power of the first spurt of fluid, which reminded me of a lemon being squeezed. When he was done and lying flat on his bed, I entered the trailer cautiously with measuring tape in hand.

“Showed ‘em, eh Bananas!” he mumbled breathlessly as I looked for the landing spot of his farthest ejaculation. When I found it, I measured the distance travelled as over six feet from the edge of the bed. Both ladies were forced to eat humble pie and give credit where it was due.

A few days later, I made the mistake of telling the clown that Mr Norris McQuirter was an acquaintance of mine. He immediately started pestering me to inform the world-record compiler of his accomplishment. With a deep sigh, I put pen to paper and duly received a reply from Mr McQuirter. It stated that the clown’s performance, although admirable, was no world record. Apparently, there was a society in Brazil in which men had honed this particular skill to the ultimate degree, achieving distances of over twenty feet. The most popular pictorial aid was a photograph of Shirley Bassey, gesticulating with mouth wide open.

The clown made no attempt to hide his disappointment when I gave him the bad news.

“Shirley Bassey!” he exclaimed. “Are they all queer or something?”

I gave him no answer and walked away shaking my head, reflecting on the rancour and bad sportsmanship to which overly-competitive humans were prone.

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