took to world record-breaking in
2004 after being inspired by a record-setting rally
driver in Kenya. What began as a hobby soon escalated
into an active publicity pursuit. Today, he promotes the
work of social and environmental causes. For these
purposes, the most fitting game plans are chosen; then
world titles are attempted and frequently created.
Wall Street Journal:
Shaking On It in Times Square
If you would like regular exposure from Alastair's activities, become his Sustaining Sponsor:
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Behind every world record attempt is the expertise of professionals in their field.
Their success underpins Alastair's.
|They are listed here|
Most clothes pegs held in the hand:
This is the story behind my Guinness World Record™ for the Most clothes pegs held in the hand.
Not sure about you, but I don't like it when I know how to do something in my mind, yet my body can't achieve it. That's the story behind my trying to nab this world record.
A likeable, young-at-heart fellow and I put together a series of world record attempts with the specific aim of generating media attention. I agreed that it was a great plan, so we spent weeks arranging it all. At the thought of it, yes, I could easily clutch a fistful of clothes pegs.
I bought more than a kilogram of wooden pegs, and spent hours each week developing a technique to grab them, one by one, off my washing line. Like a chimpanzee in a behavioural experiment, I tried just about everything I could think of to get what I wanted: all 23 pegs in my one hand. I began by approaching the washing line in the normal way. I clipped off each peg, very slowly, until I was having to use every peg's own balance to ease it into position as my hand filled. That didn't work: I could only get 20 into my grip this way. Next, I doubled over my wrist and retried. No, that produced a worse result. I moved on to finger exercises to teach myself muscle movements that would accommodate the pegs. I tried extending my lower arm backwards towards the line of hanging pegs, then from different angles, and by directing my fingers at myself. Nothing was working. So a new plan was needed.
From then on, the idea was to “roll” each peg into position, to be placed very neatly to allow sufficient space for the next. But rolling clothes pegs down my palm at various angles was not easy. They didn't go far enough, or energetically jumped right off my fingers. I began using my finger joints to manipulate the pegs, but again, to no avail. Then I had what I thought was a good idea: when my hand began filling up with pegs laid in layers from the outside in, I'd gently pass the last layer of pegs from one fingertip to the next, then flick each into its resting place. Easier said than done. To get this right, I had to contort much of my upper body, arcing my torso both left and right, then extending my elbow at painful angles. And, I kept catching myself inadvertently biting my tongue from over-concentration!
Friends who visited laughed at me. In some ways, that was my fault. I wasn't prepared to stop practising just because I had guests. They made plentiful suggestions. Some worked; others didn't. Yet, for all my mental ambitions, I simply could not fit the existing record number of pegs plus one into my hand. These wooden pegs were becoming my enemy. It was as if they were making a mockery of me time and time again. I had to overcome them before I got irritated. Instead of letting the pegs get the better of me, I kept trying whenever a spare moment arose. And, even if I say so myself, I was noticing the chimpanzee in me becoming rather agile. The best thing, I figured, was to laugh at the situation along with everyone else. And so I did.
Beneath the humour, though, I was adamant to work through this challenge. Gradually, I improved my technique and then, as if by mistake, I got it. I could grip all the pegs in my hand! But try as I may, I couldn't do it a second time. To me, that was proof it was a lucky stroke, not success. Despondent, I accepted that I'd need to keep practising and refining my method because I had not really triumphed yet. With effort, I succeeded again. And again. I'd mastered it. Fantastic, I congratulated myself. I called my colleague and announced that I was ready with confidence.
Very quickly, the arranged TV appearance was due. We'd borrowed a clothes line from the local hardware shop, attached a base and erected it in New Zealand's biggest train station. Rail passengers couldn't figure out what this out-of-place contraption was for. But they soon saw. The presenter interviewed my helper and told the audience my live world record attempt was about to take place. Conscious of my ape-like contorting tendencies, I was concentrating on having to remove pegs from the line “normally” so as not to attract a barrage of wild commentary. The TV camera operator trained his lens on me. That's close enough, I thought, but smiled. With my heart thumping from fear of failing live on national television, I took several deep breaths and reached out to the first clothes peg. The first 10 slotted into place between my thumb base and fingertips. Soon, I'd got 15 pegs in my grip, but it was becoming increasingly important to retain my focus if I wasn't to drop a single peg. All the while, the presenter alternated his attention between the camera and me, skilfully maintaining viewer interest.
I was focusing so hard, I could see stars. Eighteen pegs. My fingers were twisting ever so precisely, almost too slowly to see. Nineteen. The presenter turned to me again: “And let's see – how many have you got so far Alastair?” I didn't want to be distracted. I ignored him. Twenty. I could hear the presenter speaking to the watchers once more. Twenty-one. He turned to me, informing the nation of my progress. Twenty-two. He turned to the screen while I concentrated more than ever, taking a long silent breath. Next, he was back with me, and the camera zoomed in. Then, as I reached for peg number 23, a slight wrong movement caused one to drop. This was the decisive moment the presenter had been waiting for, I figured: success or failure. I heard precisely what I'd dreaded: “And he's dropped the last peg he needed to succeed at this world record. That was Alastair Galpin's attempt at...”
No. I would not let myself fail. I stretched two of my fingers out ever so slowly, like delicate tendrils reaching for a support, and pinched the all-important number 23 between them. It wobbled, then fell to one side but I was able – somehow – to flick it up and over onto the pile of 22. Hugely excited, I exclaimed, “I've got it!” loudly. So loudly, in fact, that the presenter abandoned his chatter in mid-sentence and all eyes turned once more to me. But the attention was brief. The TV show was now featuring something else and I missed out.
So, as far as that morning's viewers across New Zealand were concerned, I failed my attempt live on their TV screens. But those present knew differently. That was a comforting thought as we went our separate ways, and I headed straight to my office to file the new world record claim.