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Strictly Off the Record: On the Trail of World Records with Norris McWhirter [Hardcover]

Anna Nicholas
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Sep 2010
In this achingly funny and irreverent memoir, Anna Nicholas recounts her adventures judging records around the world with The Guinness Book of Records founder, Norris McWhirter, CBE. Nicknamed Batman and Robin, they travelled the UK and beyond together meeting eccentric, weird and wonderful record breakers. Adjudicating Richard Branson’s circumnavigation of the globe in a hot air balloon, the world’s highest tower of bread, the longest conga line and the cramming of the most people ever on deckchairs onto Weymouth beach was all in a day’s work for this dynamic duo. And, of course, things didn’t always go exactly according to plan… Anna Nicholas has contributed to titles including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph Expat, The Independent and Express. She is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and once organised an expedition with explorer Colonel John Blashford- Snell to carry a grand piano to a remote Amerindian tribe.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Summersdale (6 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849530696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849530699
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.8 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,212,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anna Nicholas is a wild Celt being of Irish, Scottish and Welsh extraction. She had an eccentric childhood in Kent and London, spending her summer holidays rattling around in the back of an old car, visiting off the map destinations around the world with Barney, her teacher mother and two extraordinary maiden aunts, Minny and Della.

After studying English and Classics at Leeds University, Anna became senior press officer for Help the Aged, often handling fundraising events involving the charity's patron, Princess Diana. She then joined the Guinness Book of Records working with Norris McWhirter, the book's founder, judging crazy records around the world, before joining a luxury aromatics and bathroom company in Jermyn Street. Some years later she successfully ran her own Mayfair travel and luxury lifestyle PR agency in Mayfair.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society having participated in several tough global scientific expeditions with veteran explorer, Colonel John Blashford-Snell, OBE. Together they organised an expedition to carry a grand piano to the Wai Wai, a remote Amerindian tribe in Guyana, that was the subject of a BBC documentary.

Anna runs an international marathon annually of behalf of orphanages in Sri Lanka which she visits whenever she can. Her website is at www.anna-nicholas.com She can be tweeted at MajorcanPearls and has a regular blog at Telegraph Expat under the title Majorcan Pearls www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/

Product Description

Review

Featured in The Mail on Sunday, 12th September 2010. --The Mail on Sunday, 12th September 2010.

`offers readers unrestricted access to a collection of truly unique encounters....'
--St Christopher's Inns Live Your Life e-zine, October 2010.

'Anna Nicholas recounts her adventures judging records around the world' --Choice Magazine - Christmas Gift Idea, December 2010

The Guiness Book of World Records has long been a festive favourite... Nicholas recounts adventures judging records around the world
--Choice Magazine - Christmas Gift Idea, December 2010

About the Author

Anna Nicholas has contributed to titles including the Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph Expat, The Independent and Express. She is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and once organised an expedition with explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell to carry a grand piano to a remote Amerindian tribe.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
As a petulant teenager growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I always found the Guinness Book of Records a slightly unappealing and heavyweight tome, perhaps because it so closely resembled the fact-filled and boring school text books I loathed so much.

However, after reading "Strictly off the Record", it is clear that life behind the scenes for the Guinness team was anything but boring. Once again, Anna Nicholas has used her exceptional writing talent to great effect, bringing all the record breaking characters and office colleagues to life in a way that makes for a highly entertaining and compelling read.

From the many episodes Anna describes in affectionate tribute to Norris McWhirter, it is clear that he was the brilliant backbone of the Book of Records, the glue that held the rest of the team together, always ready with some wise words when calm needed to be restored.

There are some noteworthy encounters with celebrity and public figures too, not least with the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who Anna reveals had a warm and softer side to her character, in contrast to the "Iron Lady" public persona so often portrayed in the media.

Anna also describes some of the high-pressure situations she herself faced as a Guinness adjudicator. Perhaps most crucially when armed with only a few facts relayed by telephone, she alone had to decide whether Richard Branson and Per Lindstrand had achieved their goal of setting a new record for crossing the Atlantic by hot air balloon, in the face of conflicting opinions and glaring publicity from the world's press.

Above all, "Strictly off the Record" is testament to the high value of loyal and lasting friendship, and proof that life in an office dealing with facts and figures doesn't necessarily have to be dull and boring!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful surprise 21 Sep 2010
Format:Hardcover
Not really my sort of book but I was given a copy and I started to read,...and once I started I simply could not put it down. The Guiness book of Records has a world renown but I had never given much thought as to how these records were accredited and, I had certainly not thought about some of the weird situations and the strange backgrounds which acted as a back cloth to the record breaking events.
This is a fascinating book and has some wonderful characters and some great travelling. Best of all is the addiction that Norris McWhirter has for chocolate. When in foreign lands where the food can sometimes be a bit dodgy, eat chocolate, that will never make you ill. Wonderful.
A thoroughly recommended read
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Anna Nicholas worked for The Guinness Book of Records (now Guinness World Records) when it was a proper reference book. Although founding co-editor Norris McWhirter had retired and Alan Russell, the creator of the television show Record Breakers, had taken over Mr McWhirter, or "No" as Miss Nicholas called him, was still very heavily involved as editorial director.

The book details Miss Nicholas's adventures at Guinness from her unusual interview - Mr McWhirter asked when she could start and then if she had any questions rather than the other way round - and her appointment as press officer and then records invigilator.

One oddity in the book is that almost no one at Guinness is given a surname apart from Norris McWhirter and managing director David Hoy so editor Alan is replaced by editor Donald (Russell and McFarlan are the missing monikers) which I suppose was intended to be chummy but comes across as a little odd.

That small gripe aside, the book is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at life producing the world's best-selling copyright book. We learn why Matthew Corbett had to soak Richard Branson with Sooty's water pistol, the country where Norris McWhirter is revered as a god and why Anna Nicholas kept being stopped at customs whenever she flew back from invigilating a record attempt.
No's chocoholism is the subject of much hilarity and David Hoy is probably the only managing director of a publishing company who doubled up as a general handyman.

The Guinness book has changed considerably since Norris McWhirter's departure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Days! 30 Dec 2010
By P. Kerr
Format:Hardcover
This book is a fitting tribute to the irrepressible and encyclopedic Norris McWhirter, written with due reverence and a liberable sprinkling of humour by the young woman who became his devoted 'lieutenant' during a period considered by many to be the heyday of The Guinness Book of Records.

Its devotees will be fascinated to learn how such a comprehensive source of ever-changing information was produced by a relatively small team working from an unpretentious office in a residential suburb of north London. In addition to the globe-trotting adventures and misadventures of the fact-seeking, record-authenticating 'dynamic duo', there are glimpses of the goings-on behind the scenes at such iconic 1980s TV shows as 'Record Breakers', 'Jim'll Fix It', 'Blue Peter' and 'No 73'.

Famous names are dropped as fast as awards are picked up - all good, entertaining stuff, delivered in the easy-going, conversational style that has become this author's trademark.

Read and enjoy. It'll go down as smoothly as a jar of black velvet!
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