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A hugely enjoyable chance to share in some happy memories
on 27 September 2010
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!!