Mr Morris, who comes from Walsall, was a rather unusual choice as a sausage connoisseur, being primarily concerned with velocity rather than taste or texture. "I shaved a minute off the previous record by eating 90 one- ounce sausages in three minutes 13 seconds. The Guinness Book of Records puts a limit on how many you can eat. I ate 90 of them boogers," he announced, producing a tin of Ye Olde Oake Premium Hot Dogs from a carrier, and added, for no discernible reason, "Har, har, Jim lad." Mr Morris, 51, who is fairly trim considering his prodigious intake, expressed doubt about the record-breaking potential of Saxby's sausages. "Using them to break the world record I would find extremely difficult. You'd be under a handicap because there's a bit of meat in these boogers. They're bostin' pickle." He explained that this was a West Midlands expression of high approbation.
"Of course, I do other things apart from eating sausages," Reg volunteered. "I was also world champion fire-eater and I held the world record for lying on a bed of nails." It seemed polite to ask the obvious. "Only 13 days," he shrugged. "I hold the world record for lying on a bed of swords - four razor-sharp swords for four days and four nights. I carried a nine- and-three-quarter pound engineering brick between my finger and thumb for 63 and a half miles. I pushed a cannon ball round Walsall with my nose for 32 minutes. But my greatest feat was living in a beer barrel on top of a pole for six and a half weeks. It's all mind over matter. There's loads more I could tell you, but I think it's time for another of them boogers. Coom on, get stuck in."
I had high hopes that the French ambassador to the Court of St James might say the Gallic equivalent of "Get stuck in" when I called round at his residence the other morning. It is widely acknowledged that the quality of the gastronomy offered by the French embassy is without parallel in London's diplomatic circles. For a moment, my heart soared when His Excellency made an announcement to the small throng gathered at his palatial digs in Kensington Palace Gardens: "I am really delighted to invite you 'ere zee morning for the lunch ..." Unfortunately, it was only 9.30 in the morning. It turned out that M Guenuinou actually said "launch" and was referring to the French theatre season, which is due to take place at numerous London venues this autumn.
While unable to comment on the quality of the ambassadorial nosh - other than to say that the croissants were more than passable - I was intrigued to learn that the treats awaiting theatre-goers include a new work at the Royal National Theatre by Marguerite Duras called La Maladie de la Mort, temptingly described as "a tragic and distressing text about love and death", and, at the Riverside Studios, Samuel Beckett's Oh Les Beaux Jours, directed by Peter Brook. This is the French version of the legendary two-hander, Happy Days, in which the female protagonist is buried first up to her waist, then up to her neck, in a pile of sand. Mr Brook insists that the text "reads more purely and melodiously in French". In his schoolmarmish way, he refuses to provide subtitles.
But the work I most eagerly anticipate is Overboard by Michel Vinever, due to be staged in October at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. Originally running for eight hours, it is a drama about life in a lavatory-paper factory. Described as being "rather in the manner of a cubist painting", it includes nude models and jazz musicians. "I did toy with the idea of doing the eight-hour version, but we're doing a three-hour English translation," said Sam Walters, artistic director of the Orange Tree. "It's a very tricky work to stage. A real one-off." I agree that spending the equivalent of a working day at the theatre would be a bit on the costive side, but I hope that British audiences won't find it a few sheets short of a full roll.
After a day of intermittent squalls, I was dreading the concert by the Michael Nyman Band for which Mrs W had booked tickets that evening. Don't get me wrong, I'm a great fan of the prolific, egg-domed composer who scored most of Peter Greenaway's films until they had a bust-up over Prospero's Books. However, the event was due to take place in a screened-off section of Greenwich Park, and the notion of sitting on the moist turf for a couple of hours did not appeal. Though the rain had stopped, the signs were not particularly good when we arrived at the venue. The concert was delayed because a sound- mixing desk had exploded after the deluge. When we were at last allowed in, a few pessimistic souls seated themselves under the natural umbrella of a large oak.
In fact, the threatened downpour never arrived. Though the maestro tempted the fates by kicking off with the music from the Greenaway film Drowning by Numbers, he suffered nothing more than the temporary loss of a score- sheet, whisked away by a skittish zephyr. The concert was a sheer delight, enhanced by the audience being allowed to cough, chomp crisps, gargle wine, have a natter, and even run the engine of their ice-cream van without some fusspot shushing them. As a crepuscular gloom settled over the park, Nyman's surging, relentless beat - often underpinned by a farty-sounding, almost medieval trombone - worked its curious, uplifting magic. But the most remarkable moment came when I briefly left the arena. As I walked quite alone through the carefully ordered geometry of Greenwich Park, with corridors of silhouetted trees leading to a distant vanishing point overlooking the Thames, Nyman's band blasted into the glorious opening chords from The Draughtsman's Contract.
Our current preoccupation with healthy eating is nothing new. Last week, I learned that, among the exhibits in a new British Museum gallery devoted to the Roman occupation of Britain, is a postcard written by a slave living near Hadrian's Wall. It contains a request for a rush delivery of radishes. Though I've never known a present-day Geordie who didn't insist on an all-fried diet, at least their ancestors recognised the importance of having a spot of crunchy salad. Going even further back, I was intrigued to discover that trepanning was practised in the Bronze Age (around 1500 BC). The recently published English Heritage guide, Stonehenge, notes that "Surgical operations on the skull and brain were not uncommon". Are there no limits to the sophistication of the ancients? I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the great stone circle was a megalithic millennium dome. Unfinished, of courseReuse content