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A while ago, I wrote of my pride in the achievement of another member of the worldwide community of Craig Browns.
A farmer from Hamilton in New Zealand had just hit the headlines for having grown the world’s largest potato.
Colin Craig-Brown and his potato, which he named Doug, because he’d just dug it up, appeared on television all over the world.
‘We were just doing some weeding,’ he — Colin, that is, not Doug — told Phillip Schofield and Rochelle Humes on ITV’s This Morning. ‘At first I thought it may have been a sweet potato we’d grown, then I’d decided it was too big. I said: “We have to get it out of the ground.” And like an angry Viking I thrust a fork into the ground and got me a mighty potato.’
Donna Craig-Brown holds ‘Doug’ what was believed to be the world’s largest potato in the garden of her small farm near Hamilton, New Zealand
Doug weighed 17lb 3oz — as much as a small dog. As Doug’s fame grew and grew, Colin and his wife Donna constructed a little cart in which to parade him around the streets. They even made a little hat for him to wear.
‘We put a hat on him because we took him out to give him a bit of sunshine one day — you know, just for the camera,’ Colin Craig-Brown told CBC Radio back in November. ‘Some people think he looks like a baby with his hat on. But I just think he looks like a potato with a little hat sitting on him.’
Their ambitions for Doug did not end there. They were determined to secure Doug his rightful place in Guinness World Records as the World’s Heaviest Potato. The current record holder — a puny little thing — weighed in at just under 11lb, so they felt quietly confident.
Of course, having any record verified by the Guinness organisation involves quite a kerfuffle.
There is a world record for eating the most number of baked beans with a cocktail stick (file photo)
When I was a teenager, under controlled conditions, I made an attempt on the world record for eating the most baked beans in three minutes with a cocktail stick. By the end of a hectic three minutes, I had downed 180 baked beans, beating the previous record-holder by a wide margin of 70. I felt ill all day, but elated to have broken a world record.
Alas, a few days later, I was informed that my achievement would not be recognised: instead of employing the cocktail stick as a prong, I had used it as a shovel, so the beans slipped straight off the table into my mouth. This, it turned out, was against the rules, and I was disqualified.
Since you ask, the current world record is held by David Rush from Boise, Idaho, who ate 178 baked beans with a cocktail stick in three minutes in 2018 — and also secured the records for baked-bean eating for one minute (68) and five minutes (275).
Anyway, officials at Guinness World Records said that the Craig-Browns would have to submit Doug to a DNA test to ascertain that he was, indeed, a potato, and not some other form of chubby vegetable, such as a parsnip or a swede.
The Craig-Brown’s have had their dreams turned to mash after Guinness wrote to say that scientific testing had shown Doug wasn’t, in fact, a potato
Two weeks ago, the results came back. They were deeply disappointing. ‘Sadly, the specimen is not a potato and is, in fact, the tuber of a type of gourd. For this reason we do unfortunately have to disqualify the application.’
Of course, Colin Craig-Brown must have been devastated, but, if so, he is keeping a stiff upper-lip.
‘What can you say? We can’t say we don’t believe you, because we gave them the DNA stuff.’
A wise-cracker on the internet suggested Doug should change his name to Gourdon. He still has pride of place in the Craig-Brown deep-freeze.
‘I say g’day to him every time I pull out some sausages. He’s a cool character. Whenever the grandchildren come round, they say, “Can we see Doug?” Doug is the destroyer from Down Under. He is the world’s biggest not-a-potato.’
What next for Doug? Like Eddie the Eagle in the 1988 Winter Olympics or John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008, his failure has warmed our hearts.
If I were his agent, I would capitalise on all this goodwill. With Doug’s talent for sitting still and looking placid, he would be a dead cert to win the 2022 I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here. Or how about teaming him up with a bubbly, larger-than-life beetroot for Celebrity First Dates?