(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)
This morning, dramatic news from Finland via my professional farting chum Mr Methane.
Yesterday, at the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. the single and team events were won by two Russian friends, Vlad & Alex who had flown to Helsinki from Moscow and then made a five hour train journey to Utajärvi.
They had heard of the farting festival earlier this year on Mr Methane’s website and Vlad said to Alex: “There is a farting contest this summer in Finland. Shall we go ?”
Alex replied: “Yes we should.”
Vlad said: “There is more. Mr Methane is performing there.”
Alex is said to have replied: “Wow! I have already packed.”
Not unreasonably, they decided that the double whammy lure of a farting competition AND possibly meeting Mr Methane, their hero, was too good to miss.
“So,” Mr Methane told me this morning from Finland, “they came and won both prizes for Russia yesterday, establishing a new festival volume record in the bargain.”
Admittedly, this was not difficult, as it was the first World Fart Championships, although the tradition of farting competitions goes back at least to 17th century Japan where, between 1603-1868 there were “He-gassens” – fart battles.
In the 199os, a collection of scrolls showing some of these bitterly-fought air battles was sold at Christie’s in London for $1,200.
At yesterday’s World Fart Championships in Finland, Mr Methane was not competing. He had been invited by the organisers as a farting icon and the inspiration to a generation of Finnish flatulists.
Before the event, presented by local entertainer Phartman, both Mr Methane and I had been a bit vague about how the organisers were going to make farting into a competition and how they were going to decide winners. All was revealed yesterday.
“Contestants had to drop their trousers,” Mr Methane reported, “but they kept underpants on. There was a large egg timer and they had 30 seconds in which to fart. There was a decibel meter and a microphone in a pipe below the seat on which they sat. For team events, there was a double seat.
“Contestants had two attempts – not one after other – they went to the back of the queue. It was all about the volume.”
“How loud were the Russian winners?” I asked.
“Sorry,” Mr Methane told me, “I can’t remember the exact decibel meter reading, but it was just under 90.”
“And the audience?” I asked.
“They were polite, enthusiastic and appreciative of my show which was the matinée intro to the Fart Championships themselves. I also closed the Championships with a long fart at the end.”
“Did the Russians have any particular technique?” I asked.
“They told me they thought a particular Russian drink had helped them win the contest,” said Mr Methane. “It is non alcoholic but fizzy.”
It is called квас оцаковскии – kvass otsakovskii. Kvass is a fermented drink made from rye bread and is marketed in Russia as a patriotic alternative to cola.
Coca-Cola launched its own brand of kvass in Russia in 2008 and Pepsi has signed an agreement with a Russian kvass manufacturer to act as a distribution agent. So the kvass wars cannot be far off.
You read it first here.
Mr Methane tells me: “It tastes like fizzy Marmite. Vlad and Alex presented me with a bottle as a gift and then sang a couple of verses of my song Cut The Cheese (available to view on YouTube)”
“Did they get a prize?” I asked him.
“Yes,” said Mr Methane. “52 cans of nuclear pea soup, the fuel that Phartman uses. Their two straight event wins mean that they went back to Russia with 104 tins which could be a problem at the airport baggage drop. But the organisers put their prize in a wheelbarrow and gave them a lift to the station for the 11.00pm overnight train back to the south.
“The weather had looked a bit dodgy before the Championships – overcast and showers – but it brightened up once the farting started and the sun eventually shone.
“I stayed overnight in a disused mental asylum in middle of a forest with Phartman who turns out to be a psychiatric nurse. It is very Soviet Union. The mosquitoes in the woods around the mental hospital have bitten me nearly to death. I am now off to catch a plane. There are strong winds here at the moment.”
Mr Methane will be talking about his life farting around the world in his own full-length show at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and, unless discovered by Hollywood, will be performing at the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on 23rd August.