• Message from James Clarke

    "South Africa's Best Humour Columnist"

    - SA's Comedy Awards September 2008

    “South Africa’s funniest columnist.”

    - Financial Mail

    WELCOME TO MY BLOG

    The name is Clarke. James Clarke. I have been told by people who know their way around the electronic world with its iPads, USBs, processors, modems, 500 gb hard drives, Blackberries and microwave ovens, that as a writer I have to have a blogsite. Otherwise, I am told, it is like passing oneself off as a CEO and you haven’t a leather chair that tilts back.

    Yet after four years of having a blogsite I still don’t really understand what it is or how it helps sell my books which is my major concern in life apart from not stepping on cracks when walking on the pavement.

    I am also told that on a blogsite it is customary to refer to oneself in the third person. This enables one to grossly exaggerate ones attainments without appearing to have done so personally.

    Not being one to buck the system...

    London-born James Clarke is your average tall, dark, handsome fellow who writes books – fiction and non-fiction. As a humorist he has been compared with PG Wodehouse and James Thurber. (The Daily Bugle in Des Moines said “compared with the works of PG Wodehouse and James Thurber, Clarke’s writing isn’t worth a row of beans”.)

    He long ago settled in South Africa where he became a mover and a shaker in the world of the environmental sciences. As a youth, being a mover and a shaker, had made it impossible for him to follow in his father’s footsteps as a bottler in a nitro-glycerine plant. Hence he turned to journalism.

    But around the time he retired a few years ago he found a new pursuit as a humorist. He wrote a daily humour column in the Johannesburg Star (now syndicated) and began turning out books of humour in the UK and South Africa.

    Clarke very recently moved boldly into the electronic publishing world. It was, he said afterwards, like a non-swimmer diving into a pool without first testing its depth.

    In November 2011 he re-issued his latest book of humour, “Blazing Saddles”, as an Amazon Kindle e-book under the title “Blazing Bicycle Saddles”. For a mere US$4.99 you can download a copy of this seminal cycling book in a matter of seconds by clicking here ....


    ooo

    He did this with the full realisation that he is totally at sea in the electronic world with its telephones that take movies and receive faxes and sports results.

    The original edition of “Blazing Saddles”, published by Jonathan Ball, has been out of print for two years. It reveals the true story of how six retired men – five of them journalists – year after year set out (intrepidly) from the African continent on a series of exploratory expeditions cycling into “Darkest Europe” to bring back to the people of Africa tales of its funny natives.

    Clarke will also shortly be publishing, via Amazon.com, another of his action-packed autobiographical books – this time an account of his Second World War exploits as L*E*A*D*E*R of the Yellow Six Patrol of the 1st Streetly Boy Scouts in the English Midlands. He recounts the patrol’s ceaseless campaign to defeat Adolf Hitler’s plan to invade England.

    You can read about “The Yellow Six” within this blogsite.

    Clarke, apart from moving and shaking, is a travel writer and proud father of two highly successful daughters – one a biologist and the other an environmental impact analyst. He and his wife, Lenka, live north of Johannesburg.

THE LAST ELEPHANTS IN ENGLAND

 Some may wonder how it was that I became the modest L*E*A*D*E*R of the Yellow Six patrol in the 1st Streetly Boy Scouts when it is only in the Wolf Cubs that groups of six are generally formed. Our group of six Boy Scouts – and we were indeed real Boy Scouts with pointy hats and incredibly dangerous knives – was a complete patrol despite its low number. We remained only six because, well, nobody else would join us. I suppose the flies bothered them.The ‘yellow’ label had to do with the yellow tabs we wore on our shirts. Each Scout patrol had an animal as a mascot and each animal was identified by a different colour tab.

A green and black tab meant the Scouts were of the Eagle patrol whose members aspired to ‘soar like an eagle’. This was a very casualty-prone patrol. The Beaver patrol resolved to ‘work hard’ and wore blue and yellow (I am not sure what they got up to.) The Wolf patrol, with its yellow and black, was ‘true unto death’. There was a Hippo patrol but, again, I am not sure what they aspired to do – presumably float around in swamps.

As each patrol crept about in the park, members would keep in touch by making noises appropriate to their chosen animal. The Wolf patrol howled and the Bulldog patrol barked; the Elephant patrol trumpeted while the Bat patrol went (according to Baden-Powell’s instructions) ‘Pitz-pitz’. This was intended to mask one’s presence by fooling picnickers into assuming there were merely wolves passing through the park, or a small herd of elephants, or a flock of eagles, and people would carry on, oblivious, playing ball or picking ants out of their sandwiches.

It didn’t always work that way.

My patrol was originally the Panther patrol which had yellow flashes. In Scouting for Boys the panther call is described as: ‘tongue inside of mouth – Keeook!’ We soon found that creeping around the park crying ‘Keeook!’ attracted unwanted attention and picnickers would sometimes call a park attendant or pack up their kids and go home.

The Elephant patrol sometimes had bigger problems. So did the Gannets so far from the sea, with their cry of ‘Aaarrr’. The Hyena patrol, which had to emit ‘a laughing cry – Ooowah-oowah-wah’, were sometimes set upon by whole families. After all, the last hyena to be seen in the English Midlands was in the late Pleistocene and older people obviously had unhappy memories of them.

Anyway, our panther cry of ‘Keeook’ didn’t sound very fierce so we changed to an animal whose sound was at least easy to mimic – the peewit or lapwing This call startled but never frightened picnickers.

Our change from being the Jaguar patrol to the Peewit patrol was not the first time we had changed animal mascots. Originally we were the Woodpecker patrol whose official call was ‘heear flearfle’ which, we discovered, the British public was not yet ready for. The peewit’s colour tab was green and white. But as our mothers had already changed our tabs from woodpecker (red and white) to jaguar (yellow) they steadfastly refused to change tabs for a third time. So the pewits retained the yellow jaguar tabs – and hence the ‘yellow’ in the illustrious Yellow Six.

(email: jcl@onwe.co.za)

(The Yellow Six is a book originally published in 1995 by Penguin (SA) and publihed in the UK in 2005 by Brewin Books, Birmingham)

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