• Message from James Clarke

    "South Africa's Best Humour Columnist"

    - SA's Comedy Awards September 2008

    “South Africa’s funniest columnist.”

    - Financial Mail


    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 ....


    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.

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James Bond – the truth

I saw an old James Bond movie on television recently and it reminded me of the words of the French director-general of La Securité Exterieure almost 20 years ago. He said, “Avez-vouz une bonne recette pour le poulette?” He added as an afterthought, “Aimez-vous le riz au lait?”  

Being a bit of a linguist, I knew immediately what he was trying to say – that the old-type spy, such as  James Bond, was obsolete and that office-bound nerds behind computers were taking over.

 I was in counter-espionage myself in those days.

 Let me take you back to 1976. 

I was in a Rome hotel. Bond entered the room by kicking down the door. We old boys in counter-espionage never knocked. Bond suspected I had gone over to the other side. It was a story MI5 had put around to help me infiltrate the Russians. 

Bond said, “The name’s Bond. James Bond. Double-O-Seven. Licensed to kill and all that.” 

I said, “The name’s Clarke. James Clarke. 76598/337/76447A. Licensed to sell toiletries in the magisterial district of…” 

Bond was not amused and cut me short, “Where’s Botvinik?”  I neither answered nor got up. I stayed where I was – in the bathtub, with my little plastic battleship, trying to sink the floating lid of the shampoo bottle.

Frankly, although I did not show it, I was surprised to hear Bond was still chasing Botvinik. Botvinik, I could have told him if I’d wanted, had been switched to computers long ago but had proved too old to adapt and so the Russians had, as we computer buffs might say, configurated him. 

I sat there, tossing the soap from hand to hand to show my total indifference to the Walther pistol leveled at my head. Inevitably, I dropped the soap and had the devil’s own job catching it again under water.

Bond waited, arms folded, pistol cradled in the crook of his arm. I found the soap, tossed it to him and said, “Catch!”

He automatically dropped his gun and tried to catch the soap, but it kept popping out of his hands. While he was thus occupied, I nipped out of the bath, shaved, squirted a little Mum under the armpits, dressed, got the fat end of my tie to hang lower than the thin end and leapt into my old Toyota 1.6.

 I saw in my rear-view mirror Bond gunning his Aston Martin DB 116 in my wake. Thus we burned up the kilometers on the Roma/Napoli autostrada.

In all his 30 years in the game, Bond never scared me. I knew too much about him. He was no better than those wimps who appear in cough mixture ads on television, whose wives give them medicine and tuck them into bed. But Bond doesn’t have a wife.

Ever wondered about that?

Bond was gaining. My previous Toyota had a special feature – at speed, its hubcaps fell off, causing the fellow behind to lose concentration. My present car had no hubcaps, so I ripped the spine off my copy of Computing for Dummies and tossed it out of the window. As the pages stuck against  Bond’s windscreen he hit 16 Alfas and eight Fiats.

I visited him in hospital. He was entirely cocooned in plaster and I’d been chatting to him for at least half an hour before I realised the cocoon was empty and that Bond was behind me, this time with a 9mm parabellum leveled at my 166mm cerebellum.

I never carried a gun – the bang always makes me jump – and the nearest bar of soap was in the bathroom. But I fooled him. I shouted, “Catch!”

His gun clattered to the floor. I kicked it under the bed. He was helpless.

“I’ve brought you flowers,” I said.

He was touched. I left him holding them. They were timed to explode in 60 seconds.   .

One Response

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