• 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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Wine and how to live for ever

 David Sinclair, assistant professor of pathology at Harvard, says that he and fellow researchers have isolated in red wine and peanuts, molecules that appear to have life-extending effects. He hopes they will prove to prolong life not just in yeast but in multi­cellular organisms like worms, fruit flies and, perhaps, humans. Sinclair, whose study appears in the latest edition of Nature, says tests on worms and flies are already yielding “encouraging” results.   – Report

As you can imagine, I read this with consuming interest. I made a mental note to ask my medical aid fund to pay my Wine Club account.

As I downed my second glass of Chateaux Libertas at dinner that evening and reached forward for a refill, my wife said, “Haven’t you had enough?”

I had been waiting for this.

“I’m not driving anywhere,” I said.

“I know, but you might want to stand up.”

As titular H*E*A*D of the family and C*H*I*E*F B*R*E*A*D*W*I*N*N*E*R for these last many years, I deserved more respect. Not just bread-winner either. I am the wine-winner too and, come to think of it, soap-winner and potato-winner and take-aways-on-Thursday-night-winner, not to mention the bathsalts-winner and, dammit, house- and furniture-winner.

I addressed those present in measured tones.

“It is written,” I said, “in the Journal of Nature (vol cix, pp 21-5, opsit, sitop) – which is no mean journal when it comes to science – that red wine…”

“Let me guess,” said my wife, staring upwards as if concentrating. “It says that drinking red wine prolongs your life.”

I ignored the interruption. “It says,” I said, “drinking red wine prolongs your life.”

(How do women DO that?)

I deliberately, and carefully, filled my glass before continuing, spilling just a little on the white tablecloth which rather spoiled the effect because, if there’s anything that makes my wife go on and on, it is about spilling red wine (and not wiping my feet and not eating my carrots and not closing doors and…)

“It says that something in red wine and peanuts makes worms and flies live longer (ibid).”

“Why would they want flies and worms to live longer?” one daughter asked fatuously.

“Anyway, how do they get flies to drink wine and nibble peanuts?” asked the other.

“Have you never heard of bar flies?” somebody said.

I ignored this mocking chitter-chatter and continued.

“You might recall,” I said, “that I recorded in my column some five years ago (vol cvii, no. 456) that the esteemed Journal of Danish Epidemiology (vol xiv, p. 27) reported the findings of Dr Morten Gronbaek that since the Danes had switched from beer to wine, heart attacks had declined DRAMATICALLY.

“Gronbaek declared that moderate drinking of red wine, or white, prolonged life.”

“Then you should live for ever,” said my wife. “But what, pray, is ‘moderate’?”

I was hoping she would ask me this and I leant drama to my response by slowly chasing a pea around my plate and taking a long draught of wine. I always take long draughts – ever since I was told that when Frenchmen, Germans or Italians drink wine, they gulp it, like men. Englishmen sip wine like moffies (Beano, vol xi).

It says three to five glasses a day is moderate. Three to five glasses a day! I mean, that’s what I drink!”

“Yes, but I think you’ll find they mean ordinary wine glasses and not the goldfish bowls you use.”

This was cruel hyperbole and I will not involve the reader further in this domestic bickering.

It still bothers me when I lay my head upon my pillow that flies and worms will be living longer.

(email: <jcl@onwe.co.za>)

  Filed under: General, StoepTalk | Tagged: health, humour, james clarke, stoep talk, wine

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