• 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.


 My psychiatrist, Bertie Amadeus Najinsky, insists that the mind controls the stomach. It is therefore important to maintain a well-run administration upstairs in the cranium. And, he says, one should never lose sight of a fundamental requisite to a healthy body – avoid mixing protein and carbohydrates.“Never,” he says, “eat meat with potatoes. Or cheese with bread.” He avers that for 99.9 percent of man’s history we have been eating protein separately from carbohydrates. I can accept this. After all, when a Stone Age man dragged home a carcass you can be sure that mummy did not rush off to whip up some Yorkshire pud or cauliflower au gratin. No. When Ug dumped that carcass on the cave floor the family would have fallen upon it, shoving the raw meat down their throats. They probably shouted at each other, burped, kicked, bit and punched just like kids do at boarding school.

But never would they have mixed meat and veg.

On the other hand, for those long weeks when Ug found no meat at all, the family would have lived solely off berries, leaves and roots.  So, postulates Najinsky, only in the last few generations have humans mixed the two and pigged it in Italian restaurants. And while our stomachs can cope with mixed food, just as our lungs are coping with all the gubbins in the 21st century’s atmosphere, it does not mean it’s good for us.

But just try resisting it.

You have to hear the conversations that go on in the mornings between me, on the bridge, and the enzymes who slave away in the stoke-hold in the depths of my stomach. Every morning in the cold light of dawn I clamber up into the control room in my cranium and stand there on the bridge (situated just above the nose) staring out of those twin portholes – their respective shades lowered slightly – listening to the troubled, hollow voices coming up from the stokers.

 “Hey, Skipper! How about some nosh?” cry the enzymes who (or even whom) I can sense, are leaning on their shovels having nothing with which to stoke the boilers.

“Send it Skipper! It’s 07:00 hours!”I ignore the voices. I stare ahead, shoulders slightly hunched, captain’s hat pulled firmly down over the brow. Collar up. The engines are going fine, if a little slowly, and I have decided to send down only fruit until noon.

Only at night am I prepared to touch meat and then I fall upon it like my ancestors did, snarling and sending little bits flying in all directions.

The voices become filled with anguish – like stokers trapped in the engine room of a sinking battleship. Brave men, all. My heart goes out to them. There are groans and shrieks – some enzymes are praying.

The eyes moisten, but I am resolute. I recite to myself those immortal lines:

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my stomach.

Somebody shouts a desperate last plea: “For Pete’s sake, Captain! How about sending down a toasted ham sandwich? Or a tuna and salad roll dripping with mayonnaise? Oh come on Skipper! A hot meat pie with gravy and chips!”

Carefully pronouncing each clipped syllable I speak into the tube: “Now hear this! This is your Captain. I cannot – and I will not – mix protein and carbohydrates. THAT IS FINAL”.

The morning wears on … “Aw, come on Skipper! We can cope with anything down here! Have we not coped with fat Dublin snails in garlic butter eaten with brown bread fingers? Have we not processed canard l’orange with roast potatoes, green peas and gravy followed by apple pie, custard, cheese, biscuits, after-dinner mints. . . all in one sitting? Have we not . . .”

“QUIET!” I roar. It is, of course, fine to shout this out if one is alone but, if one is sitting in Najinsky’s waiting room, or on a bus, or at a serious christening, it may cause sideways glances.

But the crescendo grows and the voices come up like those of people condemned to hell.

Eventually I crack. I rush down to the deli and ask for a toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich. “Add sliced banana!” I say impulsively. “And pineapple!”

The girl behind the counter shouts my order through the hatch to the kitchen. A ragged cheering mixed with whoops and shrieks comes up from my stomach.

The girl blanches. She yells again through the hatch: “Make this one fast!”  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: