• 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.

No such thing as a free lunch

It was Bosses’ Day on Friday. I’d never heard of it until I sensed Threnody, head secretary of the Stoep Talk Organisation, hovering near my desk. 

“What is it, Threnody?” I asked rather testily which, on a Friday morning a boss is entitled to be. “Can’t you see I’m busy?” 

She looked at my screen for a second and said, “(Cough. Cough.) If you move the four of clubs over to there it will release the five of hearts which can then go up there and then that one…” 

“I was about to do that,” I said. 

Those who have played solitaire on their computer, and get it to work out, will know the glow of satisfaction, the burst of pride, the ecstasy, that overpowering feeling of having mentally triumphed over mankind’s most complicated and daunting piece of machinery.

 “(Cough. Cough) Do you know what day it is?” Threnody asked a little hesitantly. 

“I suggest you consult the nearest calendar,” I said dryly.

 “(Cough. Cough.) “It’s Bosses’ Day!”

“So?” 

“Well, in September, on Secretaries’ Day, you took me to lunch so my mother said I (Cough. Cough) should take you to lunch!” 

I swivelled my boss’s chair around and tilted it in an executive-like way so that I could see her more clearly. I noticed, for the first time, that she was wearing quite a snazzy dress and had had her hair done. I was, to tell the truth, quite taken aback.

  “YOU? Take ME to lunch?” I said. Then, a little suspiciously I asked, “Where?” 

“Well, not that hamburger place that you took me for Secretaries’ Day. When I told my mom I was thinking of taking you there she nearly had a fit. She said I should take you to La Maison Cuisine.” 

“But that’s very expensive!” I said. 

“My mother gave me some money.”

“Well then, have you booked? I mean, what are you waiting for? They could be full!” 

And so it was that I found myself walking into La Maison Cuisine and ordering extra large huitres and roti carnard a l’orange with une bouteille de vin rouge and waving la fourchette as I told Threnody my life story.

I told her how I had started out in adult life with just a bicycle (albeit a three speed one with drop handlebars and a loud bell) and how, over the years, I became an intrepid reporter until one day I was able to buy myself a 12-speed bicycle…

“What year was that?” she asked.

“You tell me,” I suggested.

“1916?” she said. 

“What!” I said. “My gosh! How old do you think I am?”  (I was barely 50 at the time.) She thought for a long time and said at last: “Sixty?” 

“What!? What!”

“Sorry, Sir, am I a bit out?” 

“A bit? You’re 10 years out!” 

“You mean you’re 70!” 

This greatly curbed the appetite which, up to that point, had been shouting up from below that it wanted crème broulet.

Although Threnody only sipped her wine and was still on her first glass, the bottle, miraculously, was empty. I ordered another and solemnly toasted her dear old mum. 

Threnody ate with surprising energy while I traced my writing career from primary school. I had barely reached my prize-winning composition (well, it was a consolation prize actually) in fifth grade, when the bill came.

Threnody, without looking at it, folded a R50 note inside it and placed it back in the folder. 

“That won’t be sufficient,” I said, thoroughly alarmed. 

“That’s all my mother gave me! My mother said ‘R50 should be enough for that old skinfli… for your dear old boss’.”

I had to pay the R425.45 balance AND part with a 20c tip. 

Back at the office I looked in vain in the dictionary for the word “skinfli”. It was quite some time before my colour returned. Threnody, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically chipper and hummed a little tune.

Obviously the vin rouge.  

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