• 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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A little bit of history

How the oldest game was invented

 Golf is a very ancient game. It goes back well before Gary Player. In fact it goes back to the time of the apeman.  

Around 4-million years ago Australopithecus africanus had been forced out of the receding forests and on to the plains of Africa. In order to see over the top of the grass they were compelled to stand upright.  

This was the first step towards being able to play golf. Perhaps they realised it, perhaps they didn’t.  

Their only weapon in this new and menacing landscape, which, as one can imagine, was picked over by some pretty mean creatures, was a club.

 Thus the second step had been achieved. 

One day a man-ape, Ug Blainkenthorpe (not his real name) picked up a stick intending to use it as a club for hitting small mammals and people he didn’t like.

 However, it was too whippy for hunting. But he liked the stick and he pondered over it for some time before an idea struck him. 

He used it to hit a small, round, white stone. He watched in fascination as the stone curved into the sky like a bird.

 Then he and his friend, Og Willisden, (some authorities say his name was spelt Willisdon) spent many hours hunting for this beautiful round stone and, being hunters, they enjoyed this immensely.

“Hey this is fun,” said Og.

And so a kind of game was born. It was, at first, no more than “hit-and-hunt” and it sometimes entailed flogging vast areas of thick grassveld with these funny sticks.

For the next 3.99-million years the game was known as “flog”.

 If, of course, a ball went down a hole then, quite often, there it had to stay. But it made the floggers realise they needed lots of little white stones. This now became the job for the women because, after all, collecting little white balls was, strictly-speaking, “gathering” and, therefore, in this hunter-gatherer society it fell into the women’s department.

 One day Og said to Ug, “Flog is all very well but why not invent a game where we just kick a big, soft ball? We could call it soccer!”

 “It will never catch on,” said Ug. “It is better that we try to improve the game of flog. Maybe it will be more fun if we deliberately aim for holes to see who can sink their ball in the least number of strokes.”

 Flog, when all is considered, has not improved much beyond this stage although cutting the grass was a useful step.

 Sports historians – ignorant of the foregoing – generally believe that it was the Scots who invented the game around the 1300s. That is what is written in the history books.

 Certainly the Scots turned the game around by aiming for holes somewhat smaller than warthog burrows. They also turned the name of the game around – “flog” was reversed to become “golf”. It’s amazing how few people know this.

 From here on the history of the game is more accurately documented. Encyclopaedia Britannica says that by the mid-1400s James II decreed that “Golfe be utterly cried down” because it was rivalling archery as an outdoor pastime and you couldn’t really defend the realm with number nine irons.

 Some say the game originated in Holland or Belgium and grew out of the game of chole. Chole was a cross-country game in which opposing sides set off to hit the ball across many kilometres to a target such as a church door. After one side had played three strokes the other side had the right to hit their opponents’ ball into the nearest hazard – even over a cliff.

 This, today, could result in tantrums.

It might be significant that the Scots bought their balls from Holland until James I curbed the trade because “no small quantitie” of gold and silver was being spent on their purchase.

 I gave up golf many years ago after the primeval thrill of hunting for my ball had grown thin.

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