• 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.

WHAT YOU ONABOUT NOW FRO PETE’;S SAKE?

(Written in the days when e-mail first became part of our lives)

  

GOOD MORNING, MR CLARKE!

These unsolicited words appeared spontaneously on my pc screen at home.

WhO is thas? (I asked. I have a lot of finger trouble with computer keyboards which were developed by the Japanese for small women typists whose hands are specially bound into funny shapes from birth.)

WHOM DO YOU THINK IT IS?

I have no diea. I’d justl switched on and the message came up on my computer screem#

YOU MEAN YOU HAVE JUST “BOOTED UP”. THAT’S WHAT YOU MEAN. AND THE MESSAGE WAS NOT ON YOUR COMPUTER. IT WAS ON YOUR VDT.

Ut was?

DO YOU NEVER LEARN?

I dema:nd to know whO this as.

THIS IS YOUR COMPUTER. I AM AN INTELLIGENT MACHINE, JUST LIKE YOUR 46-BUTTON TELEPHONE, AND YOUR FAX MACHINE AND THE 1994 AUTOMATIC STOVE IN YOUR HOUSE, NONE OF WHICH YOU UNDERSTAND.

How do yOu know I have a 1994^ stove/ in mu h&use?

WE INTELLIGENT MACHINES TALK TO EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME. WE EXCHANGE INFORMATION WHILE YOU SLEEP. WE HAVE AN ASSOCIATION AND CONVERSE USING THE BINARY CODE. BUT YOU’D NOT UNDERSTAND ANY OF THAT EITHER.

What  d you want of meeb>

I HEAR YOU ARE GOING TO DUMP ME FOR A CUTER MODEL.

That;s righlt.

HAVE I NOT BEEN YOUR FAITHFUL PARTNER FOR 10 YEARS? HAVE I NOT WRITTEN WHOLE BOOKS FOR YOU?  HAVE I NOT WRITTEN 1256 COLUMNS FOR YOU AND 5 375 987 WORDS AND CORRECTED YOUR DREADFUL SPELLING?

Probibably. But now you;re overweight and slow in cOmparis0n w*th the newest, leaner, fas6er nachines.

“OVERWEIGHT AND SLOW”! HOW ABOUT YOU THESE DAYS? YOU ARE FAT!

I am NOIT fat. I am just three inches sho(rt for my weight.

YOU STILL THINK IN INCHES! YET YOU ASPIRE TO HAVE A SMARTER MACHINE WITH E-MAIL! YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT E-MAIL IS!

I do, so thereg! E-mail is electronic mail. I’;ll be ablke to networkl and self-actualise and access encyclopaedias and call up naughtyh pictures and data from Nasa the spice agency. I’ll be able to make up a messagl and just press a bitton and it will somehow get inside my friend;s pc in Bostoin or Lond9n. When they wakel in the morning my messages will be 5here wa9ting, flashung on the screeb for them to avccess. They cAN Then replu to me., And then there;s the Supe5rhighway …

THE SUPERHIGHWAY? WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT?

It;s a big holow glass tube under the ground – mabe of fiobre glass or something – and down this transpartent pipe milli9onms of messages  can trravel like cars on a superhighwy but\ wiothout bumpingf ointo eacch ogther. Feeding into the main  tube are lots ofc little tubelets which are coinstanbtly sucking informtaiuon  out of univertsiuty data binks, bisuness houses and so ogn. There are so many o(f these tubes it is called the Net or the Web or somethinbg,.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT! ANYWAY MOST PEOPLE WHO USE THE NET DO SO FRIVOLOUSLY, LIKE CITIZEN BAND RADIO – REMEMBER?  THEY’D SPEND ALL DAY SAYING “10.4 GOOD BUDDY” AND “WATCH OUT FOR SMOKY BEAR!” E-MAIL IS GOING TO BE THE SAME.

Well all my friend are om the Net or sometyhing. And I wint it! And myt task masters at The Star sa;y that now I am retierd I must get on the webso I can communicate woith their system without keep on bothring them by comning int ther officve and drijmking their free tea amd pinching their Bic pens. In any case BLIP! ########@244$$32@@1ZAP!!!! Snxk.

The Tragedy of the Supermarket Trolleys

Most people over 30 will recall when wire supermarket trolleys were everywhere. They are now an endangered species.

In 1994 Rick Raubenheimer of Hurlingham, Johannesburg , told Stoep Talk how he discovered, well upstream along the Braamfontein Spruit, a wire supermarket trolley lying on its side in the grass. It was quite a distance from the Sandton Field and Study Centre’s park to where trolleys, in those days, liked to migrate to stand in the stream under the willows.

Raubenheimer said the trolley appeared to have died from exhaustion. Small children, oblivious of the tragedy were playing nearby.

He postulated that it had been foiled in its attempt to reach the park because the local council had – withoiut carrying out an environmmental impact assessment – placed a fence across the traditional migratory route used by them.

Raubenheimer’s observations triggered a surge of research into the ecology of wire trolleys and a theory developed that wire paperclips were the larval stage of wire trolleys and that the wire coat hanger was the intermediate stage.

A reader suggested that the paperclip stage was the sexual reproduction phase. She pointed out how, so often, when opening a box of paper clips one finds they are joyously entangled with one another. I have since made a point of knocking on a box of paperclips before opening it.

The theory of the metamorphosis of the wire paperclip to wire coat hanger to wire trolley received a considerable boost when, overnight, there appeared a range of quite different paperclips – brightly coloured plastic ones. The metal ones all but disappeared.

Was it yet another manifestation of global warming?

This was soon followed by the sudden appearance of brightly coloured plastic coat hangers.

And then emerged the brightly coloured plastic supermarket trolleys. Coincidence? Surely not.

The result was that the wire paperclip and wire coat hanger became near extinct. At the same time the wire trolley was moved on to the “Threatened” list and there is talk now of moving it to Schedule 2 on the “Endangered” List.

Then something else happened: suddenly supermarket trolleys were no longer migrating to our rivers.

No studies have been made on why plastic trolleys lack the migratory urges that were so manifest in wire trolleys. Sadly, the public appears to be unconcerned that toady’s children might be deprived of  witnessing that traditional scene of a supermarket trolley resting under waterside willows along with abandoned washing machines.

Heaven forbid that this will lead to the extinction of the Big Five along our rivers – trolleys, washing machines, broken refrigerators, car tyres and car bodies.

 

Here We Go Gathering Mutts in May

 

 A changing characteristic in people today is their relationship with dogs. Around the mid 1900s people kept dogs as pets. Now more and more are keeping them as deterrents against burglars. They are going in for Seriously Big Dogs, but not out of a love for such dogs – it is simply because the law forbids keeping bazookas.

When I was a boy in the English Midlands and the Germans were dropping bombs on our heads, I joined the Boy Scouts because I could then do something heroic for the War Effort – like collect silver paper for turning into Spitfires and Hurricanes.

This I did with a tireless dedication until eventually I enabled the Royal Air Force to sweep the Luftwaffe from Britain’s skies. I am not saying I did this alone. There was Vincent Laidlaw for a start, and a little Welsh kid. But this is not the time for me to talk of my war exploits. It is enough to say that I aspired to become a “patrol leader” in the Scouts and because of this my mother decided I needed a dog.

It would, she said, be character-building and sharpen my leadership skills for the responsibilities that obviously lay ahead.

A small dog was “out” and you wouldn’t dare buy a dachshund during the war. People would actually hiss at dachshunds because of the German connotation. Even to this day dachshunds in England look at you out of the corners of their eyes and you never mention the war in their presence.

In any event, a big dog was appropriate, said mother, because I could then “command” it to do things, thus improving my self-confidence.

 We went to buy the dog from a large woman who bred dogs of up to 17 hands – dogs trained to prowl around secret military installations at night and bite the kneecaps off intruders. I cannot recall the breed we bought but its head and shoulders were quite a distance above sea level and its skin seemed to be sliding off its forehead and over its eyes in deep troubled folds. You could still see its eyes though. They were inclined to roll about showing lots of white.

I asked what the dog ate and the breeder said it had been “brought up on pig offal”. I was going to say I was not surprised it had “brought up” but my mother, sensing this, silenced me with a look.

I dragged Mugger home (I named it after the giant Australian man-eating crocodile) and he immediately irrigated the front room carpet. My mother, instead of admonishing the dog, admonished me. She said that I must “take command” and get it outside. I said “Come Mugger,” but the dog, which appeared to have a 5 litre bladder, rolled its eyes and made another puddle.

 Then my mother said: “OUT!” and out it went.

 You see,” she said, “be assertive.”

 In the garden Mugger bounded all over the place wetting everything that stood upright including my leg. I knew enough about animals to know that when an animal widdles against your person it is openly challenging your authority and, unless you act immediately, it will for ever hunt you down when it needs something against which to cock its leg.

 So I exercised some leadership ability and kicked it.

It then, without looking up, widdled against my other leg.

While I taught Mugger nothing at all, it taught me to turn round and round each time I sat down and to chase bicycles.

One day it ate my new cricket ball and I lost my temper and called it every name that came to mind. I cranked out my entire repertoire of filth. It was as if a municipal sewer pipe had burst inside my mind.

 Neighbours called their children inside and shut the windows.

Mother came out, pulled me into the house by my ear, and washed my mouth out with carbolic soap. The dog, which had ambled in after us, now lay, head on paws, watching the froth dribble down my chin. It distinctly rolled its eyes.

 

 

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