• 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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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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