• 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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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.



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