• 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.

Murder in the kitchen

Bob Woodgate of the Retirement Association in Johannesburg gives lectures to those who are nearing retirement. He warns males that once they start staying home all day they must “at all costs” avoid telling their wives how to run the house.

“It is,” says Woodgate, “too late to start telling your wife how to rearrange things in the kitchen. After 40 years of doing it her way she is not going to take kindly to being told she does not know her job.”

It must be agony for a man.

In fact it’s impossible.

Imagine a man who has been running a 1 000-bed hospital with a staff of 5 000, or a gold mine employing 30 000, or a large five-star hotel for years and years. Suddenly (because it always happens suddenly) he finds himself being handed the traditional retirement gift from his colleagues – an oil painting of the sea or a golf bag or mantelpiece clock – and then off he drives home, forever.

After a week at home he realises just how long his wife shuffles about the house in the mornings before she does anything that can be considered even remotely productive – like picking up his newspaper from last night – and then how she flops down to read it herself.

One day he discovers the kitchen.

He quickly realises that from a time and motion study point of view the kitchen is a disaster area.

He blanches at the thought of National Occupational Safety Association inspectors seeing it. How they would reel about and clutch each other when they saw the number of hazards involving boiling water, red-hot surfaces, sharp knives, slippery floors, sharp corners, lack of protective clothing, lack of hygienic techniques and household pets moving about in proximity to stored food.

Then the retired executive discovers where and how the washing is done, and how often and how long the washing machine is going, and he instinctively knows how this can be minimised so that one can do larger loads using fewer kilowatt/hours.

He then finds out how many times his wife goes to the shops when she could, with a simple computer programme, get it down to twice a week and, at the same time, cut down on petrol consumption.

Despite all this, Bob Woodgate insists, a husband must say nothing.

As I say, it’s impossible.

It’s absurd.

It could burst a man’s blood vessels…

“My dear, I am not, as you say, trying to make a federal case out of it, but with minor adjustments to your modus operandi, and a simple weekly audit to monitor your progress, you could maximise not only valuable man-hours but achieve considerable savings on overheads.

“Take the inefficient way you peel potatoes. By measuring the thickness of the peel I have been able to estimate that for every potato peeled you waste 16g of good, wholesome starch. Taken over a year this means…

“And there’s also the amount of water used in the potato washing and cooking sequence. These are both very simple operations which, in terms of thermal efficiency and water costs – and mindful, as one must be in this day and age, of the national need for water saving in the domestic sector – can be substantially optimised.

“Now let us look at the way you use the stove. You tend to switch off the hot plate only when the meal is ready. Clearly, if you were to switch it off six minutes earlier – and you have all these built-in timing devices which, I note, you never set – the energy saving over a given period would be immense. As for your oven technique, the amount of heat that escapes is surely going to exacerbate the greenhouse effect.

“But where, I think, we can make considerable cost saving in man-hours is in the route you choose to vacuum the floors. Now I have drawn up this plan. Let’s first examine your route and compare it with other options…

“As for shopping, I have been quantifying both cost in fuel and time and I conclude considerable savings can be made with regard fuel and, in fact, in general expenditure and I would like you to schedule two days a week beginning Monday 8.30am sharp…ugh! Aaaaagh!


Later, when the police arrive:

“I am afraid, madam, your husband is dead. I must say, in all my years in homicide I have never seen a human corpse spread over so wide an area.

“You say first you struck him with this iron pot, then you broke the frying pan over his head, then you flattened him with the Hoover and after that you really lost your temper.

“But let me repeat to you madam, you have the right to remain silent … What? You can’t wait to tell us how you then did WHAT to him?”

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