• 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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Needed: a men’s liberation movement

As Monday is National Women’s Day and I have to clean my bicycle I hope you’ll forgive me if I tell you, once again, of the time I wandered upstairs into my cranium to pay a visit to the Pondering Division of my Memory Bank.

It was on National Women’s Day in 1997 and this was a surprise visit.

“Busy are we?” I said.

Naturally the staff began jumping around.

I smiled. Even though I am the captain up there, I am always friendly. I asked the Head of Pondering (HOP) if it were possible that men would ever, seriously, start a men’s liberation movement?

After all, we ARE liberated; we ARE our own masters; we ARE . . .

I was interrupted by a voice that made everybody jump. It came in from outside entering the operations area through both ears and reverberating off the walls.

It was the wife from the kitchen.

I said: “What is it, dear heart?”

She wanted to know what I was doing. I shouted back: “I was just talking to myself.” (She would never have understood the truth.)

She wanted to know when I would fix the iron. I said: “Yes, light-of-my-life, I’ll drop everything and fix it right away. I mean, I am only trying to earn an honest living but we don’t need money in this house because we get everything free just by shuffling our pack of plastic cards at the supermarket, at, the butcher, at the blasted dress shop . . . ”

I admit that most of this was said, sort of softo voce.

I leaned against the doorpost of the Pondering Department. Many staff members were scratching their heads. They tend to do this a lot in this section.

The Head of Memory (HOM) popped his head in. Useful fellow to have around. I told HOP and HOM that men have men’s clubs and the difference between a man’s club and woman’s is that most of the time a man’s club is silent. We have little need to speak. But when women meet they can’t stop.

The voice came crashing through again.

I replied: “Yes, chickabiddy, just getting the jolly old insulation tape. Can’t fix the iron without insulation tape, can we? You could get your little self e-lec-tro-cuted! ZAPPPPP!”

I told the Head of Memory: “Expunge that thought!” I heard the sound of flushing.

“Women chatter so,” I went on. “They chatter about each other. They chatter about anything.

“Men merely exchange views.”

Later, in the Memory Department’s operations room I caught somebody shovelling neurons into a bin. “Hey!” I cried, “what are you dumping?” I recognised my history notes from school. “You can’t throw these away!” I scolded. “And what’s this? My bachelor memories of Felicity Throgmorton and that time we had in a field outside Stratford! Dear old Throgs!”

I said to HOM, “How can you throw precious stuff like this away?”

He grumbled that I stored so much useless information that it was no wonder they couldn’t always come up with answers when I needed them.

“Please,” he said, “get away from those bins. Just leave us to do our job? You can’t possibly remember everything at your age.”

The Voice once more came bursting through, this time sending a memory file crashing to the floor. The dust made everybody sneeze. HOM said: “You see what I mean?”

His words were drowned by The Voice.

“Quick,” I said to HOM, “I am supposed to be fixing the iron. Where the devil did I leave the insulation tape last time I used it?”

“Search me,” he sniffed.

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