• 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.

Polly’s gone crackers

A Chinese man walked into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The barman asked, “Where’d you get that?”
The parrot says: “In Asia there are MILLIONS of them!”
I am not sure why parrots feature so much in jokes but they do. Here are a few samples some of which you’ll know but a good story, like good music, bears repetition…
A woman bought a female parrot without realising it had spent its formative years in a brothel. All it would say was “Hi guys! You wanna good time?”
This often proved to be very embarrassing and the woman asked her local priest what she should do.
He told her he had two male parrots who spent their days saying the rosary and praying quite fervently and he suggested she put her parrotess in with his two males.
When the female parrot entered the cage there was silence at first. Then the new arrival said, “Hi guys! You wanna good time?”
One of the male parrots said to his companion, “Hey Cecil, you can stick those beads away. I think our prayers have been answered.”
Then there was this one which I frequently receive:
A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. It had a bad attitude and its language was profane and vulgar.
John tried in vain to clean it up.
He yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. In desperation he shoved the bird into the refrigerator. The parrot squawked and screamed. Then, suddenly, silence.
John quickly opened the door and the parrot stepped out onto John’s outstretched arm and said: “I have offended you with my rude language and I apologise unconditionally. I will never swear again.”
John was stunned and was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change when the bird continued, “May I ask what the chicken in there did?”
Then this corny one:
A woman brought a very limp parrot into the surgery and the vet pronounced it dead.
She wailed, “You haven’t even tested it.”
The vet brought in his Labrador. It sniffed the dead parrot and then looked at the vet with sad eyes.
Then the vet brought in a cat that looked the parrot up and down and left the room.
The vet said, “It’s definitely dead.” He handed her a bill for R400. She was outraged.
He shrugged. “If you’d taken my word for it, it would have been R60 – but what with the Lab test and the cat scan…”
My favourite:
A magician was working on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The audience would be different each week, so the magician could safely repeat the same tricks.
Just one problem: the captain’s parrot saw the shows every week and began to understand what the magician was doing. He took to calling out in the middle of the show: “Look, it’s not the same hat!” and “He’s hiding the flowers under the table!”
The furious magician could do nothing because it was the captain’s parrot.
One day there was a terrible storm and the ship was wrecked. The magician found himself on a piece of wood in mid ocean, the parrot by his side. They stared at each other with hate, but uttered not a word. This went on for several days.
Finally, the parrot said: “OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?”
And this one which I used some time back:
After carefully “casing” a house for several hours and watching the residents depart for a night out, a burglar entered and in the dark felt his way around from room to room.
On entering what he considered to be the living room he heard a quiet voice say, “Jesus is watching you!”
He froze. Then he continued to cautiously feel his way further around the wall and the same voice, somewhat louder now, repeated the message: “Jesus is watching you!”
Again he stopped. Silence.
He continued around the room for a while and a loud voice from immediately in front of him said, “JESUS IS WATCHING YOU!”
He took out his torch and shone it on a beautiful parrot sitting in its cage directly in front of him.
He laughed with relief and asked, “Is your name Jesus?”
“No,” said the parrot, “My name is Percy.”
After a stunned silence the burglar asked, “Who on earth would name a parrot Percy?”
“Well,” said the parrot, “that would be the same person that named the Rottweiler that’s walking behind you, Jesus.”

How to be organised or otherwise

You’d think I’d be organised by this stage in my life. After all, I’ve been in one occupation for half a century.

In fact the casual observer might assume that I am indeed organised. I have, arrayed in front of me, a fax machine; a busy body telephone that chats to people and takes messages; a cellphone whose number I can never remember and that can take pictures (I ask you); a personal computer with email; an ADSL device with flashing lights that keeps me constantly in touch with the world through an ever-open line; Skype through which I can talk to people across the world for nothing (it doesn’t yet work and I don’t give a damn)- and people can write to me via a Post Office box number or a street address.

Eight ways of communicating – 10 if you choose to shout through my letter box or throw a brick through my window with a message tied to it.

But the truth is I am more technologically overwhelmed than organised.

The nearest I am to being organised is the possession of a supposedly out-dated “personal organiser”. This is n diary bound with artificial leather  and which has a burglar-proof press-stud fastener. I bought in the 1980s. Admittedly, even then, nothing was allowed to be that simple. This one had extra sections divided by stiff plastic leaves and you could buy accessorises for it just like you could for a Barbie Doll.

It had a “yearly planner” which could be folded out displaying all your important dates for the year. I spoilt mine by writing “My birthday” on the wrong day. So I threw that section away. There was a section labelled “things to do” and another labelled “Notes”. It had a plastic ruler and a section for filing transparencies and another for keeping visiting cards.

I threw all these sections away and just kept the day-at-a-glance bit.

I realised that owning a personal organiser, unless one showed discipline, could become just like owning a Barbie. Not that I have ever owned a Barbie Doll but I do know that when a small girl owns a Barbie she simply has to have all the extras such as handbags, the latest shoes and so on.

One could, by filling in all the sections of a Personal Organiser, squeeze one’s entire future life in between the covers – all one’s PIN codes, telephone numbers, addresses and appointments for the rest of the year.

All nice and compact.                                                                                                                    

But what if one leaves it on the bus?

Do the shops that specialise in Personal Organisers sell cyanide capsules to keep in a tiny locket round your neck so that if you lose your POI you can bite on the capsule and drop dead because you might as well.

The Personal Organiser has been replaced by these new cellphones that fold out and have a qwerty keyboard like a miniature typewriter and through which you can download your emails and send faxes. You can also take movies.

It is the cellphone equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife. It can store hundreds of telephone numbers. It can store your detailed diary and has a built-in alarm to remind you of each appointment.

I know a fellow who can get television on his cellphone.

These cellphones even have a GPS (geographical positioning system) into which you type the address you are looking for and a voice tells you when to turn left and when to turn right.

It tells you your precise geographical position to within a metre.

It eventually rules your life.

Lose it and you’re dead.

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