• 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.

Hey, Did You See What Obama did?

President Obama swatted a fly during a televised interview a few days ago. And then he congratulated himself on his quick reflexes.
The fly, which as far as I could make out had done nothing wrong except settle on the presidential knee, lay there on the carpet twitching in its death throes for all the world to see.
Yet the media have been shamefully silent about the morality involved in this spontaneous act of violence and has given not a thought to the probable impact of the President’s action on impressionable minds.
Isn’t the world violent enough already? (Answers on a post card please).
Thank heavens then for Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Its members don’t wear leather, they don’t eat meat – they won’t even drink milk because that would be exploiting cows. And they certainly don’t go about swatting flies and mosquitoes. They all walk funny but that’s only because they have to avoid stepping on ants.
Peta is yet another forthright and courageous animal rights group in America and it has demanded an apology from the President.
As President for Life of Densa, the club for those who haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of getting into Mensa (the society for those with high IQs) I want to congratulate Peta and offer it my full backing. Peta! I am right behind you marching shoulder to shoulder.
Densa firmly believes flies have rights just as cockroaches, slugs and politicians have rights.
Flies have feelings (otherwise why was this one twitching?) and flies are sensitive towards other creatures. Do you ever see a fly eating a LIVE animal? No. They wait until an animal is stone dead and, just to be sure, they even hang around until the carcase is rotten and suppurating and stinking.
And did Obama give a moment’s thought about whether this fly was perhaps a daddy fly with 4677 children (now tragically orphaned). Children now without a bread-winner (OK. Yes. I should have said, “now without a green meat-winner”) and 89 500 grandchildren and 1 456 000 great grandchildren crying themselves into their pillows at night?
And yet, as I say, the media has not seen fit to criticise the President. Is this because they are a bunch of liberal pinkos who believe Obama is the new Messiah?
After all, what did this fly do? He, or she (She? OMG. What if this fly was a mummy fly about to fly home to feed her 40677th baby?) … he or she merely sat on the presidential knee.
Maybe he (or she) wanted to impart a vital message from the insect world?
Even if it merely wanted to impart a tiny globule of fresh dog’s dropping – maybe from the White House lawn itself, left there by the President’s dog, Bo – did it deserve to die for THAT?
It was an abuse of power.
What if George Bush (remember him?) had settled on the President’s knee – would Obama have, with one blow sent him sprawling to the floor? On television?
By viciously striking an innocent creature 1/10 000 000th smaller than himself Obama showed a facet of his character that must have disappointed many. Yet the media have shown no sign of outrage.
The Stoep Talk Organisation wishes to distance itself from The Star which, like all the other newspapers, has not even raised an editorial eyebrow. Yet look at how indignant it was when B52 bombers swatted Iraq. And look how, only a month ago, it roundly criticised North Korea because it threatened to drop atom bombs on people’s heads.
Is it that size counts after all?

Why I was so heavy as a kid

An old friend, Adrian Steed, emailed to say, “Congratulations to all who were born between the 1930s and early 1970s.
“We survived despite there being no childproof lids on medicine bottles; riding our bikes without helmets; spending babyhood in cots painted with lead-based paints…”
Stop right there.
Don’t joke about our lead-contaminated world. We might have survived in that we are still breathing in and out but what did all those heavy metals do to us mentally?
Of all brain-damaging pollutants lead is the worst.
It might well explain why today we do mad things like shrieking in lunatic ecstasy at pop stars cross-eyed with drugs and who earn more than state presidents; like buying and selling soccer players for more money than it cost to build ships; like blowing those stupid horns non-stop for 90 minutes at soccer matches.
We who lived in the lead-polluted world of last century must be full of it and as sure at nuts (if you’ll forgive the expression) our head filler is severely damaged.
Even the aluminium pots of yesterday are now believed to have contaminated food to the extent that it caused the sudden prevalence of that disease that destroys one’s memory. Eizenhammers? Alpiners? I’ve forgotten.
And mercury. In my boyhood we would play for hours with beads of mercury, breaking them up and watching them coalesce again. Today mercury is known to scramble the brain just as surely as opening up the skull and inserting an electric eggbeater.
Look how toxic smoke poured out of factory chimneys like toothpaste. In my childhood in the English Midlands the air was filled with sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, phenols, chlorofluorocarbons and heavy metals like cadmium and German bombs. All brain damaging.
And there was lead. Ah yes, lead. Lead from vehicle exhausts; lead from water pipes and, as you say, lead from our cots which health authorities infer we must have eaten though I don’t recall doing so.
Water passing along lead pipes becomes contaminated – hence the expression “heavy water”.
As kids we played with lead soldiers and then ate sandwiches with lead-blackened fingers so it went into our stomachs from where – although I’ve never understood how – it leaked upwards into our brains. Maybe little bits dropped down each time we bent to tie our shoe laces. Maybe those who went around barefoot are today less brain damaged than we are.
We even looked for scrap lead to melt on the kitchen stove and pour into sand moulds so that our homes became filled with lead fumes. Whole families ended up sitting cross-eyed in corners, giggling and nudging each other until the authorities arrived to take them away.
I recall melting down some broken lead soldiers over the kitchen stove, pouring the molten metal into a mould and fashioning a model boat hull and trying to sail it in the bath. Any parent seeing their child engrossed in trying to float a lead boat should immediately start asking it questions like, “How many fingers am I holding up, son?” and, “Can you tell me your name?”
As a kid I might have been small, but I was heavy. Not surprisingly I was a poor swimmer.
When I and my lead-befuddled friends leapt shrieking with joy in to our local municipal swimming bath our lead-filled heads acted like breeze blocks anchoring us to the bottom. Lifesavers were constantly on the look out for feet sticking up above the surface so they could pull us out.
Today’s cheap plastic playthings may be, after all, the best bet.
Certainly plastic armbands are better than lead ones. So are plastic beach balls.

How to Kill your Husband (nicely)

The lunchtime topic was “How to kill your husband”.
Ronnie Whitaker, a Durban wife, mother and author has discovered a nice way to do it.
She claims to have “a successful marriage” and I gathered the secret lay in what Ronnie and her husband call each other. They call each other long distance. Ronnie’s husband lives 10 000 km away in England.
The lunch was at the New Chapter Literary Luncheon Club at Sandton’s Hilton Hotel. The club arranges for authors to talk about their latest books and sell some at the door. The club has launched some of mine but the preponderantly female members have never fallen upon myh books with the salivating enthusiasm that they displayed for Ronnie’s “How to kill your husband” (published, appropriately, by Spearhead).
Ronnie says, “Women place for too much emphasis on being married – and not nearly enough on being widows.”
She advises women to make sure they get what is rightfully theirs – the old man’s life insurance.
She says she likes men, but that some are nicer dead.
Oh yes, I laughed and laughed. All we males laughed. Sort of high-pitched stuff.
And we dropped our food more than usual.
Ronnie was a little nervous of public speaking but as she warmed to the subject she began to appear more and more like Charles Adams disguised as a fruit sundae.
“I’m terrified of public speaking,” she said. “A recent study showed that 90 percent of people say public speaking is their greatest fear. Death came second.
“So there you go, people would rather die than stand up and speak. It figures, therefore, that the men affected (by the advice in her book) are lucky. All they have to do is die while I must stand up here and speak.”
Ronnie’s book is just like Ronnie herself. There’s a cynicism that is very very funny. There are recipes for “killer food”; recipes that are practically guaranteed to give the old man a heart attack, in good time. It’s not cold-blooded murder, you understand. There’s no blood involved. It’s good fun all round.
She said, “When my husband had a heart attack we weren’t prepared for it – he didn’t have enough insurance.” After virtually saving his life she got him to step up insurance payments.
“I agree, heart attacks are no laughing matter,” she says. “Well, at least, not until the estate is wound up,”
She says a woman spends 30 years of her life looking for her man’s lost socks and taking all his nonsense only to see him stricken by the “lolita syndrome” and go off with his 22 year old secretary. “And he doesn’t even wear socks any more. It’s slops and Bermuda shorts. He looks ridiculous. But she gets the money.”
She sounded almost serious when she said a wise wife ignores her husband’s affairs – “and certainly don’t divorce him because then the Viagra popping nymph chaser will give all his money to the bimbo”.
Affairs are stressful and stress is good for heart attacks. And nearly all men who die having sex do so while with the other woman.
So, she says, encourage stress and invest in lethal puddings. She offers some serious super-cholesterol killer recipes such as:
“Healthy Mangoes Ha Ha – liquidise a large mango with 125-150 mg mascarpone cheese. Layer between liqueur-soaked sliced mango and top with whipped cream!”
The funeral can be a tonic…
A drunken abusive husband died and the hired minister exaggerated the man’s almost non-existent good points so ridiculously that the widow began to giggle and eventually she and all her friends folded up in helpless laughter.
But I must go. My wife is cooking a huge eisbein – with chips followed by bread-and-butter pudding – again.

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