• 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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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.

6 Responses

  1. I was near hysterical reading this. I was born as lead toys were becoming known as the Great Evil, but I did have a few wonderful moments with lead farm animals before they were untimely ripped from my grasp.

    I actually wrote a very moving tribute to why puberty was better than being a lead donkey a few years back. 😉 I might dig it out for Christmas blogging when my brain turns to tinsel fuzz.

    Best regards
    Michelle (of Africa – Arts and Soul on Facebook)

  2. Mr. Clarke, I met you a few months ago when my fiance and I visited you to purhase two copies of your book The Yellow Six (which has, in the interim, been re-read a number of times).

    Today, I stumbled across your blog which has had me in stitches (quiet stitches, mind you, I work in an open plan office so I keep having to pretend my mirth is a nasty cough. If I am sent home early, I owe you a bottle of wine). What is particularly amusing to me is that, after having read The Yellow Six for the first time while I was at school, EVERY time I hear anything about lead and lead poisoning I think of you.

    I absolutely love your blog!

    • I did try to reply but this pc is not behaving. If you have frcvd it then fne – it not … thanks for your email! I am pleased I gave you a chuckle – even tho a quiet one Yes, I remember you coming to visit me. I now have a very boastful webside: http://www.jamesclarke,co.za It’s very comforting to know that when you think of lead you thinjk of me. James r

  3. Howdy this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you
    have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  4. I got this website from my pal who shared with me about this web page and now this time I am browsing this
    site and reading very informative content at this place.

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