• 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.

Can a Jumbo loop the loop?

The question arose out of the blue and for no discernible reason: Can a Jumbo jet loop the loop?
For the benefit of those who aren’t flyers or don’t drive Johannesburg taxis and therefore might not know what looping-the-loop is, let me explain.
Looping the loop describes how an aircraft suddenly climbs steeply and performs a backward somersault before diving and resuming level flight.
The question was picked up from the Internet by a friend who was for years involved in space flight and aviation. He says it was originally posed to Cecil Adams who runs a questions and answers website called The Straight Dope.
The full question was: “Is it possible to roll or loop a 747 or DC-10 (airliner) loaded or empty?”
Adams replied, “No one has ever tried to get fancy with one of the Big Birds, but there once was a Boeing test pilot who, in a moment of frivolity, took it into his head to execute a barrel roll in a (Boeing) 707.”
The consensus at Boeing’s factory, says Adams, was that a 747 would probably survive a barrel roll but to try it would be, and he quotes, “an extremely foolish action.”
A barrel roll is when the aircraft rolls over on its back and continues the roll through 360 degrees, spiralling along a horizontal path hopefully through the air.
The problem, says Adams, is not so much with the strength of the wings, which are designed to stand much greater pressures. It has to do with the skill of the pilot.
“Enough forward speed must be maintained during the roll to compensate for the loss of lift that occurs when, in effect, the wings cease to function. That happens when the wings are in the vertical position and can no longer hold the plane up.
“In a small plane, the problem is minimal: the wings spin out of the vertical position in a split second. But in a larger plane it takes longer to roll and the margin for error is increased, and the fatal moment could be stretched out enough to pull the plane down.
“Looping a 747 or a DC-10 would be trickier still.”
I sent the comments to Geoff Quick, an ex Royal Air Force pilot who is a fellow member of the RAF Officers’ Club in Johannesburg.
Geoff is originally from Cornwall where, he says, people still point excitedly at the sky when aeroplanes pass overhead.
Geoff has seen both the Trident (a De Haviland airliner) and the F28 airliner (some versions carried 85 passengers) barrel rolled at the Farnborough Air Show in Britain. And he says the VC10 – a serious four-engined jet airliner in the 1960s – has looped-the-loop .
“Most business jets have barrel rolled from time to time. Executed properly the manoeu
vre puts little stress on an airframe or its occupants,” says Geoff. “Most aircraft, including many helicopters, can theoretically do it.”
I was shown a U-Tube video of a pilot balancing a cup of coffee on top of the instrument panel where it remains steady while the plane rolled through 360 degrees. Then he poured a cup during another roll and spilled not a drop.
Trick photography? No says Karl Jensen, perhaps South Africa’s best-known airline pilot (now retired). Karl knows the fellow who did it.
It’s all very sad. There’s just no respect for the law these days – not even the law of gravity.

Entitled to a title

In the 1990s with the emergence of a freer society in Russia a number of people began assuming long-forgotten titles. The people of Europe love fancy titles.
Although I haven’t lived in Europe since about the time of Henry VIII I received a letter from Dr B J in der Busch of Hemelijnstraat, Holland who signed himself Emeritus Professor of Economics but did not say where; Grand Prior of the Templar Order, Chancellor of the Lofsensic Ursinius Order and Member of the Academy Midi.
These orders, I found, actually exist.
The letter was headed HONOURS and it listed honours currently available.
I must confess I hunger for honours. I am one of those persons who has initials only in front of his name.
Mind you I could add OMD. I know an academic who adds OMD after his PhD (Oxon) and MSc (Rand) and he says only one person has ever asked him what OMD meant. It stands for Honorary Member of Densa – Densa being the club for those too stupid to get into Mensa.
The only honour I have received was an honorary membership of the Institute for Solid Waste Management. (Being a writer this often bothers me.)
Dr in der Busch offered me membership of the Maison Internationale des Intellectuels in Paris. Me! That is to say, Moi! Une intellectuel!
If I’d become a member I would have received a “passport-like identification book, three buttons for the coat and a large plasticised diploma for the wall”. All I had to do was send $140 (US) and three photographs.
Or – for the same price plus three photographs – I could have become a Knight of the Templar Order (12th Century) which comes with two sealed diplomas. (Hurry, while stocks last!).
A knighthood in the Order of the Lofsensic Ursinius Order (10th Century) – I find that this too exists – could be had for a mere $100 and just one photograph. So could a knighthood of the Holy Grail (King Parzival), or a knighthood of the Order Circulo Nobilario de las Cabelleros, or a Captain of the Legion de L’Aigle de Mer which included a medal (“large”).
Captain Clarke! Le croissance! Touts! (I’m sorry, I can get very excited at the thought of having a title other than Mr.)
For $200 and six photographs I could have got into the serious stuff: “six various honours including three medals with band” (a “toot ensemble”?). He adds “you may include members of your family and friends”.
Not believing in half-measures I posted off $500 and a dozen pictures of myself in adulthood.
The weeks went by. I could hardly sleep. Then, very early one morning, came a Dutch-sounding knock at the door.
My wife answered the door and called up to me: “Coo-ee! Baby shoes!”
“What is it, Chicken pie?” I called down as I tried to fish my teeth out of the tooth mug.
“There’s a man at the door with a long sword who wants to fight you. Oh! No, sorry… He says wants to KNIGHT you! He wishes to bestow upon you a knighthood and proclaim you heir to the throne of Silesia.”
“Does it come with a plasticised diploma?” I shouted back.
“He says he comes with some assorted crown jewels – oh, and a tiger’s eye for the kids. And, guess what?”
“I am trying to think, my Sugar Plum.” (THINKS like anything.) “I give up. What?”
“He has just made me Baroness of Brakpan!”
“Tell him that as soon as I get my teeth in I’ll be right down.”
“He says you don’t need your teeth – he’s offering knighthoods not Gouda cheese.”

Is this the end for Bond?

London: MI5 is laying off veteran intelligence agents who can’t come to terms with the internet age. The Star.

Bond. I say, Bond! James old boy! Can you hear me?
The entire office was now looking at Bond. But Bond had his hearing aid off. Even if it were on he would not have heard for he was oblivious to everything except his computer. He hated computers. He never could understand them and until now had avoided working with them.
He was hesitantly pecking away at his keyboard with his two pointy fingers – pecking like an old hen seeking widely dispersed seeds. As he tapped each letter he first looked at the individual key and then up at the screen to see if it had registered.
Bond had, years ago, permanently parked his Aston Martin DB6 with its twin 22mm cannons and ramjet booster. He was forever having accidents in it – scraping street poles or hitting the firing button instead of the hooter.
Now he was office-bound trying to liaise with minor Middle Eastern agents.
The most difficult part of his job was trying to understand his HP Z200 SFF with its dual-core processor options based on the new
Intel CoreTM i3 and i5 series, as well as quad-core processor options based on the enterprise-class Intel Xeon 3400 series, if you know what I mean.
Ali Akbar Habibi, a new and nervous mole within the Iranian Foreign Office, had just sent a message: 31FB81B-1335-11D1-8189/ÿÿÿsk.
Bond wasn’t sure whether this was a coded message or simply the type of inscrutable stuff that comes with email.
In Bond’s day, agents writing secret messages used invisible ink made from onion juice – the recipient simply had to heat the paper for the words to appear.
Bond struck a wrong key and his computer informed him that his gobulated transcender was unconfigurated. He ignored this and resumed pecking out a message to Habibi.
Bond: Hi Hibaby – Dom’t wory with code for Pate;’s sake becauise my mnacbine has a bult in Scudl device.
Habibi: Myself much alarmed – what you saying about Scud device?
Bond: No, no not sced drvice. I maent to writte SKoT, no SCID SCUD – yes, ScUD. It stands for Secret Code Unscrombling Device. this confoundred keSyboard. its made for lottle Japanese fgirls whose wrists ar2e broken at birth so they can use these blkoody thungs. Has SCUD not hit Teheran yet/?
Habibi: Myself now very alarming. Your Scud not hit Teheran yet. You gone mad Mr Bond!
Bond: Ni, ni Hiabaabi I said Sced not skid. No skid not scud. Yes ScUD is par5t of our communci3ation system.
Habibi: Your aiming the Scud at out communications system! You mad! You sick! Myself no longer your agent. I will alarming my superiors.
Bond: Just hang2 on Hababy@! Y4ou hav git it al wro5ng. Teheran is UK!
Habibi: UK can stay out of Teheran! You double cross me. I tell my Minister now. If UK hits us with Scuds we not scared to use our new nuclear weapons.
Bond: No ni Teheran is OK. I typed UK by mis5take. Are you saying Iran has nuclar weapoms after all? You told me yo8u don’t. This is seriuis!
Habibi: Very serious, you wait and see Mr Bond. You mad.
Bond in his agitation hits the mysterious “Sys Rg” on his keyboard and the screen says “Fatal Error!”
He looks around in anguish and finds his eyeballs pressed up against the eyeballs of the MI5 boss who is silently mouthing something that looks like “Your farewell party – come Bond, there”s a good lad!”

%d bloggers like this: