• 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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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.”

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