• 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.

The Bastille – the truth is out

Some time ago Dr Hugh Cobb of Fairview sent me some useful notes on France and as it is Bastille Day today I thought it appropriate to share some of them with readers.
France, he says, is a nation of shopkeepers and has many national treasures such as the Louvre, EuroDisney and Brigitte Bardot. (She’s a bit sun-dried these days.)
Its 56 million people persist in speaking French and carrying bread under their armpits. French males often have girls’ names like Marie, Michel and Jean and kiss each other rather a lot.
The French eat snails but, curiously, will not eat slugs.
In general, France is a safe destination though travellers are advised that it is occasionally invaded by Germany.
As I say, today the French are celebrating Bastille Day. The day arises from an episode early in the French Revolution when a mob stormed the fortress-like state prison on Paris’ east side – la Bastille.
But was it really as heroic as the French make out?
The answer is “Non!”
The French should ask themselves, “‘ow is it possible for a crowd of civilians to spontaneously demolish a massive stone fortress while chanting Liberté! Egalité! Maternité! And Non taxation sans alimentation! And Le stylo de ma tante est dans le champ.?
Even after having watched the French play rugby one still wonders how ordinary Frenchmen managed to tear down those eight huge towers and metre-thick walls – especially as riots, no matter how enthusiastic people are at first, never last very long because the cops always spoil everything.
And yet, after Paris cooled down, there was the Bastille – or, rather, there wasn’t the Bastille.
How did the French manage it? Comment? (ie: ‘Ow? As we French linguists say.)
It was all trés poissony. (ie: very fishy).
And why did the revolutionaries tear the place down anyway? After all the prisoners had long been released and the revolutionaries were well on the way to gloriously defeating the royalists at least 27-nil.
I feel it is incumbent upon me to spill le verts.
It was a real estate ploy. That’s what. A ploy of grand proportions.
Pierre-Francois Palloy, a real estate agent, some years before the uprising, suggested to King Louis XVI that the little-used Bastille at Porte St-Antoine (a bastille is a fort don’t you know?) was occupying prime real estate.
“Let’s demolish it!” Palloy suggested to the king. “We can use its stones to build you a magnificent palace”.
He unrolled the plans to show the king. But Louis XVI was unenthusiastic. He had other things on his mind – like how to preserve that part of his anatomy upon which his crown rested.
Later, when the king’s ratings were sky-rocketing downwards and Palloy heard that a mob was going to demonstrate at the Bastille, he ordered an associate to recruit as many labourers as possible and issue them with pickaxes and crowbars and have them join the rioters. He was sure that once the rioters saw men dismantling the Bastille they’d join in.
But the riot was enough to persuade King Louis to withdraw his army from Paris and so the riot lost its steam and everybody shuffled off home.
Later the revolutionary government confirmed that the Bastille should be razed.
King Louis, soon afterwards, lost his stature (about 25 cm of it at the top end) and in any event palaces became passé.
And the stone blocks? Palloy had them cut into smaller pieces and he sold them as souvenirs of the Revolution.
Ah, ma soeur met ses poupees sur son lit, if you’ll forgive my French.

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