• 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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Wimbledon and chicken “poks”

In prehistoric times sports clubs were popular. They were big and heavy and were used to bash one’s opponent on the head.

Games tended to be short.

Today games go on for hours, sometimes days.

Can you imagine how many man-hours, not to mention women-hours, are wasted during, say, the Cricket World Cup?

Even rugby games – which used to be short and brutish – are now getting longer and longer because of injury time and the slowness of the MASH teams on the side line.

And now tennis. Look at Wimbledon.

Although individual games get shorter and shorter the tournament goes on for two weeks making a mockery of productivity in offices and workshops across whole countries.

Wimbledon used to be genteel. We spelt racket “racquet” in those days and ladies played in long skirts and one simply never saw their nickers.

The racquet’s “cat gut” strings were so elastic one could use  it  as a keep net for trout fishing.

When you hit the ball it went “Plunk!” Then came “rackets”. They had tight nylon strings and went “Pluck!”

But the game was still quite leisurely compared with today.  Even players such as Rod “Rocket” Laver would puck away for 10 minutes before one of the linesmen would wake up and call “OUT!”

Modern rackets, with graphite frames and reinforced strings,  when they connect with the ball,  go “pok!” and propel it almost as fast as a Lear jet.

Now that Wimbledon’s here again, one’s lounge will be filled with the sound of “Pok! Pok! Pok! Pok-Pok! Pok! Pok!” coming from the television set. Close your eyes and it’s like listening to a chicken about to lay an egg.

Today with 2 metre high players you hear:

“Pok!” … “Fifteen love!”

“Pok!” … “Thirty love!”

“Pok! Net! Fust suvvus.”

Pok!” “40 love.”

“Pok! Pok! Pok! Pok! Pok! Pok! Pokkk!!!”

“Game Mister Shekenoskovicenski.”

I have seen games won with only four “Poks”.  At this stage the winner punches the air while the loser spits – “Plik!”

Lendl used to kill sparrows on Centre Court when he spat.

I see that the tennis generals are now considering using bigger and therefore slower balls. They realise that sizzling aces are fine but the crowd-pleasers are the multi-pok rallies.

Crowd pleasing is important for tennis is a labour-intensive industry. There can be 13 people on a court, all being paid to watch where the ball goes. And that’s not counting the players. Even then, the ball can beat them all.

“OUT!” cries a linesman.

The player stops dead. He stares incredulously at the linesman who looks stoically ahead; then at the umpire who is studying his fingernails, then at heaven and then he goes to the spot where the ball, in his view, landed, and he stares at it and probes it with his foot and looks again at the umpire.

Then he spits. Pfhttt!

Another sparrow dies.




2 Responses

  1. Very well pokked.

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