• 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 the spitting season

Not long ago I was reminiscing how, when I was a Boy Scout, we held spitting contests. This brought an email from Jack Adno to say he was glad Tiger Woods was fined for spitting on the golf course. Jack thought it a pity that other sports don’t do the same.

I have a feeling it is nowadays being frowned upon at Wimbledon. There’s even a move  in the United Kingdom towards restraining soccer players on the field  “not just from spitting at their opponents but spitting in general”.

The problem is that television has brought the habit right into one’s lounge. There you are watching tennis and reaching forward for another Marie biscuit – when, splat!

Remember the tennis ace, Lendl, and his high velocity spitting? He could kill sparrows on Centre Court.

It would be interesting if the machine that measures the speed of balls also measured the speed of players’ spit.

Tilly Vosloo emailed asking, “Why don’t women tennis players spit?” Good question. Can you imagine Maria Sharapova letting fly with a sparrow-killer?

Is it perhaps a male signalling device – does it turn on the ladies?

High velocity spitting isn’t easy. I’ve tried it. I spent a morning in the garden behind the beans trying to do it in a nonchalant macho way and had to change my shirt.

During a recent rugby match between the Springboks and Australia the camera, swinging around to relieve viewers from having to watch medicos performing reconstructive surgery on the touchline, focused on Bakkies Botha just as he let fly with a pigeon killer. Soccer players are something else. Not content with dribbling they seem to spit in synchronisation with the cameras.

In ancient times expectorating was anything but casual – especially among refined people. Spittle was believed by religious nutters to contain some of one’s soul and one’s enemies could collect it and use it as a magic potion.

For this reason great men had their own spittle collectors who would carry a spittoon and bury the contents each evening.

Some people spit on their hands to get a better grip on things and this has become ritualistic in many cultures – men make a show of spitting on their palms to indicate they are ready for a task even if it’s only to put the garbage out.

One just hopes bakers don’t do it.

But in sport it’s something else. I have noticed in rugby there are two kinds of spitters: those who do it carelessly and those with style. The latter close their eyes, purse their lips and incline the head slightly forward as if about to kiss a girl on the tip of her nose and then “thpaaaat!

TV cameramen have a knack of interpreting the signals and cry out to each other: “Quick chaps! Here comes a real CM!” (CM = “crater-maker”.)

Tilly says it’s worse on a tennis court.

Sadly tennis groupies pick up all these habits. Look how Bjorn Borg used to blow on his nails while waiting for a serve – today even the women do it.

Look how Chris Evert-Lloyd used to crouch over the base line and wiggle her bottom when waiting for a serve. Now all the women do it.

I don’t know about bottom wiggling but spitting is out of hand.

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