• 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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Death of the intrepid traveller


Travel and travellers have changed drastically since I was a boy in the late Pleistocene. For instance, I was in the Okavango Swamps in Botswana not long ago where I realised how neurotic tourists were about insect bites. One evening, an English family became almost hysterical when the father found he had an itchy raised spot on his arm – probably a mosquito bite.

Amid the hubbub my mind went back to a 2010 travel conference in Britain where a travel agent said that British travellers to Africa flew into a panic if they were bitten “by just about anything”.

The British – that one-time nation of intrepid explorers – never used to be like this…

1850. The scene –  The early morning mist lifts to reveal a small camp in Africa.

Ponsonby (walking into his companion’s tent): What ho, Carruthers! I say! Still in bed?

Carruthers: Be up in a jiffy old bean. Had a tiresome night.

Ponsonby: Not well, old boy?

Carruthers: Actually dear boy I was bitten during the night.

Ponsonby (noticing Carruthers’ leg has been torn off at the knee): I say, that IS a nasty bite!

Carruthers: Lion. Tried to carry me off! I’m surprised you didn’t hear the commotion – though I tried not to wake everybody.

Ponsonby: I say! But how are we going to cross the Semliki?

Carruthers: My dear Ponsonby, it’s a bite. That’s all. I’ll be tickety-boo after a cup of tea.

Ponsonby: But what if we run into the waHitto and have to make a run for it?

Carruthers: My dear boy, you worry so. Be a good man and help me to my feet. Or, rather, my foot! Ha ha ha. That was rather droll, what?

Ponsonby helps Carruthers to his foot.

They make their way through the jungle occasionally beating off creatures unknown to science. Inevitably Carruthers’ bloody stump attracts hyenas. One bites off his arm.

Carruthers: I say, Ponsonby, I’m dashed if I haven’t been bitten again!

Ponsonby: What beastly luck. Here, try some more Peaceful Sleep.

In crossing the river Ponsonby is bitten by a crocodile. Stifles a curse. On the far bank he whispers: Don’t look now but we are surrounded!

Try as he might not to look, Carruthers just has to peep. He finds himself touching eyeballs with a fierce waHitto warrior leading a war party.

Ponsonby (addresses them): My dear chaps, we come in peace for all mankind. And also womankind of course. We just want your land in the name of the Great White Queen, that’s all. Of course, if you want something for it… A bag of salt maybe? Beads? We have some lovely beads.

The tallest warrior signals in sign language: Chief Lambile, Chief of Chiefs, Lion Among Men, sends cordial greetings to the bwanas and says he would be awfully glad if I brought you fellows back for dinner.

Carruthers: How dashed decent of him!

Ponsonby (whispering): For goodness sake Carruthers! When the chief says he wants us for dinner I rather think he wants to casserole us. We must hop it!

Carruthers: That’s all I can do is “hop it”. Ha ha ha. (Then, becoming serious) Look, Ponsonby old boy, you make a dash for it. You’ve got twice as many legs as I have and the waHitto probably see me as being perfectly ’armless. Ha ha ha! There I go again. Armless! I’ll distract them with my rendition of Greensleeves until you are safely away.

The waHittos, fascinated at first by Carruthers’ quite beautiful singing (under the circumstances), become restless and close in with their spears.

Carruthers switches to God Save the Queen as best he can while maintaining a stiff upper lip. The spears sink home.

Carruthers: Ouch! (Dies)

Extract from “Recalculating”, a new book of travel humour by James Clarke.   Available on Kindle or Smashword

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