• 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.

Back from Zimbabwe

This is a brief and hasty note to say we are back from the wilds of Zimbabwe – having spent our time mostly in the Eastern Highlands on the Mozambique border – nine days of birding in woodlands and cathedral forests and amid spectacular scenery.
There was not an uneasy moment and we felt perfectly secure at all times – security being my major concern before setting out.
I must now catch up with my columns etc but I must first put on record that even in the remotest areas we felt relaxed and secure and were greeted everywhere with smiles and greetings. Everywhere.
Incredibly, I found 43 “lifers” (species I’d never seen before and many of which are found only in small isolated habitats on the border. Mary who’s Southern African life list was already way beyond my own, saw 25 species new to her. (We used local birding guides daily).
Apart from the wilds …
Harare is in a state of decay with appallingly potholed roads and permanently broken traffic lights as well as rusting non-functioning street lights. Mutare too is in an advanced state of decay. Yet city and town drivers show no impatience despite traffic conditions and although taxis and cars cross through uncontrolled intersections half-a-dozen at a time rather than one by one, there’s no hooting or signs of aggression.
Beyond the cities the highways are excellent and the quality of driving is good.
Zim, we decided, is a wonderful country – despite its politicians.
Its remaining whites – although their quality of life and their properties have greatly deteriorated – show a great spirit. We came across no whinging. The Shonas – despite their poverty – are cheerful and well dressed.
I feel quite elated having rediscovered our northern neighbours. They’re nice people!
(I should add that our expedition was totally unsponsored and that we flew into Harare and so avoided the notorious Beit Bridge border post.)

Questions about Zimbabwe and touring there

Since my last post I have been assured that motoring in the remoter parts of Zimbabwe is not as bad as some make out. Nevertheless my (female) colleague and I, both on the wrong side of 60, feel rather vulnerable.
We are wondering if it would be safer to hire a driver. This would be for the six days that we’d be birding away from the Harare region where we will have a guide with us.
The e advantage of a driver would be to have somebody to look after the vehicle shouild we stop at the roadside to do a bit of birding or if we visit a popular tourist site – and we’d have somebody who speaks Shona should we run into trouble. On our last day we have to drive from Aberfoyle to Harare airport (5 hours).
A major disadvantage is that only one of us could then sit up front – birding from a back seat is useless.
Can somebody with experience regarding birding in Zimbabwe, espescially in the Eastern Highlands, advise us please?

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