• 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.

Densa’s Extraordinary Annual Meeting

 I called the meeting to order.

It was not a very big turn-out – especially for a club with so many potential members and, after all, this was an Extraordinary Annual Meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of Densa.

Densa is the society for those whose IQs are within that exceedingly wide band between that of a cos lettuce and the average politician. Members’ IQs must be well below those of Mensa, the international society for those whose IQ’s fall within the top 2 percent of humanity’s.

I asked Threnody, who had kindly agreed to take the minutes of the meeting (providing, she said, everybody spoke very slowly) to once again count the attendance. She said it was still four – Neil Summink, Liz Simpson, Ray Henderson and Nolan Hasbean. At least we had a quorum if we counted the caretaker at the back of the hall and the fact that Liz had brought her little cross-eyed dog, Fluffy.

I adjusted my sash of office which is of a fetching purple material although, I noticed too late, it did need pressing. A dab of tetrachloride here and there would have helped too. It has “PRESIDANT” proudly emblazoned in it.

I then declared the meeting open. Everybody clapped and the little dog yapped.

I recounted our humble beginnings in an office at The Star on March 5 1993 and told how, eventually, Densa became far more powerful than Mensa. After all, we have a DAILY newsletter (called The Star) which is a cut above Mensa’s monthly newsletter that uses old jokes to fill up spaces.

I warned Densans of our growing responsibilities. Lots of high-IQ people have left South Africa because of crime and the way government people run off with our money, and the soccer. This brain drain throws an extra burden on us Densans because very soon there’ll be only us left (not forgetting Fluffy who could end up as Minister of something).

At this point I made a little aside to myself. THINKS: Secretly I welcome the brain drain because I have always found intelligent people difficult to understand. I recall driving on the M1 in the rush hour when a female member of Mensa was explaining something on the radio. I had to concentrate so hard that my car juddered to a halt in the middle lane.

But Mensans – the very name sounds as if their members come from somewhere far out in the firmament, like Pretoria, are very vulnerable.

For example, I recall a Mensa newsletter in which a mensan said that a meeting of the Academy for Future Science “nearly blew my mind”. Mensans are very susceptible to this kind of injury. They can read A Short History of Time while chewing gum but ask them something simple like, “What is the square root of the Shri Lankan XI?” and it can blow their minds as surely as one can blow an egg – phoop!

I drifted further into reverie and wondered what happened to a mensan whose mind had blown? I suppose a little ceremony is held and they get the Pointy Cap with the Big D on the front and are guided towards the door.

But what do you think it was that nearly blew this mensan’s mind? It was a scientist who said, “aliens are stealing humans to experiment on them. Some are returned. Some are not.”

This came as no surprise to me. For years I’ve suspected that aliens come in the night and steal people’s brains while they sleep. These are then pan-fried in Martian restaurants. When the victims wake up they are – naturally – none the wiser but, for some reason, become seized by a desire to enter politics.

Thus have aliens come to rule the world.

Now where was I? Hey, Threnody! Where’s our quorum gone? Threnody? Thren… Fluffy?

Densa – Mensa’s Biggest Rival

As head of Densa, the club for those too stupid to get into Mensa, I was recently invited to address Mensa on the occasion of its annual dinner.

Mensa is the international society for the very bright – for those whose IQs are in the top 2 percent of humanity’s.

After my address and after the applause and cheering had died down to acceptable levels, a Mensan asked me, “Why is Densa so much more popular than Mensa?”

Densa is the club I founded through my column, Stoep Talk, in 1994.

I explained that Densa must always be biggeer than Mensa because there is a limit to intelligence but absolutely no limit to stupidity. Densa’s potential membership is enormous.

Mensa has for years stretched out the hand of friendship to Densa but many of us are uneasy about it. We fear that Mensans might be trying to take over Densa to steal our comics and possibly our women.

Judging by the mail I am receiving there are a few readers who are still confused about Densa and Mensa, so I thought I’d answer some “faqs” (frequently asked questions) such as this one.

Esteemed Sir…

Does Mensa really exist?

Yes, indeedly, Mensa certainly does exist. You can try their website, http://www.mensa.org.za/.

Mensa has chapters throughout the world. The idea is for bright people to be able get together and talk grown-up stuff. If you want to join you have to pass an intelligence test.

Where’s the gents?

Down there to the right.

How does Densa come into the picture?

We represent the reality for which, if the truth be told, all Mensans are seeking.

What is an IQ and have I got one?

IQ stands for “intelligence quotient”. If you read this column regularly then it is unlikely you have a measurable IQ – but be happy.

What is intelligence quotient?

Next question please? Yes, you at the back with the little propeller on top of your cap.

Is Densa Big like my sister Herbert-Anne?

Oh yes. Not that we have thousands of signed-up members – nevertheless MILLIONS are eligible. If each of them sent us $1 we would be rich enough to buy the USA and have enough left over for a tankful of petrol.

Who is head of Densa?

Although, as many know, titles mean little to me I must admit, with my usual modesty which is legendry, that I am its P*R*E*S*I*D*E*N*T F*O*R L*I*F*E.

What are Densa’s objectives?

What? What?

What are your plans?

Ah. Plans. Yes. Densa is organising a national congress for failures. We have been organising this since 1994 without great success, which is quite normal for Densa and nothing to be ashamed of. Anyway, why should we be ashamed? What are you insinuating? Why all these questions?

What do I get if I sign up?

You get certified. The certificate entitles you to place the initials O.M.D; N.U.T.S. after your name. (Note: AFTER your name, not BEFORE, because if you look carefully you already have initials in front of your name.) O.M.D. stands of Honorary Member of Densa and N.U.T.S. stands for “not understanding the system”.

Thank you Mr President.

Don’t mention it. Please call again and mind the step.


(Densa: email <jcl@onwe.co.za>)

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