• 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.

Secrets of the Staff Room

One of the most dangerous things a schoolteacher can do is ask pupils to write what they think of their teacher.

 “My teacher is fat and screams all day,” wrote one child.

“Miss Smith is nice but not very bright,” wrote another.

An insightful view came from Glen Shaw of Rosebank Primary when he was in Std 1. He produced a frank expose of a day in the life of a teacher:

“They get up and have a shower, get drest, have breakfast. Then they go to school, sine our work and have tea and go home. They watch TV and go to sleep.”

I would like to ask Glen Shaw and other fearless classroom critics what they think goes on in that secret room called the Staff Room.

Most people know, of course, that teachers go to the staff room to eat all the apples and sweets they have confiscated from pupils and then they eat cake and fortify themselves with generous glasses of sherry. And there they plot ways to get their own back on the parents of precocious kids.

Picture the scene: three teachers in the Staff Room put their heads together and, cackling and rubbing their hands, they dream up HOMEWORK PROJECTS.

They chant the first verse of the Teachers’ Anthem:

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair:

Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

Ms Hecate: Cackle, cackle. I have given my little monsters Ancient Egypt as a project. Do you know how difficult it is finding pictures of Ancient Egypt?

Last year it gave Felicity Worthington’s mother a nervous breakdown – she thought she was a labrador and began chasing cars up and down the road. Jenny Mclean’s mother was caught stealing pictures from a public library book!

Ms Graymalkin screams with laughter. Prancing forward she tells the others how she gave her class a project on soil conservation because it is so difficult finding good information.

She says she had just heard that little Johnny Stewart’s father, who runs a big computer business, is helping Johnny by enlisting the aid of one of the secretaries as well as an assistant manager with a BSc in agriculture – and they have so far worked 22 hours on the project. Her red eyes narrow as her thin, purple lips mouth the words:

“Sleep shall neither night nor day

Hang upon his pent-house lid…

She adds with a shriek: “And when Little Johnny hands in his project I shall give him… and his father… a D minus!”

Shrieks of hideous laughter fill the air as the three prance around a table containing a pile of unmarked geography books and sandwiches containing eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog.

Mrs Paddock, burying her long pointed teeth into a big red, confiscated apple, shrieks: “I have given mine a project on a shopping mall. Do you know what that means?

“It means their parents will have to take their kids to the mall here and some will feel obliged to invite their little classmates and they’ll all want sweets and icecream and hamburgers and some will stray and get lost.

“Last year Mrs Swinton took eight children to the square and roped them together so they wouldn’t get lost. Ha! Then she put them in a lift but only half fitted in… Haaaar haaar haaar!”

Ms Garmalkin leaps forward, her twiggy hands clawing the air in ecstasy:

“When shall we three meet again

In thunder, lightning or in rain?”

Mrs Paddock cries: “When the hurly-burly’s done.

When all projects have been done!”

A flash of lightning, the bell goes, all three, smoothing down their skirts, walk briskly back to their classrooms.

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