• 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.

The Ice Age Commeth

In 2011 global warming caused an iceberg the size of Switzerland
to break off the Antarctic Ice Shelf and begin drifting into the
open sea. I decided to raise funds to land on it and declare it a
sovereign state.
After all, nobody owned it. And, given time, its climate will
change for the better as it drifts north into the warmer
Although it was born of global warming, ironically it could well
be the last nation on earth to succumb to it because it is
underlain by 543 718 886 000 tons of solid ice (approximately)
which, if multiplied by the square root of the law of thermal
dynamics, would, even on the equator, take 2 570 years
(rounded off) to melt down to the size of your average ice
I would need a few rugged and enterprising chums to help me
establish a nation. Maybe my five companions with whom I had annually cycled
in Europe in what became known as the Tours de Farce (see Blazing Bicycle Saddles)
would be suitable.
I could envisage us jumping ashore to take possession. One of us would have to say a few
important words – heroic words that would go down in history, such
as, “That’s one small step for a penguin, one helluva leap
for mankind”.
Whatever is said, it would have to be said quickly because,
knowing my friends, one of them would preempt it by
saying something like, How the hell do you keep your footing on this stuff?
Of course, before announcing the birth of our new nation, we’d have
to find it a name. This, I know, would entail a lot of argument.
“Iceland!” somebody’s bound to suggest. We’d have to tell him
that the name’s been taken.
Somebody’s then bound to say, “Well, how about Chilly?”
“How about the Republic of Iceberg?” another would cry. Or New Seal Land.
(Personally, dear reader, I’d prefer a kingdom to a
republic. I fancy myself as king – James the First – it has a ring
to it. On the other hand, what if it were a republic? Then I would be president
– the only president in the world whose presidential seal could balance a
ball on the end of its nose.
“How about Schnapps?” another might say.
“How can you call a country ‘Schnapps’?” I would say.
“No, no, I meant let’s have Schnapps to celebrate.”
Somebody would then say, “Let’s rather heat up some Glühwein!”
That’s the trouble with my friends. Here we have
the opportunity to start a country from scratch and with dignity and
provide a shining example of nationhood to a troubled world, and what would they do?
They would set up folding chairs, find some chips and dip and start
shouting “Cheers!” and “Down the hatch!”
I should never have asked them in the first place.
But just think of it – starting a new country with no pollution, no
religions, no crime, no taxes – we can make up our own laws.
I can see us now… standing there in our mukluks, claiming
sovereignty over 45 000 square kilometres of virgin territory,
knowing that wherever we drift we would have fishing rights for
200 miles around. Fishing would underpin our economy – well,
that and the export of ice blocks to countries short of freshwater.
We could develop winter sports resorts.
Our main transport in this new land would be environmentally friendly
because we would mainly be skating around on our backsides,
feet in the air.
Our towns would be built on soil-covered platforms so as not to
accelerate the melting of the ice and our currency could be
sardines. Judging by the price of fish these days, we could start off with an
exchange rate of $12.40 to the sardine.

No Sound Bites

According to a British travel agent visiting South Africa, today’s British tourists are no longer intrepid. They are not a patch on their explorer ancestors who came to Africa – Englishmen such as Sir Richard Burton; Welshmen such as Sir Henry Morton Stanley and Scotsmen such as Dr David Livingstone.

Not only are visitors afraid of mosquitoes said the travel agent, “The new type of traveller flies into a panic if he is bitten by almost anything at all”.

My mind floated back to the Old Type. Were they ever fazed by bites? Ha!


It is dawn and the mist thins slightly to reveal a small camp near the Ruwenzoris. Montague Cadwallader Ponsonby walks into his companion’s tent.

“What ho, Carruthers old boy! I say, not still in bed?”

“Ah, I’ll be up in a jiffy my dear fellow. Just feeling a little seedy.  Had a restless night.”

“Not well, old man?” says Ponsonby with genuine concern.

“Actually, dear boy, I was bitten during the night.”

Ponsonby then notices Carruthers’ leg is just a bloody stump, torn off above the knee.

“I say, that IS a nasty bite!”

“Lion,” says Carruthers. “Came into my tent during the night and tried to carry me off! Dashed thing! I’m surprised you didn’t hear the commotion – though I did try not to wake everybody. ”

“I say! And we still have about 200 miles to go, what?”

“My dear Ponsonby, it’s a bite. That’s all. No need to make a big thing out of it. I’ll be tickety-boo after a cup of tea.”

“But the Ruwenzoris, old boy! We have to cross the Ruwenzoris. It’s going to be frightfully difficult with only one leg. And what if we run into the waHitto?

“My dear Ponsonby, you worry so. Now, be a good man and help me to my feet. Or, rather, my foot! Ha ha ha. That was rather funny, what?”

Ponsonby helps Carruthers to his foot.

After a few miles Ponsonby says, “I think we’re being followed. Bless me, it’s the waHittos.”

But the two men manage to shake them off, at least for the time being. They press on. Occasionally they have to beat off creatures unknown to science at the time.

Inevitably Carruthers’ bloody stump begins to attract hyenas. On of them bites off his arm.

“I say, Ponsonby, I’m dashed if I haven’t been bitten again!”

“Oh, What absolutely beastly luck, my dear fellow! Here, try some more Peaceful Sleep.”

They come to the Semliki River and swim across. Ponsonby is bitten by a crocodile. He stifles a curse for he is a deeply religious man.

As they gain the far bank Ponsonby, now badly holed by crocodile teeth, makes light of his injuries. He then says, “Don’t look now Carruthers, but I think the waHittos have surrounded us.  Try as he might, not to look, Caruthers nevertheless finds himself eye-to-eye with a fierce waHitto warrior leading a war party.

Ponsonby addresses them:

“My dear chaps, we come in peace for all mankind. And womenkind also 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 I’m sure we can come to some amicable arrangement. Here, have a bag of salt old chap. No? Some beads perhaps? They’re jolly pretty, what?”

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

“How dashed decent of him!” cries Carruthers.

“Carruthers, for goodness sake!” whispers Ponsonby, urgently, “When the Chief says he wants us for dinner I don’t think he is necessarily going to entertain us – I think he will be more inclined to casserole us. We have no choice but to hop it.”

“I say, how very droll,” says Carruthers. “That’s all I can do is to ‘hop it’, what? Ha ha ha.”

He becomes serious: “Look, my dear Ponsonby, why don’t YOU make a dash for it on your own? After all you’ve got twice as many legs as I have and they probably look upon me as being perfectly ‘armless. Ha ha ha, there I go again! Gettit? Armless!

“I’ll distract them with my renditions from the Pirates of Penzance until you are safely away.”

Ponsonby solemnly salutes Carruthers’ noble self-sacrifice and escapes.

The waHittos, fascinated at first by Carruthers rendition of, “I am the very model of a modern major-general“, 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 fly.


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