• Message from James Clarke

    "South Africa's Best Humour Columnist"

    - SA's Comedy Awards September 2008

    “South Africa’s funniest columnist.”

    - Financial Mail

    WELCOME TO MY BLOG

    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 ....


    ooo

    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
latitudes.
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
cube.
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.

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Elephants, Canaries and Brigitte Bardot

People can be quite lazy about answering letters. Brigitte Bardot for instance. I wrote to her once.

That delectable, pouting French film star of the 1950s who, in later life, became an animal rights activist (and is very sun-dried these days) – had written an impassioned plea to Nelson Mandela.

She asked him to intervene in an international dispute concerning elephant culling in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Zimbabwe and Botswana wanted to cull their elephant herds but had, up to then, bowed to pressure from Europe’s “bunny-huggers”. As a consequence 70 000 elephant which travel to and fro between these two countries irreparably damaged the ancient riverine forests along the Linyati and it was a case of either cull or face further ecological calamities.

There are 100 000 now.

It is difficult for people living in areas where elephants are rare – such as San Tropez and say, Manchester’s southern suburbs – to understand the environmental impact of elephant overpopulation

And certainly the people of Europe have no idea of the flatulence problem that elephants have. Their voluminous bowels are filled with methane gas. This is why these animals are so enormous.

If an elephant were to be totally degasified it would be the size of a warthog. Few people appreciate this.

If you were to light a match behind an elephant you could create a bizarre parody of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster.

I felt honour-bound to send a letter to Miss Bardot with whom I was in love from about 1954 until around 1969 when I switched to Francoise Hardy:

Ms B Bardot

La Beach

St Tropez

France.

Mon petit cabbage,

Bonjour, etc. Comment ca va? Enchantee, I’m sure.

I fear you do not understand what all these surplus elephants are doing to our environment here in Africa.

Do you realise how much flatulence – if I may be so bold – there is in just one elephant? I know I can discuss such matters freely with you because I saw you in Doctor in the House in 1953.

One elephant lets off half-a-ton of methane gas a year! Five hundred kilograms! (Don’t ask me how scientists weigh it but, indeed, they have.)

There are 70 000 elephants criss-crossing between Zimbabwe and Botswana. If they are left to go on increasing – and elephants breed just like rabbits except they huff and puff a bit more – will produce enough methane gas to greenhouse the world.

And because they have demolished the forests that used to sustain them, they now have to live mostly off grass which produces in them a degree of flatulence you’d not believe.

They could, one day, blow a hole clean through the ozone layer. They could turn your precious St Tropez into a tropical hellhole filled with mosquitoes and rampaging government troops and crazed dictators.

A herd of 70 000 elephants, living off grass, will release in one year, 35 000 tons of methane.  When even a small herd passes through a wooded area, yellow-eyed canaries fall out of the trees like ripe plums.

Elephants live 50 to 60 years. Thus, in a lifetime, this herd will produce 1.7 million tons of gas!

Bearing in mind that methane, as a greenhouse gas, is 20 times more efficient than carbon dioxide, these elephants are going to pass into the atmosphere (if you will pardon moi) the equivalent of 30-million tons of carbon dioxide.

Then you have the problem of elephant dung. Well, YOU don’t because you are fortunate enough to be sitting on the beach at St Tropez rubbing dolphin-friendly sunblock on your bare whatsits. But WE do.

Seventy thousand elephants would leave more than 2 million tons of le poop grand in the veld in just one year.  And, if we don’t cull them, the volume will increase by 5 percent per annum compounded.

Can you imagine 2 million tons of this stuff, compounded?

Imagine the methane arising there from?

Just think, in a few years from now, how innocent people will be wading about central Africa, knee-deep in elephant droppings! Imagine if somebody were to carelessly strike a match.

Well, mon petit epinard, I hope you now realise how misguided your campaign against culling is.

Au revoir mamoiselle,

James F Clarke

(Je suis votre trés grand devoté 1954-1969)

She never did reply.

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