• 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.

Taxiing to a dead stop

TOGETHERNESS Amadeus Tshabalala jinks his Toyota mini-bus taxi (with BMW hubcaps) through the rush-hour traffic.

He is a confident man of high spirits, as evidenced by the stickers on his rear window: “God loves Taxi Drivers” and “Defeat Constipation – Travel by Taxi”.

On the front of his taxi, above a dent which, ominously, is in the shape of a large traffic cop with his arms akimbo, is a placard reading: Northern Suburbs Express – Inaugural Flight.

Using the word “flight” is Togetherness’ little joke. He could well have used the word “fright” for such is his sense of humour.

We are witnessing (dear reader) the inaugural journey of a township taxi which hopes to establish a daily service between the quiet, leafy, mainly white  northern suburb of Jukskei Park and Johannesburg city centre. It is a 25km journey that takes Togetherness 8.5 minutes if it’s not too busy and assuming he can occasionally drive on the pavements to avoid queuing in traffic.

The percussion waves from Togetherness’ powerful radio cause the vehicle’s sides to rhythmically flex. He hoots as he drives. Togetherness hoots at anything he sees – including trees and pretty girls – as is the custom of township taxi drivers.

Aboard the taxi are a dozen white people. They do not come whiter. Their whiteness is not due to fear; it is due to stark terror. Take John Hilton. Never in his life has he experienced zero to 100 km/h in six seconds – not in heavy traffic.

Denise Smith’s colour had changed to green-white as quickly as the last traffic light changed to red – a colour which, as is traditional among taxi drivers, Togetherness ignores.

He looks over his shoulder – for a full minute – asking passengers their destinations. Elsbeth Brown, sitting right at the back, says. “Randburg centre!” She really wants to go all the way to Johannesburg centre but, suddenly, Randburg seems preferable.

She worries about how she will make her way from the backseat, but only fleetingly because the taxi has now reached Randburg and has stopped as suddenly as a plane might stop up against a mountain.

Now everybody is in front in a warm, intimate heap.

Elsbeth alights as gracefully as anybody can with one knee locked behind the other. She is vaguely aware of passers-by loosening her clothing and shouting: “Give her air!”

Togetherness bowls happily along Jan Smuts Avenue overtaking a police car that is chasing a getaway car. Then he overtakes the getaway car, exchanging boisterous greetings with the driver whom he appears to know. Togetherness is steering with his elbows because he needs his hands free to check the morning’s takings and to wave to girls.

He announces: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We will shortly be landing in Johannesburg. Please make sure your seatbelts are fastened and your seats are in the upright position. Thank you.”

Piet Smit is chewing on a seatbelt that is made of leather. Togetherness had them specially made because he felt first-time passengers would need to bite on something.

Togetherness now merges with the mainstream of in-bound traffic. He merges with it in much the same way his Zulu ancestors merged with the British at the battle of Isandlwana.

He stops at his usual disembarkation point in the middle of a busy intersection and picks his teeth, patiently, while people sort out their legs and teeth before groping their way towards a street pole around which they can throw their arms.

By the time his passengers’ eyeballs have settled back in their sockets, Togetherness is halfway back to the northern suburbs.

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