Ahhhhhh Grasshopper

Whilst all around me are talking about the passing of the Gordon Brown government here in the United Kingdom, I thought of Mark Twain’s adage “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

If only Gordon Brown could come up with witty one-liners I thought then, just maybe, he could swing this electoral popularity thing. The trouble is that his Presbyterian conscience keeps getting in the way of a good joke.

We love Mark Twain (1835-1910) , the great American writer because he could say in a few words what Gordon fails to do in a few hundred. Consequently Mr. Brown is an open target for his enemies and his impressive qualities as a politician, probably the most impressive for the country during this time of economic crisis, are dwarfed by the popularity thing, the boring thing and the verbosity thing.

As Mark Twain said on another occasion, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” Well, his enemies have won that one and we in Britain are almost certainly going to have a change of government within the year as a result.

That, my friends, is democracy for you. It is unusual for the best man to win these kinds of elections as someone else once said, not Mark Twain this time, elections are always lost, never won.

So everyone has got it in for Gordon over here in Britain and I thought once more of the wonderful Mr. Twain: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

So good luck Mr. Brown, just don’t believe everything you read. Dare I say it again? Why not, dammit! Remember Gordon, what Mark Twain said: “Be careful of reading health books, you may just die of a misprint.”

Mark Twain also wrote that book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn which I am sure we all have read. Ummm….well, actually, I have to confess, not me. I think I have a copy of it somewhere but I do remember it well from watching it on television. Does that count? Call me superficial but I was always drawn more to his one-liners. I think he said once: “‘Classic’: a book people praise but don’t read.”

Can I just quote him again please? It has nothing to do with Gordon Brown or politics but it just makes me laugh: “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”

Sadly someone else in the public eye did die yesterday, David Carradine, the actor who was found dead in a Bangkok hotel. There was no question of exaggeration this time. He was pronounced well and truly dead when he was discovered naked in his room with a rope round his neck. Poor man, his passing will now become a part of his legend and we may never know if this was a suicide or an act of auto-eroticism taken too far.

Whatever lay behind his death, at the age of 72, his life was full and wild. Five marriages, a lot of drugs and even more alcohol – as Mark Twain said: “Sometimes too much alcohol is barely enough.”

He wore his old age well and even managed to get an Oscar nomination for his, forever to be remembered, role as Bill in Quentin Tarantino’s, I thought, excellent film Kill Bill Volume II which was only marginally less impressive than Kill Bill Volume I.

Before this return to form, there were loads of films and television appearances, tacky videos, some reported “crazed rampages” and a bit of “cavorting in the nude” and some hefty fines but before all of that, there was a cult television series from the early 1970s, Kung Fu. It is still around in a lavish and highly geeky deluxe DVD set and it will always be his claim to immortality.

He was Kwai Chang Caine, an escaped Shaolin monk in 19th. Century “wild west” America but everyone who has ever seen those shows will always think of him as “Grasshopper,” the nickname invented for him by his inevitably all-wise mentor, Master Po. Well, the most unlikely things become cults and this series, along with the movies of Bruce Lee, turned on a generation of Western lads to the martial arts, kung fu in particular.

When I walk to the park from my house to practise kung fu patterns with my seven and a half foot staff in a bag over my shoulder, I have to pass a pub. I stopped being embarrassed by public ridicule a long time ago but I did wonder at first why, whenever I walked by, there were calls of “ahhhhh Grasshopper!” – Master Po’s much imitated catchphrase. Now I feel honoured by the comparison and pleased that David Carradine really will be remembered.

Maybe Gordon Brown needs to think of David Carradine and live a bit more on the wild side too. Now that he is almost certainly going to lose the next General Election it may be time for him to let rip a bit knowing that this is his last chance. Go for it Gordon, we might even get to love you a bit more.

As Mark Twin said, “The fear of death always follows the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at anytime.” It is comforting somehow that Mark Twain can sound just like Master Po. Gordon Brown needs a Master Po all of his own.


  1. But my unasked for joy often comes at the most inappropriate moments and I'm sure I read somewhere that that is a sign of schizophrenia.

  2. Anonymous,If you want to tell me more, just think of me as Master Po.

    I think we would all like to know about that unasked for joy at inappropriate moments.

    I think I would welcome those moments of joy at any time – appropriate or not.

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