Childhood heroes. They help form the people we are and their influence on our lives never goes away, because we walk in their steps.
I saw one of mine yesterday in the little known Eighties movie version of his immortal Seventies tv series "Kung Fu". David Carradine. As the half-Chinese half-American Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine. Just holding the dvd in my hand as I came out of Zavvi in Northampton after buying it yesterday was thrilling.
I don't think I can even begin to explain to you why. But there he was when I was a boy, once a week on tv, a peaceful, considered hero who was yet quite capable of kicking the shit out of his enemies. A long-haired, barefoot, flute playing hero with the deadly mark of a dragon burned into both his wrists.
"I wish I could walk around barefoot everywhere," I said to my mother one night at the end of a particularly inspiring episode of the show.
"Why can't you?" she challenged me.
It was like a brilliant light being shone on the road ahead.Why can't you? Be who you want, Hodder. Follow the call of your own spirit, however they mock you.
I took my socks off immediately and have rarely put them back on since, other than in situations where I would catch a cold, be arrested or lose my job. I also declared myself a Buddhist pretty soon after "Kung Fu" finished and that's another peculiar habit I still hold onto.
With my long hair.
And my flute.
And my liberal pussy nature which wants every human being and every animal to have as nice a time as they can in this life and any other they might have.
Whose spirit is it I've been following the call of exactly, for all this time?
No matter. Kwai Chang Caine is my Master Po, the beloved teacher who talks to me every day. Who else have you got who laid out such an admirable path, other than maybe Buddha? Or the Dalai Lama? Or Han Shan?
The movie, by the way, was fantastic.