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“Your Kung Fu’s Pretty Good, Old Man. You’re Not Too Bad, Either – Old Woman!”


Part three of love’s great adventure, and this time we go to a ‘mysterious nursing-home of the Manchester Orient’, where Grandma, Grandpa and wall-mounted weapons await,  in what I hope is a humorous escapade involving throwing stars and a light, eggy breakfast; just as soon as Grandpa has found his way out of the bathroom and Grandma remembers who he is.  

Cue Carl Douglas’ Kung Fu Fighting crackling into life on the phonograph at 45rpm…



hen Grandma became a Seventh Dan of Chai Gan Wo, Grandpa had to follow suit. Before long, he was also launching rather acrobatic attacks from the top of the stairs, knee joints popping, whopping the wooden practice sword with the natural grace of an abandoned typewriter. His ‘Huy!’ was a potential heart attack.

Over the weeks, the doddery dance-of-dementia escalated, with the slight whiff of Deep Heat.

Grandma retaliated with her own version of Chang Cha – Drunken Monkey Technique – involving no actual monkey, but a generous tot of gin, a sharpened walking frame, and the whizz of nunchucks spun from bird-like wrists.

You might think that Grandpa stood not-a-chance – stuck for over twenty minutes in ‘bullet time’ as his back gave out, or when a nun (or chuck) clobbered his jaw with a plastic chackeroo, and his teeth rattled along the floor like escaped tap shoes. Not so. He gave as good as he got, cackling wildly as he spun – a master of Mr Chaplin’s Cane Gu – on a long-handled walking stick, and swept Grandma’s swollen feet from under her. It was a move he’d seen in The Tramp.

“Use your enemy’s mass against them,” his home-help had advised.

And this, indeed, was fruitful advice, as the continent that was Grandma went over like a plated whale, only to be caught on two fingers, hardened through years of Ko Lung Crochet.

“Think again, old man!” she growled, producing a vicious array of knitting needles and looped chains of spiked macramé.  The sofa was quickly punctured with a deadly volley of knitted ephemera, the weave of death carefully followed from a pattern in Martial Crafts.

Barbed wire, it seems, is knittable.

Grandpa back-flipped behind the sofa, using the simple expedient of slipping on one of Lionel’s – their  grandson’s – toy cars and was lost to view, railwayman’s tie fluttering around his head.

Grandma knew this was not the end.

Lights out! An insanely fast, shuffled attack from Grandpa!

She flicked on the radio and caught the last of the Archers, before his huffing and puffing eventually closed like a steam train, firmly on the siding, and a bony hand shot out with the cutting power of a spatula. This was blocked, minutes later, with the hefted end of a bed pan. K’tang!

Both combatants circled, with the cronk-squeak of rubber feet on walking frames, the shuffled drag of battle-worn slippers, and the gleeful sneering of the infirm. Who would find an opening first? Grandma with her inedible rock-cakes, bundled up in the ass-end of an old pair of tights – heavy as lead? Or, Grandpa, ready with that disgusting pipe of his – to parry a wild blow, create a fug-screen of Old Hoban, or gouge for an eye with the gnawed, plastic stem?

He could wish. Grandma’s eyes glittered in the darkness like a cobra with cataracts.

“Time for your suppository, old man,” howled Grandma, jaw cracking, lips dribbled and speckled with liver spots. The gesture she made with the TV remote control was quite disconcerting.

The white-haired ninja merely laughed, a dull “mwah, mwah, mwah!” in the dubbed on tones of a twenty year old. “You’re fooling no one, old woman.” But he knew she was already tracking him in the darkness, using the smell of his own wee.

Grandpa tried for a Murray Mint – the Heimlich choking-hazard a potential disaster on aged lips. Grandma caught the throaty lozenge between knitting needles clacked together, like those chopsticks catching Miyagi’s fly.

Grandma went for a ginger throwing star  – rolling her lips round her false teeth in an effort to warm up for crunch – but Grandpa slipped through her guard with a cup of Earl Grey in a best, China teacup. The saucer rattled delicately, as the razor-sharp biscuit-of-death was doused in the tepid, near black sea. Half its mass broke away, and the squichy blob bobbed on the surface like an expelled bite of an orthopaedic mattress.

Such dishonour!  The band aides and support socks were off!

There was banging on the ceiling; the yowled, feedback-howl of hearing aids; ugly gouging with rattley old elbows; and – quite disgracefully for a nursing home – the police were called twice.

Eventually, after the Night of a Hundred Arthritic Blows, both insomniacs dropped to the La-z-boy Recliners in front of the TV, exhaustion in every floppy sinew. They glowered at each other over their bingo wings, too proud to admit they were no longer as young as they once were.

Grandma’s hand wavered out. His, too.

They clasped hands.

“I love you, you crappy old ninja.”

“You too, you sloppy old, samurai!”

“Same time tomorrow? After The Voice?”

“Heh, heh – I wouldn’t miss it for the world… if you didn’t fight like a girl one-twentieth of your age!”

And so it went on.


1 John Wiswell { 05.12.12 at 3:08 pm }

An unflinching mash-up of senior citizen stereotypes and Kung Fu? Now that’s a good blend! Enjoyed it, particularly for the shameless execution. If it winked more it just wouldn’t be as satisfying or funny. Keep them band-aides on!

2 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 7:33 am }

@John — both participants are also into shameless execution. 🙂

3 jenny dreadful { 05.12.12 at 6:51 pm }

“his teeth rattled along the floor like escaped tap shoes”

This piece just killed me. I can’t believe it. Keep it up.

4 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 7:35 am }

@Jenny — thanks Jenny. Those old timers — they’ve still got the moves.

5 Steve Green { 05.12.12 at 8:28 pm }

Oh Jeez, my ribs are aching, Stephen this is just so funny, thanks for the giggles mate. 🙂

6 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 7:37 am }

@Steve — Giggles? This was a serious documentary piece 🙂

7 Aidan Fritz { 05.13.12 at 4:24 pm }

Awesome! The way you mixed kung-fu with these two was just craic-in. This has your style written all over it and done to perfection.

8 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 7:53 am }

@Aidan — 🙂 Man, I just had to stand back and let them get on with it. They’ll be back in Walkers of Fury, Part II.

9 Adam Byatt { 05.14.12 at 2:03 pm }

This was fantastic. The fusion of old age and senile humour was brilliant. Had a great laugh. Some of the imagery is sublime
Adam B @revhappiness

10 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 7:55 am }

@Adam — hey Adam, welcome to Cafe Shorts. If it came from me, it’s definitely senile humour. 🙂

11 Peter Newman { 05.14.12 at 7:50 pm }

This reads like a visual skit. I liked the way you spoofed bullet time and the warmth that underlined the whole thing.

12 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 7:57 am }

@Peter — old timers taking names, kicking down doors — what’s not to like. 🙂

13 Brinda { 05.15.12 at 3:07 am }

Hilarious tale if a little gross with all the spit and pee, I kept imagining what the kids would say if the grandparents suddenly dived into kung fu ninja style! Really loved the ending – and the affection the two had for one another.

14 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 8:02 am }

@Brinda — lol. Yeah, spit n’ pee. I forget I put that stuff in. Put it down to a quirky style. I think the kids’d think it was awesome if their grandparents started back-flipping down the hallway, busting a few moves in a Jacky Chan kind of way. And despite the dubbed on hearing aids, this is definitely a love story 🙂

15 Helen { 05.15.12 at 7:51 am }

Kunf fu pensioners ha haa – it’s nice that they were sweet to each other in the end. Thanks for the laugh. ^_^

16 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 8:05 am }

@Helen — they’re 10th dan in over twenty martial arts I’d be forced to make up if the story continued. They wanted to be in it. I wasn’t about to argue.

17 Joan { 05.15.12 at 11:30 am }

That read like a cartoon – very visual. Know how they feel – almost.

18 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 8:07 am }

@Joan — if that ‘pop’ style comes across, then that’s a good thing. Fun to write straight humour on a piece.

19 Mark Withers { 05.15.12 at 6:12 pm }

Comedy gold! I really enjoyed that. 😀

20 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 8:13 am }

@Mark — they kind of escaped in the middle, there. I had to lure them back for the ending with a Werthers Original and a ‘liver and bacon special plus a cuppa’ for £3.50.

21 bill { 05.17.12 at 4:51 pm }

Werry entertainin’ dude, rock on, Bill.

22 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 8:17 am }

@Bill — thanks Bill and welcome to Cafe shorts. 🙂 This story was an attempt to put the rock into rock cakes, assuming they can be thrown ninja-style.

23 Icy Sedgwick { 05.20.12 at 11:37 pm }

Genuinely delightful stuff, but it seems a cheap shot to deflect a throwing biscuit with a hot beverage!

24 Stephen Hewitt { 05.23.12 at 8:26 am }

@Icy — I know, I know. That shenanigans began with Master Earl Grey — yung uns today don’t have the same manners in Kung Fu like they used tae have. Tea and tiffin? Blimey. What kind of thee-and-ha’penny move is that?

25 John Xero { 05.24.12 at 7:53 am }

Heh, fantastic stuff, Stephen. =)

A lot of playful imagery in there, but I particularly loved “with the natural grace of an abandoned typewriter. “

And some cunning geriatric pursuits/ kung fu blends too. Thoroughly enjoyable read with a sweet ending. =)

26 Stephen Hewitt { 06.07.12 at 8:20 am }

@John — thanks John. I was trying to imagine something that had absolutely no grace whatsoever and said typewriter did rather spring to mind. Apologies to all typewriter manufacturers everywhere — yes, I’m sure your delightful contraptions do have a certain poise. As for the ending: in my mind, those hard-chopin exploits had to come back to the fact that it was all because they loved each other, in that fighty kind of ritualistic love that some folks have. And then if you extrapolate into old age… why not Kung fu? St.

27 Harry B. Sanderford { 06.02.12 at 1:23 am }

Hahahaha! Loved every second of this Stephen! Funny as hell and really LOL-ed at, “Grandpa tried for a Murray Mint – the Heimlich choking-hazard a potential disaster on aged lips. Grandma caught the throaty lozenge between knitting needles clacked together, like those chopsticks catching Miyagi’s fly.” Awesome!

28 Stephen Hewitt { 06.07.12 at 8:41 am }

@Harry — yeah, that couple; couldn’t keep ’em apart. Next time, separate stories for both of them until they learn to behave, although I do suspect they’ll find some way to pull a few rather crackly moves. 🙂

29 Gita { 06.02.12 at 4:20 am }

I’d have to copy and paste the whole thing if I wanted to quote favourite lines.
“Barbed wire, it seems, is knittable.” WAAaaaahahahahahaha!

30 Stephen Hewitt { 06.07.12 at 8:54 am }

@Gita — thanks Gita. Sometimes home spun Christmas gifts from said pensioners may indeed feel like they are knitted from barbed wire. But such scratchiness aside, I am glad there were so many ‘a’s and ‘ha’s in that last word 🙂

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