I am very nervous writing this. The reason? I am commenting upon a new religion. Many of you are no doubt disciples. This makes me a heretic, but here goes.
In the early 1960s, whilst serving in the Merchant Navy, one drunken night, I found myself sitting in a chair in a Tattoo parlour in Valetta, Malta. I had decided that, as a mariner, I ought to at least have a Popeye anchor on my forearm. Then I saw the equally sozzled occupants of the other two chairs. Two huge U.S. Navy sailors, stripped to the waist, were waiting a fresh ‘inking’. Their bodies were already covered in splodgy blue-green tattoos. Panthers, crucifixes, snakes, rosebuds, hearts, the US flag, unidentifiable wildlife. It made me feel nauseous. I got up and left. I had changed by mind.
Half a century later, I’m so glad I did.
I grew up with tattoos. My father, who served over 20 years in the Army, mostly in India, was the original illustrated man. Flags of the Empire on his back, a tiger and a lion across his chest, spears, crossed rifles, his regimental badge, snakes coiling down his arms, their heads destined to forever poke from his shirt cuffs. As a kid this fascinated me. But tattoos back then were, in the main, the choice of sailors, soldiers, and criminals. As for women being tattooed, most men regarded that as a strong visual hint of prostitution. Today tattoos have a mystique which emanates from the underworld. The Russian Mafia identify their status with their tattooed icons. Mexican and Columbian drug cartels have their own ‘inkings’. Criminals on Death Row in the USA love their tattoos. In the South Pacific, among such nations as the Maoris, tattoos were a tribal badge. Strange, then, that Britain is now the most ‘inked’ nation in Europe.
Undoubtedly, many tattoo artists (my nephew, for instance) are very talented. Yet it
As a somewhat ugly, overweight old man I envy athletes with natural bodies like David Beckham. If I had been born that lucky, would I have had all that magnificent muscle tone covered in indecipherable foreign script and dull green graffiti? I think not. I’m sure Cheryl Cole’s derriere was once a pleasant sight. Pity she’s turned it into