So a British national treasure, veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby, has recently acquired his first tattoo at the age of 75 – is this the end of Western civilisation as we know it?
Hardly. Even historical figures such as Winston Churchill, US President Theodore Roosevelt, Dorothy Parker and George Orwell were apparently ‘inked’.
It’s not that the Baby Boomer generation, which in youth allegedly did its fair share of experimenting with lifestyles and mind-altering substances, has carried its taste for adventure into later life. The fact is that people are living longer, and these days are fitter for longer, than previous generations. Why shouldn’t they ‘let it all hang out’ and live dangerously, if they wish?
Whether it’s white-water rafting, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, driving super-fast cars at track days or rock-climbing – these days you can barely open a newspaper (if you still bother to buy one) without coming face-to-face with media stories of grinning intrepid octogenarians fulfilling their lifelong dreams.
The only fly in the ointment is the degree to which pensions have been squeezed or affected by the global financial crisis and subsequent market events. Some of the most exciting daredevil pastimes are expensive to take up, not least in terms of specialist equipment and training courses.
Two years ago, I accepted in principle a dare from a pal to base-jump off the top of the Shard – that is, until I learned the cost of flying suits, helmets, goggles, SAS-style low altitude parachutes and central London funeral charges. It would have been a damned sight cheaper to take the lift to the 86th floor and merely hurdle out of a window in my shell suit.
A spokesperson for the National History Museum went as far yesterday as to comment that either Dimbleby or his tattooist had made a mistake or – since scorpions are supposed to have eight legs – “Someone may have chopped two off”.
Tattoos are a perfect example of something that, if it’s worth doing, it’s not so much worth doing badly, but doing not quite right.
Here are some examples of tattoo spellings I once saw in a magazine article:
‘I am a Marshian’ (on a shoulder)
‘Strenght’ (on the side of a shaven head)
‘No Regerts’ (across the shoulders)
‘Only God will juge me’ (across the back)
‘You only life once’ (on a forearm)
I believe even David Beckham’s tattoo of his wife’s name ‘Victoria’ in Chinese characters somewhere on his boy is spelt wrong.
It’s of passing interest, of course, that, as you struggle to stay awake on Thursday nights long enough to see it, the chairman of BBC Question Time might be sporting a shoulder tattoo under his jacket. But I guess, after you’ve spent half a lifetime wondering whether doing something outrageous might not harm your career, once you reach retirement – or, at least, that stage when you just don’t care anymore – why not go for it?