A perfect spring day yesterday; blossom fighting its way through the bark of the apple trees, not a cloud in the sky – just the day to take the dog for a walk on the beach.
A curious sight greeted me on the sands – my fellow countrymen were crawling with snakes, lizards, blowsy red roses, swallows, daggers, arrows, and earnest entreaties to ‘cut here’. Yes, the unemployed of our local seaside town had removed their shirts, the better to persuade the melatonin to rise to the surface in between the inked body decorations. Apparently navy blue and toffee tan is the required colour combination for forearms this year.
It used to be that tattoos were the indelible mark of ownership – either as a soldier or a slave; even in recent history they were the mark of ‘shame’ as a Jewish prisoner of the Nazi’s. How did we make the transition in one brief generation to viewing tattoos as a mark of individuality to the point where even the Prime Minster’s wife sports one and tattoo parlours proliferate in every high street?
Undeniably, some tattoos can be works of art – but why would you want a work of art permanently wrapped round your left arm? Most of the tattoos on display yesterday were not in the league of ‘works of art’ at all, at all – they bore more resemblance to the sort of felt tip markings we used to adorn slumbering drunks with at college – and they scrubbed off, eventually.
Not surprisingly, some have grown tired of looking like the gentleman on the left, nay, even found gainful employment difficult to come by, to say nothing of terrifying the grand-children.
When Otzi the Iceman was disturbed from his slumbers in the Otztal Alps he was so well preserved that despite the passage of some 3300 years before JC put in an appearance, it was still possible to make out the 57 tattoos adorning his body. Old tattoos don’t fade away.
By the 6th century AD, surgeons were grappling with the problem of getting rid of the more unwise decorations – they marked a man out as a Roman soldier, those who no longer wished to fight for the Emperor had to find a way of getting rid of their ‘stigmata’.
They call stigmata things inscribed on the face or some other part of the body, for example on the hands of soldiers … In cases where we wish to remove such stigmata, we must use the following preparations … When applying, first clean the stigmata with niter, smear them with resin of terebinth, and bandage for five days … The stigmata are removed in twenty days, without great ulceration and without a scar.
These days we keep the ‘Niter’ – Potassium Nitrate – for dissolving old stumps; let’s hope the Romans were more cautious than modern man as to where they hosted their tattoos.
Modern man seems to have a predilection for proving his virility by having the most wince inducing parts of his body tattooed. Hartlepool magistrates were faced with a man accused of ‘flashing’ at a female guard. She had claimed that his penis had no distinguishing features. Barry Kenny originally claimed that he had a seven inch lizard tattooed on his penis – reminded that he was under oath, he admitted that it was merely a two inch Lizard….still sufficient to get his case discharged, and give new life to the phrase ‘beating the tattoo’.
Our NHS, envy of the world, has been dreaming up an imaginative ways of removing the stigmata since inception. Back in 2006, the Department of Health were caught out ‘misleading parliament’ over the cost of giving a ‘magnolia-makeover’ to the Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen facial decorations of some of the baby boomer generation.
Health minister Rosie Winterton said in October that 187,063 tattoos had been removed last year. Some experts later estimated this could have cost £300m.
But the department now says the figure was a mistaken estimate and that the true amount was not known.
In a written ministerial statement, the Department of Health apologised for the error and said steps had been taken to ensure it did not happen again.
Ten years have passed; the percentage of tattooed Americans has increased from 14% to 20% – and in Britain, we have gone from 50 tattoo parlours to over a 1,000.
As the hip hop generation move into menopause territory, having ‘lick here’ tattooed on your private parts looses its appeal when you are faced with the annual visit to the gynaecologist.
Figures obtained by The Sun under Freedom of Information laws show 2,016 people had tattoos removed since 2010 at a cost of £330,182. However, the true cost is likely to be much higher, as many trusts did not provide breakdowns of the reasons for laser treatments.
The NHS has been slammed for the sheer waste of money after spending £330,000 on tattoo removal while hospitals struggle to stay afloat – and patients have their scan in lorries in the hospital car-park…
Should the NHS be paying for this? If so, why not the cost of removing gel nail extensions, unwise hair colouring, gold teeth implants; what is special about a tattoo as a means of creating an unwelcome appearance?