You are only old once” said Sir David Dimbleby, as he had his first tattoo inked onto his shoulder at the age of 75. Far from feeling too old for a tattoo, he decided to man up and go for it. The scion of the legendary British broadcasting family chose a scorpion, his star sign, as his first foray into getting ink done. More accustomed to facing the needling attacks of viperous politicians and the sting of satirists, the BBC presenter said it was “a dream come true” to have his own body art, at last.
The Dimbleby family are pillars of the British establishment, and Sir David has been covering the general elections since 1979. He also hosts the weekly Question Time show in which members of the audience grill leading figures on current affairs. Dimbleby’s father, Richard, was the voice of the British Broadcasting Corporation for decades. No major occasion ever took place without the deep, hushed and familiar tones of Dimbleby senior solemnly providing the coverage. This went right through from the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1952 to the funerals of George V, Winston Churchill and John F Kennedy.
It was during the filming of a new documentary series about Britain and The Sea, that David, now a veteran newsman in his own right, found out how Captain Cook had brought tattoos back to his homeland. Captain Cook had seen impressive designs on the islanders during his escapades in the South Seas.
At first, the knight of the realm had his chosen emblem drawn on in black pen, but when he saw this effect, he decided to “man up.” As he put it, “I thought it was wimpish having it just drawn on and I needed to man up.” He thought, “That’s a bit feeble.”
He then sat for a tattoo technician in an East London studio for an hour whilst the sea creature was set to scuttle across his shoulder for evermore. Quelling any rumors before they started, he declared that he did not intend to go as far as Cheryl Cole, and have one on his bottom. “I wasn’t tempted to have any private parts done, I have to tell you.”
For courage during the procedure, which didn’t hurt much “just zings a bit” he thought of Winston Churchill getting his done. He had an anchor.
Apparently, this particular tattoo is used as a warning symbol among gay men to indicate HIV. Sir David, fully briefed as he is on all aspects of the zeitgeist, was probably unaware of this. There have also been some aspersions cast as to the number of legs on his arachnid. His scorpion boats only six legs, while they are more usually known to have eight. His scorpion may be a bit legless, but he, unlike younger, inebriated persons who tumble into the tattoo parlour to have spontaneous – often, later regretted – work done, was clear and happy with his decision. 75 is not too old, says Sir David. He’s had a lot of time to think about it after all.
The tattoo has sparked some lively feedback on twitter. Jonathan Dimbleby, also a broadcaster, and Sir David’s brother, tweeted, “How do you know I haven’t got a tattoo already – just be discreet about it?”
Jane Garvey, who presents Radio 4’s Womens Hour, joined in with,”I’ve had a tattoo of David Dimbleby for years. Who hasn’t?”
King of the tweets though was comedian Jack Dee, who quipped,”Just seen Dimbleby park his Harley outside Leather-Jackets-R-Us.” He finished with,”Welcome to Question Time, or “Yo, Wha’s up?” As it’s now called.”
Sir David’s wife Belinda was said to be “mildy amused” by her husband’s decorative gesture and considering having one done herself.
Dee’s joke pinpoints a growing predilection among baby boomers, like Sir David, to recapture the rebellious spirit of their youth. Tattoos among older people have really taken off and this is partly to do with it losing its former association with sailors, truckers and bikers. Even “Sam Cam” the Prime Minister’s wife, has one.
Celebrity tattoo artist, Kevin Paul, who has inked the likes of Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles, said he saw a lot of older customers now in his salon. “I tattoo everyone from doctors to barristers to surgeons, multimillionaires” said Paul, “All these high-end people are getting tattooed now.”
Rebecca Morris, who co-owns the Vagabond studio where Sir David sat for his inking is now expecting to see a commensurate rise in older clients.
Anyone who maybe thought they were too old, should take heart from Sir David, and man up themselves, if they want to have a tattoo dream come true.
By Kate Henderson