Helen Martin: Marked for life by your tattoos

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HIMSELF often remarks that we are lucky. Of the three sons we have between us, two of his and one of mine, none of them has a tattoo. In fact none of them has a piercing either, which is quite unusual nowadays.

Piercings, and especially tattoos, have become quite mainstream. Zara Philips, Samantha Cameron, David Dimbleby . . . come on, you can’t get much more “establishment” than that.

Yet a 38-year-old female business executive working for HM Revenue and Customs facilities management company Salisbury FM on an agency contract has been shown the door after five months of “outstanding work” because the company introduced a new rule banning tattoos on show.

Jo Perkins’ art piece, a butterfly with curlicues extending on each side, was on the outside of her foot, above the line of her business court shoes and therefore very visible when she was wearing smart dresses and power suits. Opaque tights might have been a solution, but perhaps in the current Mediterranean temperatures she can be forgiven for rejecting that idea. Personally, I think there are far worse things a person can do than have a tattoo. Some of us like body art and some don’t. It doesn’t make you a bad person.

Having a tattoo without even considering that it might affect employment prospects is, however, naïve, especially in the current jobs market where success and failure come down to the narrowest of margins.

It doesn’t take a mastermind to figure out that having “love” and “hate” spelled across the knuckles isn’t a great idea for someone aiming to become a sommelier in a five-star restaurant, or that having your favourite football team’s logo on your neck could limit opportunities for a career in the police. David Beckham might get away with being the painted man and rock stars can do whatever they like, but for most of us, discretion is the key to ambition.

A rose on the bottom or a cherub on the shoulder is one thing. But tatts, even pretty ones, which are obvious to complete strangers, carry risks. It may seem unfair, narrow-minded, or even discriminatory if you happen to be the one “wearing” it but only the most unworldly could be unaware that to some prospective employers, a tattoo can be at least unappealing, at worst a complete turn off with a hint of chav – unless you happen to be a Dimbleby or one of the royals.

Jo Perkins feels she should be protected under inclusion and diversity laws. It’s not clear how old she was when she had it inked or if she always intended a career in business, but how many of us can know what the future holds or what sort of job we may fancy ten years on?

People take a risk when choosing a tattoo site that will be on open view. Sometimes life is not about resorting to law to defend the trivial civil right to be a show-off, but being realistic and sensible enough to foresee the consequences.

They’re riding into trouble with Tour de France dreams

SINCE resorting to law seems to be fashionable, is there any way Edinburgh citizens can sue the city council for squandering the taxes we pay to keep our services running on throwing parties for the rest of the world?

The city’s in a mess, the roads are collapsing along with the schools, there’s a ruddy great deficit because of trams, food banks depend on charity and the statutory repairs department is in tatters. The solution, apparently, is to put in another bid to host the Tour de France’s Grand Depart!

Various councillors in high-profile positions over the years have used us and abused our money to make their names as everything from transport gurus to events organisers. One vanity project after another to get themselves a little slice of acclaim has left many of us feeling milked rather than represented. What will it take for them to realise their first priority is the local citizenry and our day-to-day lives. They can use anything left over to have a party. It should just about cover a bottle of cheap cider and a tube of Pringles.

Baroness’ role is hard to believe

THERE’S no doubt that retired judge Baroness Butler Sloss should never have been appointed to lead the probe into child abuse by a politicians’ paedophile ring over 30 years ago when it is her late brother as Attorney General who is alleged to have covered it up back then. Despite her standing and expertise, she is wrong in her refusal to quit the role.

But what is even more alarming is that the pool of the powerful legal establishment in London is so small and “inbred” that in looking for someone to lead the inquiry, the best person they could come up with is his sister, let alone the ridiculous notion that under such circumstances any of us could fail to wonder at her conclusions.


PRINCIPLE over common sense has also led the Equality Commission to sue a bakery firm for refusing to make a cake celebrating a gay marriage. I asked a gay friend what he would have done and he didn’t have to think twice. “Tell them to stuff their bakery and take my business elsewhere.”