He was cocky and young...

A black and white photo of a hand with a tattoo

When I was growing up my dad had freckled hands, pale, with black hair. And on the back of each hand he had an oval of skin, a round scar.

When I was about five I asked what it was. Something vague was said, and I was to understand it was a nothing.

Then I found a photograph of my dad as a young man, a soldier in Egypt, with luscious hair he had since lost, curled back in a duck’s arse.

He was cocky and young and on his hands were two swallows.

He was fifteen when he got them.

He thought he was clever. They were shocking. And a man in authority had said, you won’t get anywhere with those on your hands. This was the Fifties. So a surgeon gave him two skin grafts, one for each hand.

He told me this story once. I never repeated it.

My fifteen-year-old son doesn’t know.

I would hate it if my son got a tattoo - I really don't like them. I think they look like bruises and I like naked skin.

Skin is so conscious and expressive, beautiful and unique.

But I can see often tattoos are the heraldry of people's unconscious.

And they attract my attention and eye.

written by wendy