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All in the cause of journalism, Thom ‘Spider’ Dibdin summons up the nerve to get himself tattooed.

‘You will never be naked again.’ Looking down at the spider motif blossoming across my skin under Bill-the-tattooist‘s needle, the thought keeps running though my head. Here is an indelible mark. No, I will never be naked again, always accompanied by my spider. As the sign says. ‘Unlike true love, a tattoo lasts for ever.‘

People have been tattooing themselves for thousands of years. What started as scarification, to

denote power at hunting or fighting, F became increasingly sophisticated. '

By rubbing charcoal into cuts. permanent markings could be made, identifying individuals as belonging to a group and singling out members of the group for particular feats of bravery or having passed some rite of passage.

The technique was elevated to an

‘91:; 3;," fig,

Bill Hooper ot Bill's Tattoos. Edinburgh. gets to the point

art form in Japan, where the aesthetic has become so involved that it is practically a language in itself. Bill-the -tattooist stresses that he does not do ‘Japanese tattoos’, which can only be created by those practiced in the philosophy, although he does do Japanese style. It had taken me a while to get to Bill’s on Elm Row in Edinburgh. First, via the dodgy end of Dalry Road, where I had spent halfan hour waiting in Davie’s Dragons Lair before bottling out. It was not the place itself, but the waiting alone in front ofthe red hands, Scotland and football flags, celtic designs (priced by the inch), cartoon characters, dragons and scantily clad women set out on the wall, which had got to me. And although Davie had said he could do any picture provided, I had not brought the drawing ofa little

black spider with red, red eyes which I wanted to set me apart from the crowd.

Not all tattooing is as personal as that practised by the Maoris in New Zealand, for whom a tattoo is as individual as a signature. ‘Twenty years ago all you'd do in June was King Billy. Everyone wanted one before the orange walk,’ recalled Terry, who has run a parlour in Glasgow since 1955. ‘Now you‘ll be lucky to do one a year.’

Top ofTerry‘s tattoo parade in 1991 is a wee red rose. chosen by many of the women who make up some 50 per cent of his clients. Nothing so remarkable about that. or that many of them choose to adorn their breasts. given tattooing‘s long association with sexuality. But it was surprising to learn that most of them are nurses. ‘It is probably a J

The List3l May-13June 199173