Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Why you're tattoo old for body art at 32

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

This news just in: don't get a tattoo after the age of 32. Don't grow a goatee beard or wear a baseball cap either.

With luck, the age restriction will become Government policy, but at the moment it's just the view of folk polled about the ages when it becomes embarrassing to do stuff usually associated with young people.

A mate of mine got a mohican haircut in his fifties and so, not unnaturally, we pretend we're not in when he comes calling.

Thirty-two, though it kept cropping up, was not the only cut-off point revealed in the poll of 1,000 punters for diet company Forza Supplements.

Ending emails or texts with a kiss (x) should stop at 29; kissing in the street at 25, and going to music festivals at 41.

This seems censorious and stern. As such, we are happy to endorse these new, sensible restrictions.

Friday: They swoop (and poop) to conquer

Gulls are getting everyone's goat. A Belfast resident described seeing one eating a pigeon alive – all part of the wonderful world of nature created by a loving God.

Other people get into a flap when their pets are divebombed. Then there's the problem of poop on cars.

That's the trouble with seagulls: no respect for property.

It's our litter and waste that's attracted them to the towns and cities, where they've quickly realised that we're a bunch of saps.

For safety, experts advise keeping an umbrella up at all times.

I do that anyway. But I seem to be in the minority.

Saturday: Send in the lions to sort out park yobs

Parks are good. They give urban places breathing space and, cunningly designed by man, are better than nature in the raw, which can be grim and undisciplined.

So it's disturbing to read that youths in Belfast have been congregating in parks to imbibe injudiciously, ingest illegally, and indulge in pugilism insanely. My view that we should bring back the Colosseum for the latter is commonsensical and therefore not popular. But the yobs enjoy fighting each other, so they'd be happy. Not so much when the lions get sent in but, hey, they'll have had their moment in the sun. Back in the parks, having old fashioned park-keepers would help, though. These days, they'd need riot gear more than a litter-stick.

Still, on the bright side, at least the young people are getting fresh air. Some might even start to appreciate the surroundings and change from pugilists to pastoral poets.

Sunday: Thirst for the good stuff

No trend escapes this column's radar, and I'm happy to oblige you with the latest: veggie cocktails.

That's right: alcoholic beverages mixed with vegetables. We're talking mushrooms, peas, peppers, herbs or cucumber.

One expert said: "People want to be good while being bad." Sounds wicked. In both senses of the word.

Monday: Secret's out on Cambridge spy ring... they did it for vodka

Spying is a proud British tradition, with many leading exponents coming from the country's top universities and private schools.

Thus the Cambridge Five, consisting of Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt and The Fifth Man. It's easy to see them as courageous in a misguided way.

Shame then that newly released files reveal them as a bunch of hopeless drunks.

Burgess is recorded dropping a file of secret documents as he staggered from a pub. Maclean was described as "constantly drunk" and "not very good at keeping secrets".

While the mysterious Fifth Man always disappeared when it was his round.

Tuesday: Same old story of miracle panaceas

Perusing the papers, I read three stories about three possible cures for three illnesses, these being cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's. Decades ago, when I started smoking, I remember thinking they'd have found a cure for cancer by the time I was 30, because there was stuff in the papers about it all the time. And, besides, 30 was such a long way away.

Well, it is now, except backward in time. And still no cure. Just stories about a cure.

Follow me carefully here, as I'm going to start talking about physics, which is a bit rich since I failed the O-Level. But I'm sure there's something in modern physics – much better than old-fashioned physics, which was right hard to understand – about time bending.

Sometimes, it seems that we live our lives in a curious time lag by which nothing much happens day-to-day but, over a period of years, in a big bendy arc, great technological and medical advances are made. They sort of sneak up on us.

We don't notice it because the papers keep crying "cure!" like the boy who cried "wild carnivorous animal of the dog family!".

But now everything seems to be happening in the short-term and nothing in the long-term. There's stuff every day about cures. But they're always "in 10 years' time". Then, once you get 10 years of adult life behind you, you realise none of the cures materialised.

As you get more mature, you find older friends and relatives developing serious illnesses, and one of the first things you say to them is that they're finding cures for things really quickly nowadays.

It isn't disingenuous or trite. I tell myself it, particularly after I Google "ingrowing toenail" or "ear hair management" and my increasingly paranoiac research leads me to conclude that, actually, I have cancer, typhoid, scrotal schizophrenia and a varicose brain.

I start off with a self-image as Rab McNeil, the strong, muscular hero – well, use your ruddy imaginations – and end up more like Gwyneth Paltrow in Contagion or third zombie from the left in Shaun Of The Dead.

Don't get me wrong. Things are getting better. It's just that the big bendy arc now works the opposite way: every day there seem to be cures but, over the piece, nothing much happens.

They still haven't cured cancer. And 30 was a long time ago.

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