Belfast Telegraph

Fern Britton isn't the only woman who adores body art

After TV’s Fern Britton celebrated entering her 50s with some body art, Laura McGarrity asks if it’s a sign of growing old disgracefully

A couple of stars on your shoulder, initials of someone special on your hip, a ‘tramp stamp' on your lower back or inaccurate Arabic writing on your arm, these are just some of the typical tattoos one in five adults opt for.

Some people see them as a form or art or self-expression, while others see them as tacky, immature or drunken mistakes. Either way tattoos seem to be one thing everyone has an opinion on.

TV presenter Fern Britton recently confessed she had got a tattoo and was enjoying a ‘disgraceful middle age', in an interview for Woman and Home magazine.

Britton revealed that her tattoo was of two butterflies on her tummy, and she also confessed her inspiration behind this rebellion was actress Felicity Kendal (64) getting a star tattooed on her foot.

We ask local women who are also enjoying a rebellious middle age their reasons behind getting a tattoo at this stage in life.

The women who adore their body art

‘I have spent about £2,000 over the past 10 years’

Pauline Greene (50), a housewife from Ballinamore. With her partner Chris (49), they have five children, Debbie (30), Paul (28), Jenna (26), Kelly (20) and Lauren (19). She says:

If Fern Britton wanted a tattoo for herself, then I think it is great she has gotten one. Like Fern I'm glad I waited until I was older, because I had already got married and gone to job interviews, things that tattoos can sometimes get in the way of.

“I was approaching my 40th birthday and my daughter Jenna had recently got a Japanese symbol tattoo. I thought what better way to celebrate, so I went and got a small tribal-type tattoo on my left shoulder.

“I got my second tribal symbol done at the same tattoo parlour in Ballymoney. The tattoo was at the bottom of my back, but I wasn't really happy with the results.

“After looking around a few places I went to Skinworks in Belfast and haven't gone anywhere since. A tattooist, Gallo, retouched my second tattoo and then covered the rest of the right hand side of my back in tribal symbols.

“I would absolutely say I am addicted to getting tattoos, and since my first I have spent about £2,000 on subsequent tattoos over the past 10 years and it has taken about 21 hours getting them done.

“I've tattoos on both of my hands, purple lilies and lotus flowers on my left leg. I also have yellow and red roses on my right leg for my mother and father, because my father was a gardener and loved yellow roses. I then have a tattoo of Jack Sparrow on the top of my right arm, just because I've always loved Johnny Depp. On my other arm I also have a half sleeve of doves.

“Before my mother died I told her I was going to get the tattoo of the red rose for her, as her name was Rose. She thought it was a lovely idea, but hated tattoos in general. She would always say to me ‘do you not think you have enough now?' My husband hates my tattoos as well, but I love them and I don't think I'll ever not like them.

“I've never really found them very sore. The place I found most painful was on my lower spine. Then again I have had osteoporosis for 14 years and have taken a lot of painkillers, so that might have numbed the pain a little.

“I grew up only seeing people with tattoos of daggers or Union Jacks, but when I started watching the programme Miami Ink I realised they can be art as well and I think that is why I love getting mine.”

‘My daughter actually paid for my tattoos’

Carolyn McKittrick-Jackson (56), is a holistic therapist and also owns Different Strokes B&B in Portaferry with her husband Don (68). She has one daughter Gemma (28). She says:

I'm a bit mad and getting a tattoo was on my bucket-list to do before I go. Earlier this year I bit the bullet and went and got my first one.

“I got a small outline of a gem, like a diamond, on my left breast. It's only about an inch and is really easily covered up; people can only see it if I wear a low-cut top.

“The reason I picked a gem was for my daughter Gemma.

“When I was younger it was really fashionable to get a tattoo, but part of the reason I think I waited so long to get one was because I thought what if I don't want this when I'm older. Now I am older, my tattoo means so much to me, so I think ‘what the hell’.

“My daughter Gemma is an artist and has loads of tattoos, all of which she has designed herself and they all mean something to her.

“She is gorgeous and I love her so much, so that was definitely part of the decision to get one.

“Gemma actually paid for my tattoo as a present. I got it done in Skulduggery Tatu in Belfast, which is where she gets all of hers done. It cost £40 and only took about ten minutes to do.

“My husband thought I was mad to get a tattoo, but now he loves it and even wants one himself. My elder sister hates it, yet she always asks to see it.

“In general I find that the older people are, the more disapproving they can be. Younger people usually think it’s great.

“Getting a tattoo has definitely given me the bug to get another one and I've booked into get my second on my 15th wedding anniversary, on August 27. My daughter has designed this one in secret and it will be for my husband Don who has recently been ill with cancer.

“People are never too old to get tattoos; I think good on Fern Britton for getting one. If it makes her happy, it really isn't any one's business.

“My advice for anyone thinking of getting one would be to pick one that means something to them and go to a place that is reputable, not someone's house.”

‘It’s for myself and my husband’

Kathy Fegan (54), is a housewife from Belfast, she lives with her husband Michael and they have a daughter Mary-Catherine (35), and three sons Michael (31), Vincent (26) and Gerard (17). She says:

I got my tattoo on the spur of the moment about 10 years ago, when I was 44. I had my bellybutton pierced and I thought if I got a tattoo of a dolphin above the piercing, it would look like it was jumping through the hoop.

“I went to The Ink Castle in Smithfield to get it and it only cost about £20. I definitely found it painful and couldn't get away without saying ‘ouch’, but one thing my mother always says is ‘pride feels no pain'. So if I wanted it done I knew I had to go through it.

“When I was younger I wanted to get one, but girls didn't really get tattoos then. I've always toyed with the idea.

“Because my tattoo is on my stomach it isn't the type of place everyone is going to see. I've shown my kids and my mum, but it really is only for myself and my husband. At first when I showed people they thought it was a transfer. I had to convince them it was real. My mum and my eldest son Michael joked I was going through a mid-life crisis. My son Vincent was always into tattoos, so he liked it and has now got three himself.

“I think people were shocked when I got a tattoo because I've never been overly keen on them. I think get one if it makes you happy, but I really don't like the body art people have all over their arms and legs.

“My late brother Pat had a few tattoos and ended up getting them covered up, because he felt when he wore short-sleeve shirts people would attach a sort of stigma to them.

“Fern Britton has lost a lot of weight over the past couple of years and getting a tattoo now has probably made her feel even better about herself. I think, good luck to her if it has made her happy. What other people do with their bodies is a personal choice. Mine is in a private place. I've had it for 10 years and it still makes me happy.

... why I won’t be getting one

The founder of fashion website Sugahfix, Katrina Doran, is no fan of tattoos.

I went several times intending to get a tattoo and each time a friend came with me and ended up getting one. Two of them have since had them removed and spent thousands. I always wanted a celtic symbol tattooed— just below my ankle so it would be only visible if I wore flip-flops or sling backs, but any tattooist I spoke to said the area is very bony and the pain would be unbearable, so I never had it done. I think tattoos are really dependent on the individual, where the tattoo is and the design. The likes of Amy Winehouse's tattoos suited her style, but to me they looked horrendous. I love Cheryl Cole's tattoos, particularly the one on her hand but they might look out of place when she gets older.”

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