Bent like Beckham?

Regular readers of this space are aware of my idiosyncrasies. Here’s another one: I’m constitutionally incapable of feeling sympathy for tattooed people.

My sentiments about them range from squeamishness to revulsion, depending on the size and number of tattoos. In fact, whenever one is visible, I have to look away.

Consequently, there’s nobody I can ask about the reasons for deciding to parade one’s savagery with such relish. But I can guess at some motives, none of them praiseworthy.

The urge to appear “well ‘ard” must be one: being painful, tattooing is a test of manhood in certain social classes. Then there’s the peer pressure in those same classes, the imperative to conform.

And of course a tattoo is a way of grabbing attention (it has the opposite effect on me, but – thank God – not everyone is like me). Some people may also have aesthetic reasons for decorating their flesh, but what these are escapes me, unless they plan to resettle in Polynesia and sit for Paul Gauguin (he’s dead, chaps, in case you don’t know).

Some tattoos communicate a message, usually that of defiance. Thus exactly the kind of people who often find themselves at the policemen’s tender mercies sometimes sport tattoos of a cop with his throat slit.

A cop dangling off the gallows is also popular, as are the letters ACAB on the knuckles (for the benefit of my foreign or else hoity-toity readers, this stands for All Cops Are Bastards). One wonders how well the canvas for such art is treated at the nick. I know I’d be angered by a tattoo saying “All old English writers of Russian descent are bastards”, although, given the limited number of knuckles, this is unlikely.

This circuitous route brings me to the ex-footballer David Beckham, the most tattooed person I’ve ever seen.

David used to pack a mean bend in his right foot, which celestial talent he has parlayed into a fortune estimated at £508 million (greater than the Queen’s). He also married a pop star nicknamed Posh with a touch of relativism, who augments the proceeds of the famed right foot with her own earnings.

Yet, according to the book Posh and Becks probably haven’t read, man doesn’t live by bread alone. It’s not all about buying mansions and tattoos – money must also act as a social hoist to be truly satisfying. In the British context, money should buy at least a knighthood, ideally a life peerage.

To that end large sums must be donated to charity or, better still, victorious electoral campaigns. Posh and Becks know this, which is why they aren’t short of purposeful generosity.

Yet all Becks has managed so far is an OBE, and even that was 14 years ago. Year after year, since 2014 when he was first nominated, he has been bypassed for higher honours – much to his rage.

Why, even the singer Katherine Jenkins got the lousy OBE, which Becks indignantly described as “a f***ing joke”. Who the hell is Jenkins? She can’t even bend it like Beckham.

The problem is that HM Revenue & Customs runs ‘probity checks’ on people nominated for honours, and Becks’s probity didn’t pass muster. Apparently Becks shelters some of his money in avoidance schemes, than which no worse crime exists.

On finding out that his knighthood had been red-flagged yet again, Becks reacted furiously, firing off a series of synechdoches – without, at a wild guess, realising that’s what they were.

The honours committee, he fumed in some leaked e-mails, are “a bunch of unappreciative c***s”. He then lamentably dispensed with a comma in expressing his disdain for a lesser honour: “Unless it’s a knighthood f*** off!”

Now I don’t mean to pry into David’s tax affairs, and nor do I know whether the venerable members of that committee deserve such unflattering designations. Moreover, I deplore the present vulgarisation of the honours system making it possible for a footballer who hasn’t won anything with England even to be considered for a knighthood.

However, in this case I’m prepared to overlook all such considerations, along with my detestation of body art, to stick up for Becks – and for all other tax avoiders out there, including Donald Trump.

At the government’s ad nauseam instigation we’ve lost the distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Yet it’s valid: evasion is criminal, avoidance is clever.

I may think that the fortune David’s right foot has earned is obscene, but the money is his, not the government’s. If he chooses to invest it in ways that reduce his tax exposure, more power to him, provided he hasn’t done anything illegal.

One can understand the taxman’s rage, though: clever investments rob the state not only of money but, more frustrating, power. By extorting people’s money, the state increases its control over their lives, which has become the principal desideratum of modern statehood. This, I must confess, I detest even more than tattoos.

One wonders how Becks’s creative use of English has affected his future chances of a knighthood. The c***s would have to display oodles of Christian forgiveness to overlook his justified opinion of them.

3 thoughts on “Bent like Beckham?”

  1. Hello AB,

    My friend Walter’s late father was a locallay renown medical doctor here in Northeast Pennsylvania and he had an interesting insight with regard to tattoos.
    He said that people with tattoos are saving the rest of us a tremendous amount of time.
    Asked to expound he replied, “John, you don’t have to spend any time, any emotion, any money, or any aggravation to know, right off the bat, how fucked up they are. Walk past them like you would a three-legged horse at the livery stable.”
    The good doctor also liked an after-rounds Chivas Regal or two- as his anachronistic simile would suggest.

    Hope all is well with you.
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Alexander knows well [?] the immense tattoo talent of the Russian Thieves in Law? For those not aware of the phenomenon just Google Russian Thieves in law tattoo under images.

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