I was out and about the other day, minding my own business.
All of a sudden, I became aware of a small child staring at me. Like, REALLY staring at me.
Turning to his parents, he said in a voice a bit too loud for my liking: 'Mum, dad, there's a man over there who hasn't got any tattoos. He must be really strange.'
'Sssh, keep your voice down, he'll hear you.'
'But dad, he hasn't got ANY – not even one on his neck.'
'I know son, he hasn't got a beard either. And, what's more, I bet he hasn't eaten anything with halloumi on this week.'
The small child's dad was right. I hadn't, and I was probably in the minority there as well.
The claim I am about to make might not be statistically accurate, but it could well be. Judged on a series of excursions I have made in recent weeks, I now firmly believe I am in the ten per cent of adults in this country aged between 25 and 55 who do not have at least one tattoo.
I have strolled along the waterfront, from Gunwharf to Eastney.
I have walked around the centre of Southampton (apologies if that offends any Pompey people, but it was purely for research purposes).
I have taken my kids to Alton Towers theme park for three days. I have been to Port Solent. Lastly, I have been to a cheese and chilli festival in Winchester, where I thankfully refrained from spooning some sauce gloriously titled 'Sphincter Shrinker' down my throat.
In all of these places, I stood out like the proverbial sore thumb due to my lack of body ink compared to most of the bare flesh on display around me.
At Port Solent my partner and I were sitting outside the Wetherspoon's on the first floor level. The sun was beating down and I could see the masts of many boats in the marina. 'Look at this view,’ my partner said. ‘You could be forgiven for thinking we are sitting in Marseilles or St Tropez'. 'Well, we could be,’ I deadpanned, ‘if virtually everyone in Marseilles or St Tropez had tattoos.’
This is not a criticism, by the way – just an observation.
I'm not anti-tattoos, apart from neck and face ones. I can't stand those.
And, while I'm on the theme, why also have one on your back where you can't see it? Generally, today's favoured tatts are a lot more stylish than the classic 'anchor' one beloved of sailors, but how did we as a society morph into the tatts-dominated one I see wherever I go on my travels?
How did this seeming obsession start? Were 'celebs' such as David Beckham and Angelina Jolie at the vanguard of hauling body ink out from the depths of the underground and into the pulsing heart of the mainstream? If they weren't, then who was?
There was a big feature in The News' Weekend pullout last week on the rise and rise of tattoos. It was fascinating reading. I was particularly interested to discover that John Westwood's body is adorned by no fewer than 95 Pompey tattoos (35 more than it claims on Westwood's Wikipedia page).
NINETY FIVE! They can't all celebrate trophy wins – Pompey's history isn't that good. I'm an Exeter City supporter and I can't even start to comprehend having 95 different ECFC tatts.
I could have 'Devon Professional Bowl winners 1985/86/87' as one but that would take up quite a bit of space for starters.
'Auto Windscreens Shield Southern Area semi-finalists 2000/01' would take up even more space, and also graphically illustrate my club's lack of silverware down the years.
I once boasted I'll get my first tatt when Exeter win the FA Cup, but I might be waiting – and boasting – a long time.
I once toyed with the idea of getting the words 'I hate tattoos' tattooed in Chinese on my arm, if only to confuse hipsters when they asked me what the writing meant in English.
For a while, I used to think to myself when shopping 'cor, there's a few tattoo parlours around these days. I can't imagine them all doing great business.'
Now I'm surprised there's not a hell of a lot more to cope with the demand. I've heard people complain about the state of high streets these days – 'all coffee shops, charity shops, pound shops and tattoo parlours' – but, come on, what do you realistically expect?
You reap what you sow. So many former high street regulars have collapsed under the ever advancing march of internet shopping.
Here are just a few of the ones I remember who have surrendered to the online retailers – Woolworth's, Blockbuster Video, MFI, C & A, Freeman Hardy Willis, Comet, Our Price, HMV, Virgin Megastores, Maplins, BHS, Focus, Borders, JJB Sports, Past Times, Threshers, Julian Graves and Athena.
Yeah, not even selling thousands of posters of the tennis girl scratching her bottom could save the latter (and if you're nodding your head at the poster reference, like me you obviously grew up in the late 70s and early 80s ....)
You can't buy a coffee online, though, can you? Or a tattoo, for that matter.
In addition, many charity shops don't have to pay huge and often crippling levels of business rates imposed on other shop owners, meaning it is easier for them to spring up.
And, if they are staffed by volunteers, there's no staff wages to pay either.
Only if you've never bought anything online that you could buy in any of the previously mentioned shops can you complain about the lack of choice on our high streets today.
If you have ever bought anything online, remember this – you have inadvertently helped sign the death warrant of many once-loved shops.
Notice the phrase 'once-loved'. Past tense. They weren't loved any more, which is why they only survive in our memories now.
Here's a question, and I have no idea of the answer – has the advance of the internet created more jobs than it has destroyed?
Nowadays we see job vacancies for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) marketing managers.
Companies are looking for people – hipsters probably – trained to use analytic tools such as Searchmetrics, MOZ, Lipperhey, DeepCrawl, Screaming Frog, SEMrush and Google Search Console.
There are also PPC (pay-per-click) manager jobs around if you want them. Don't understand some of this jargon? You may need to, for this is the future ...
All these new digital-related jobs created while tens of thousands of people who once worked in a high street store were made redundant.
In some cases, customers didn't want what the shops sold – Blockbuster is a good example – but in other cases they still did. They just didn't want to go into a shop and buy it.
In some cases, you could get the same product online cheaper. In such an environment, there is only one outcome and it does not include paying business rates on a shop.
My own industry, journalism, has suffered. Circulations have gone down because newspapers – including The News – put all their main stories online.
Why buy a paper, thousands of once loyal readers have collectively voiced, when you can go online and read the same stories for nothing?
The general public are still interested in news and sports stories; the only difference is many are choosing to read them online for free. It's logic you can't argue against.
This column only appears online, so you're getting these words of wisdom for nothing.
And I hear you all saying 'thank God, because I wouldn't pay to read it anyway ...'
PS There was a Punch and Judy show at the cheese and chilli festival, which I was keen to watch to see if it had been watered down in any way by the juggernaut which is political correctness.
After all, I guess it's not considered good form in 2018 to show a copper beating someone mercilessly around the head with a truncheon in front of kids.
Anyway, the truncheon was still there, the crocodile was still there. All the age-old favourites.
But get this – when the sausages were introduced into the storyline a bearded, tattooed hipster shouted out 'are they gluten free?'
When Mr Punch told him 'stop being so 21st century', he and four of his mates walked out in disgust.
'I'm a bit peckish - do you fancy some halloumi fries?' I heard one of them casually mention to the others as they left.