Monday 9 September 2013


I was explaining to someone at work today how I spent my weekend, when it hit me: I'm suddenly quite tattooed now.  They'd wanted to see pictures, of course, and their reaction to the orca was one at shock that it was so large.  I've got four tattoos in all now, starting with a little tribal swirl on my right arm in Amsterdam in 2003, then the bear paw on my left shoulder in Banff in 2010 and now these two.  The orca is comfortably the biggest, to be fair, but maybe I just don't look the sort.

Actually, this is quite an intricate design, and the tattoo has to be that large in order to get all of the detail in without risking any blurring of lines that are too close together.  I will admit that it looked dauntingly big on Saturday morning when Giselle, my tattooist, showed me the tracing... but actually it sits around my arm quite nicely, and that beautiful fluked tail doesn't even dip below my normal t-shirt line.  I was much encouraged too by the reaction of my wife, who absolutely loves this one, and she did from the moment that the tracing was put onto my arm to be inked in.  Giselle did a fantastic job with this one, I think.  It's still healing, obviously, but I think it looks really good.

The whole process took about 3 hours.  If you've never been tattooed before, then I guess you wouldn't know what that feels like.  I compare it to a feeling a little like sunburn, never really going above 2 /10 on the pain scale, except when the needle hits a more sensitive piece of skin - in this case on the softer parts of the back of my arm or near my armpit - even then, it's never over a 3 / 10.  Watching a good tattooist at work is a real pleasure anyway, and I had a front row seat for this one.

The other tattoo I had done on Saturday seemed to take no time at all and was all over in less than 45 minutes.  Unlike the intricate work required on the orca, this was relatively simple.  The story of both these tattoos can be found here, but this one is actually from a tracing that C. did of an old, hand drawn French star map showing the constellation Ursa Major..  The fact that she's had such a big role in the design of this one is really important to me, and I hope she's happy with the results.  If you look closely, you'll see that Giselle actually missed a greek letter designating the star Megrez off, which I noticed when applying some ointment on Sunday evening and I'll have to go back in a couple of weeks when I'm all healed for the 30 seconds that will be needed to add that tiny detail in.  No drama.  I'm really very pleased with this one already, anyway: it's a good size for my shoulder blade and I think it's worked really well from concept in my head to ink on my body with the fair hand of my wife involved in between.

I realise that tattoos are not to everyone's taste, but I'm comfortable with the ones that I have on my body.  They tell a story, don't they?  They tell my story.  I don't have anyone else's tattoos, I have mine.

Tell me about your tattoos - I want to hear the stories.  If you don't have one, what would you get?  Why haven't you?


  1. I must admit I am quite surprised at how tattooed you are, and I read your blog fairly attentively. As it happens I've had at least two conversations about tattoos recently. And the conclusions were as follows. I'd never have one myself for two reasons (that are sort of the same thing) - I could never decide on what I should have done and nothing seems so important to me that I should have it indelibly inked into my skin. Obviously there are things that are very important to me, but having a tattoo of them just strikes me as odd or irrelevant or a bit daft. But, just because they're not for me I don't disapprove of them, they suit others. In my view these others fall into the following categories: soldiers, sailors (especially pirates) and Hells Angels. You I'd place in the sailor category, on account of all your travelling. The orca tattoo is amazing by the way.

  2. I was first tattooed the week I turned 18. I was the first girl I knew that had one (this was 1990). It was a pretty stupid design, but my friend had drawn it. That, plus my little act of rebellion, made it sentimental.

    I got it covered up the week of I turned 40. I got a beautiful lotus flower that covered up my youthful indiscretion. It covers about half my thigh. I picked a lotus because it I a beautiful flower that grows up from the mud. It reminds me that great beauty can emerge from the muck that can be life.

  3. I've got 2 tattoos. One I love and one I that I don't quite regret but often consider covering with another.
    The latter is one I had done with a group of army mates at 16, and is a Tudor rose with Lancashire scrawled underneath. Hardly classy but reminds me of a drunken afternoon with new friends during basic training when one of the welsh lads got a tattoo with the wrong blood type inked on!! Given we were REME i doubt this ever ended up biting back with him being wounded and having some medic hooking him up to an incorrect blood match. He got some hammer for months on it though.
    The tattoo I love is a large piece of tribal on my left pec I had done approaching my 30th. This reminds me of that period of my life, including meeting my soon to be wife.
    I must say tho the pain factor as the needle vibrates at high frequency on the less fleshier part near the sternum is bitter sweet! I'll raise your 3/10 and then some for sure!

  4. Great work on the Orca! That is one nice looking tattoo. I have a large tattoo on my lower back I got in 2003. It is of a large skull with beautiful roses surrounding it. My maiden name is Rosales, which is Spanish for roses and the skull is a tribute to my father who passed to young.

  5. They turned out breathtaking- they really did. I really love the star map. It is very you. I also happen to think it turned out better than the one in the picture I saw. Yours is more, I hate to use the word delicate -subtle, maybe? Its you all over, though, something completely cosmic done with a very soft hand.

  6. I have two:

    The first was done in the mid-late '90s. It's a piece that I commissioned my brother, who is an artist, to do for me. It's on the outside of my right calf, about 3" below the knee. It's just black line art. The art is of a deer drinking a mug of beer, and the title of the piece is Drunk 'n' Horny. I'll share the back story to it if you really want to know, but it's rather sordid.

    The other is a bee (actually one of the Burt's Bees logos) on the outside of my left calf, about 3" below the knee. My wife has a matching bee on her right collarbone. We got them as a 1st anniversary gift for each other. We didn't want our names, as we didn't want to tempt fate. We have a shorthand way of saying "I love you" - bzzzzz (long story). Our last name is Bates, so in a way, it's our last initial.

    I may get more, but I don't know what I want. I at least want to get the Drunk 'n' Horny piece colored, if possible. (My brother didn't give me a color version until after I got the tattoo.)

    I used to have 5 piercings, but have since gone to just one. I got all but one piercing before I got my first tattoo. I may have the 4 redone at some point, possibly as a reward for reaching a goal.