A long time ago, my niece Dormouse and I made a pact to go and have a tattoo together and last weekend was D-day. I suppose that I should start by telling you how old she is because people give me horrified looks when I say that I took her to such-and-such pub, or that we both have a crush on Paolo Nutini. So, just to make quite clear that all pub-going, crushing and tattooing is above board, she’s 23 years old, not 9.
We stayed with Dormouse in Buenos Aires and were supposed to ‘get inked’ one afternoon but ended up getting horribly drunk instead. I blame it on Evita. Or Evita’s grave, at least. We were totally creeped out at the thought of milling around mausoleums and decided that a beer or two might take the edge off. It was worth it. Beer totally beats graves in the beer-graves-scissors game.
Besides, Dormouse and I figured that it was just as well we didn’t have a tattoo done in a country where we didn’t speak the language. I imagine that there could be a whole TV series based on tattoos that have gone wrong due to a glitch in translation. It could be called “Inked-Up Abroad”.
I digress. Saturday morning arrived and I found myself on babysitting duty for both our kids as well as a friend’s two kids. The mom part of the family (lets call her Blondie for now) was away and their dad was squeezing in a bike ride with Best Kisser. Best Kisser had given me such late notice that I had no choice but to take the kids along. All four of them. To the tattoo parlour.
The people in the tattoo parlour looked like they were going to burst into tears when we walked in. Three adults and four kids aged between 4 and 11. They didn’t quite know what to do. I could tell that they were worried that this mix of people might lower the coolness-quotient* of the establishment. I’m not sure that they should have worried because there was already a young fellow in there that looked nothing older than 12, wearing a studded collar and with a piercing in his eyebrow. Mr. PP asked me, ‘Isn’t that chap a bit too young to have that sort of thing?’ I said that possibly he was or that maybe he was a Waldorf student.
I imagine that people who have never had a tattoo think that tattoo parlours are in real life exactly like they’re portrayed in the movies. Dark and dingy, wedged between a laundromat and a strip joint with at least one firearm and a lot of biker types hanging around. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The artists are positively anal about hygiene and the workspace is brightly lit. Fluorescently so. Which is a good thing really, because I want them to be absolutely sure that they can see exactly what they’re doing.
Truth be told, tattoo artists seem to be quite anal on the whole. And, they are as much artiste as the next artiste. This is also a good thing because an anal-artiste is exactly the person I want drawing something permanent on my body.
The visit started out great. Some chap was having a huge tattoo done on his belly and the kids were engrossed. The four year old in our group insisted that he wanted a tattoo immediately. Eventually the artist who was working told us - in not so many words - to sod off because we were cramping his style so I got the kids looking at some tattoo books** instead.
Most of the images were really cool until we got to the dragons and stuff. The kids asked why people would want ‘funny animals’ on their bodies. I said I had no idea but that possibly they were good-luck-dragons. They were pretty impressed with the sculls though (Bless you, Jack Sparrow).
After a while the shorties got all fidgety so the parlour owner put on some heavy metal to chase us out. The lyrics were ‘Don’t tell me f*$@#ing what to do’ and I didn’t want the kids to get fancy ideas so I marched them down the road and bought them an ice cream at the dodgy corner cafe***.
When Blondie came back she says to me ‘I believe you took my kids to a tattoo parlour?’
‘Yes,’ I say, feeling slightly sweaty, but trying to keep my voice casual.
‘I couldn’t change the booking and the lads were out riding….Um, I didn’t feed them any colourants though’, I add.
‘Well’, she says, ‘at first I was a bit… erm… you know...but then I thought, oh well, it probably isn’t a bad thing that they got to see what tattoos are all about because now they’ll never want one.’
Truly, I didn’t have the heart to say ‘That’s what you think, lady.’
*This phrase is per kind favour of a friend. He said it better.
** Not the tattoo books that show real ink on private parts and everything. Just the tattoo books with drawings. Honestly.
***Cafe in SA is pronounced “keffie” and, disappointingly, is nothing like a cafe in, say, France. ‘Keffi’s’ normally smell strongly of incense, which I suspect is in an effort to disguise the smell of old cooking oil.